A Tragic Story with a Moral Theme
A love Tragedy (Faji'at Hubb) is a short novel that Antun Sa'adeh published in Beirut in 1931. The central theme of this story is not "love" but "social life and national morals". It is concerned "with major issues of our contemporary national social life: the conflict between the age of decadence and that of awakening and revival, the struggle between egoism and the common welfare, between despised materialism and lofty mentality, between animalism and humanity, between vice and virtue…"(1) Hence, it is concerned with individual being in conflict with society's outdated traditions and morals treated in connection with the subject of sublime love and the relationship between life, on one hand, and art and music, on the other.
As its title clearly implies, the story has a tragic ending in which animality wins over humanity and vice over virtue. This ending is the author's deliberate choice. It is at variance with the principle that propagates the necessity to support virtue and make it triumphant as sometimes articulated by Shakespeare. The author's justification for a tragic ending is his belief that the appeal to defend virtue in life could be weakened by making it always triumphant in literature.
The purpose of the story
A love Tragedy is a creative short story with moralistic and educational aims. First, Sa´adeh aimed to illustrate the materialism-fostering conditions that unhealthily dominated the thinking and attitudes of many Syrians at the time of writing it. One of his objectives was to highlight the inability of many of his compatriots to "perceive that man has a value other than his material status."(2) In the introduction he explains: "we are always willing to suppress the living sentiments in order to guarantee physical comfort".(3) His aim, therefore, was to guide his readers to a better understanding of the real meaning of life and thereby help change the status quo.
Second, the author presented his views of music through the main character in order to educate his readers and his people. His objectives were:
To motivate Syrian composers to regenerate their music and produce sound musical works that would express the nation's sentiments, mythologies and thoughts; to educate his people on universal music; to initiate a music revival in his nation.
Point of View
Two point-of-view techniques al least are used in the story. In one technique, the Omniscient, the all-knowing author narrates the events of the story. In the other technique, the author focuses on the main character's thoughts and filters the elements of the story through this character's perceptions, emotions and imagination. He also lets this main character speak to one or more identified listeners. Other forms of first-person point of view narration used by the author are epistolary (letters) and memoirs.
The author's style in this story appears to be the same as in his other writings. His careful choice of words proves that his style is simple and easy to understand. His words, sentences and paragraphs demonstrate his high level of proficiency in the Arabic language and its structure. Moreover, his description of his characters' physical and psychological attributes and their emotions, imagination and thoughts reveal an excellent writing talent and an extensive knowledge of lexical vocabulary of the Arabic language.
The story is rich with touching poetic images and warm suggestive and impressive language. These are evident in phrases like sensitiveness; the language of emotions, good taste, kindheartedness, and music is the language of human spirit, sensations occupying the whole universe, elevation, hearts are from flesh and blood, the conscious mind and sentimental thought.
The Characters of the Story
There are few characters in the story. Sa´adeh explained that he carefully selected them from his society. They come into view with their natural qualities without any affectation or imagination.(4) The two main characters are Salim and Da´ad, the lovers prevented from marrying each other by old-fashioned mentalities and traditions. The mentality of both characters was devised by Sa´adeh to represent "a new psychological phenomenon in our social life:"(5) it is completely different from the mentality of all the other characters around them.(6)
Salim was an artistic and sensitive person, very fond of music and its study. Life to him was unbearable without music. He was an expert on Eastern and Western music. His musical expertise was evident in his views and theorization as well as in his acquaintance with well-known musicians such Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Johan Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839-1881), Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Alexander Porfir'yevich Borodin (1833-1887), Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Frederic Francois Chopin (1810-1849), Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) and others.
Salim was the name of Sa'adeh's real musician younger brother, who died in al-Mahjar in 1928 from an irremediable illness. Sa´adeh was very distraught by the loss of his brother and felt as if one of his wings had been detached from him. The two were very close and attached to each other. From the time Salim was a child, Sa´adeh assumed responsibility for his care and upbringing. He inculcated in him moral values, goodness, nobleness, loftiness, intrepidity, bravery and glory. He also encouraged his intelligence and musical inclinations and had high hopes for him.(7) In A Love Tragedy Sa´adeh sought to immortalize his beloved brother.
