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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Warrior Poet

Stay, listen, friend...
feel the age-old rhythms stir desert sand,
hear poets past whisper bygone praise of tribe, lord and land.
There rest our forefathers, brave deeds writ in more blood than ink,
proud men who built cities, wrought rich cultures, worked, loved and planned.

I too have loved, loved and lost, felt ache in heart, gut and loins,
penned ghazals ’neath starry skies, eyes fiery, hair clenched in hand.
That boy is now dead. The fool chased dreams across shers in vain:
no dream endures light of day; few truths can youth’s hopes withstand.

Head hung I cried hearing gunshots crack as men screamed and fell.
No metred foot stops a jackboot; more than words, times demand.
That day I picked up a gun, though never laid down my pen;
long roads I now trek to fight, hide, write for dear motherland.

Sunrise to sunset I kill; sunset to sunrise I write,
seek solace dark nights in verse, fete men and bold rebel band,
chant praise for lost brothers’ brave deeds writ in more blood than ink,
sing songs of hope, justice, peace. Home. Rights that free men command.

We pray.
Sipping hot sweet tea we plan, check our guns,
eyes fiery, ride out on flatbed trucks through wild hinterland.
God willing, none die today; God willing, no mother grieves.
Know though, if death finds me, I, Abu Azzam, made a stand.

© Anthony Baverstock

Author's note: I wrote ‘Warrior Poet’ as a qadisa, the pre-Islamic Arabic narrative form introduced to English by Tennyson in his poem about a soldier’s memories, ‘Locksley Hall’. I’ve followed the classic qasida pattern (as far as I understand it) though in a more condensed manner than usual:

1) Evocation of the past
2) Tale of love and loss
3) Story of a journey
4) Call for deeds to be well-remembered

Syrian rebel commander finds solace in poetry

Anthony Baverstock is from Colchester, reputed home of Humpty-Dumpty. 


  1. That's an interesting structure for a poem. I like that. I might use the form in my teaching.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Fran.

    And a great idea to teach qasida to children – a structure that can inspire the imagination and introduce another culture at the same time. The Encyclopedia Britannica has a short summary of the qasida if it helps:


    For more details, but still readable in 5 or 10 minutes, this extract from Random House’s ‘Night & Horses & the Desert’ is a clear, helpful and rewarding read:


    I’d skip the first 6 paragraphs, though, and start from ‘Arabic poetry...’.

  3. Yes, I confess, though fond of Tennyson, especially 'The Brook' I was unaware of this form. But the solace in poetry is found everywhere, even among British citizens in solitary confinement in America.


    1. Thanks for the comment, John. Your mention of 'The Brook' made me wonder how these men might describe their own lives in terms of the 'river of life' metaphor. Very different from Tennyson's, I imagine.

  4. Wonderful words Anthony - I have 'saved' it to reread (again).

    I too was unknowing of the form and will learn more...

    Anna :o]

    1. 'Saved', 'reread', 'again' – you've made my day Anna. Thank you very much!

  5. This was fascinating BBC article. Art in War
    You Qasida is fun, well done. Thanx for the links, I read them. I must try this.
    Do you have links to Qasida you have enjoyed? Do you have a poetry site, Anthony? "Bavo" does not link to anything.

    I appreciate the education -- do you have connections to Islam, the middle east etc?

    Thank you

    1. Thanks for the comment and the genuine interest Sabio. No, I don’t have any connections to Islam or the Middle East. I just happened to know a little bit about qasidas, and when I read the article about Abu Azzam, thought the structure might be a good way to examine his journey from poet to rebel commander.

      Because pre-Islamic qasidas are so far removed from us in time, place and language, I don’t find the context and imagery readily accessible, so can’t honestly say that I ‘enjoy’ them on an immediate emotional level. I can ‘appreciate’ them, though, and if you found the link to ‘Night & Horses & the Desert’ interesting and want to explore the form in greater depth, you might like Michael Sells’ ‘Desert Tracings’. There’s an preview online where Sells goes into some detail about the structure of their structure:


      The preview also contains a translation and analysis of ‘Is what you knew kept secret’ by 6th century poet Alqama ibn Abada. This is written in the basit metre, which is the one I chose for ‘Warrior Poet’.

      Hope this is of interest. If you do write a qasida, I would love to read it if possible. I don’t have a poetry site, but I do follow this one.