The Damascene Poem, Al- Qasidah Al Dimashkieh in Arabic, is one of the most famous poems in Syria. In Damascus, students are required to memorize this poem when they take an Arabic class throughout their high school. This poem shares some of the Syrian cultures and teach students how to be a patriot. For example, the poem says, “For the civil rights to live amongst tiers of jasmine. As house cats take naps relaxing.” The white colored jasmine plant is very popular in Syria and is planted everywhere in Damascus. Syrians like to plant Jasmine in their gardens as part of the Syrian culture. The poet, Nizar Qabbani, who lived years outside of Syria, mentions the Syrian jasmin that symbolizes freedom in Syria. In addition, the “house cats” also symbolizes houses in the Old City in Damascus. Houses in the Old City are very close to each other, old, have no roof and have huge balconies. Cats usually climb the trees and jump to the houses. Families usually leave food in their balconies for the cats. In other words, Qabbani mentioned the Syrian jasmin and the relaxed cats to remind and introduce the reader to some of the Syrian cultures. I picked this poem because I see myself as Qabbani in this poem and it reminds me of Damascus.
Although there are several kinds of poetry in the United States, there is only one type of Syrian poetry. In other words, all Syrian poems are rhymed and structured in the same way. For example, lines in Syrian poems have to have the same length when they’re written and the ending of every two lines have to rhyme. I don’t like the English version of the “Damascene Poem” because of several reasons. First, it is not structured like the Arabic version of the poem. For example, lines are translated and written randomly. It could have been more helpful for the reader compare lines between the Arabic and English versions if the English version was structured like the Arabic version. In addition, I don’t like some of the lines that are translated, such as “I am a Damascene if you dissect me into halves.” In the original version, the poet says, I am a Damascene even if you torture me. I think that the person who translated the poem misunderstood the meaning of this line. However, I like how the person who translated the poem made sure to rhyme the endings of each line because it made it sound more poetic.
I really enjoyed reading the “Damascene Poem” in both of the English and original versions. Qabbani wrote this poem when he lived outside of Syria and now I’m wondering if he has any poem that talks about women or sisters since the death of his sister is what influenced him to be an activist and start writing poems?