I Am a Ruby

a Veiled Woman's Song


Zay Khay Sheen (born Zahida Khatun Sherwani, 1894-1922)

With a bitter, yet beautiful poignancy, this lush work for women’s chorus, oboe and piano evokes the emotions of the brilliant educated North Indian woman poet, Zay Khay Sheen who who was destined to bear obscurity and negation behind the veil required by conservative Muslim society. Sheen "...took part in various feminist activities aimed at promoting and encouraging women's right to education and empowerment." (from a doctoral these by Fatima Hasan)


Item Voicing/Instrumentation Duration Price Audio View Score Quantity
Licensed PDF (12 copy minimum purchase)
SSAA, piano, oboe 6:00 $2.25 https://www.joanszymko.com/sites/joanszymko.com/files/audio_samples/JS-113_I%20Am%20a%20Ruby_ChoirAustinPremiere.mp3

I Am a Ruby Wrapped in a Rag:
A Veiled Woman's Song

Z. Kh. Sh. (Zay Khan Sheen) see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahida_Khatun_Sherwani
Translated by Gail Minault

I am giving up using my comb,
refusing to return the mirror's gaze
I have no heart nor zest
For self-displays.
In any case,
I am radiant of face.
But if no one can observe,
Of what use is grace?
If someone is inclined,
Let him change my mind.
I am a spectacle, all alone,
neither displayer nor displayed.
I am ruby wrapped in a rag,
The moon in its darkened phase;
I am a rustic beauty,
A blossom in a desolate place.
As is gold buried in the dust,
Or a pearl lost in the sea;
A candle under cover,
Or in the void, the song of the shahnai*
Why was the nightingale caged?
Why was Yusuf enchained?*
Whose idea was that?
What wisdom so ordained?
What a shocking view it is,
Astonishing beyond astonishment.
That beauty of form
can be seen as unfortunate.
In the company of rivals,
Like a candle, I weep
Even with this beauty,
In spite of all this grace.
I cannot find the words
My meaning to express.
How can one so powerless
Make clear her great distress?


Licensed PDF (12 copy minimum purchase)