The author alleged that no one could figure out Salim's personality and character more than he did. He was his close friend or rather the only friend associated with him and familiar with his problems. If Salim felt upset for any reason, he would be moved so deeply, strongly and fully, but would show no signs instantly. Thus, it was difficult to monitor his psychological conditions and to comprehend his emotions and temper.(8) In 1923, Sa´adeh had bought his eighteen years old sister, 'Aidah, a piano as he promised her and hired a Brazilian instructor to teach her music together with his younger brother, Salim, twice a week.(9) Both 'Aida and Salim were very interested in music. Sa´adeh used to encourage them to play classical music and enjoy listening to them. He felt very happy and proud when, in the midst of 1928, The Welfare Association of Beirut performed his father's play "Kaiser and Cleopatra" on the biggest theatre of San Paolo. Both 'Aida and Salim took turns in playing pieces of music on the piano selected by their brother Sa´adeh to go with the acting on the stage.(10) After a few years of private lessons and practice, Salim became capable of playing pieces of music of famous composers without notes.(11) Sa´adeh had high expectations for his brother's future as a musician. He highlighted Salim's tendency towards music in the following paragraph:
My friend Salim was fond with studying music. I expected that he would graduate as an excellent music composer. I knew he was a person with warm feelings, strong affections and good taste. He was also a highly cognizant person with extra-sensory perceptions. He was a big hearted person with a spacious soul capable of accommodating the whole universe.(12)
From the start, Sa´adeh deliberately demonstrated the relationship between Salim and his people. Salim desired a music revival for his nation. He loved to see his people well acquainted with universal music and capable of producing sublime music. The kind of music he hoped his people would compose is one that reflects the feelings of the heart and the literary and philosophical contemplations of the mind.(13) "The spirit of innovation", the author states, "has overwhelmed Salim's life and sought to spread itself to embrace a whole era and an entire nation". He adds, "Salim has begun to compose a symphony signifying the end of the sluggish era and the emergence of the Sun of the Syrian people's renaissance. Honesty entails me to write that he believes that the renaissance of the Syrian people is vital for human civilization. He was certain that values such as freedom, peace and affection are ingrained in the nature of his people".(14)
Da´ad was a very polite and kind person. She appeared to be in deep depression, Sa´adeh noticed when he first met her. She was in love with Salim, but her mother, Salma, was against this relationship. She did not want her daughter to marry Salim unless he gives up his music and finds himself a more secure job.
Due to the absence of Da´ad's father on an overseas trip, her mother sought the help of her friends, Mr. and Mrs. G., to act on her behalf and speak to Salim about his relationship with her daughter.
Mr. G and his wife represented the type of money-oriented people who paid no attention to feelings of love, emotions and affectionate relationships between people. They stood against Salim's marriage to Da´ad and claimed that he would not be suitable for her. Being a musician, they argued, Salim would not be able to bring happiness to Da´ad or to guarantee her a prosperous future. They influenced Da´ad's mother to persuade her daughter to marry a rich man named Mika'el. Da´ad, however, refused to marry another man. Thereby, her mother decides to send her away to keep her apart from the person she strongly loved.
The other minor characters in the story were: Mr. K and his wife, a couple of foreigners, Mrs W., a European lady married to a Syrian, and Miss Asma. Mr. K and his wife were friends of Salim, Miss Asma and Mrs W.
