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123 123 Lives of The Poets: al-Farazdaq Tells the Story of Imruʾ al-Qays and the Girls at the Pond376 Al-Farazdaq (d. ca. 110/728), one of the greatest poets of the Umayyad period , here figures as a storyteller, relating in prose his adventure with some bathing girls, an encounter which reminded him of a similar story (but erotic rather than burlesque) connected with the most famous poem in Arabic, the Muʿallaqah by the pre-Islamic Imruʾ al-Qays (first half of sixth century ad). Several verses from the poem may be found in the passages from Abū l-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī’s Risālat al-ghufrān, below. For Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī and his Book of Songs, from which this and the following story have been taken, see the introduction to the “Umayyad Ghazal Poem, used as an Abbasid song text,” above, p. 27. ʿAbd Allāh ibn Mālik related to us: Muḥammad ibn Mūsā related to me: al-Qaḥdhamī related to me: one of our friends related to me, on the authority of ʿAbd Allāh ibn Zālān377 al-Tamīmī, the rāwī378 of al-Farazdaq, that al-Farazdaq said: One night a heavy rain fell in Basra. The following morning I found some tracks of riding animals that had set out toward the desert. I thought that they must have been left by people who have gone on an outing. They’re sure, I thought, to have some food and drink with them! So I followed their traces, until I came upon some mules, still fully laden, stationed near a pond. I hastened to the pond, where I saw some women bathing in the water. I said, “I have never seen anything like today, not even the day of Dārat Juljul.”379 I turned away from them, modestly, but they called out to me: “Hey you, you with the mule, come back, we want to ask you something!” So I turned back, while they were still up to their necks in the water. “Come on,” they said, “you must tell us the story of Dārat Juljul!” So I said, “Imruʾ al-Qays was in love with one of his cousins, called ʿUnayzah.380 He tried to get in touch with her for some time, but in vain. He tried to visit her without her family knowing about it, but it was not to be, until the day at the pond, that is the day of Dārat Juljul. As it happened, the clan had moved on, the men in front, and the women following behind with the servants and the luggage. When 124 124 124 124 Prose Imruʾ al-Qays saw this, he lagged behind after he had traveled with his tribesmen, for a distance of a bowshot. Then he hid in a hollow, until the women came by. The girls turned up; ʿUnayzah was among them. When they arrived at the pond, they said, ‘Why don’t we stop here and rest a bit!’ So they got down from their camels, told the slaves to move away some distance and then stripped and plunged into the pond, just as you are doing now! Then Imruʾ al-Qays sneaked upon them, just as I approached you, unawares. He took their clothes and made a pile of them…” (At this point al-Farazdaq jumped off his mule, grabbed some of the clothes and clutched them to his chest.) “… and said to them, just as I say to you: ‘By God, I shall not give any of you girls your clothes, even if you stay in the pond all day, until you come out naked.’” Al-Farazdaq continued, “One of them , the sauciest, said, ‘That man was in love with his cousin; are you in love with one of us then?’ “‘No, by God! I am not in love with any of you, but I do find you attractive.’ “Then they shouted and clapped their hands, and said, ‘Go on with your story, since you won’t leave before you’ve got what you want!’” So al-Farazdaq continued the story of Imruʾ al-Qays: “They resisted his request until the sun was high in the sky. Then they became afraid that they would not reach the camp site they intended to reach. So one of them came out, and he placed her clothes to one side. She took them and...


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