poems by Moëz Majed

বাংলা English

Rhapsody for a Shore in Flames

 Translated from the French: Norbert Bugeja


This is a flame of pure Barus camphor.
Flavour of empires consumed by great release.
Flavour of a slow Orient,
Flavour of ambergris and lust,
Exquisite flavour of laziness as a shy adolescent love, twisting in the throes of exile.

This sea is purple as a dark ray of the moon, endowing grace to the corsair,
glorious on his stand.
O corsair, triumphing on the great fury of supine statues!
Through what portent did you see the face of the Orient?

Ah! What pain, beyond imagining!
What impenetrable silences!
What great expectations, impervious to oblivion!
Ah! What have you seized from the splendid waves of your time?

And when, over there in the distance,
Too distant from where the word begins,
On the very crest of silence,
The mist slowly weaves its language –

Only then will your suffering end.


Over there, on an earth of warm clay, lives a people of kings.
Beware its wrath …

No doubt to invite the storm,
It will have to prepare grand rituals, intrigue …
Patiently, it will have to nurture the anger of the gods …
Break through the restraint of shadows.

No doubt, it will have to craft some betrayal.

O corsair, triumphing on the great fury of supine statues!
Let ride, therefore, the fresh shadow of pride
On our parched steppes.

O first rains after summer!
Was it nothing, therefore, but clay,
This skin I’d thought mine?

O pepper and oracles, raining on a people in labour!
All-out wrath,
And the frightening panic.
In the old days, the fear … tomorrow, childhood.

The swell on the high sea is filling with anger:
In one hour, it will break the rock’s conceit.

And here below, on this earth of warm clay,
Dirt-poor …
A people of kings lives, impassive but proud.

Blacksmiths of storms.


… And at the horn’s summons
We were present on the field of harvest.

Was it a failure
to hasten the fall of a lifeless tree trunk?

Today, many others
again will agree to stupor and death.
They will march, indifferent to the rough tyranny,
And at nightfall
They’ll go back to their homes, duty complete.

Pride …
Flame of pure Barus camphor.
Flavour of empires consumed by great release.

O Dido! My mother, my sister, my child!
I’d imagine you cried, seeing us dying.
Disgrace is a death that does not suit your rank,
And your haughty outline was quivering already
at the orient of the ages.

Tonight, the moon and his incestuous lover
Will sleep in peaceful clearings.

Nobody can claim greater orders!
No one can bring similar glory!


O stormy one,
Dark, untamable!
Here they are, on your scent, an entire people of lovers.

Quest after greatness that gauges an eternity
Present at the solstice of its own age, dressed for ceremony.

Ah ! Eternity…
A dream of sailors embattled by fear.

Who, therefore, will dare forgetfulness ?
Who, therefore, could give me the grace
To drink the silence of an eternity in alabaster ?

Because you,
Tall, slim and pale as a queen of elves,
You make them live and die in thirst.

I hear your steps approach behind my neck
And I smile…


O statue that was my own silence, torn by offence!
Rage of first loves, nourished by an autumn rain.

Long and dark night, before lightning strikes.
And there it is, warm, slithering …
Moving like trembling flesh.

A people gathered by thirst.
A people scattered by rain.

Ah! Great planes of Zama.


And haven’t we seen, seeping into the ranks of wrath
the silent sap of our tortured?
Warm and pregnant sap of the scirocco
amid peaceful orange groves,

Or the cavalry of seven homonymous generals
raising from under their hooves
lands even more vast
than the mercy of forgetfulness?

And the dead dust rises
at the signs of so many magi, heralds
of great ruses
that move the divine fire.

Ah! Hadn’t we seen the wild queen
mottling the red-clayed olive groves
with saltpetre?
O prophecies of a great release!

And there are indeed feather-plucked raptors, dancing
— to say the least — on the crests of our dreams,
already weaving the sunset
of a dawn not yet risen.

Ah! But what do they know of such release?

