Instrumentation: Choral (SSAA) and percussion
Year composed: 2004
I discovered this poem by Al-Khansa, the best known female poet in Arabic literature, and felt a strong desire to set it to music, both for solidarity as well as its intrinsic beauty.
Text by Al-Khansa
Translated by Willis Barnstone
In death’s field
In morning distress, every brother cries for you
A fountain in the desert, protector of their wealth
When men fear a drought you are a night shower
Waters fall upon your grave
I wished only to pour rain as drink in the desert!
You and death and one shirt
My passion scores all other solace.
A spirit went on morning’s track to the edge of day
Your sword on the field of heat.
Your camel swam through the dust, short-haired like a wold.
You attacked as their hero defender
Until they turned from sacred relics!
If this age perished with you
It was washed away with rain
And every tribe is a journey to ruin
And every treaty erased by time.