The Death of Salim
Due to his honest love to Da´ad and the objection he faced from her mother and friends on grounds of some social customs, Salim experienced all sorts of sufferings, misery and loneliness. He fell into severe depression and began to refuse eating. When the author visited him after a break of five days, he found him in bed looking unhappy, feeble and pale with languid eyes. Sa´adeh observed his friend and discerned from his looks a significant psychological tenderness. Salim spoke bitterly revealing the existing struggle in our society between egoism and the common welfare, between despised materialism and lofty mentality and between vice and virtue. He observed:
Massive sufferings that have no preceding resemblance await any of us with great soul. Not only must each one of us deny ourselves, but also we must walk through feeling lonely with hope or consolation because our social and spiritual life is corrupt. Whichever side you turn to, you see around you individuals with tiny souls complaining about the darkness in which they exist, but they do not have the courage to walk out to light. If you find one person wanting to lend you a hand and accompany you in your walk towards the light, you will find [at the same time] a thousand of hands extended to keep this person in darkness. The son of light has no friend among the children of darkness. As much as he offers them love, they give him hate in return.(15)
When Sa´adeh insisted on finding the cause of his friend's depression, Salim showed him a letter he had received from Da´ad.(16) The letter said:
I fear that the night with no morning after it has come. I write to you these few words to ask you not to visit us after today and this will be for you benefit and mine. Be assured that I have thought for a long time before I resolved to make this request. If you have some respect in your heart for me, please consider me a deceased friend. Do not write to me or make any effort to see me, and please understand that in either case you will cause great sufferings to me. May God give you the courage and provide you with patience in your life. Good-bye.Your friend
Salim's body began to weaken progressively. When Sa´adeh visited him few days later and noticed how frail he became, he suggested a holiday. Salim bitterly replied: "What benefit is there from changing location and taking a break from work? The issue is not a bodily matter, but a matter of psyche? The psyche does not live on moderate climate, on changing the atmosphere or on resting the body. It survives with sentiments. If sentiments were killed, you would kill the psyche itself. This does not apply to individuals only, but it affects nations as well. If you eradicate the living feeling of a nation, you would exterminate the existence of this nation. The People that destroy personal feelings of its fellow individuals, they destroy them completely. Look at this category of people who seek the life of the body and ignore the life of the psyche and tell me what do you find in their life? Do you see anything else other than laziness, which they prefer rather than enduring the hardship of resurgence, or than cowardice that they conceal behind it to avoid facing up to burdens of lofty life and what follows of struggle that would exhaust the body? Don't you see that they kill their psyches in order to safeguard their bodies? Does love to them mean something higher than the physical need? It may be easier for them if they are dispossessed of all moralistic honour, spiritual love and lofty sentiment rather than their bodies are exposed to harm. This truth hurts me extremely.(17)
Salim visited Da´ad's mother at her request. The mother told him that she wished the happiness for her daughter and for this reason she was not keen on the idea that her daughter marrying a musician with an uncertain future. She made it clear to him that if he wanted to marry her daughter, he would have to quit his music and find himself an alternative employment that would guarantee him a steady income. Salim did not hold Salma accountable for her words because she was not acquainted with his character and way of thinking. She knew only what her friends, Mr G. and his wife, had told her about him.(18)
Being psychologically hurt and depressed, Salim's health deteriorated badly. He became frail and seriously ill with a terrible fever. Doctors could not help him and his weak immune system was of no effective help to him. His illness led to his death.
A Process of Impersonation
There is a process of complete impersonation between Sa´adeh and Salim. The latter reflected in his thinking and many of his characteristics the personality of Sa´adeh himself. In other words, Sa´adeh appeared to have projected himself on this character. Through Salim he transmitted his views and definition of music and sublime love and propagated his ideas on literature, poetry, virtue, ethics, high pursuit and renaissance. Sa´adeh also portrayed Salim to be, like himself, at odds with betrayal and deception and in conflict with corruption, vice and egoism.
