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Almansor and Ibn Ameen

King Almansor, the greatest caliph mortal eyes have seen,
Sent soldiers on a day of days to capture Ibn Ameen,
A robber known to all Levant, head of a deadly gang.…
Three days they fought; the rogue was caught, and he was doomed to hang:

They built a gallows strong and tall, they cooked a sumptuous dinner,
When suddenly the sultan wished to see the famous sinner.
They brought him to the presence — ‘Woe, thou worst among the rogues!
How durst thou fight against my might, oh son of seven dogs?

‘The greenwood and the highway know how perilous thou art.
Whence all the venom in thine heart? and whence thy fiendish art?’
‘I am as wicked as they say! and worse still!’ said the other:
‘Death is my food; my drink is blood: the desert is my mother!

‘But here’s a thought for thee to think.… I lead a gang of ten,
And thou hast more than fifteen thousand armed, mounted men.
My trade is just the same as thine — ’tis battles and campaigns,
But mine are gory, thine are glory: thou’rt the one who reigns.

‘We both are sultans, thou and I; we’re of a like estate,
But while I plunder an estate, ye devastate a state.
A town, a nation is thy prey; a caravan, my game.
Of my own will I rob and kill — But do ye not the same?

‘Had I thy myriads of men awaiting but my beckoning,
I’d be a chief, and not a thief: a difference of reckoning!
Thou has the might, thou hast the right — What right hast thou, I wonder?
’Tis quantity, not quality, that sets us two asunder!’

—Stoyan Mihaylovski, Novissima Verba
(translation mine)

(Here are my English translations of two songs by Bulat Okudzhava.)


Department of Mathematical Linguistics
Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science
8 Acad G Bonchev St
1113 Sofia

Created and maintained by Ivan A Derzhanski.
Last modified: 4 April 2006.

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