“Be A Source of Healing” by Elia Abu Madi (English Translation of كن بلسما)

Be a Source of Healing Kun Balsaman by Elia Abu Madi
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a poem is worth ten thousand.

Below is my favorite poem, written by Elia Abu Madi. I’ve translated some of my favorite lines with the help of my Arabic-speaking friends. We took liberties, as this is poetry, and a literal translation obviously wouldn’t capture any of the eloquence. Special thanks to Danah for translating the title of the poem and the first two sentences, and to Binyamin for his input at different junctures. We dispensed with some of the metaphors that didn’t seem to work in English, while trying to preserve the heart of the original. If you study Arabic, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have on how to better render a word or phrase (Text below).

NOTE: Thank you, FrankieFalah, for posting your translation in the comments, a lot of which I love.

“Be A Source of Healing” by Elia Abu Madi

When the world around you is venomous, Be a source of Healing.

When mankind is harsh and bitter, Radiate sweetness in your interactions.

Life has withheld from you none of its treasures, Will you withhold anything from life?

Do good, even if you receive nothing in return.

Does the rain seek a reward for its outpouring?

Does a fragrant flower receive any compensation?

Whoever repaid the nightingale for its warble?

Gather together the best and most generous among you, You will find the former to be even more giving than they.

Glean from them the knowledge of love, You who have eyes to see, For I have found it to be a precious thing.

Awaken love inside of you, If it has fallen asleep. Without love, People become like shadows.

If you choose love, Your humble abode will become a luminous palace.

If you choose hate, Your life will become a dark prison.

If the desert chose love, Each grain of sand would turn into a flower, And its deceitful mirage into a pool of water.

A cup with no drink is but glass, And a man without love is but skin and bones.

كن بلسما “إيليا أبو ماضي”

كُن بَلسَماً إِن صارَ دَهرُكَ أَرقَما

وَحَلاوَةً إِن صارَ غَيرُكَ عَلقَما

إِنَّ الحَياةَ حَبَتكَ كُلَّ كُنوزِها

لا تَبخَلَنَّ عَلى الحَياةِ بِبَعضِ ما

أَحسِن وَإِن لَم تُجزَ حَتّى بِالثَنا

أَيَّ الجَزاءِ الغَيثُ يَبغي إِن هَمى

مَن ذا يُكافِئُ زَهرَةً فَوّاحَةً

أَو مَن يُثيبُ البُلبُلَ المُتَرَنِّما

عُدَّ الكِرامَ المُحسِنينَ وَقِسهُمُ

بِهِما تَجِد هَذَينِ مِنهُم أَكرَما

يا صاحِ خُذ عِلمَ المَحَبَّةِ عَنهُما

إِنّي وَجَدتُ الحُبَّ عَلَماً قَيِّما

لَولا الشُعورُ الناسُ كانوا كَالدُمى

أَحبِب فَيَغدو الكوخُ كَوناً نَيِّراً

وَاِبغُض فَيُمسي الكَونُ سِجناً مُظلِما

لَو تَعشَقُ البَيداءُ أَصبَحَ رَملُها

زَهراً وَصارَ سَرابُها الخَدّاعُ ما

ما الكَأسُ لَولا الخَمرُ غَيرُ زُجاجَةٍ

وَالمَرءُ لَولا الحُبُّ إِلّا أَعظُما

UPDATE: Here is the translation submitted by user FrankieFalah. I actually like it better than my own and thought it was worth framing.

Elia Abu Madi Kun balsaman English Translation


  1. When fate conspires to smother you, be like balsam

    And if others are bitter, be sweet

    Indeed, life has loved you with all her treasures

    So who are you to be stingy in return?

    Though the world is blind, multiply beauty

    Does the fragrant flower wait for a bribe?

    Does a nightingale weigh the cost of each note?

    Does the pouring rain expect a reward?

    Gather the generous and count their ways,
    yet who among them can measure up to life?

    Take from them the knowledge of love,
    for that knowledge alone is precious

    Were it not for feelings, people would be like dolls

    Love, and by dawn the whole cosmos will fill your dwelling

    Hate, and by evening the whole universe will become a dark prison

    If only the desert could love, each grain of sand would blossom and every mirage would be a pool of water

    A cup without wine is nothing but glass, and man without love is nothing but skin and bones

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