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“o Prince of Poetry”

Dhikrá Shaksipīr
Aḥmad Zakī Abū Shādī (1892-1955)
Egypt: al-Maṭbaʻah al-Salafīyah, 1926
First edition
PJ7808.S5 D55 1926

The Egyptian poet Aḥmad Zakī Abū Shādī was a man of many talents. Not only was he renowned as a poet and man of letters, he was also trained as a scientist and physician, and he was fascinated by beekeeping, founding professional beekeeping associations and publishing numerous works on the subject. Besides his native Egypt, he had connections to both England and the United States. He lived in England, where he earned his medical degree, from 1912-1922. In 1920, he married an Englishwoman, Annie Bamford, returning with her to Egypt 1922. Following her death in 1946 he emigrated to the United States, where he continued to be active in the fields of Arabic literature and beekeeping until his untimely death of a stroke in 1955. His private papers and many of his books are now housed in the Marriott Library Special Collections (Ahmed Zaki Abu Shadi papers, 1892-1955).

Among such books is “Dhikrá Shaksipīr,” whose title translates as “Remembrance of Shakespeare.” In his introduction, Abu Shadi explains that it is a collection of three poems that he composed at the invitation of the Poetry Society in London to celebrate the eventual reopening of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre that had burned down in 1926. He says that the Society had invited poets from around the world to participate in this. Based on the Society’s guidelines, the three poems are: A sonnet ; a quatrain suitable for posting on the wall of the Theatre ; and an unrestricted poem. This last one is a long ode in traditional Arabic poetic style in praise of Shakespeare.

In his introduction, Abu Shadi concludes with the statement that he is having this work privately published [in Egypt] to make it more accessible to the Arab reader. He laments that Arabic speakers who do not know English are missing out on Shakespearian literature, and he urges that they search out and read Arabic translations of Shakespeare’s works, and recommends in particular those done by the Egytian poet Khalil Mutran (1872-1949).

“Diverse minds that tell of your guiding light humbly approached you, o Prince of Poetry
For the Theatre, despite its burning, due to your unique spirit remains a marvelous achievement for all eternity
Look, then, at the thousands gathered, whether in body or in spirit
They listen to great wisdome, sanctify8ing in you your genius; thus finding the good fortune of those who adore.”

Contribution and translation by Cathy Rockwell, Special Collections Middle East Cataloger

Shakespeare is coming! The First Folio will arrive at the City Library in October.