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4 4 A Qaṣīdah by ʿAlqamah ibn ʿAbadah ُ ‫ب‬ �‫ي‬ ��‫ش‬ ��� َ ‫�م‬ ‫ن‬ �‫�ا‬‫ح‬ �َ ‫ر‬‫�ص‬ � ‫ع‬ � ‫ب‬ �‫ب�ا‬ � ‫ش‬ ���‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫�د‬‫ي‬ �‫ع‬ � ُ ‫ب‬ �� ُ ‫ب‬ �‫و‬��‫ر‬ َ ‫ط‬ �� � ‫ن‬ �‫س�ا‬�� ِ ‫ح‬ � ‫ل‬�� ‫ا‬ ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ف‬ � � ٌ ‫ب‬ �‫ل‬�� ‫ق‬ � � � ‫ك‬��‫ب‬ �� ‫�ا‬‫ح‬ � ‫ط‬ �� � ُ ‫ب‬ �‫و‬�‫ط‬ �� � ‫خ‬ � �‫و‬�� ‫ن�ا‬ �‫ن‬ �‫ي‬ ��‫ب‬ �� ٍ ‫د‬‫ا‬‫و‬�‫ع‬ � ‫ت‬ �‫د‬‫ا‬�‫ع‬ �‫و‬�� ‫�ا‬‫ه‬ � ُ ‫ي‬ � ْ ‫ل‬� � ‫و‬�� ّ ‫ط‬ �� � ‫ش‬ ��� ‫�د‬ ‫ق‬ � � �‫و‬�� ‫ى‬ � ‫ل‬�� ‫ي‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ي‬ � � ‫ن‬� ‫ف‬ �� ّ ‫ل‬��‫ك‬ � � �‫ي‬ � ṭaḥā bika qalbun fī l-ḥisāni ṭarūbū buʿayda sh-shabābi ʿaṣra ḥāna mashībū yukallifunī laylā wa-qad shaṭṭa walyuhā wa-ʿādat ʿawādin baynanā wa-khuṭūbū8 Meter (al-ṭawīl): SLX SLLL SLX SLSL / SLX SLLL SLS SLL; the second/ sixth foot is occasionally SLSL (e.g. in line 1b), which only occurs in older poetry. Ṭawīl is the most common meter in all periods of classical Arabic verse. The rhyme is -ī/ūbū (in rhyme, ī and ū are interchangeable immediately before the rhyme consonant, but not following it). This and the next two poems from the mid-sixth century are taken from an ancient and highly valued anthology of 126 pre-Islamic and early Islamic poems, called al-Mufaḍḍaliyyāt after the compiler, the philologist al-Mufaḍḍal al-Ḍabbī of Kufa (d. after 163/780). It is said that the anthology was composed at the request of the Abbasid caliph al-Manṣūr, the founder of Baghdad, for his son, the future caliph al-Mahdī. ʿAlqamah’s famous poem was composed on the occasion of the Battle of ʿAyn Ubāgh which took place in ad 554 pitting the Ghassānid king, al-Ḥārith al-Aʿraj, against the Lakhmid king, al-Mundhir ibn Māʾ al-Samāʾ of al-Ḥīrah. The poem opens with nasīb, or amatory introduction (1–10). Whatever the real origins of the nasīb, Arab critics explained that its function in an ode addressed to a patron was to put him in a favorable mood. As Shakespeare writes, in Love’s Labour Lost (IV, iii): “Never durst poet touch a pen to write / Until his ink were tempered with Love’s sighs; / O! then his lines would ravish savage ears, / And plant in tyrants mild humility.”9 Then the poem turns to a description of the camel (11–21) that brings the poet to the court of al-Ḥārith; this is followed by a depiction of the battle (24–35), 5 5 5 5 ʿAlqamah ibn ʿAbadah and closes with an appeal to al-Ḥārith to free the poet’s brother, taken prisoner at the battle (36–38). The petition was successful. A heart by pretty girls enraptured carries you away; long gone, though, is your youth; gray hairs appear.10 Laylā is on my mind, though she be far from me, and obstacles, grave matters, are between us two. She lives a life of luxury; one cannot speak to her: a guard stands at the door to bar all visitors. Her spouse’s secrets she does not divulge, when he’s away; she makes his homecoming a pleasure for her spouse. Do not equate me then, girl, with a callow youth— may rain-filled clouds pour down their loads on you! May southern, towering, low-lying clouds rain down for you, borne by an evening south wind! —But why should you be thinking of her, that Rabīʿah girl, for whom a well is being dug in Tharmadāʾ?11 You ask me about women? I’m a specialist, an expert, knowing women’s ailments all!12 When a man’s hair turns gray, or when his wealth is scarce, he has no share of tenderness from them. What women want is wealth, wherever they know it is; to them the bloom of youth is wonderful. So leave her, and dispel your worries with a sturdy mount,13 like your desires and aims, which with two riders14 trots apace. Toward al-Ḥārith the Munificent I made my camel walk; her chest and end-ribs throbbing. She’s fast; her flanks’ and shoulders’ flesh has been consumed by midday heat and tireless pressing on. I brought her to a well of brackish water, with the taste of henna and ṣabīb.15 At dawn, after the nighttime journey, she looks like a strong, young oryx with striped legs, fearing the hunter’s pack;16 (Amidst the arṭā trees men lurked, lying in wait for her;17 she dodged their arrows, and their dogs) 5 10 15 6 6 6 6 Verse That she might take me to a man’s abode who once was far, but now my nearing brought me near to your munificence.18 To you—may you be safe from curses19—was her course, through frightful, fearsome lands that looked alike. The lodestars20 led me, and a pathway plain to see, with stones...


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