Ahmad Shawqi and the Weightlifter

Ahmad Shawqi was an Egyptian poet who pionereed the modern Egyptian literary movement. He was considered by many to be one of the greatest Arabic poet laureates of the modern age and was given the title Amīr al-Shu‘arā’ meaning The Prince of Poets. In 1930, an Egyptian man by the name of As-Sayyid Naseer won an international weightlifting competition. The people of Egypt wanted to celebrate upon his return and invited Shawqi to recite poetry in praise of Naseer’s win. Little did they know, Ahmad Shawqi had something else in mind. Shawqi wanted to remind Naseer that although he won a competition in lifting weights, the weights of life are much heavier. Here is an excerpt from the poem he recited. Translation is done by Brother Imran Salha.

قل لي نصير وأنت بر صادق
أحملت إنساناً عليك ثقيلاً

Tell me Naseer, please, in all honesty
Have you carried the weight of a human whose presence was sheer moronity?

أحملت ديناً في حياتك مرّةً
أحملت يوماً في الضلوع غليلاً

Have you ever carried the weight of debt in your life responsibly?
Or tolerated, in your chest, a wretched day of despondency?

أحملت ظلماً من قريبٍ غادرٍ
أو كاشحٍ بالأمس كان خليلاً

Have you ever experienced, from a loved one, betrayal & hypocrisy?
Or the disappointment of a once beautiful companion, who became a fierce enemy?

تلك الحياة وهذه أثقالها
وُزن الحديد بها فعاد ضئيلاً

This is life my friend, and these are its burdensome weights
I placed them next to the weights you carried, and yours look like a piece of cake!”

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