Salim conveyed the author's perception of sublime love. Expressing his frustration by Mr. G. and his wife for their objection of his love relationship to Da´ad, he complained to his friend that "Mr. G. speaks of passion, eager desire and ardent love, but he does not comprehend the real meanings of spiritual love, which binds two hearts eternally for the sake of a lofty purpose that is beyond the imagination of this man and those who are in his circle.(19) "This man', Salim adds, "views love in terms of physical desires rather than psychological emotions. He identifies it by his instinct mind rather than by his conscious mind."(20)
The author's recurrent theme of love based on devotion, self-sacrifice and happiness is well illustrated in Da´ad's second letter to Salim. In this letter Da´ade wrote:
I learnt that you had visited Mr. G. and I was certain that you did so for me and for the sublime goal that joined our hearts and united them for the sake of a principle, which superseded their understanding and beliefs. Be brave. They will not come between the light and us. The light cannot be blocked by darkness. They want us to be mere bodies- a substance that only seeks substance. But, as far we are concerned, we feel that we have souls and we sense what our souls strive for. If that which we feel fades away, what happiness do we still have? They do not know that trouble of the psyche is far greater than physical distress. Thus they look for my physical comfort, but my psychological comfort does not concern them.(21)
The process of impersonation between Sa´adeh and Salim is evident through the destiny chosen for this main character. Salim, who represented "the light in the world of darkness", chose self-immolation for the sake of his love and values. He also ascended by death for the sake of his society's resurgence.(22) By his death, the author felt that he just lost an exceptional friend who was beyond compare and that his nation lost also a man whose soul represented the spirit of the nation and whose feelings accommodated its most precise and wonderful feelings.(23) The author added, "had he [his friend] lived longer, he would have achieved something none of his fellow citizens had ever accomplished and that is revival of his nation".(24)
Sa´adeh and Painting
Sa´adeh seemed to have used the short story genre to articulate his fondness of music and inclination towards painting. Throughout the novel he speaks with a message, as if he was a historian, a critic, a poet and a psychologist. Sa´adeh was neither of these in real life but he performed each role quite remarkably.
In the introduction of A Love Tragedy, the author displays a certain fondness of various arts including painting. His taste and appreciation of the art of painting was demonstrated in the context of his visit with Salim to Mr. K's family. During the visit, Mrs K. invited him and Miss Asma to look at her collection of paintings of famous contemporary artists while Salim was left alone with Mrs W., who was trying to catch his attention.
Sa´adeh was infatuated with colour paintings: he would stand for a long time looking at a great picture to absorb any indications of life and artistic greatness. Sa´adeh was impressed by three paintings in particular: a portrait of a villager's head, a painting of a rocky wilderness and an image of a rose illuminated by the soft light of a candle.
Sa´adeh as critic
As indicated in the preface of the story, the author criticizes some of the old-fashioned customs and traditions of Syria and offers an outlook on some aspects of its contemporary social life as well as on some idealistic and psychological questions. He also discusses the status of its music and demonstrates that it is not only falling short of expressing "our feelings", but also lagging behind the music of the West. He invites Syrian composers and musicians to modify their melodies and to produce new musical works that would echo its great history and express its mentality and sentiments.
Sa´adeh as poet
The author included in the novel some verse poems, which he composed following a night of terrible dreams and his disappointment from prevalent materialism, contempt and superficiality. Returning from al-Mahjar for the purpose of realizing his sublime aspiration,(25) Sa´adeh and his inspired musician friend, Salim, hoped that "a new spirit would prevail in the nation to renew her life, make her vitality stronger and support her against factors of inaction and sluggishness".(26) Both the author and his friend were disappointed by the prevalent mentality that they had to face. Salim had always dreamt that love would make his soul very happy, but this hope was beyond realization. Feeling very anguished and disappointed, Salim expressed his feelings and sufferings with verse poems. In these verses, Salim writes with a sad tone making a contrast between his notion of love and how ignorant people perceive it. To him, love is true, but ignorant people view it as illusion. They do not appreciate true love, nor do they comprehend the spirited essence that combines two hearts together. Rather they seek money and pleasure. In one verse, he asks: "Love is illusion! They say. If love fades away, what does remain from the truth?"(27)
Salim also describes his nostalgia for spring and its wonderful blooming and fragrant flowers, for the lovely past, for his happy moments during his innocent childhood, for the values of endless love away from this world that forges love and empties values from its contents.
Some writers regard Sa´adeh as a poet in his own right although the poetic verses mentioned above appeared to be the only poem he left. George Mitri Abd al-Massih, for example, argues that many of Antun Sa´adeh's articles can be classified as prose poetry. Writing in this style indicates that Sa´adeh was gifted in poetry had he pursued it to the end. An example of his prose style is an article titled "If I were not what I am"(28) The following is a portion of the article as translated by Muhammad Ma´atouk:(29)
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been the eagle that flies high in the wide space; to him distances are not as long as they are to the short-winged.
If I were not what I am, I would yearn to have tunes that move along with the indivisible waves of the Universe and touch the pulses of the hearts and transform it into odes of love and strength, and touch callous hearts to bring back to them the forgotten pulses of life.
