Al Khansa: Could I only have died of sadness!


My long night refused to give me
the slightest sleep after the terrible news.

"The son of Amir is dead!" the messenger cried.
"Murdered!"  Could I only have died of sadness!

This cruel age has broken me with him!
Sorrows are good for destroying a life.

A hero like my beloved makes the dryest eye weep,
and touches the soul of the heartless.

I had a brother, loyal to all his companions,
who fed the caravan when it was starving.

He shone in war, fighting in the arena,
like the shining sharp edge of the sword.

What have I done to this age, fertile in sorrows?
Have all the ills then fallen to our share?

    --Tumadir bint Amru al-Harith bint al-Sharid , called Al Khansa (late 500s-early 600s)

She is considered the greatest woman poet in Arabic. She wrote this poem when her brother was killed by a rival tribe.

Translated from a French translation. Here is a link to a direct translation into English of an Al-Khansa poem that begins the same way, with a phonetic transcription and the original Arabic.