From the Prose Poetry of Miss May Ziadeh, Chapter “Intimate Pages”

I have an idea for the blog to share my own little lines of literary critique of May’s writings (besides my book review of her poetry book, Fleurs de Reve Flowers of a Dream, 1911), the kind of attentiveness she valued in her own reviews and critiques, ’tho would’ve rarely in her time and place received insights on her work from others.

She would refer to this first book of hers later on as ”her literary baby” (with its precious newness and her own very free way of writing)..and in her life she would go on to write and speak, too on serious social issues like the women’s cause in her part of the world (this term she’d coined) and overall happiness.

May 2, 2022

Prose poetry was the genre author May Ziadeh was best known for in her own time, and which I myself noticed instantly as I’d read this type of writing 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 titled ‘Myosotis’ (forget-me-nots) from ”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…

INTRODUCTION

To Miss Sidonie Ripperger 

Affectionate Remembrance

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» [flower of friendship] 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.

I.C.

(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).

Read also the poem she wrote to a person referred to in this prose poetry.

2 responses to “From the Prose Poetry of Miss May Ziadeh, Chapter “Intimate Pages””

  1. […] CAPRICIOUS by May Ziadeh Grandiose in the deep sky, the sun said its customary goodbye to the river, the palm trees, the sands of this place, and walked toward the other world. Cairo was hidden beneath a fine mist, the trees swirling on the brown banks of the Nile. Their shadow fell everywhere, finding no danger and covered over safely the plains and the foam. Then the whole horizon sends up a cry, The firmament is stained with lilac and rose (Quivering colors where the soft azure rests), And the zephyr is tender. O Pyramids! It is then That, raising my thinking head, I hear as I wander on your strong flanks, The echo of some melancholic voice— But What! Would that be to you An orphan crying for his mother? Is it a hymn, is it a prayer, Is it a divine moan? But the silence has already returned Around the great black monument. For a time – My heart quivers, rushes, Glides with the evening breeze… Suddenly the sounds are heard, Oh gods! Where did they come from? A sweet harmony melts within it… It is Alexander’s voice. An echo? by Napoleon Is it the sword that shines? Is this your statue, O Memnon, Who falls into a steamy sweat? Is it a soldier’s sigh Dead? A horse that rears? Is it the cracking of a marble Who's been lying there for centuries? Answer, Monuments! Proud pyramids, Centuries past, Silent memory! Are these songs of love or warrior commands that your insides are throwing clean? No, on your worn-down coasts It’s no longer the Imperial Eagle That marks your sacred lands Footsteps of his fiery horse; Oh! Lower your French weapons; Your flags are barely seen… And Muhammad Ali is no more, All things are English. These long echoes are floating and tickling my soul like the breath of a breeze, a breath of azure, a motherly kiss, a sad, pure look, the flash of a subtle flame, a child’s soft finger caressing my forehead, a bird chirping, a river whispering, a friendly smile, a cry from nature, or from the sun, a golden ray… It was the distant band that played "God Save The King." It was the certain vibration of Brave hearts full of faith Your sweet, nostalgic waves Harmony, Oh divine nectar, I let it run through my breast, The melancholic warmth… Museums, Beauties, Beloved Fine Arts, Oceans, rivers, greenery, Immense azure, golden stars Who are adornments from heaven To you, my young ones, To you, my young intelligence, My love and trust, my blue and white dreams, I send you! But no more transports. So long, Pyramides, And you, Lebanon, Beirut, Dear Antoura, Hello! My Syria, Hi! As soon as I can, I’ll go back to your clear horizons. —by May Ziadeh (1911, Cairo) * A recent poem I wrote: “In the Deep, Unexpectant Dark” More by May Ziadeh: From the Prose Poetry of Miss May Ziadeh, Intimate Pages […]

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  2. […] CAPRICIOUS by May Ziadeh Grandiose in the deep sky, the sun said its customary goodbye to the river, the palm trees, the sands of this place, and walked toward the other world. Then the horizon sent up a sigh and the heavens were tinged with lilac and rose quivering colors where rests azure and the breath of the zephyr softens. Cairo was hidden beneath a fine mist, the trees swirling on the brown banks of the Nile. The shadow fell everywhere, finding no danger and covered over safely the plains and the foam. O Pyramids! Then it is That, lifting up my thinking head, I tend to wander upon your strong flanks The echo of some plaintive voice; But What! would it be within you That an orphan mourns his mother? Is it a hymn, is it a prayer, Is it a divine moan? But already the silence returns Around the big black monument. A time—my heart trembles, leaps, Hovering with the evening breeze… Suddenly the sounds are heard, O God! But where do they come from? A sweet harmony blends in… It is the voice of Alexander. An echo? Napoleon’s? Is it the saber that shimmers? Is it your statue, O Memnon, Who falls in a moist grave? Is it the sigh of a soldier Deceased? A horse that rides? Is it the cracking of a marble Who’s been lying there for centuries? Answer, Monuments! High Pyramids, Centuries gone, O silent memory! Are these songs of love or warlike commands that your belly purifies? No, on your desolate coasts It is no longer the Imperial Eagle Who marks your sacred lands Steps of his fiery horse— Oh! Your flags are barely seen… And Muhammad Ali is no longer; All things are English. These long, floating echoes tickle my soul like a breath of a breeze, a breath of azure, a maternal kiss, a sad and pure look, a flash of a subtle flame, a child’s reaching finger that caresses my forehead, a bird chirping, a river whispering, a friendly smile, a cry from nature or from the sun, a golden ray… It was the distant marching band that played “God Saves The King;” It was the sure vibration of hearts valiant and full of faith: Museums, Beauties, Beloved Fine Arts, Oceans, rivers, greenery, immense azure, golden stars who from heaven is the adornment to you, my young ones, to you my young intelligence, my love and my trust, To you, my blue and white dreams! But no more transports. See you soon, Pyramides, And you, Lebanon, Beirut, Dear Antoura, hello! My Syria, Salvation! As soon as I can, I’ll go back to your clear horizons. —May Ziadeh pub. Is. Copia Fleurs de Reve “Flowers in a Dream” (1911, Cairo) …. Read the poem I wrote myself today for and in honor of this poet: In the Deep, Expectant Dark by Jade Nicole Beals. Another favorite by May Ziadeh, her prose poetry, which she was esteemed for especially in her lifetime: Immersed in the Prose Poetry of Miss May Ziadeh, from ‘Intimate Pages’. […]

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