January 7, 2015
Shawqi’s Animal Fables rendered into English



5 min read

Ahmed Shawqi, known as the “Prince of Poets” is one of the my favorites. In his diwan he features an entire section entitled “Animal Fables” in which he gives poignant lessons through the lives and interactions of animals. Having already translated his poem “The Animals and The Ark,” I was inspired by Prof. Mohamed Fadel‘s posting of another of Shawqi’s poems titled “The Fox Came Out One Day” to translate it into English as well.

“The Animals and The Ark” was posted on my now defunct blog Islamic Law, Etc. so I’ve reproduced that one here immediately after “The Fox Came Out One Day.” I am in no way trained in English poetry and its structure, so if I’ve made any mistakes please do point them out in the comments.



“The Fox Came Out One Day” by Ahmed Shawqi, rendered into English by Joe Bradford

1- The fox appeared in priestly garb,

with stride in step and hefty word

he cursed the shifty and began to pray.

2- Praise be to God, Goodwill to Man

O faithful atone your sins at hand,

And disavow avian desires lest ye stray.

3- Tell the Rooster to mount his perch,

And call for prayer to all who lurch,

Might we be blessed with penance on this day.

3- Unto the cock a herald harked,

The foxes orders did he bark,

To provide for him an indulgence if he may.

4- “Oh please good sir” replied the Cock,

“Our intellect you surely mock!

My message back to your master, do relay.”

5- “As our grandfathers to us have quoted,

those in the know who’ve rightly noted,

“To think a fox as faithful, makes one prey.”

برز الثعلب يوماً في ثياب الواعظينا
فمشى في الأرض يهذي ويسبّ الماكرينا
ويقول : الحمدلله إله العالمينا
ياعباد الله توبوا فهو كهف التائبينا
وازهدوا في الطير إن العيش عيش الزاهدينا
واطلبوا الديك يؤذن لصلاة الصبح فينا
فأتى الديك رسول من إمام الناسكينا
عرض الأمر عليه وهو يرجو أن يلينا
فأجاب الديك : عذراً يا أضلّ المهتدينا
بلّغ الثعلب عني عن جدودي الصالحينا
أنهم قالوا وخير القول قول العارفينا
مخطئٌ من ظنّ يوماً أنّ للثعلب دينا


“The Animals and the Ark” by Ahmed Shawqi, rendered into English by Joe Bradford

1- When Noah’s Ark was done, water ensued to swell,

Divine assistance came to move its hefty hull.

2- And then inside a sight than no one thought to see,

The waves had not splashed out upon the open sea

3- Until you saw the Lion stroll as donkey’s pal.

A cat he frolicked, mice caressing on his tail

4- And elephants they listened so, they could not bore,

to foul sounds of comfort that came from the Boar.

5- The feline race, it raced up to the Canine’s side.

The wolf’s fang now for sheep to love & kiss in pride.

6- Gazelles they leaped to reach up to the vultures height,

While ants they met with aardvarks almost every night.

7- Small chicks they groomed the foxes coat so ever soft.

The rabbit’s love then tamed the weasel’s wily craft.

8- So old disputes were squashed and thought as never so,

and jubilation spread within the Ark below.

9- Until the day that great ship onto Judi lay.

And all in it ‘came certain of another day.

10- Returned they did to former tendencies and ways,

And took upon themselves the mode of long-gone days.

11- So correlate to this the likeness of mankind,

When danger strikes and hazard fills the heart and mind

12- But yet you only see from them such struggle, strife

for most of them they live a sort of normal life…

الحيوانات والسَفينَة
للشاعر أحمد شوقي

لَمّا أَتَمَّ نوحٌ السَفينَةْ -*- وَحَرَّكَتها القُدرَةُ المُعينَةْ
جَرى بِها ما لا جَرى بِبالِ -*- فَـما تَعَالى المَوجُ كَالجِبالِ
حَتّى مَشى اللَيثُ مَعَ الحِمارِ -*- وَأَخَذَ القِطُّ بِأَيدي الفارِ
وَاِستَمَعَ الفيلُ إِلى الخِنزيرِ -*- مُوتَنِساً بِصَوتِهِ النَكيرِ
وَجَلَسَ الهِرُّ بِجَنبِ الكَلبِ -*- وَقَبَّلَ الخَروفُ نابَ الذِئبِ
وَعَطَفَ البازُ عَلى الغَزالِ -*- وَاِجتَمَعَ النَملُ عَلى الأَكّالِ
وَفَلَتِ الفَرخَةُ صوفَ الثَعلَبِ -*- وَتَيَّمَ اِبنَ عِرسَ حُبُّ الأَرنَبِ
فَذَهَبَتْ سَوابِقُ الأَحقادِ -*- وَظَهَرَ الأَحْبابُ في الأَعادي
حَتّى إِذا حَطّوا بِسَفحِ الجودي -*- وَأَيقَنوا بِعَودَةِ الوُجودِ
عادوا إِلى ما تَقتَضيهِ الشيمَةْ -*- وَرَجَعوا لِلحالَةِ القَديمَةْ
فَقِس عَلى ذَلِكَ أَحوالَ البَشَر -*- إِن شَمِلَ المَحذورُ أَو عَمَّ الخَطَر
بَينا تَرى العالَمَ في جِهادِ -*- إِذ كُلُّهُم عَلى الزَمانِ العادي


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