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12 12 An Elegy (Marthiyah) by al-Khansāʾ ِ ‫ر‬‫ا‬‫ر‬‫م�د‬� ‫ك‬��‫ن‬ �‫م‬� ‫ع‬ �‫م‬�‫�د‬‫ب‬ �� ٍ ‫ر‬ ‫خ‬ � � ‫ص‬�� � ‫ل‬�� ‫ي‬ � � ‫ك‬ � � �‫ب‬�‫ا‬‫و‬�� ِ ‫ر‬‫ا‬‫غ�ز‬ � �‫م‬� ‫ك‬��‫ن‬ �‫م‬� ٍ ‫ع‬ �‫م‬�‫�د‬‫ب‬ �� ‫ي‬ � � �‫د‬‫و‬� ‫ج‬ � � ُ‫ن‬ �‫ي‬ ��‫ع‬ � ‫�ا‬ ‫ي‬ �� ِ ‫ر‬‫ا‬ّ ‫و‬� ُ ‫ع‬�‫ب‬ �� ‫ي‬ � � ‫ن‬�‫ي‬ �‫ع‬ � ‫ت‬ �‫ل‬���‫ح‬ � ُ ‫ك‬ � �� ‫�ا‬‫�م‬ ‫ن‬ � ‫أ‬ ��‫ك‬ � �� ً‫ة‬�‫ر‬‫ه‬�‫س�ا‬�� ‫ل‬�‫ي‬ ��‫ل‬��‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ُ ّ‫ت‬ � ‫ب‬ � ‫ف‬ � � � ‫ت‬ � ‫ق‬ � � �‫ر‬ ‫أ‬ � ‫ي‬ � � ‫ن‬ �� ‫�إ‬ yā ʿaynu jūdī bi-damʿin minki mighzārī wa-bkī li-ṣakhrin bi-damʿin minki midrārī ʾinnī ʾariqtu fa-bittu l-layla sāhiratan ka-ʾannamā kuḥilat ʿaynī bi-ʿuwwārī42 Meter (al-basīṭ): XXSL XSL LLSL SSL / XXSL XSL LLSL LL. Tumāḍir bint ʿAmr, known as al-Khansāʾ (“Snub-nose”), is the most famous Arabic female poet. She composed numerous elegies on her two brothers, Ṣakhr and Muʿāwiyah, who died in the pre-Islamic period as a result of injuries sustained in tribal battle. Al-Khansāʾ is said to have converted to Islam and to have died ca. 24/644. An elegy is called marthiyah (pl. marāthī) and the genre is called rithāʾ. The marthiyah may include a range of elements, such as lament, praise of the deceased, and call for vengeance . For reasons of custom and decorum it was difficult for women to excel in other genres—indeed, in any genre, after the early Islamic period, though there are exceptions and several medieval authors compiled books that are devoted to poetry by women; but these compilations tend to be rather slim. Be generous, my eyes,43 with shedding copious tears and weep a stream of tears for Ṣakhr! I could not sleep and was awake all night; it was as if my eyes were rubbed with grit. I watched the stars, though it was not my task to watch; at times I wrapped myself in my remaining rags. I heard someone who told a story, and it did not make me glad; and he repeated it: 13 13 13 13 al-Khansāʾ He said that Ṣakhr lay there, in a grave, slain, near his tomb, covered with stones. Be gone! May God not keep you far from us—a man who always righted wrongs and sought revenge. You used to bear a heart unhumbled, set in a proud ancestry, and far from weak. Keen as a spear, his image casting light at night, of bitter resolve, noble, son of noble men. Thus I shall weep for you as long as ringdoves wail,44 as long as night stars shine for travelers. I’ll not make peace with people that you fought, until black pitch turns white. Inform Khufāf and ʿAwf,45 leave nothing out, bring them a message that reveals the secrets all. The war now rides a bad and mangy mount that settled on a patch with naked sharp-edged rocks.46 Tuck up your loincloths, that you may fight easily, turn up your sleeves: these are the days to turn up sleeves! And weep for him, man of the tribe, whom Death has reached, a day of dire events and destinies. It was as if, the day they went for him, they all went for a lion, strong and fierce, And when the warriors dispersed they left a man mangled by swords, but one who never strayed. Blood gushed and foamed upon his breast, uninterrupted, from his heart-straps welling forth. The fighters’ spears from all sides covered him, now in the charge of Death, sought for revenge. He was your cousin, one of yours, a guest of yours, someone you never turned away. If one of yours were among us he’d not be harmed until events with consequences would occur.47 I mean those people that he dwelled with: Do you know the claims of guest and protégé? No sleep for me until the horses, somber-faced, return, having discarded colts and fillies newly born,48 5 10 15 20 14 14 14 14 Verse Or else until you stab, while death is prowling near their tents, Ḥuṣayn and Ibn Sayyār,49 And thus wash off the shame that covers you, like menstruating women wash during that time of month. He would protect his comrade in a fight, a match for those who fight with weapons, tooth, or claw, Amidst a troupe of horses straining at their bridles eagerly, like lions that arrive in pastures lush.50 25 ...


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