Assayyab and Al-Magaleh: Two Faces of The Personality of the Century [Archives:2002/03/Culture]

January 14 2002

Deep in the past the Arabs were well-known for composing poetry and poetry was considered as a record of their daily life (love, war, praising, condemning etc.) specially during pre-Islamic era. Poets of that period and later used to hold conferences to compete with each other in big gatherings. The most famous meeting was Suq Okadh (Okadh Market) and Marbid where poets showed their talents and abilities. A tribe used to celebrate the appearance of a poet as that of a bridegroom or a national hero because he was the tongue of the tribe that would glorify its men and bravery.
Classical standard Arabic poetry followed certain strict forms (rhythm and rhymes) for more than sixteen centuries. A poet was evaluated according to such rules and fixed theme which should be followed like war, flirtation, bewailing.. etc.
The top seven poems of Umru-il-Qais, Tarafa bin-il-Abd, Thubyani, Antara, Omeru bin Kulthum, Zuhair bin Abi Sulma and Labeed had been written (with gold water) and fixed on the curtains of the Kaaba (the holiest spot before and after Islam). They were called The Seven Hanged Poems.
As life developed, some poets like Umru-il-Qias before Islam and Abu Nuwas during the Abbasid era tried to jump over the traditional forms thinking that starting a poem with an introduction of weeping over beloveds deserted ruins was an old style which should be changed. They said We are saying what is repeated. But classical Arabic verse continued till the World War II when Assayyab burst his great revolution.
Assayyab was an Iraqi poet (born in 1962 in Jeikor village in southern Basrah and died in 1964) who adopted the new style called The Modern Verse or The Free Verse by which he modernized the classical style. The new poem became rhymeless, having an interior music and dealt with new aspects such as symbolism and legends in addition to illustrating expressions in good word images.
At first he was strongly opposed by those who confined themselves to classical form believing that modernization is a kind of following the European forms and as a result losing the Arabic identity. On the contrary, others supported the new approach considering it a typical shift to modern life because after the World War II new ideas were introduced as human communication became wider at cultural, political, economic and scientific levels.
Nazik il Malaika in Iraq, Nazar Qabbani in Lebanon, Salah Abdul-Saboor in Egypt, Mahmood Darweesh in Palestine, Suleiman il Essa in Syria and Abdul-Aziz Al-Magaleh in Yemen welcomed the new cry and wrote countless poems to enrich modern Arabic literature.
Dr. Al-Magaleh was born in al-Magaleh village in Ibb during the latest period of Imamite era when he and Yemenis suffered from the unjust rulers. That gave him new ideas on life and freedom. As a poet, he completed the march of Assayyab as Assayyab died earlier without completing the new theory of modern Arab verse meanwhile the other poets failed to complete its pillars. If Badr Shakir Assayyab is considered as a personality of the twentieth century on literary level, undoubtedly Abdul-Aziz al-Magaleh will be the second half of it or at least they will be remembered as shining lamps of recent Arab poetry. The following are snaps of Song of the Rain:
In the hour before the dawn
Your eyes are two groves of palm-tree or two balconies
Passed over by the moon
When your eyes smile vine flower
And lights dance like the reflection of the moon in the river,
Disturbed gently by the movement of oars
In the hour before dawn,
As if stars throbbed in their depth
The stars drown in a mist of sorrow
The sea opens its arms
In the warmth of winter, the chill of autumn
Embracing death and birth and darkness and light
The shiver of a sob wakens in my soul.
Snaps from A song to the awaited horseman by Dr. A. A. Al-Magaleh
You, the horseman whom I had loved before my eyes glanced or saw
In you I loved our people
What your hands had written and done
I have seen in Mareb
In your temple I attended prayers
You I heard giving speech to the crowd
Tomorrow we will declare our return
And wipe sadness and tears of Sanaa
You, the horseman of dreams and time, do uprise
Let Thu-Yezen the vagabond uprise in you
Yemen which you worship
Is about to surrender again
And the tale of the slaves will return
For the new September will finish.