Women Poets From Before 1500

This playlist brings together poetry written by women poets from before 1500, many of which you may have never heard of. For more from early women writers, see: https://entropymag.org/women-writers-from-before-1500-that-youve-probably-never-heard-of

I See Time

I see time wasting my tribe, my father's sons,
I became tears that my weeping does not dry,
O Sakhr, what use is lament or grief,
For the dead in the grave that was halt?
Let not Allah remove Sakhr and his love,
Nor Allah remove my lord Muawiya,
Let Allah not displace Sakhr,
For he is brother of bounty building by high acts,
I will weep them, by Allah,
While grief longs and while Allah fixes the mountain peaks,
Allah watered the earth that came to hold them
With the morning cloud's downpour


In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

Hymn for Holy Wednesday

Woe is me, for the love of adultery surrounded me with darkness:
A lightless night of sin.
Accept the springs of my tears,
As you who disperse the waters of the sea From the clouds.
Bow down to the sighs of my heart,
As you bent the heavens, by your inapprehensible incarnation.
I kiss your purest feet and wipe them with my own tresses.
I kiss your feet whose tread Eve heard in Paradise
Where, frightened, she hid herself in fear.
Who can count the multitude of my sin and the depths of your judgment?
Wherefore, O my Saviour and the Redeemer of my soul
Do not turn away from your handmaiden, as your mercy is boundless.

[To an army wife, in Sardis...]

To an army wife, in Sardis:

Some say a cavalry corps,
some infantry, some, again,
will maintain that the swift oars

of our fleet are the finest
sight on dark earth; but I say
that whatever one loves, is.

This is easily proved: did
not Helen—she who had scanned
the flower of the world’s manhood—

choose as first among men one
who laid Troy’s honor in ruin?
warped to his will, forgetting

love due her own blood, her own
child, she wandered far with him.
So Anactoria, although you

being far away forget us,
the dear sound of your footstep
and light glancing in your eyes

would move me more than glitter
of Lydian horse or armored
tread of mainland infantry

GSIS I: 104

My place in the world:
Why should it bring me grief?
Mountain cherry
Blossom in my sight,
Were it ever so…

Hyakunin Isshu: poem 57

Long last we meet, only for me to leave hurriedly, for I could not
recognize you, like the moon hidden behind the clouds.

Four Poems to Ibn Zaydun

Wait for me whenever darkness falls,
For night I see contains a secret best.
If the heavens felt this love I feel for you,
The sun would not shine, nor the moon rise,
Nor would the stars launch out upon their journey.


Must separation mean we have no way to meet ?
Ay! Lovers all moan about their troubles.
For me it is a winter not a try sting time,
Crouching over the hot coals of desire.
If we're apart, nothing can be otherwise.
How soon just the very thing I feared
Was what my destiny delivered. Night after night
And separation going on and on and on,
Nor does my being patient free me from
The shackles of my longing. Please God
There may be winter rains pelting copiously down
To irrigate the earth where you now dwell.

Had you any respect for the love between us,
You would not choose that slave of mine to love.
From a branch flowering in beauty you turn
To a branch that bears no fruit.
You know lam the moon at full,
But worse luck for me
It's Jupiter you have fallen for.

They'll call you the Hexagon, an epithet
Properly yours even after you drop dead:
Pederast, pimp, adulterer,
Gigolo, cuckold, cheat.

Hyakunin Isshu: poem 89

Nothing can be worse than living a moment longer when I cannot bear growing any weaker than I already have.

Would a circling surface vulture

Would a circling surface vulture
        know such depths of sky
        as the moon would know?
would a weed on the riverbank
        know such depths of water
        as the lotus would know?
would a fly darting nearby
        know the smell of flowers
        as the bee would know?
O Lord white as jasmine
        only you would know
        the way of your devotees:
        how would these
        on the buffalo’s hides?

"You who want ..."

You who want
seek the Oneness

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting.

All things

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast

In the Infinite
I reach
for the Uncreated

I have
touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide

Everything else
is too narrow

You know this well,
you who are also there

For ever we came

For ever we come, for ever we go;
For ever, day and night, we are on the move.
Whence we come, thither we go,
For ever in the round of birth and death,
From nothingness to nothingness.
But sure, a mystery here abides,
A Something is there for us to know.
(It cannot all be meaningless).