MA SŒUR AIMEE, MA DOUCE
Ma sœur aimée, ma douce, ne chante point Palmyre,
Dans ta voix en larmes j’entends la voix d’azur
Du Prince qui fit jadis frémir mes lèvres pures,
Ma sœur, ce temps est mort dans les sanglots des lyres !
Athanase Vantchev de Thracy
MY BELOVED SISTER, MY SWEET
My beloved sister, my sweet, does not sing Palmyra,
In your voice in tears I hear the voice of azure
Of the Prince which in days of old made shiver my pure lips!
O my sister, this time is died in the sobs of the lyres!
Palmyra (from the word “palm”) is an ancient city of central Syria. A small modern village known as Tudmur (Arabic word meaning “palm”) is on the site. An immense oasis N of the Syrian Desert, 130 miles (209 km) NE of Damascus, Palmyra was important in Syrian-Babylonian trade by the 1st century B.C. Palmyra became of true importance only after Roman control was established on 30 A.C. Local tribes vied for control, which fell to the Septimii by the 3d century A.D. The Prince Septimius Odenathus built Palmyra into a strong autonomous state that practically embraced the Eastern Empire, including Syria, NW Mesopotamia, and W Armenia. After his death his widow, the splendid queen Zenobia, briefly expanded the territory, but her ambition brought on 272 A.C. and attack by the emperor Aurelian, who was victorious and partly destroyed (273) the city. In decline, Palmyra was taken by the Arabs and sacked by Timur. It fell into ruins, and even the ruins were forgotten until the 17th century. The great temple dedicated to Baal and other remains show the ancient splendour of Palmyra at its prime.
Baal or Bel or El, which means “god” in Phenician language, enter in many Hebrew names: Samu-el, Ezechie-el, Michae-el, Gabri-el, etc.
I used to live 6 months in Palmyra, when I was translating from Arabic into French the book of general Moustapha Tlass “Zanobia, queen of Palmyra”. Yes, I studded in old days some Arabic, but I was helped in my work by an excellent Syrian officer, Hanna Nasser al-Hanna, speaking fluent French. I will never forget those divine days of my life. I will never forget the tender murmur of the palms by night! I was so moved, that walking in the desert, I hear the voices of dead soldiers, and the cry of the crowd. Sometimes, I woke in the night and I saw, like real, the people passing by the streets of splendid Palmyra. The Syrian officer called me “the visionary”.
Translated into English by Athanase Vantchev de Thracy