Guard your Heart Carefully

إحرص على قلبك Translated by: Marilyn Booth. Original language: Arabic

Mayy Ziyada


Slowly the twilight lowered its curtain over earth,

cloud-margins bordered, patched and yoked with threads of gold and silver.

Mirrored in the bowers of sunset, tiny lake-images of ruby and pools of emerald faded,

and a gloomy morose melancholy settled on the earth.

Dejection settled over your eyes.

Inside you what sun sets, O young woman, and why does the evening distress you, that this cloudy gloom would coat your eyes?

Guard your heart carefully, young woman!


The sun broke forth at the pinnacle, just within the firmament’s portico:

sun-rays flirting with flower-petals and casting their broad gleam across the waters with a colourful embrace;

houses glistening like enormous polished stones of light,

and all things joyful, breathing in their morning air, emerging lighter, as though released from a seizure.

But you wander hungry and thirsty. You say what ought not be said; you do what must not be done.

Then you regret word and deed, and you return to your aimlessness.

Behind restless boredom and ennui, an incandescence blazes in you, a paroxysm of light!

Tell me:  What ails you, young woman?

Why do I see you, at my window, keeping watch over what is not there and longing for what will not appear?

And then, if I turn away from you and toward my mirror, why do I see your face, agonized and grieving?

Is it a hope I have seen there, conquering your true self and weighing heavily on a heart grown accustomed to your rhythms of despondency?

Or, near to you, has despair always shadowed the jubilation of hope, its lamentations ever with you, sentiments of failure forever binding your anticipation?

All things joyfully breathed in their morning air, emerging lighter, as though released from a seizure.

But you—what malady, what weakness, wastes you that you wander and you howl?

Guard your heart carefully, young woman!


Evening came yet again; evening came and night came after:

near the lamp your eyes are fixed as though your gaze lies upon a corpse,

and I sense that something in you has become a corpse.

For you have yielded to the beauty of evening, and evening stabs you with a secret knife in its possession,

from which drips blood and darkness.

You have surrendered your self to sunset’s witchery and you have not taken care with your heart.

At this moment, you find yourself remiss: you have lost your heart; and so now, guard the wound opened within it:

Guard well the wound of your heart, young woman!

Further Reading


Mayy Ziyada, ‘Ihrisi ‘ala qalbiki’, Sawanih fatat, bi-qalam al-anisa ‘Mayy’ [Musings of a young woman, by Miss ‘Mayy’].  Cairo: Matba’at al-Hilal, 1922, pp. 4-6.