Prose poetry was the form author May Ziadeh was best known for in her own time, and which I myself noticed instantly as I’d read this particular type of poetry of hers how it felt supremely desirable.
A few passages I’d like to share from Fleurs de Rêve beginning with the introduction of the prose poetry section ‘Myosotis’ (meaning: forget-me-nots) from the part of her poetry book entitled ”Intimate Pages.”
The passages read like a personal letter, made from prose poetry and philosophy, with such a far reach….from the pen of Miss May Ziadeh (signed I.C., her penname,) I now present to you…
To Miss Sidonie Ripperger
It is to you, dear friend, that I dedicate this part of my “Intimate Pages,” entitled “Myosotis:” justice and affection have given me a duty and what a sweet duty that is to fulfill!
At the moment when I was losing Pauline, to whom I had offered «Fleur d’amitié» [friendship flower] for a dedication, another friend presented herself as more faithful than she: this friend is you, dear Sidonie; and your letters, so full of sweetness, abandonment, and affection, have more than once, brought the sunshine to my icy soul from out of its solitude.
Do you know the lack of true and sincere friendship for the heart which needs to unfold? I wish you didn’t, and I wish you never knew. However, in the dark and cold night in which my soul struggled in anguish, you appeared, as dawn in the morning, with light and heat, and I allowed myself to be captivated by your attractive qualities of intelligence and heart, as the lark sweeps over a luminous mirror.
Be to me, friend, what Pauline has not been, and be assured that you will not have to force an ungrateful one: although if fate continues to draw us apart from each other, I will carry you in my heart as I am and remain in yours.
(From May’s letter to Sidonie)
You say you suffer because of me? I am at the same time sorry and happy that you suffer because of me. It is in suffering, my dear friend, that the soul finds its innermost pleasure, it is certain, and it is sometimes difficult to understand; however, it is the truth: suffering for someone whom we love and love despite everything, for that someone, is that not the height of love? You are a beautiful soul, and I am sure that you understand me, and it is an unspeakable pleasure for me to feel that you, my dear, understand my feelings, for the common regard it as folly, or madness for madness; I prefer my own understanding, and loving what I do, to that of the ignorant who do not have this intimate sense of the psychology of love, and who, because they are blind, believe that everyone resembles them. Oh! No, I am not one of those faint and weak souls who accept everything without fighting: life is in the struggle to attain an ideal; one is struck sometimes, one is wounded, one bleeds, one can die from wounds, but at least one has the conviction of having struggled, to have exercised the noblest faculties of human nature, the faculties of intelligence and will. This multitude of souls who accept everything without realizing it, and who prefer to the honor of the struggle only the pleasure of rest…this multitude which has no ideal, cannot understand the souls who have an ideal and who fight to conquer or defend it.
Do you think that my affection would change if I told you: “I love, in the evening, to contemplate the blue sky, to look at the shining stars, to enjoy the golden sickle of the moon which cuts through the stars so bright and so white that we can see spinning in the immense field of azure above our little heads…I love this pro-founder of the great sky which reveals my weakness, but I prefer your eyes, O Sidonie, your eyes so deep, for they are the opening of a great, noble and lofty soul.
I love to hear the birds chirping near their nests, I love their melodies, their love songs in the green leaves, but your voice, oh Sidonie, is more melodious and heavenly, it fits me faster and more deeply in the heart.
I love the warm rays of the spring sun, the white, red, and blue flowers, the thousand little cries of nature, but your heart, oh Sidonie, is warmer, more ardent, for it sets mine on fire.
I love the ring of the sea that drops off the rocks, the wave that dies in a vast white ribbon on the golden sand; I love the murmur of the stream breaking over the stones; I love the cool sea breeze blowing through my hair; but when I am with you, Sidonie, my soul is calmer, more peaceful, more rested than this weary traveler who stretches out under the shade of a grove and gives in exchange for its freshness the fatigue of his long walk.”
Do you believe, my dear friend, that my affection for you would change if I told you what I have just told you?…
Do you know why you are so attractive? It’s because you are you. Personality presupposes originality; originality good and rational, I mean.
…I don’t know why it costs me so much to go away from Lebanon. Of course, this is my country; Nature is delicious and the views lovely, but if I miss the trees and the rocks of our summer stay, I do not regret anybody there, because I do not leave any soul friends there.
All those I met there left my heart very indifferent…Yes, all of them, with the exception of little Marie, a fourteen year old child, whose beautiful black eyes have sometimes inspired me to meditation…Too bad for Sidonie if she is jealous!
I also loved little Georges. This important character is microscopic: she is four years old; once again, too bad for Sidonie. I loved her big head with heavy black curls, her mischievous yellow eyes, her tender red lip, her lip that pouted and laughed at the same time, and her cheek that was cool and so soft when kissed.
Yes, but these are ailments of a day which do not take root in the heart; we leave them without tears, without regret; we find them with pleasure and without any joy.
—by May Ziadeh, from her poetry book in French, Fleurs de Rêve (1911), English translations by Jade Nicole Beals (2022).