When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

She's a Work of Art

Composed and recited by Sād Sheyl, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at one of Sād’s seasonal camp sites in the mountains (śḥēr) above Ḥawf, March 2004. Translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma ʾĀmr Ǧīd al-Mahri in Ṣalālah, February 2012.

The following poem is fairly self-explanatory: the poet describes his regard for “the daughter of Fʾāmōn”: Fann. Fann is an Arabic word meaning “art”; there is abundant wordplay in this poem between her personal name and the meaning of her name in Arabic. Words or phrases in boldface presented some difficulty to myself or Muḥammad bir Nǧēma.

1) ǧānī ḥyōm // ǧzawt teḳyīdThe sun has begun to set // it has reached the horizon and is disappearing.
2) w-fayʾ ḳīṭōn // hēm līn entīṭThe shadows of the highest mountains // they come to us, one after the other.
3) ṭāt hēm ryēm // w-ṯroh ḏe-ḥdīdOne of them [the mountains] is Ryēm // and the second is of [?] Ḥdīd
4) ḏ-sedhem ṭāṭ // ḏel-yebtədīdTheir [the mountains’] friendship is one // they are never separated.
5) hes ġyū rabźā // w-bēnī ḥdīdLike brothers of the same mother // and cousins
6) w-ḏeh ḏ-ʿeykōm // eśhelleh [sic. ešhelleh]  ʾaḳyīdThis mountain, ʿEykōm // it deserves [their] leadership
7) fenwīhem ǧroh // śwēr w-ʾāḳīdIt goes in front of them // [their] counselor and leader
8) heh heynī ʾāmūr // yeśġābī ʾaǧīdIt [the mountain? or “he”?] said to me: // beauty steals away [my] heart.
9) ʾabirt fʾāmōm // fann śhīdThe daughter of Fʾāmōn // her artistry is well attested.
10) fann śeḫṭ ḏhīb // w-ʾālḳ ʾaǧīdFann is an array of gold chains // the most beautiful necklace
11) etē bə-dābūm // ksibk ʿāḏīdUntil Dābūm // I earned [nothing but] pain and hardship.
12) fann ham ʾār ṭāṭ // ḥrōf teǧwīd“Fann” is a unique name // its letters [in] recitation:
13) ṭār ʾelf w-fā // w-nūn tešdīdAtop alif and // and a geminate nūn.
14) ʾār ḏ-bers eḏ-šeh // ksoh efyīdIndeed her, [he] who is with her // “finds profit.”
15) w-emben ṯroh // lād hoh mebdīdBetween the two of them // I will not intrude [i.e. “separate”].

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