Ahmed al-Kashif’s attack on Lord Kitchener

13 Jun

This (including the intro “In 1911 Lord Kitchener…”) comes from a book of Egyptian Nationalist poetry that I recently picked up in Cairo. This is a selection from Ahmed al-Kashif’s (1878-1948) section. It is from a poem he wrote called “A Speech to Lord Kitchener”.

al-Kashif is said to have a “natural and instinctive style of poetry”. He apparently spend most of his time writing nationalist poetry. Ironically, as you can see from his picture, he looks quite similar to Lord Kitchener.Image

I don’t usually like to translate poetry because I find it almost impossible to do well but I couldn’t resist and attack on Lord Kitchener.

“In 1911 Lord Kitchener was appointed British Governor in Egypt. He was known to be boastful and arrogant. Al-Kashif received him with this excellent poem brimming with patriotism, pride and opposition. He says in it’s beginning:

Test the path with gentle steps

They have entrusted you with a great task

In Egypt there is a people who won’t be wronged

And a single ruler who accepts no partners(1)

You will never block her Nile

Nor will her pyramids be destroyed by your force

God is more powerful than your armies

Fate will wipe your efforts away

He continues:

Do you blame the wounded if they try

under their attackers to thrash and cry

We are no more a flock without a shepherd

And you are no murderous lion

Whether you be smiling or frowning

God knows your most secret discussions

Perhaps your character in old age

is not like it was in the prime of youth

He continues:

Speak to the Nile Valley of its blessings

Perhaps its sons will be given some of what it has given you

If the you forgot about the Land of Egypt, then your resolve

could conquer what it willed and raise the stars themselves

Outside Egypt there are places and opportunities

for a man looking to expand his violent ambition

Although you rage at your unwilling subjects,

Their endurance is more worthy than your desire for satisfaction

Forgive them their greed

If they do not just hand over whatever your hand grabs

(1) There is a note in the text that reads “perhaps he means that the ruler is the community (ummah) since this is the source of power and it accepts no partners in its rule”

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