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been a man whom the urgent numerous tasks of life have forgotten, so he left behind the bustle and the murmurs of slanderers and calumniators and walked to the steppe to enjoy the beauty of nature and listen to the hisses of the evening breeze and the sound of twigs and dry leaves as they break under his feet, causing the quivering of profound secrets in his soul.
If I were not what I am, I would want to have been the lights of dawn in the eyes of the virgin.
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been the lover as he sits at the shore at sunset while his beloved rests her head on his shoulder and the waves echo their breaths.
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been works of art magnificently painted.
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been those dreams coloured like a rainbow.
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been a soldier who is called on by national duty and patriotic love to march under the forests of bayonets that glisten under the sun, preceded by standards and flags.
If I were not what I am, I would wish to have been those spiritual urge on towards freedom and sublimation.
If I were not what I am, I would wish to have been the great expectations on which are pinned the souls of millions of people.
If I were not what I am, I would like to have been lofty desires which become what we cal a 'High Ideal' which people comprehend partially when they think that they comprehend it completely.
Sa´adeh as historian
Writing as a historian, Sa´adeh proudly referred to his nation's cultural history and to its great contributions to universal civilizations. This was evident when he mentioned in the context of his story a Syrian clerical poet, called Taniyan, who apparently composed spiritual poems and had a great impact on the progress of European poetry in general and German poetry in particular. He stated that for five days he could not visit Salim because he was conducting a research on the era of this ancient poet. Taniyan, Sa´adeh revealed, was mentioned in a reference on the history of German literature(30) and that his divine poems were translated into Latin and from Latin into German and other languages and made great contribution to the poetry renaissance of Europe.
This role of a historian writer that characterized Sa´adeh's style in Faji´at Hubb was to become more evident and developed into the role of a historian national educator throughout Sa´adeh's life. Since establishing his party in 1932, one year after publishing this story, Sa´adeh embarked on his life-long mission to develop among his people a sentiment of nationality, or to use his terms, to awaken the national consciousness of his compatriots. The key to that was the long history of Syria, i.e., to study it and propagate it as a source of inspiration, pride and self-respect and as an incentive to national revival and a guide to achieving real independence. He made it his task to produce in his people a sense of being a nation with a great history full of great events that should be a source of inspiration and a cause of pride on the part of the Syrians. Thus, the seventh basic principle of his party states: "The Syrian Social Nationalist Movement derives its inspiration from the talents of the Syrian nation and its cultural political national history." Moreover, in his explanation of the same principle, Sa´adeh declared that "in the Syrian character are latent all science, philosophy and art in the world." All in all, Sa´adeh, whether in his writings or speeches, attached much importance to things connected with Syrian nationality, such as its homeland and resources, its heroes and geniuses, its philosophies and mythologies, and its sentiments and mentality. He spoke with enthusiasm about Syrian cultural and political history and expressed his pride in the intellectual and practical contributions of the Syrians and their cultural achievements.(31)
Back to the novel. When Salim asked Sa´adeh whether he found any material on this poet during his research, he replied: "No, time was not enough." He indicated that it was very difficult to carry out a research when there were no libraries in his country: "Our literary legacy is scattered in a way that has no resemblance. There are no institutions nor private or public libraries in the country that would take care to collect the dispersed Syrian literary scripts."(32)
Added to this was the confusion of most Syrian writers whom Sa´adeh labeled as ignorant of their national literature. He expressed his disappointment of this situation by saying: "It is a pity that most of our writers, if not all of them, are notoriously ignorant of their national literature." Most of them, he added, "march in the forefront of traditional literature."(33)
Sa´adeh as a music critic
Salim, who loved to see his people well acquainted with universal music and capable of producing sublime music of its own, articulated Sa´adeh's views of music. At one point in the story, he is sitting with a group of friends discussing various topics including science, arts and music. In their informal discussion, Salim's friends were disagreeing over what kind of music they preferred. They split into two groups. One group was in support of Eastern music on the grounds of being accustomed to it and favoured its preservation. They sounded conservative and seemed driven by unclear and immature national feelings. The other group advocated Western music for its innovation and richness in expressing the emotional life and claimed further that Eastern music lacked such characteristics and stopped at the point of expressing primary states. The dispute became very sharp and no common grounds were easy to reach. Both groups decided to consult Salim whom, they knew, was an objective person and an expert on both kinds of music.(34)
