In the first of a new series, Dr Shihab Ghanem chooses and translates two classic poems. In this issue he features poetry by two renowned female poets.





When I Was Fair and Young

When I was fair and young, and favor graced me,
Of many was I sought, their mistress for to be;
But I did scorn them all, and answered them therefore,
“Go, go, go seek some otherwhere!
Importune me no more!”

How many weeping eyes I made to pine with woe,
How many sighing hearts, I have no skill to show;
Yet I the prouder grew, and answered them therefore,
“Go, go, go seek some otherwhere!
Importune me no more!”

Then spake fair Venus’ son, that proud victorious boy,
And said, “Fine dame, since that you be so coy,
I will so pluck your plumes that you shall say no more,
‘Go, go, go seek some otherwhere!
Importune me no more!’”

When he had spake these words, such change grew in my breast
That neither night nor day since that, I could take any rest.
Then lo! I did repent that I had said before,
“Go, go, go seek some otherwhere!
Importune me no more!”

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) ruled Britain for nearly 50 years. She was an eloquent speaker, a poetess and mastered six languages. Her court was attended by writers such as Shakespeare, Sidney Edmund Spencer, Bacon and Raleigh. She never married and on her deathbed she agreed that James VI be her successor. She had executed his mother Mary Queen of Scots for plotting to assassinate her.

Dr Suad Al-Sabah

(b. 1942)

Female 2000

I could have spent my time
- like all other women in the world -
In front of the mirror admiring my reflection

I could have sipped coffee
In the warmth of my bed
And chatted over the phone for hours and hours
Not feeling the passing of time

I could have busied myself donning make-up
Applying kohl
Being coquettish
Lying under the sun to tan my skin
Dancing on the waves like all nymphs

I could have busied myself
Putting on adornations of turquoise and rubies
Strutting like a queen

I could have done nothing
Read nothing
Written nothing
Devoted my time to seeking the limelight ..
To the latest fashions ..
To travelling the world ..

I could have avoided refusal
Avoided being full of rage,
Or shouting in the face of the tragedy ..

I could have swallowed the tears
Swallowed the repression
Grown resigned to imprisonment

I could have
Avoided the questions of History
And escaped the self torture

I could have avoided
The sighs of all the down-trodden people,
The cries of all the crushed people,
The revolt of the thousands who have died.
But I betrayed the law of the female
And chose to grapple with words!

Dr. Suad Al-Sabah was born in Kuwait in 1942 and obtained a Ph.D. in Economics from the U.K. in 1981. She has published several books of verse and also several books connected with the economic development of Kuwait. She has established a literary prize that carries her name and she has also established a publishing house.