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89 89 A Zajal: An Elegy on the Elephant Marzūq ْ ‫ه‬َ ‫ر‬ َ ‫ج‬ � � ‫ي‬ � � ‫ل‬��‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫س‬��‫�ا‬‫ن‬�� ‫�ا‬ ‫ي‬ �� ‫ه‬‫لل‬‫ب�ا‬ �� ‫ا‬‫و‬�‫ع‬�‫م‬ �‫س‬�� ‫ا‬ ‫ع�ا‬ �‫ت‬ �� ْ ‫ه‬َ ‫ر‬ َ ‫ط‬ �� �‫ن‬ � ‫�ق‬�‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ي‬ � � ‫�ف‬ � � ‫ن‬ �‫ي‬ ��‫ن‬ �‫ث‬ ��‫ا‬ � ‫ل‬ � � ‫ا‬ ‫م‬ �‫و‬�‫ي‬ �� ‫ع‬ �‫ق‬ � � �‫و‬�� ‫ل‬�‫ي‬ �� ‫�ف‬�‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ْ‫ف‬ � � � ‫ا‬‫ر‬‫ح‬ � ‫ل‬�� ‫ا‬ ‫ا‬‫و‬�‫م‬�‫ا‬‫ر‬ ْ ‫ل‬�‫ي‬ �� ‫�ف‬�‫ل‬� � ‫ا‬ ‫ن‬ �‫�ا‬‫�م‬‫ل‬�� ‫�غ‬ � ‫ا‬‫و‬�‫س‬��‫ل‬�� ‫ف‬ � � � ‫ا‬ ‫�ا‬‫م‬ ‫ل‬ �� ْ‫ف‬ � � � ‫�ا‬‫ط‬ �� � ‫م‬ ‫ل‬ �� ‫ا‬ ‫ا‬‫و‬� ‫ب‬ � ‫�ج‬ �‫ي‬ � ْ‫ق‬ � � � ‫ا‬ � ‫ل‬ � � ‫و‬�‫�ب‬� ‫ب‬ �‫و‬�‫ص‬� � ‫ا‬‫و‬�‫ح‬ �‫ا‬‫ور‬�� ‫ه‬‫و‬��‫د‬��‫�خ‬ � ْ‫ف‬ � � � ‫ا‬� ‫ل‬�‫�خ‬ � ‫ه‬�‫ي‬ � ‫ف‬ � � � ‫�ا‬‫م‬� ْ ‫ه‬‫لل‬‫ا‬ ‫ل‬�‫�ه‬� ‫أ‬ � ‫ن‬ �‫م‬� ‫�خ‬ � ‫ي‬ �‫و‬� ‫�ش‬�� ‫ا‬‫و‬�� ‫أ‬ �‫ر‬ taʿā smaʿū billāh yā nās ʾillī garah ʾil-fīl waqaʿ yōm il-ʾithnēn fī l-qanṭarah lammā -flasū ghilmān il-fīl rāmū l-ḥirāf khadūh wa-rāḥū ṣōb Būlāq yagbū l-maṭāf raʾū shuwēkh min ʾahl Allāh mā fīh khilāf Structure: RR aaa RR bbb RR ccc RR ddd RR eee RR fff RR ggg RR hhh RR iii RRR (imitated in the translation).289 Meter: XLSL LLLL XLSL (not corresponding to any classical meter). “Over-long” syllables containing long vowels (e.g. lāh, -nēn) count as long. The transliteration is an attempt at making a compromise between classical (fuṣḥā) Arabic and vernacular (ʿāmmiyyah) Arabic; the jīm, for instance, has been given its modern Cairene rendering as g.290 The translation, too, is uncertain in some places. This zajal (strophic poem in the vernacular) is an amusing (but moving ) elegy on the elephant Marzūq, donated by Tīmūr (Tamerlane) to the Mamluk sultan al-Malik al-Nāṣir, which died in the Nāṣirī Canal in Cairo in 804/1401. The poem is introduced by the historian Ibn Iyās (d. ca. 930/1524) as follows: On Monday, the 2nd of Shaʿbān, the men looking after the big elephant went out to walk it, going toward Būlāq, on the road that leads to the River Gate Aqueduct. At the head of a bend in the road leading to the 90 90 90 90 Verse Nāṣirī Canal there was a conduit.291 The elephant stepped into that conduit and sank so that its leg disappeared in it up to its thigh. Nobody could free it. Thus it remained for some time and then it died. When the news spread in Cairo people came in droves to look at the spectacle. That day all markets and shops were closed because everyone left to have a look at the elephant. Poets composed many elegies on it, of which I know only the following zajal by some zajal poet.292 O people come to me and listen to what I will tell: On Monday, at the Aqueduct, the Elephant—he fell! When his mahouts were broke they thought they had to act: They took him to Bulaq,293 for money to extract. They saw a pious little greybeard; that’s a fact. They took his skullcap294 from him, just for fun and “What the Hell!” He cursed the elephant and at the Aqueduct he fell! They said, “Stuck in the conduit! There it lies, it’s crying!” I said, I’ll have a look, to see if they’re not lying. I come there, see the elephant, cast down and dying! People were climbing on its back with utmost care, pell-mell, When, Monday, at the Aqueduct, the elephant—he fell. The gentlemen of Cairo all around him flocked, To marvel at the elephant and see him docked, They saw his tears fall down like rain and they felt shocked. 91 91 He bellowed loudly and it made the people think: “Well. Well!” When, at the Aqueduct on Monday it befell he fell. I said to him, “Marzuq, black elephant, hey mate, Where is your dignity, you are in quite a state! You were a Sultan, ornament of beasts, of late! Strutting so proudly in a pageant; you looked really swell, But now you are laid low since at the Aqueduct you fell.” It was as if he spoke to all those who had come: “How often did I march, on top of me a drum, A howdah on my back! And everybody’s chum! Shown to the public just as, at her wedding, is a belle! And now my last walk was here at the Aqueduct: I fell!” And then his wife cried out: “Ah, who can give relief? An arrow struck my heart, ye of Muslim belief, I’m foreign, Indian, and my heart is full of grief. This elephant here was my spouse, it is no shame to tell; And now he’s breathed his last when at the Aqueduct he fell.” She wept and made her neighbor friends weep too, those dears; She wailed and cried so much that they all shed their tears. From burning grief she slapped her cheeks with floppy ears. A Zajal: An Elegy on the Elephant...


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