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Macaan iyo Qadhaadh
Gabay: Axmed I (Qaasim)
Sept 04 , 2009

By Duale Sii'arag

In his classic poem, Macaan iyo Qadhaadh, Qassim, in the spirit of poet-seers such as William Blake or Yeats, speaks to the universal duality of human constitution and the capacity of human beings to possess an inexplicable and acute propensity for both good and evil. It is a universal human trait that has for over a millennium brought down the saintly, the warrior, the generous hearted and all good and great men (and women)-a Hubris- only to see them tumble down mightily and tragically in a spectacle not unlike those of ancient Greek theatre.

On another more local level, in Macaan iyo Qadhaadh, Qassim lucidly portrays not only himself but the duality of the complex Somali persona and the symbiosis of its inborn split personality traits that are inherently in a state of perpetual love and hate relationships – a mere microcosmic mirror of the alternating feelings of amity and animosity between the Somali clans, the hardnosed, non-delivering politicians and the emergent parvenu Sheikhs who are engaged in an ever-shifting allegiances and alliances.

As a matter of fact, Macaan iyo Qadhaadh could be construed as an artistic depiction of present day Somali politics at its raw stage which is neither cogent nor coherent. Unlike any other politics, it is not traceably principle-based or context-driven but rooted in shifting sands; often marred with inconsistence and the absence of a national platform. Like the Somali persona, it is characteristically dynamic and asymmetrical in its application. In his book, Warriors, Life and death among the Somalis, Gerald Hanley aptly describes the complexity of the Somali character. “Of all the races of Africa, there cannot be one better to live among than the most difficult, the proudest, the bravest, the vainest, the most merciless, the friendliest: the Somalis.”

Let us pay tribute to our legendary poet, Ahmed Ismael Diriye (Qassim), and celebrate his immense contributions to the Somali poetry through one of his best work of art – Macaan iyo Qadhaadh (bitter sweet). From this piece, one can not help but think that Qassim has trained his poetic eye in the bowels and abyss of his very soul and found an uncanny commonality with a universal Human, and all too Human being. The poem has been translated into English by B.W. Andrzejewski (with Sheila Andrzejewski).


1. Dacartuba marbay malab dhashaa ood muudsataa dhabaqe
2. Waxan ahay macaan iyo qadhaadh meel ku wada yaalle
3. Midigtayda iyo bidixdu waa laba mataanoode

4. Midi waa martida soora iyo maata daadihise
5. Midina waa mindiyo xiirayiyo mur iyo deebaaqe
6. Masalooyin talantaalliyaan=2 0maandhow leeyahaye

7. Nin majiira keliyuun qabsada hay malayninae
8. Marbaan ahay muddeex camal san oon maagista aqoone
9. Marna macangag laayaanahoo miiggan baan ahaye

10. Marbaan ahay muftiga saahidnimo mawlacaw gala'e
11. Marna Mukhawi waashoo xumaha miista baan ahaye
12. Marbaan ahay nin xaaraan maqdaxa aan marin jidiinkise

13. Marna tuug mu'diya baan ahoon maal Rasuul bixinne
14. Marbaan ahay maqaam awliyaad maqaddinkoodiiye
15. Marna mudanka shaydaanka iyo maal jinbaan ahaye

16. Marbaan ahay murtiyo baanisaba madaxda reeraaye
17. Oo ay weliba muuniyo dulqaad igu majeertaane
18. Marna reer magaal Loofaroon muuqan baan ahaye

19. Waxan ahay nin midabbeeya oo maalinbays rogae
20. Muuqaygu gelinkiiba waa muunad goonniyahe
21. Miisaanna ima saari karo nin i maleeyaaye

22. Muslinka iyo gaalada dirkaba waan micna aqaane
23. Malaa'iigta naartiyo jannadu waygu murantaaye
24. Ninkii maalmo badan soo jiree madaxu boosaystay

25. Ee inan rag maamuli yiqiin waa I maan garanne
26. ninkasta halkii kuula mudan ee ay muhato laabtaadu
27. Ee aanad madadaaladeed ugala maarmaynin
28. Iska soo mar waa kuu bannaan marinkad doontaaye


Bitter and Sweet - English Translation
by, B. W. Andrzejewski with Sheila Andrzejewski

Consider the aloe - how bitter is its taste!
Yet sometimes there wells up a sap so sweet
That it seems like honey in your mouth.

Side by side the sweet and bitter run
Just as they do, my friends, in me,
As I switch from sweet to bitter
And back to sweet again.

My two hands, right and left, are twins.
One twin gives food to strangers and to guests,
It sustains the weak and guides them.

But the other is a slashing, cutting knife -
As sharp to the taste as myrrh,
As bitter as the aloe.

Do not suppose I am the kind of man
Who walks along one path, and that path only.

I go one way, and seem a reasonable man,
I provoke no one, I have the best of natures
I go another, and I'm obstinate and bold,
Striking out at others without cause.

Sometimes I seem a learned man of God
Who retreats in ascetic zeal to a seclude sanctuary -
I turn again and I'm a crazy libertine,
Sneakily snatching whatever I can get.

I am counted as one of the elders of the clan,
Esteemed for my wisdom, tact and skill in argument,
But within me there dwells a mere townee, too -
A no-good layabout he is, at that.

I'm a man whose gullet will allow no passage
For food that believers are forbidden to eat,
And yet I'm a pernicious, hardened thief -
The property of even the Prophet himself
Would not be safe from me.

I have my place among the holy saints,
I am one of the foremost of their leaders,
But at times I hold high rank in Satan's retinue,
And then my lords and masters are the jinns.

It's no good trying to weigh me up -
I can't be balanced on a pair of scales.

From this day to that my very colour changes -
Nay, I'm a man whose aspect alters
As morning turns to evening
And back once more to morning.

Muslims and infidels - I know their minds
And understand them through and through.

"He's ours!" the angels of Hell proclaim of me
"No, ours!" the angels of Heaven protest.

I have, then, all these striking qualities
Which no one can ignore -
But who can really know my mind?

Only a grey-head who has lived for many days
And learned to measure what men are worth.

And now, my friends, each man of you -
If either of the paths I follow
Takes your fancy and delights your heart,
Or even if you cannot bear to lose

The entertainment I provide,
Then come to me along the path -
You're free to make a choice!

-Translated by, B. W. Andrzejewski with Sheila Andrzejewski, 1993

Axmed I. Diriye ( Qaasim)
Ale Naxeriistii Jano ha siiyee

By Duale Sii'arag
Email: siiarag@gmail.com
WardheerNews contributor


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