The Epitome of Lebanese Love Songs

I have read somewhere that when we are happy we enjoy the music, but when we are sad we understand the lyrics. This more or less sums up my experience with Lebanese love song “Rah Halfak Bel Ghosn”.

Truth be told, I never even liked its melody as a child, deeming it a ”typical boring traditional music for grown-ups.” However, much later on, during my expat years, I started realizing that this classic, written by dialect poet Michel Trad, was nothing short of a gem among love songs.

It tells of a man sending a little bird as a messenger to his beloved who lives in a remote forest, to see whether she still loves him, and if not, to bring him back even the tiniest keepsake from under her hands or even feet.

Emotional value aside, the song is precious as it provides a vivid snapshot of the idyllic Lebanese lush nature of the time. The flawless vocal performance of megastar Wadih elSafi, the typical Lebanese melody, the simplicity of the lyrics and the platonic mood, are the magical ingredients that make it a timeless classic.

I admit I understood those lyrics in my forties last year, in an epiphany, and became smitten with them ever since. And what better way to share them with the world than translating them into the most international of all languages?

Ladies and gentlemen, my translation of Wadih Safi’s Rah Halfak bel Ghosn. Enjoy 😉

Swear to me little bird by the branches
by the leaves, the shades, the springs
by the One who streaked your wings with a quill of light
by the One who lets you sway to the blue of the breezes

that you would fly, little bird, to a cottage of broom
lost, roofed with flowers
floored with gray amber
and droplets of green dew,
amid shades and shadows

And when you see a grapevine canopy
with a door tucked underneath
and a pretty girl with a book in her hand…
greet that pretty girl for me!

If the winds abate
rub your wings against the ceiling, the walls
on scattered clothes
on the rugs, the shirts
on all that was torn apart
on the blue bench
on the inebriated moon, that reminds her of me

And if no remnants of our love are found
hush the creek, little bird, and leave
but fly down and bring me
from that faraway hill
from that faraway wood
some keepsake, some relic

from the scribble of her hands
from beneath her feet,
some beakfuls of dust, some beakfuls of dust…

From Michel Trad’s original text in Lebanese Arabic:

رح حلفك بالغصــن يا عصفور
بالورق بالفي بالنبعات
بالزيّح جناحك بريشة نور
بالمرجحك مع زرقة النسمات
بتطير يا عصفور
عكوخ من وزّال غويان سقفه زهور
مـــفــــروش بالعنبر
حب الندي الأخضر
دنيّ ظلال ظلال
دنيّ ظلال ظلال

تقشع عريشة وباب بفيتها مزوي
وحلوة بإيدها كتاب .. سلّم على الحلوة
وإن هديت رياحك بتمرمغ جناحك
عالسطح عالحيطان
عثياب مذرية… عالبسط عالقمصان
ع كل شي تخزق
عالــمقعد الأزرق
عالقمر الســــكران
البيذكرها فيي آه فيي
بيذكرها …فيي
وإن كان ما في شي
من حبنا باقي
بتسكّت الساقية يا طير وبتمشي
وبتغط تحمل لي يا من هاك التلة
يا من هداك الغاب شي ذكر شي قشة
ومن خرطشة ديها من تحت إجريها
شي نقدتين تراب ..
شي نقدتين تراب..


4 thoughts on “The Epitome of Lebanese Love Songs

Add yours

  1. I could have written your comments word for word.
    Thank you for the perfect translation, I was trying to do the same, to share with non Lebanese around me, but I was struggling with a few words.
    You might also like this improvisation by Bassam Saba, who sadly left us about a year ago:
    It reminds me of the summer evenings spent outside the grandparents house, overlooking the plain. You can almost hear the warm breeze…


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