The New Nile: Now in Arabic

Friday, 15 June 2012, 12:32 | Category : Uncategorized
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The prizewinning Egyptian poet Sayed Gouda has translated my poem “The New Nile: Homage to the Egyptian Revolution” into Arabic. It can be found on p. 29 of the current issue of Tanja, the leading Egyptian cultural journal ( or Also on Gouda’s own excellent English-language website, Here is the poem in English:

The New Nile
Homage to the Egyptian Revolution

When Egypt fed the world with corn,
It sucked the breast-milk of the Nile;
The Pharaoh’s power, the Roman guile
Drank from that plenteous horn.

The new Nile is a Nile of light,
The world’s bright screens, the cellphone’s glow;
The fertile information-flow
Makes fires in the night.

The new Nile is a Nile of tears,
Of mourning for her children who,
Dying in giving, overthrew
The tyranny of years.

The new Nile flows with liberty,
For today tyrants everywhere
Shake in their boots with doubt and fear
They will be swept to sea.

29 Comments for “The New Nile: Now in Arabic”

  1. 1Stephen Oyer-Owens

    Hello, my colleague. Your poem captures precisely the passion, possibilities and vision enfolded in recent events in Egypt and underscores the possibilities now emerging for humanity as a whole. I’m so grateful for your writing it.

    It’s been a number of years since we talked. I hope to be in touch with you this week!

  2. 2Troy Camplin

    Very awesome. I wrote a far more prosaic piece on the relation between the Egyptian revolution and their having an education bubble.

  3. 3sayed gouda

    Hello Fred,

    Thanks for sharing the news with your friends. Besides the Moroccan monthly magazine Tanja (, the poem was re-published by the Iraqi daily online newspaper Tahayati (, the Egyptian daily online newspaper el-Bashayer (, and of course my website (
    It was my pleasure translating it into Arabic.

  4. 4Frederick Turner

    Thank you, Sayed. I and my friend Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, with whom I translate Hungarian and German poetry, believe that a poem is incomplete until it is translated, and only begins to be a real presence when it is well translated into more languages. Because poetry speaks to all human beings, and the true “Humanese” language is the compound of all languages. So the poem is now as much yours as mine.

  5. 5sayed gouda

    i totally agree with you. i wrote a paper called ‘Translation From a Post-Modernism Perspective’ in which i discuss translation as an act of creative writing that leaves all possibilities of interpretation open to the reader and how the translated text stands as a work of art in its own right. Without translation, there would be nothing called World Literature(s), Egyptology, and maybe the European Renaissance would have delayed for a century or so if not for the Arabic translation of Aristotle.

  6. 6vanderleun

    And now that all Arabs can meet the new Pharaoh same as the old Pharaoh it’s time to review this far too silly preview of a history that is never to be.

  7. 7Fred

    I does look rather silly now, doesn’t it? But the alternative view would be that Arabs are genetically, *racially*, incapable of democracy, which would of course be a racist view.

    Or, if the “never” in the message is meant to imply that Arabs are *culturally* incapable of democracy–and always will be–then we would have to concede that the message is wrong, since much worse cultural regimes and national pathologies have eventually discovered democracy.

    Europe during the Reformation was even bloodier and more tyrannical than the Middle East is now–the 30 Years’ War makes the current Arab Spring look like a picnic. But even closer, the Holocaust and the Gulag–good old “Western” phenomena–show up the relatively wretched amateurishness of the current attempt at repression in Egypt.

    Vanderleun is right about one thing, though. The first effort at democracy–in the English, French, and Russian revolutions, for example–usually produces, for a while, dictators worse than the monarchs they overthrew: Cromwell, Napoleon, Stalin. Somehow the American revolution avoided that stage in the creation of democracy. Perhaps because it did not–at least after 1865–accept Vanderleun’s “never”.

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