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151 three Ah ․mad Shawqī and the Reweaving of the Mantle Introduction The third of our Mantle Odes is Nahj al-Burdah (The Way of the Mantle),1 which, as its title indicates, is a contrafaction (mu¿āraæah), that is, a formal imitation in rhyme and meter, of al-Bū»īrī’s Burdah composed by Aƒmad Shawqī (1868–1932), the most celebrated of the Egyptian NeoClassical poets.2 Termed in Arabic “Shu¿arāƒ al-Iƒyāƒ” (Poets of the Revival ), the Neo-Classical poets formed an integral part of the mid-nineteenth –mid-twentieth-century renascence of Classical Arabic language, literature, and culture termed the Arab Awakening (al-Iƒyāƒ, literally “revival”) or Renaissance (al-Nahæah). Ah . mad Shawqī and the Nahd . ah AƒmadShawqīwasborninCairoin1868toafamilyofmixedArab,Turkish , Greek, and Circassian origins. His family had close ties to the court of theKhedives.Descendantsofthegreatmid-nineteenth-centuryAlbanian reformist ruler of Egypt, Muƒammad ¿Alī Pāshā (r. 1805–1845), the KhedivesruledEgyptundermoreorlessnominalOttomansuzerainty .In1883 Shawqī completed his secondary studies at the Khedival School and enrolled at the Law School in 1885, where he studied for two years followed by two years in its Division of Translation, graduating in 1889. In 1890 he was appointed to the Khedival Secretariat of Khedive Tawfīq, who then sent him to study law and literature in France from 1891 to 1893, first in 152 · The Mantle Odes Montpelier and then in Paris. Upon his return to Egypt, he was reappointed to the Khedival Secretariat. He remained there under Tawfīq’s successor, ¿Abbās ¥ilmī II (r. 1892–1914), whom he served as court poet untiltheKhedive’sdethronementandShawqī’sownexiletoSpain,in1914. Upon his return from exile in 1919, Shawqī was unable to gain a position at courtbutbecameanincreasinglypopularpoetthroughouttheArabworld. Proclaimed by the Arab poetic establishment “Prince of Poets” (Amīr alShu ¿arāƒ) in 1927, Shawqī died, after a long illness, in 1932.3 Shawqī’s extraordinarily rich and varied poetic production ranges from imitations of French and European models in his early Dīwān; to the Neo-Classical court panegyric to the Khedive of Egypt and occasional poetry addressed to countless notables (including Lord Cromer) in his middleperiod;totheNeo-Classicalmasterpiece,hisSīniyyahinimitation of al-Buƒturī, on the monuments of Islamic Spain, the end product of his exile in Spain (1914–1919); to his experiments in verse drama, didactic poetry ,etc.4 HislifetimespansadramatictransitionalperiodinEgyptianand Arabculture:theemergenceofEgyptiannationalism;the¿UrābīRevoltof 1882, whose failure ushered in the British occupation of Egypt, 1882–1936; World War I, 1914–18; the Egyptian 1919 Revolution; and in the 1920s the Wafd party’s establishment of a constitutional monarchy under diminishedBritishauthority —concomitantwiththedissolutionoftheOttoman Sultanate,andwithittheIslamicCaliphate,in1922,withtheestablishment of the Turkish Republic. It has been widely recognized that the Nahæah, or Arab Renaissance, arose largely as a response to Western imperialism and domination of the Arabworld.Inpoetry,thisledtotheformationoftheNeo-Classicalschool and took the form of attempting to recuperate a vision of Arab-Islamic hegemony through reprising the robust and majestic voices of the master poets of the High ¿Abbāsid era, often in the form of contrafactions (mu¿āraæāt) of established masterpieces.5 A formative figure on the EgyptianscenewastheShaykhal -¥usaynal-Mar»afī(1815–90),whoisregarded as the first to have formulated a renaissance (nahæah) of Arabic literature, as seen in his influential study of Arabic language, grammar, and rhetoric, etc., Al-Wasīlah al-Adabiyyah ilá al-¿Ulūm al-¿Arabiyyah (vol. 1: 1289/1875; vol. 2: 1292/1879). There he espouses the revival of the art of writing or composition (inshāƒ), based largely on examples taken from the Umayyad and¿Abbāsidprosemasters,asessentialfortherebirthandmodernization ofEgypt.6 Worthyofmentionhere,too,isthepoetandstatesmanMaƒmūd Ah . mad Shawqī and the Reweaving of the Mantle · 153 Sāmī al-Bārūdī (1839–1904), one of the leaders of the failed nationalist¿Urābī Revolt (1881–82). When British military intervention quashed the revolt and ushered in the British occupation of Egypt, Bārūdī was among theleadersexiledtoCeylon,wherehespentthenextseventeenyears.Itwas there that he composed major parts of his dīwān and his voluminous and influentialanthologyof¿Abbāsidpoetry, Al-Mukhtārāt,bothofwhichappeared posthumously and established him as major proponent of and formative influence on the Neo-Classical movement.7 Concomitant with this valorization of Classical, especially early¿Abbāsid, poets was the Neo-Classical disparagement of the more immediate poetic precedents of what came to be termed ¿A»r al-Inƒi‚ā‚ (Age of Decline) or al-Jumūd (of Stagnation), that is, the Post-Classical period of Arab...


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