And we beheld coming from the earth
in long labours and great jolts,
a tough and bitter beauty, like a face
seared by silica and wind,
ochre-hued as an afternoon in July,
bleached, like a forgotten cemetery.

Yes! We have seen standing in the silence of ancient times
so many poems in stone, so many nameless faces
lost within it.

Yes, we have known the hooves of crusaders
in the courtyards of mosques, and yet this morning,
right there amid wood and hessian,
we prayed.

O omnipotence of the resigned!


Ah, how many were our suffetes,  how numerous our kings!
And under the thornbush of the laws of fealty,
how docile were our shoulders and our arms!
You, corsair, fated for the great damnations
of the open sea,
On an autumn night you landed — it seems —
on hostile shores,
On an autumn night, you blazed through old fiefs
and, in a rage, laid siege to high arrowslits.

For a tall, slender and pale queen of elves
was promised you.

And at the agreed hour, chosen so long ago, we
were standing at the bedside of the abyss,
the shadow of death besieging our gaze,
and on high hills, our tormentors stood deftly aside.

Yes, we have known cannibal kings,
And on dry planes meant for the battlecry,
we have seen, blending, song and death.
Yes, we have seen the barbarian horde
surging over our cities,
but beneath our dead
great revivals were already breeding.

Ah! Don’t they know that our flesh is bitter,
and that nothing is less faithful than the oaths of crowds?

Away from the hue and cry of the open seas,
the moon and his incestuous lover
Will sleep in peaceful clearings.

O quietude that hides so much ardour!


Hour blest amongst hours, when the rumble of the high sea
cedes its kingdom to silence,
when the child, half-hearted, gives in to the thread of sleep
and we hear nothing but a lonely cicada,
and the doubtful creak of a louver, half-closed.

In the bowl of white marble, water
retrieves its quiet
and nothing else frightens the creatures in the depths.

The hour of all solitudes!

Those conquered in great struggle, amid the unexpected greenery
in a country of thirst.
Those hidden, like an unlikely gem
inside the gash, still raw,
of flesh immemorial.
And those we’d thought lost forever
and found again
right in the midst of a thundering crowd.

O great solitudes of these times!
O solitudes of another race!

A shriek — that’s what it was.
A lone, unique shriek 
out of the heart of an ageless olive tree,
carrying in its wake, unheard-of,
a finite order of things.

Yes, great was the error
and immense shall be the retribution.

For how long, this outrage?
How many more times shall we die?


Oh perfidy … Oh treason …
From them is this glory woven
and by them has it been tarnished …

far more than the hand
that, at night, delivers the chance of a clear dawn
to the ravages of fire,
far more than twenty-one days of salt and of ashes
and the tears of an enemy general,
far more than the promise of demise
has your glory been tarnished!

No other song is hers but that of the crowd drunk on its power,
no other fealty than the one sworn to those most unruly amongst us:
she finds shelter in the folds of our cities’ closed shores,
across the vast expanses of this world,

Our glory is in the open!
Our greatness is on the streets!

But many brave ones have bowed to the new caste of masters,
many brave ones have conceded, for pride, their tribute of fealty.
And they tell us that it is not treason at all,
but that the honour of the beholden sprouts

wherever the prince’s desire goes.

Robbers of figs! cries the oracle amongst us,
Dishonourable robbers of dreams,
of wishes and of prophecies …

From them is this glory woven!
By them has it been tarnished!


Then came the roughest of times, hours most dark, and barbarians in their hordes.
Then came vast and greying rains that could not quench the land, nor wash away the stains.
And from the very depths of barren sands came a gregarious swarm of oracles,
bearing apocryphal words to the ranks of the great tablets of the law.

Yes, my mother, my sister, my child …
In those days, on the thresholds of our homes came very dark omens.

‘Will we have to leave these sober lands?
To hand over to the living forces of memory the indigo dust of our ancestors?
To roll down the lids of our dwellings and call in our children playing in the courtyard?
And then, as we walk through the dust of our own steps, to behold the trembling glow of what we were?
Vanquished, we would have nothing to leave as legacy, but our melancholy.’