Unlike Bahij, who defined music as the language of emotions, Salim believed that this is a limited definition for it deprives music of at least two thirds of its characteristics.(35) He says,
I define it (music) by releasing it from any restrictions. You could know more about the characteristics of music, but you would not be able of restraining it. Music is not the language of emotions only, but rather the language of thought and comprehension as well. It is the language of human soul, with all its manifestations and secrets. Moreover, you could say that music affects all types of primitive emotions and psychological states of mind, all sorts of sound, and also poetry, literature and philosophy.(36)
Salim rejected the prevailing belief that divides music into Eastern and Western. He argued that, in general, music has one foundation covering the sentiments and psychological situations. The difference between Eastern and Western music relates to the methods (or styles) and meanings employed. The methods used can be different, but both kinds can be easily understood if they are expressing the same sentiments and psychological situations.(37) In other words, "the difference between Eastern and Western musical styles is but a mere variation which reflects special psychological situations." Salim verifies his claim by saying that
Conclusive evidence can be drawn from psychological and natural sciences and their branches which prove beyond any doubt that human nature is one and the same in all races and peoples although temperaments are different. The emotions of love and hatred, kindness and cruelty, happiness and sadness, and the causes of rapture, contemplation, fun, thinking, aspiration and contentment, and whatever they produce of agitation, emotions and fantasies, that are beyond description, all these are the same in all nations in both the East and the West and there are no differences except in the level of people's awareness, attentiveness and advancement or in their unconsciousness, backwardness and laziness.(38)
From this it follows Salim's formula that the type of music produced by a certain nation depends on the level and status of its mental capacity. He observes:
A nation whose psyche is still at a primary stage or has been confined within self-developed old customs and traditions also has primary music. Being so, this music expresses only the emotions which are common to both man and animal, such as sexual desires which exclusively represent most of this nation's sentiments. On the contrary, a nation whose mental attitude has been set free and developed has a kind of music which expresses emotions that transcend sexual desires and fantasies which rise above low bestial aims. Their purpose in life is no longer confined to 'the reunion with the beloved' (Wisal al-Habib), but has become a 'Higher Purpose' to which love itself raises their souls and which love strengthens their resolve to achieve it. Out of this process there will emerge sublime emotions and great ideas and fantasies that are inconceivable to those whose one and only concern is the reunion with the beloved.(39)
Salim, then, gives examples of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven(40) "who reached in music the level of divinity, because his pieces accommodated the noblest aims of the human soul in life. He used to sense the emotions, hopes and attitudes of all his human brethren so much so that his soul seemed as if it consisted of all the souls."(41) Salim added: "This is an attribute of the musician of genius as well as the poet and scholar of genius."(42)
Similar to his stance on literature, Sa´adeh leveled his criticism towards the situation of our music, which he believed was falling short of expressing our feelings that rest deep in our souls:
As Syrians, distinguished by our specific characteristic, we have not produced music that echoes our mentality. The prevailing melodies, apart from some popular ones, are the outcome of different peoples' mentalities. If among them are melodies which express a small part of our emotions and temperament (Mizaj), they generally fall widely short of accommodating the feeling we have in the depths of our souls.(43)
For Salim, Syrian melodies have remained traditional and inanimate. No attempt has been made to change the status of their unmoving music that continued to lag behind the music of the West. The Westerners, he held, made progress in their music by abandoning the composed melodies (al-alhan al-Mawdu'a) and resorting to single sounds (al-Aswat al-Mufrada), which constitute the foundation of music.(44) Moreover, by adjusting those sounds and bringing literature, poetry and philosophy into their songs, the Westerners succeeded to demonstrate the inner feelings of the sublime psyche. Our restricted music prevented us from making spiritual progress. Therefore, Sa´adeh concluded, if Syrians are to acquire a music that reflects their personality and spiritual merits, they are bound to follow the example of Western nations not in depicting their music, which is expressive of foreign psyches, but in drawing on their experience.(45) They must modify the melodies to express their own emotional thought and comprehension, which demonstrate deep contemplations of life and a strong desire to improve it from different facets: social, national, spiritual and human. The melodies must diversify to reflect their diverse social and spiritual conditions.(46) In Sa´adeh's words:
