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61 61 A Victory Ode by al-Mutanabbī: The Qaṣīdah on Sayf al-Dawlah’s Recapture of the Fortress of al-Ḥadath in 343/954 ُ ‫م‬ �‫ر‬ ‫ك�ا‬ � � �‫م‬ ‫ل‬ �� ‫ا‬ ‫م‬ �‫ا‬‫ر‬‫ك‬ � � �‫ل‬�� ‫ا‬ ‫ر‬‫�د‬ ‫ق‬ � � � ‫ى‬ � ‫ل‬��‫ع‬ � ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ت‬� ‫أ‬ ��‫ت‬ ��‫و‬�� ُ ‫م‬ � ‫ئ‬ �‫ا‬‫ع�ز‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ت‬� ‫أ‬ ��‫ت‬ �� ‫م‬ �‫ع�ز‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ل‬�‫�ه‬� ‫أ‬ � ِ ‫ر‬‫�د‬ ‫ق‬ � � � ‫ى‬ � ‫ل‬��‫ع‬ � ُ ‫م‬ � ‫ئ‬ �‫�ظ�ا‬ �� � ‫ع‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫م‬ �‫ي‬ � ‫ظ‬ � �� � ‫ع‬ �‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ن‬ �‫ي‬ ��‫ع‬ � ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ف‬ � � ‫ر‬ ُ‫غ‬ � �‫ص‬� � ‫�ت‬�‫و‬�� ‫�ا‬‫ه‬� ُ ‫ر‬ ‫�غ�ا‬ �‫ص‬� �‫ر‬‫ي‬ ��‫�غ‬ �‫ص‬� � ‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ن‬ �‫ي‬ ��‫ع‬ � ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ف‬ � � ‫م‬ � ُ ‫�ظ‬ �� � ‫ع‬ �‫ت‬ �� ‫و‬�� ʿalā qadri ʾahli l-ʿazmi taʾtī l-ʿazāʾimū wa-taʾtī ʿalā qadri l-kirāmi l-makārimū wa-taʿẓumu fī ʿayni ṣ-ṣaghīri ṣighāruhā wa-taṣghuru fī ʿayni l-ʿaẓīmi l-ʿaẓāʾimū205 Meter (al-ṭawīl): SLX SLLL SLX SLSL / SLX SLLL SLX SLSL. Abū l-Ṭayyib Aḥmad ibn al-Ḥusayn (ca. 303/915–354/365), nicknamed al-Mutanabbī (“the would-be prophet”) for a youthful escapade, is generally considered (especially by Arabs) as the greatest Arabic poet in Islamic times. He excelled in panegyric odes, such as the famous Sayfiyyāt dedicated to the Ḥamdānid ruler Sayf al-Dawlah who regularly campaigned against the Byzantines. Although qaṣīdahs normally begin with a nasīb or some kind of lyrical introduction, it was customary to omit this in congratulatory poems and victory odes such as the following.206 Firm resolutions happen in proportion to the resolute, and noble deeds come in proportion to the noble. Small deeds are great in small men’s eyes, great deeds, in great men’s eyes, are small. Sayf al-Dawlah charges the army with the burden of his zeal, which large hosts are not strong enough to bear, And he demands of men what only he can do— even lions do not claim as much. The longest-living birds, the desert vultures, young and old, offer themselves as ransom for his arms.207 5 62 62 62 62 Verse It would not harm them had they been created without claws: his swords have been created and their hilts. Does “Red” al-Ḥadath know its color, does it know which of the two wine-pourers was the clouds?208 White clouds have watered it before he came, and then, when he drew near, the skulls drenched it again. He built it, raised it high, while shaft beat against shaft, and waves of Doom clashed all around. Possessed by some demonic madness, it was decked with corpses of the slain, as charms and amulets. Driven off by Fate it was: but you restored it to the Faith, with Khaṭṭī lances, in spite of Fate.209 You force the Nights210 to give up all you seize and if they seize from you they must repay. If what you plan is an imperfect verb it is past tense before preventing prefixes can be attached.211 How can the Byzantines and Russians212 hope to raze the place when it is propped by lance thrusts as its pillars and its base? To court they took it, with the Fates as judges, but the wronged ones did not die, nor any wrong-doer live. They came to you, trailing their steel, as though they rode by night on horses without feet. Brightly they shone; their white swords could not be distinguished from their clothing and their head gear, all alike of steel; An army crawling forth from east and west, its din, cacaphonous, reaching Orion’s ears; Each tongue, each nation gathered there: only interpreters could make the speakers understood. Ah, what a time! Its fire melted the counterfeit as dross and only left sharp swords and warriors like lions. A sword that could not cut a mail-coat or a spear was cut itself, a warrior who would not fight his foe would flee. You stood your ground when standing firm seemed certain death, as though you were in Death’s eye, Death being asleep. The warriors passed by you, wounded, routed, but your face shone brightly, your mouth smiled. 10 15 20 63 63 63 63 al-Mutanabbī You passed beyond the bounds of courage and of intellect: they said that you had knowledge of the supernatural. You pressed their wings upon the heart, so that the coverts213 and the primaries were dying under it, With blows that struck the skulls when victory was distant, and then struck breasts, as victory advanced. Despising the Rudaynī spears,214 you flung them far away: it was as if the sword reviled the spear. Whoever wishes to unlock a glorious victory, its keys are light, bright, cutting swords.215 You scattered them all over al-Uḥaydib,216 just like dirhams strewn over a bride. Your horses trampled birds’ nests on the hilltops, but plenty of food was left there round the nests! The...


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