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277 277 Poetics: Ibn Rashīq on the Definition and Structure of Poetry839 Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn Rashīq al-Qayrawānī (390/1000–456/1065 or 463/1071) was a poet active in North Africa (present-day Tunisia) and Sicily. He also wrote several works on poetry, the most famous of them being al- ʿUmdah (The Support), a kind of encyclopedia of poetry and poetics. The Definition and Structure of Poetry Poetry is made from four things (besides intention), viz. wording, meter, meaning , and rhyme.840 This is the definition of poetry, since some speech is metrical and rhymed yet not poetry, because the purport and intention are lacking, such as some revealed parts of the Qur’an or the words of the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace)841 and other such discourse to which the term poetry cannot be applied. (…)842 One scholar said poetry is built on four cornerstones: panegyric, invective, love poetry (nasīb),843 and elegy.844 They also said the fundaments of poetry are four: desire, fear, emotion,845 and anger. Panegyric and gratitude go with desire, apology and asking for sympathy go with fear, yearning and delicate love poetry go with emotion, and invective, threat, and hurtful reproach go with anger. Al-Rummānī ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā846 said: The regular “purposes”847 of poetry are generally five: love poetry, panegyric, invective,848 vaunting poetry, and description. Comparison and metaphor fall under the category of description. ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān once said to Arṭāh ibn Suhayyah, “Will you compose any poetry today?” He answered, “By God, I feel no emotion, I am not angry, I am not drinking, I desire nothing. Poetry comes only with one of these things.”849 Abū ʿAlī al-Baṣīr850 said, I have praised the emir al-Fatḥ,851 asking for his favor. Can a poet be asked for more when he desires something? He has exhausted the genres of poetry, and they are many, but his good deeds and qualities are not yet exhausted. 278 278 278 278 Prose Thus he made desire an aim to which nothing can be added. ʿAbd al-Karīm852 said: Four kinds encompass all poetry, viz. panegyric, invective , wisdom,853 and light verse.854 Several types branch off from each kind. Thus elegies, vaunting, and gratefulness derive from panegyric; blame, reproach, and complaining about slow fulfillment of promises derive from invective; proverbial sayings, calling for abstinence,855 and admonitions derive from wisdom; and love poetry, hunting poetry, the description of wine and bawdy verse derive from light verse.856 Some people say that all poetry is one of two kinds: panegyric and invective. To panegyric belong elegy, vaunting, love poetry, and all praiseworthy descriptions connected with these such as the descriptions of remnants and traces (at abandoned campsites), and beautiful comparisons; and similarly edifying poetry857 such as proverbial and wise sayings, admonitions, renunciation of worldly things, and contentedness. Invective is the opposite of all these. Only reproach holds an intermediate position, because it is at the edge of both kinds. Likewise incitement is neither panegyric nor invective, since you do not incite someone by saying that he is despicable or abject, or else you and he will suffer the consequences, nor do you intend to praise him with panegyric poetry, so that he will have it his way.858 A line of poetry is like a building:859 its basis is natural talent,860 its roof is the ability to transmit poetry,861 its pillars are knowledge, its door is practice, and its inhabitant is meaning. A “house” that is uninhabited is no good. The various meters and rhyme-words are like the measures and models862 used for buildings, or like ropes and pegs used for tents. All other things, such as poetic embellishments, are only an ornament that may be applied afterward; if they are lacking they can be dispensed with. The qadi ʿAlī ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Jurjānī,863 author of The Mediation, says: Poetry is one of the sciences of the Arabs, in which participate natural talent, the ability to transmit poetry, and intelligence; subsequently, practice gives substance to it and gives strength to each one of its causes. He in whom these characteristics are combined will be proficient and will excel. The greater his share of them, the higher will his level of proficiency be. He also says:864 In this matter I do not speak out...


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