Old borrowed traditions have restricted our souls with primary limited melodies, which have become an impediment to our spiritual development (al-Irtiqa' al-Nafsi). In our natural disposition and mentalities there is something superior to what these static melodies express and to primary desires and emotions. Our mentalities embrace an emotional mental power and comprehension concerned with the profound contemplations of life and the great desire to improve it in many aspects: social, national, spiritual and human. They inspire us to attain a 'Higher Purpose' suitable for our existence and requires for its realization other kinds of music than the borrowed melodies which were originally meant to express one or more limited psychic states such as the state of sadness or that of captivation in love. A tune composed to express such a state should not be used in a totally different one such as the state of anger and revolt against tyranny and injustice or the state of contemplation. Furthermore, a tune composed to express a psychic state nearly two thousand years ago cannot express the same state after such a long time during which the soul has gained by experience what refined its emotions and introduced into the psychic state in question new implications the description of which new tunes. If we want for our mental attitude a superior kind of life which brings us nearer to happiness we must cut it free from the traditional melodies which feed only lower emotions and go back to the sounds (al-Aswat) themselves and focus our emotional intellect and apprehension on them and derive a kind of music which will nourish our emotions and fantasies and serve to demonstrate the strength and beauty of our mental attitude.(47)
Sa´adeh distinguished between the sentiments of delight and sadness as produced by worthless, shallow music, and the intellectual contemplations embodied in extra-ordinary music like the symphonies of Beethoven, Wagner and Schubert.(48) Enjoyment and sadness, he argued, can be created by music, but they are not the only outcome. Restricting the benefit of music to these two sentiments only implies a limited, narrow and preliminary music that reflects a simple, rigid outlook to life unworthy of intellectual growth.(49) Elevated music, on the other hand, stimulates intellectual contemplations and spiritual revolutions in the psyche as well as various personal emotions, which are normal expressions of sexual and biological life. This elevated music is the product of an advanced era or the outcome of creative imagination capable by itself of visualizing a world of ideas, reflections and sensations brought together in waves of tunes and melodies, which in turn need a new era to be appreciated.(50) As an example of this type of music, Sa´adeh spoke about the music of the well-known German narrator and poetic composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The benefits of Wagner's musical works, he argued, are not restricted to the stimulation of physical or biological sentiments of delight, cheerfulness or sadness, but they exceed these situations to encompass the major causes encountered by the elevated, compound human psyche in all its thoughts, feelings, aspirations, inclinations, and ideals as well as in its, internal or external, intense conflict between the most wonderful and the ugliest, between the loftiest and the lowest and between the most dignified and the wicked.(51) Furthermore, Sa´adeh was pained to see his people, especially writers, falling short of understanding the real meanings of the music of great composers such as Bach, Mussorgsky, Weber, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Chopin, Berlioz, Debussy, Sibelius, Dvorak and others.(52) He gave an example of such negligence a Syrian journalist in Brazil who recounted his experience when he went to a theatre to hear a famous symphony of Beethoven. As soon as he heard the music, this journalist narrated, he escaped the place requesting to hear Om Kulthoom, the famed Egyptian singer, and expressing his disapprobation of people who tolerate without boredom sitting for one hour or longer listening to such a music that has no enchantment.(53)
Sa´adeh wanted Syrian composers to derive their melodies from the standpoint of their nation's renaissance in the same way Richard Wagner derived his musical sentiment from the outlook of the German renaissance. Sa´adeh was fond of Wagner and familiar with his works. He regarded him as a precocious musician and a narrative poet with an exceptional philosophical outlook. He held that his music was much related to the sentiment of life derived from German mythologies and to the philosophical and psychological issues pertaining to the lives of heroes and gods of those mythologies.(54)
The gist of Sa´adeh's theory of music is his call to Syrian composers to regenerate their music and produce sound musical works that would express the nation's sentiments, mythologies and thoughts, offer the inspirations and bring out the lofty ideals required to start a national renaissance. He argued that rejuvenating our music is an inevitable matter that we should embark on. Hence, he invited Syrian musicians to avoid imitation and to reflect on their ancient tunes in order to extract music that would nourish emotions and imaginations and demonstrate the strength and beauty of their mentality.
