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A Tale of the Socotri Poetess

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More or less a century ago, it is narrated that a young poetess belonged to one of the rural areas on Socotra Island. That young poetess fell in love with a man who neither belonged to the island nor was one of its people. That love story between them happened when that man came to the island as a visitor at once.

This poetess was beautiful, gentle, religious, and moral. She had a goat she loved and considered a piece of her soul, and she never left it. The name of that goat was Fidadah.

Since the first meeting with the stranger, the poetess concealed the love that grew and flourished in her heart, hiding it from her family until it became so large that she could not carry it in her chest. Not long before, the man she loved came hoping and asking her family for permission to marry her.

Over time, her dreams became bigger and bigger. The world became rosy in her eyes as if it was the first time she experienced life that way. She continued imaging her future life in the best way that went beyond what a poetess’s imagination could have conceived. She thought about many things, including the names she and her future husband would choose for their children. She also imagined what her nest house would be like, where she would live in the future, with that beloved person whom she was inspired with fierce love and had not forgotten.

But even then, this poetess could not open her heart to anyone and tell him what she was experiencing and the longing and love for that beloved she was keeping in her heart. At the same time, she was not ready to hear any opinion in opposition to her sweet obsessions, even the opinion of her mother, father, or any of her close family members. She had two options. The first option was to stay with her family on the island and respond to their advice, and the other was to sacrifice all that, leave it behind, and choose to go with the one she loved and was chosen by her heart. The second option was the adventure she took.

Despite this, all her relatives advised her without even asking for it, including this advice which says, “A Socotri woman is like a fish in the seawater; the moment it gets out, it dies.” All their pieces of advice were in vain.

The man that the poetess loved was soft-spoken. After the poetess’s family realized there was no use in advising her, they agreed to marry her off to the one her heart chose and left her to try her experience and decide her fate. Then, it was decided that she should have left the island with the man she married on board a boat made of legendary ebony.

The first months of their marriage passed peacefully, but things changed quickly. She suddenly felt a change towards her in the heart of her husband. She began drowning in worries. At that time, she questioned how the matter differed from what she expected. She asked whether that was why love is blind. Or because she was naive and deserved the worst situation, she ended up, as she chose to be contrary to her people and rebel against their advice and what they advised her.  

Not even a few months into their marriage, she felt a crack in their love that she could not overcome, nor could they continue together. 

The problem began when the husband allowed his relatives to meddle in his life. The poetess realized that her husband had no solid personality to depend on him. The burden she carried was entire. She had no other option but to be patient with what she faced and choose of her own free will. Day after day, she continued to suffer silently until the day when her husband beat her. He used to treat her too harshly, like no other. He did all ill-treatment for the sake of his relatives, whom she never abused. The matter led them to insist he divorces her. They promised him they could marry off another woman they would choose.

They told him he had brought a rural woman from a remote island inhabited by naïve and primitive people. They were shocked at why he did so until he was affected by their words. All that love for his wife, the poetess, the daughter of the island, turned into an absolute hatred for her. Then, he even divorced her in compliance with his relatives’ views. Not only that, but they also made him insist that she should leave his house. To the intense hatred that permeated his heart, he did not even think to return her to the place he brought her and to her family on the island. But how would he return her, while she was the one who sacrificed them for him and ignored their views and advice behind her when she chose to marry him and leave with him?

It pained her deeply to recall how she disregarded the advice of those around her in favor of the person she cherished above all others. Life, in turn, seemed to exploit her affection without reciprocation. Are there any rewards for acts of kindness other than kindness itself? The one she sacrificed for was the very person who unquestioningly believed the words of his family about his chosen wife, despite professing love for her and benefiting from her sacrifices.

 On the misfortune that befell her, the poetess did not find anyone to support her but her goat, Fidadah, which accompanied her wherever she went. Perhaps it was the only one that made her feel a sense of safety, comforted her heart, and carried a trace of the remembrances of her island that she left, in addition to her sad poems that she used to console herself occasionally.

It was a nice dream that she experienced, but it quickly shattered and turned into a terrifying nightmare. She was disappointed and remorseful for her misjudgment and the opposition of her people with life experience. But what was the benefit of remorse after the worst occurred that she had to be warned.

She suddenly found herself in the open. She had to face her fate. She saw no one to complain to or comfort her in her loneliness except Fidadah. She complained to it about her bad luck and recited some verses of her poetry addressing Fidadah:

Come to me, Fidadah!

Come to complain to you what happened to me 

I reveal to you my grief and what afflicted me 

Come, I shall have you on my lap and scent my family and the island’s fragrance. 

Come to tell you my story 

And how our man abandoned us 

And how could he ingrate our love story and could not keep our relationship?

That poetess stood on the beach to see Socotra from her place. She was looking left and right, hoping that she would perceive the spectrum of Socotra on the other side, but she could not. 

Then, she blamed her eyes and said, “My sense of alienation led me to lose sight and insight. Alas, I feel sorry for Socotra’s separation; there is a covering upon my heart and eyes after parting with you. O Socotra, what is the point of a person having eyes while one is far from his homeland? I lost my imagination and the power of my insight since I chose to leave you, O Socotra, the island of love and safety. How can I regain my lost strength since I left you? I get extremely homesick for that land, those hills, those plains, and the grass our sheep live on.”

The Socotra poetess continued blaming herself on that beach sometimes and other times calling her goat, Fidadah, complaining about the harshness of life and what befell her. She expressed all that in verse times and other times with tears. Soon, she began to compose her verses with the melodies of Socotra and what she had memorized from the heritage of her people. She started to sing it with a sorrowful voice and with eyes shedding tears, flowing down her cheeks, because she remembered everything in her house, which was a cave in which the precious thing to her heart and in her life, her simple family that earned their living from their sheep and what the sea provided to satisfy their hunger. The poetess had no concern other than worshiping her Lord to obtain His pleasure and preserve her sheep, which were her capital in managing her living affairs and her only possession in life. 

She had imagined herself looking with her eyes and passing the seas and oceans, but soon she was shocked by a small island consisting of two mountains in the middle of the sea called Sayal [1]. A short conversation was held between her and Sayal. She muttered to him expressions of hope and sympathy so that it would step a little from its place to the right or left.

She said to the mountain, Sayal, “You have to get out of my face for a bit so that I can see my region and my land in which my parents and brothers live, and my sheep that no one takes care of, and that graze in the beautiful place.” “Get out of my face for a bit so that I shall have a look, of one’s ailing heart, at the land, human beings, animals churning in that beautiful land.”

After that, no one knew what happened to that Socotra poetess nor where she disappeared. However, she became a landmark in the island’s history, telling a painful story of a young woman. Perhaps, she became a point of light in the sky of Socotra, guiding lovers and lighting them in the paths.

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