Dear imaginary readers,
today I want to talk to you about a poet and his relationship with his homeland.
Ibn Ḥamdīs al-ʾAzdī al-Ṣīqillī (c. 1056 – c. 1133), was born in Syracuse, a city in the South-East of Sicily, from a wealthy family who settled in the Val di Noto after the Arab conquest of the island in the 9th century AD.
When the Normans conquered Sicily in the 11th century Ibn decided to first move to North Africa, and then to al-Andalus (South of Spain) where the Almoravids were in power and were not so keen on sponsoring art, literature and poetry, so he had to move back to North Africa, at the Zirid court of Mahdiya, in modern-day Tunis.
He died in Andalusia or in Majorca, depending on the sources, however he never forgot Sicily and dedicated to the island some of his finest diwan.
As William Granara says: “The theme of al-hanin ila l-awtan, nostalgia for one’s homeland, dominates many of the siqilliyyas of Ibn Hamdis. Ibn Hamdis’s use of universal themes of the classical qasida enables his Arab audience to share emotionally and poetically in his own personal experience.”
Home is where your hearth is and in the case of Ibn Ḥamdīs, it was in Sicily, as we can guess from the following lines he wrote.
For them my heart harbors a burning fire
bringing chronic ailment to my body.
There stand abodes where cruel twists of fate
prowl like wild wolves,
where I used to accompany the lions in their thickets
and the gazelles in their coverts.
Beyond you, O sea, I have my paradise
where I donned the robes of blessing, not of despair.
Whenever I seek a morning there,
you grant me instead only an evening.
If I could be given my desire –
since the sea stands in the way of reunion –
I would sail the sea with the moon as my boat
until in it I would embrace the sun
Oh my Sicily. In memory
A desperate longing for you and
For the follies of my youth returns. Again I see
The lost happinesses and the splendid friends,
Oh Paradise from which I was expelled!
What is the point of recalling your splendour?