In conclusion, it can be said that Sa´adeh made a great effort to present in the context of a short-story his definition and views of the essence and prospects of art in national revival. He appeared to be teaching, however, that art (including music) should not be performed or produced for the sake of art itself. Rather, it should exist, like all principles, for the sake of people, for beautifying their spiritual life, for raising their morality and for enhancing their sentiments.(55) In all that he wrote and did in this field, Sa'adeh appeared to be motivated by a desire to change the attitude of Syrian musicians and by an aspiration to encourage Syrian composers and writers to abandon imitation, submission and preservation, and move on towards modernization, rejection and transformation. His call did not pass unnoticed: eventually, it was taken up by Syria's leading musicians, historians, artists, and composers.
(1) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri (Intellectual Struggle in Syrian Literature), Beirut: SSNP, 1960, p. 45.
(2) Ibid., p. 219.
(4) Ibid., p. 219.
(7) N. Hardan. Sa´adeh fi al-Mahjar: 1921-1930, (Sa´adeh Abroad: 1921-1930), op. cit., p. 193.
(8) Sa´adeh, As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 147.
(9) N. Hardan. Sa´adeh fi al-Mahjar: 1921-1930, p. 129.
(10) Ibid., p. 193.
(11) Ibid., p. 192.
(12) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 141.
(13) Ibid., p. 141.
(14) Ibid., pp. 146-147.
(15) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., pp. 155-156.
(16) Ibid., p. 156.
(17) Ibid., p. 170.
(18) Ibid., p. 171.
(19) Ibid., p. 163.
(21) Ibid., p. 173.
(22) See Rabia´ah Abi Fadel, Antun Sa´adeh: The Mahajari Scholar and Critic, Beirut: 1995., p. 54.
(23) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 175.
(25) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 167.
(27) Ibid., p. 169.
(28) He submitted this article to the Lebanese newspaper, al-Jamhour, on 22 October 1936, in reply to its question, which put forward to Lebanese scholars and thinkers: If you were not what you are who would you like to be? See also Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., pp. 212-213.
(29) See Middle East Quarterly, Melbourne: Summer 1995, Vol. 2, No. 7, pp. 56-57.
(30) Titled Deutsche Literaturgeschichte B. I. and written by Alfred Biesa. See ibid., pp. 154-155.
(31) Haytham A. Kader, The Syrian social Nationalist Party: Its Ideology and Early History 1st ed.; Beirut: Haytham A. Kader, 1990, pp. 50-54.
(32) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 155.
(36) Ibid., p. 143.
(39) Ibid., pp. 143-144.
(40) Beethoven, a German composer, was one of the most influential musicians in the history of music. His work crowned the classical period and initiated the nineteenth-century romantic era in music. He composed more than two hundred musical compositions. His music spans a wide range of emotions. For more details on his life, see Irene Earls, Young Musicians in World History, Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 2002, pp. 25-37.
(41) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 144.
(43) Ibid. pp. 144-145.
(44) Ibid., p. 145.
(45) Maatouk, Mohammad. "Antun Sa´adeh and the Quest for a National Theory of Music", Middle East Quarterly, Melbourne: Autumn 1997, Vol. 4, No. 15, p. 47.
(46) Sa´adeh, Antun. As-Sira' al-Fikri fil-Adab as-Suri, op. cit., p. 145.
(47) Ibid., pp. 145-146.
(48) Ibid., p. 39.
(50) Ibid., pp. 39-40.
(51) Ibid., pp. 40-41.
(52) Ibid. , p. 41.
(54) Ibid., p. 40.
(55) Hayder Hajj Isma'il, The History of the Party [SSNP] Through the Sufferings of Sa´adeh: - Part II, op. cit., p. 174.