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I wrote the music to this poem in 1992 for a BBC Everyman documentary called 'See no Evil' on the tenth anniversary of the massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra & Shatila in Beirut. The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (born in 1942 in the now depopulated village of Birweh, near Acre) wrote the original poem in 1967 to convey the Palestinian sense of loss at the time. Darwish is now internationally recognised as one of the greatest living Arab poets.

In this poem, Darwish borrows the chorus line from Palestinian folklore, thus juxtaposing colloquial Palestinian with the classical Arabic of the main verses. Each time the chorus is performed on this rendition, it is done with a different variation. This is reflected in the English subtitle of this song.


I lost a beautiful dream
I lost the lilies' sting
My night has been long
stretched over the garden walls
But I have not lost the way

My palm has grown accustomed
to my wounded hopes
Shake my hands with vigour
and passion, a river of songs will flow
O Guide of my colt and my sword

Variation I:
O Mother! I can endure the daggers' stabbing
But not the rule of a coward.

Your hands hover over my forehead, like two glorious crowns
If ever I should bend, a hill shall bow, and a sky will be lost
Then I am no longer worthy of a kiss or a prayer
And the door will be slammed in my face
They asked: do you love the beautiful woman? I replied: my love is worship.

Her hair is lavish and abundant
Her breast the dearest pillow
Wedding her is a sign of valour

Variation II:
O Mother! I can endure the daggers' stabbing
But not the rule of a coward.

The children of tomorrow pray in your hands
And my own child says: “my days will brighten”
For you are my sun and my shelter.

I defend the roses in yearning for your lips
I defend the sand in the streets fearful for your feet
And I defend my right to defend my right
I defend my right to defend my right.

Variation III:
O Mother! I can endure the daggers' stabbing
But not the rule of a coward.


from Sprinting Gazelle - Palestinian songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora, released February 6, 2006
Poetry: Mahmoud Darwish
Music: Reem Kelani.

Vocals: Reem Kelani
Tenor saxophone: Idris Rahman
Piano: Zoe Rahman
Double bass: Oli Hayhurst
Tombak: Fariborz Kiani
Drums: Paul Clarvis
Backing vocals: Mizan Rahman, Christopher Somes-Charlton & Reem Kelani



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Reem Kelani London, UK

Reem Kelani is a Palestinian musician born in Britain & brought up in Kuwait. Her debut album “Sprinting Gazelle: Palestinian songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora” was released in 2006 to critical acclaim. Her next album "Reem Kelani: Live at the Tabernacle" will be released in March 2016. Reem wrote & presented “Songs for Tahrir” for BBC Radio 4 on the music of the Egyptian Revolution. ... more

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