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21 21 Love in the Desert: A Qaṣīdah by Dhū l-Rummah, “To Mayyah’s Two Abodes, a Greeting!” ُ ‫ح‬ � َ ‫ص‬�� �‫ن‬ � ‫ي‬ ��‫و‬�� ّ ‫د‬‫و‬�‫ي‬ �� ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ئ‬� ‫�ا‬‫ن‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬‫و‬�� ‫ي‬ � � � ‫أ‬ ��‫ن‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ى‬ � ‫ل‬��‫ع‬ � ‫ا‬� ‫م‬� ‫ك‬ � �‫ي‬ �‫ل‬��‫ع‬ � ٌ ‫م‬ �‫ا‬� ‫ل‬�‫س‬�� ّ ‫ي‬ � � ‫م‬� ْ ‫ي‬ � � ‫ت‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ز‬ � ‫ن‬��‫م‬� ‫أ‬ � ُ ‫ح‬ � ‫ط‬ �� �‫ت�ب‬ �‫م‬� ٌ ‫ل‬�‫ب‬ ���‫ا‬‫و‬�� ‫�ا‬ّ ‫ي‬ ��‫ر‬ ‫ث‬ ��‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ء‬‫و‬� ‫ن‬ ��‫و‬�� ‫ا‬� ‫م‬� ‫ك‬ � �‫ي‬ �‫ل‬��‫ع‬ � ‫ك‬‫�ا‬‫�م‬‫س‬��‫ل‬�� ‫ا‬ ‫ء‬‫و‬� ‫ن‬ �� ‫ن‬ �‫م‬� ‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫�ز‬ ‫ا‬ � ‫ل‬ � � ‫و‬�� ʾa-manzilatay mayyin salāmun ʿalaykumā ʿalā n-naʾyi wal-nāʾī yawaddu wa-yanṣaḥū wa-lā zāla min nawʾi s-simāki ʿalaykumā wa-nawʾi th-thurayyā wābilun mutabaṭṭiḥū90 Meter (al-ṭawīl): SLX SLLL SLX SLSL / SLX SLLL SLX SLSL. Abū l-Ḥārith Ghaylān ibn ʿUqbah, commonly known as Dhū l-Rummah (“the one with the frayed rope”) was the last of the great desert poets. Two themes dominate his poetry: love for a woman called Mayyah, and the desert . His verse was a goldmine for early Arabic philologists and lexicographers . The poem is a somewhat longer than average qaṣīdah. It opens with a greeting to the aṭlāl, the abandoned abodes (lines 1–5). Why there are two is not clear: perhaps they are the place where she once was and the place where she is now. An extended nasīb follows, in which the poet reminisces about and describes his beloved. After the nasīb section older poets often mention that they turn away from the folly of love, and then describe their camel and turn to other matters. Dhū l-Rummah, however, says that in spite of his advanced age (thirty!) he still loves Mayyah (line 6): perhaps the sign of a new sensibility? Only at line 44, mentioning Mayyah one last time (though there is an implicit mention in line 50), does he begin with a description of the desert that separates him from Mayyah, and of his camel, which he compares to a wild ass (a standard comparison). In all likelihood the poem originally ended with line 64; indeed, such abrupt endings are very common in pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabic poetry. Michael Sells prefers an ending with line 66a, which again mentions Mayyah; like many modern literary critics he is eager to find the kind of coherence that he expects from a poem. 22 22 22 22 Verse (See Sells’s fine poetic translation in Desert Tracings, pp. 67–76, which includes a short introduction and analysis. My translation I offer as a friendly muʿāraḍah or emulation). Although Dhū l-Rummah is not the only character in the poem—there are many references to other persons, implicitly and explicitly, especially traveling companions (see lines 5, 15, 18, 48–51, 55, 57, 66)—his tribe does not figure prominently here. The poem seems to have been inspired by another poem by the earlier poet, Tamīm ibn Muqbil, who died at some time in the second half of the seventh century (see Ibn Maymūn, Muntahā l-ṭalab, I:66–68); it has the same meter and rhyme and there are a number of clear parallels. Dhū lRummah and Mayyah remained among the famous loving couples in Arabic lore; compare the poem by al-Shushtarī, below, p. 83. To Mayyah’s two abodes, a greeting to you both; though far, a far-off friend wishes you well. Arcturus and the Pleiades may send upon you both a downpour and a spreading steady rain,91 Even though you have aroused, again, the passion of a yearning one, whose eyes are ever shedding Yes! Tears, that nearly would have killed, if not released, when recognizing an abode as Mayyah’s .92 And this when I was nearing thirty, all my friends turned sober, sense outweighing, nearly, stupid folly. If distance changes lovers, I at least have not, at Mayyah’s mention, found that love has lost its touch. And nearness brings no boredom to my longing, nor does the love for her leave me when she has left. The hearts of all who love, would they be sore just as my heart is sore at Mayyah’s memory?93 When Mayyah’s memory springs up it almost wounds your heart.94 Hearts’ longings tend to change their course; I think your share in my heart won’t be granted to another. Ah, Mayyah, don’t you know, while now between us there are wastelands where the eye may roam, 5 10 23 23 23 23 Dhū l-Rummah I scan the desert with my eye: perhaps I’ll see you, while my eyes are shedding tears of love. Moaning and grieving for her all day long, while what the night brings is more painful yet. I see that love may be effaced...


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