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Ahmad Shawqi the Prince of Poetry and His Remarkable Poems

posted on: Jul 1, 2020

By: Raneem Ghunaim/Arab America Contributing Writer

Ahmad Shawqi an Egyptian poet born in 1868 in Cairo, Egypt and died on Oct 13, 1932, in Cairo, Egypt. He was a prolific poet with a fine command of rhyme and diction. His work was and still is greatly admired and read by many. His name held prestige in the Arab World. To this day, his legacy has followed his name and his poetry has inspired many young Arab poets.

A Glimpse of His Work

Ahmad Shawqi and Saad Zaghloul

Shawqi’s religion was not the only thing he wrote about. Often he would write about politics. Shawqi’s wide range of topics is what made him stand out from the other poets during his time. Alongside writing poetry, Shawqi also wrote many plays. He was the first in modern Arabic literature to write a poetic play. His work included 5 tragedies: Majnun Laila (literally “Mad about Layla”), the Death of Cleopatra, ‘Antara, Ali beh el-Kebeer, Kambeez (Cambyses II), 1931. In addition to the 5 plays that portrayed tragedy, he wrote two comedies: El-Set Huda (Madame Huda), and El-Bakhila (the Miser-ette).

Shawqi’s work can be categorized into three main periods during his career. One of the three coincides with the period during which he occupied a position at the court of the Khedive. His second category was comprised of the period of his exile in Spain. During that period of time, his feeling of nostalgia and sense of alienation directed his poetic talent. Along with that he also wrote patriotic poems on Egypt as well as the Arab world and Pan-Arabism. And finally, his third stage occurred after his return from exile. During that time, he was preoccupied with the glorious history of Ancient Egypt and Islam. Many of his poems were very much inspired by Islam. The maturation of his poetic style was also reflected in his plays. The most notable of which were published during this period.

List of His Most Successful Poetry

1. The Monkey In The Ark
2. King Solomon And The Hoopoe
3. King Solomon And The Peacock
4. A Sail On Tigris River
5. The Sultan’s Companion
6. Death Overcomes Upon Everyone Is Alive
7. They Tricked Her Is Saying, Belle
8. O’ God!
9. An Encounter With A Mother Cat
10. The Dog And The Pigeon
11. Expatriation And Nostagia
12. Latitudes Beneath Your Eyelids
13. Footprints
14. What Is The Moon
15. That Nature
16. Nahj Al Burda (The Way Of The Mantle)
17. Stand For Teacher
18. Damascus

Life Lessons From the Prince of Poets

In his many years of poetry and playwriting, Shawqi was able to give inspiring life lessons. Ones in which we could look back at and reflect on any day or time. Starting with his advice on life, Shawqi said “It is not in vain that people frequent this planet, nor is it for nothing they depart hence.” Second, it was his advice on the importance of knowledge, he said: “If the teacher’s insight lapses for a moment, then those under his tutelage will lack vision.” And finally, his advice on the greatness of Damascus, in which he said “As long as that wind sweeps, tears would be everlasting upon Damascus. I excuse all pens and rhymes if they couldn’t express the matter.”

From his quotes and sayings, we could easily conclude and imagine the type of person he was, and what he stood for. Shawqi was never hesitant on saying what was on his mind. His work to this day is an inspiration to millions of young Arab poets. He did not write about one topic or the other, he made sure to cover them all. For those reasons, he earned his nickname, Prince of Poetry. Shawqi managed to write about politics and get featured by many political newsletters. His work about religion was admired by many. Overall, Shawqi’s character stands out in the crowd and his work is a great representation of who he was.


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