But within us, they echo still — the bitter song of senselessness, the ample madness of fretful waters, and the blind star of faith.
As for them, the great architects of funeral odes for this world — they may trace on great tables
of marble and bronze the curving lines of our uncertain dawns.

Let them say that nothing sprouts from our lands
that was not listed in the great columns of their acts!

Tell them, you child yet to be born in our swaddling clothes.
Tell them that before them, many an empire believed in eternity.

Many an empire was engulfed in great release.


 Translated from the French: Ghassan Al Khuneizi 

Nettles, doves, daisies,
Freed from the jaws of the world,
I stretch out like the transparent shadow of the day
And the resonant flow of white mornings.

Here I am at the disposal of memory,
Of the high winds of deaf steppes
And of the long and silent nights to come
And I wait…

For the guardians of twilight times
To finally lose courage,
And so they deliver to the driving forces of erosion
The extinct key to so many parochial temples.

I’ll wait
To see the white smile of dawn blooming
at the tip of the highest branch.

I’ll wait
While a dragonfly lost by the winds of yesterday
Finds its way once more and lands on my heart
Like it used to do when I was its father.
And I will keep as if a divine word
The heralding beginnings of moving waters.

I will climb to the top of the fortress
The way the steep paths of desire are taken
Shattering a silence that was gained after such a fierce struggle
Taking revenge on the sheer size of penalties
Ransacking sanctuaries and estates
So that I am reborn to this world
Without a trajectory,
Without deities or offerings.

Come to me
O Great pains and bitter follies of memory
So that I hug the tough bark of ordinance
So that I snatch from bygone times
the indelible privilege of occurrence.

Come to me
O Scarred souls of pampered faces,
O Trunks, with opulent attributes,
Gorged with sour sap
And dry as barren hills.

Come to me
With the grudge of torched paradises
And of sacrificial soldiers in the mud of blackened plains;
Those who find their beloved ones
Crippled like beggars
Broken like a twig on the trails of transhumance.

From now on,
I stand at the threshold of waters
that have let go of their tumults.

A shiver of whiteness spreads in my sight
And in the lap of sound I elect as my home
The flowering branches in the breeze.

So that you may dissolve like a sullied memory
And be swiftly abandoned to the relief of forgiveness.

So that your faces may disappear with the broken junctions
In the tangle of memory.
May your forgotten voices disappear in the stream of days
And that the love to come is finally born.

A dragonfly
For too long lost in the winds of yesterday
Will soon find its way back
And will land on my heart once more
Like it used to do when I was its father.

