'Salamn' - from Stephen Masters


This poem was discovered on the inside cover of a book worn shiny with much wear from being carried over many miles in a saddlebag. There is neither an owner’s name nor missing page where a name was removed. References to ‘Easterns’, ‘Allah’ and ‘palms’ places the owner in Egypt, Palestine or nearby during World War One. It is dated 1918, the end of hostilities. The book: ‘English Quotations – Passages and Poems Arranged According to Authors Chronologically’ is battered and well worn. It has been read and reread during lulls and moments of peace or imaginary truces. The title “Salamn” is an Arabic male first name. The meaning – as far as we can know – reads as a respectful farewell. Derived from ‘salaam’ a Muslim greeting meaning peace. A respectful compliment. A Muslim low bow with the right palm on the forehead. A reverence for a person and a place which touched a heart inspiring a poem a century ago and… carried completely by chance to this day.


  -   Stephen Masters


By way of further explanation in an email, Stephen adds: I think that the charm – if not enchantment – of the poem is the mystery of it being anonymous. This allows the reader to conjure in his or her imagination a story of who the author was and what the poem may be about. The name 'Salamn' may be a real person or a corruption of salam - in the sense of wishing peace as a greeting, or it may be a personification which means the name is a conduit for a greater meaning such as: 'peace at last; the war has ended.' That is the mystery.


The book was found among a pile of unwanted books, discounted to a token payment, in a secondhand bookshop long ago. Probably a deceased estate. Probably in Melbourne. Several decades ago. I do not have possession now but recorded the poem because it touched my heart.