Moëz Majed
  Born in Tunis (Tunisia) in 1973, Moëz Majed is one of the leading tunisian poetic voices post 2000. 
 He is clearly the most internationally renowned poet of this generation of poets who emerged after Tunisian revolution and “Arab spring” (2011).
 He is from a prestigious family of intellectuals and diplomats; his father Jaafar Majed was one of the most remarquable poets of Tunisia in the post-colonial period (1960 – 2000). Moëz has grew in an environment highly influenced by the Arab intellectuals who used the family house and his father’s intellectual saloon such as the Syrian poet Nizar Kabbani, the Soudan novelist Taïeb Salah, the Iraqi poet Abdelwahab Bayati or the French orientalist Charles Pella as well as the Tunisian great intellectual Hichem Djaïet. 
As a poet:
 Moëz has published his first poetry collection at the age of 24 in 1997 and after that he interrupted his writing process focusing on his graduation in Life Sciences and an MBA in the “Ecole Centrale de Lille” in France. For a whole decade he had a career as Manager in several High-tech multinationals and travelled all over the world .
 Back in Tunisia, Majed has progressively reoriented his life to become full-time dedicated to creative writing (specifically poetry) and cultural acting as promoter of major cultural events in Tunisia and Arab World.
 He published his second poetry collection in 2008 “Les rêveries d’un cerisier en fleurs” (Contrast Edition, Sousse) and then he had been rapidly detected by French publishing houses. L’Harmattan has published his third book in 2010 “L’ambition d’un verger” (L’Harmattan, Paris) and the very prestigious and very selective Fata Morgana has approached him to publish a short text in 2012 “Gisants” in a very elegant artistic edition in collaboration with the world class calligrapher Nja Mahdaoui. 
 After this first publication with the very selective French publication house Fata Morgana, Moëz Majed has published a second book with yhem which is his major piece “Chants de l’autre rive” (Fata Morgana, 2014). This epic poem in 10 movements has been written between 2011 and 2014 gives to the reader a first-hand testifying about the “Arab Spring” events by the eyes of a worldwide respected poet with a point of view between aesthetic constructions of the language, deep historical knowledge and freedom aspirations.
 This text is unique creative pieces that will, for sure, be a reference poem treating the “Arab Spring” events from a creative point of view. This is probably the reason why one prestigious house like Fata Morgana who is the publisher of Emile Cioran, Henri Michaux, Emmanuel Levinas, Philippe Jacottet and others has chosen this Tunisian poet to be integrated into their catalog.
 After the publication of “Chants de l’autre rive”, Moëz Majed became more recognized internationally and he is now regularly invited to give readings and conferences all over the world: Medellin (Colombia), Hanoï (Vietnam), Dakar (Sénégal), Riadh (KSA), Dubaï (UAE), Amman (Jordan), Malta, Istanbul (Turkey), Athens (Greace), Casablanca (Morocco), Paris (France)…
 Recently a selection of his poetry has been translated into the Arabic language and published by one of the most important publishing houses of the Middle East: Al Ahlya (Amman, Jordan).
 As a cultural activist:
 Moëz Majed is today considered as a key actor of the cultural field in Tunisia. Between 2009 and 2011 he has been Redactor in Chief of a literary magazine “Rihab Al Maarifa” and from 2011 to 2013 he was the Founder and Director of the generalist magazine “Opinions”.
 In 2013 he founded the “International Poetry Festival of Sidi Bou Saïd” that is now the most important poetry festival in the Arab world and in the South Mediterranean area.
 He is also co-producer (With the Tunisian poet Emna Louzyr) of the most important literary radio program in Tunisia “Tout un poème” on RTCI (Tunisian International Radio).
 Moëz is also the co-director (with Emna Louzyr) of “La Caravane” a cultural center in Hammamet (Tunisia) hosting activities such as conferences, Art workshops, Master Classes, poetry readings and artistic residences.
 With his career as a worldwide recognized poet and his achievements as a cultural activist, Moëz Majed can be considered as one of the most influencing cultural figures in Tunisia and in North Africa.
 He has 6 poetry volumes :
 -L’ombre… la lumière (Arabesques, Tunis 1997)
 -Les rêveries d’un cerisier en fleurs (Contraste édition, Sousse 2008)
 -L’ambition d’un verger (L’Harmattan, Paris 2010)
 -Gisants (Fata Morgana, Saint Clément 2012)
 -Chants de l’autre rive (Fata Morgana, Saint Clément 2014)
 -Non loin de là (arabic translation) (Al Ahlia, Amman 2019)
 And 6 translations books :
 -Un printemps assiégé (Translation of the poetry of Ataol Behramoglu to the french) (Editions Merle Moqueur, Paris 2021)
 -Dans les gallops du sable (Anthology of modern saoudi poetry translated to the French) (Editions Al Dante, Dijon 2021)
 -Intranquilité des dunes (Poems of Ahmed Al Mulla translated to the French) (Editions Al Dante, Dijon 2021)
 -Nuages dans des nuages (Poems of Ghassan Alkhuneizi translated to the French) (Editions Al Dante, Dijon 2021)
 -Semences pour les moissons d’absence (Poems of Mohamed Al Hers translated to the French) (Editions Al Dante, Dijon 2021)
 -Brève mythologie de l’effroi (Poems of Salah Zamanan translated to the French) (Editions Al Dante, Dijon 2021)

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