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281 281 Literary Criticism: From The Secrets of Eloquence by ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī890 Abū Bakr ʿAbd al-Qāhir ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, a Persian from Jurjān (or Gurgān, at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea), died in 471/1078 or 474/1081. He wrote some works on Arabic grammar, but became famous with his two very influential books on literary style. Dalāʾil al-iʿjāz (Proofs of the Inimitability [of the Qur’an]) explores how syntax contributes to meaning and to stylistic excellence, not only in the Qur’an but also in artistic prose and especially in poetry. Imagery is the main subject of Asrār al-balāghah (The Secrets of Eloquence), in which he offers a perceptive and penetrating analysis of comparison, metaphor, and related tropes. The ideas proposed in these works were no less novel than their style, which is essayistic, often passionate and to some extent unordered. In the present excerpt little attempt has been made to make the translations of the poetic quotations more “literary” by means of a meter. There is no compelling reason why literary criticism should itself have “literary” qualities (a fact all too familiar to modern readers), and many Arabic works falling in this category have the non-literary characteristics of scholarly works when they deal with matters of philology, grammar, lexicography , stylistics, rhetoric, poetics, the study of poetic motifs, plagiarism, and all the other elements that together form literary criticism. There are some exceptions, however, and when ʿAbd al-Qāhir writes about poetic language and imagery his prose style is itself of a quality that justifies inclusion here. Another reason is that it is important to get an idea of how Arabic poetry was received and discussed by discriminating critics. It is important to realize that comparisons may acquire a certain magical power that words cannot describe and that the art of exposition fails to match in elegance and beauty. For the comparison may reach a point where it turns disinterested acquaintances into suitors, diverts the bereaved from their grief, cools the anger of alienation, reminds people of lost pleasures, bears witness to the feeling of glory, and demonstrates all the power and ability that eloquence possesses. 282 282 282 282 Prose This is shown by the verses by Ibn al-Rūmī:891 The rose’s892 cheeks became ashamed because they were preferred: their rosy blushes testify to that. The rosy-colored rose would not have been ashamed if he who falsely favored it had been less obstinate. The narcissus is clearly to be preferred, though some will deny this and stray from the straight path. Decisive in this case is that the one is the leader of the garden flowers, and the other drives them away.893 How different the two! One threatening to strip the world, the other full of promise. Its glance deters the drinking friends from mischief and it enhances the enjoyment of wine and singing. Seek in your mind its namesake among pretty women, and you’ll be sure always to find one894 Think hard: only the rose bears its own name, no pretty woman is named after it. It is the stars above that raised them both with rain from clouds, just like a father does. Look at the two brothers895: the one more closely like his father is the glorious one.896 Where are cheeks, compared with eyes, in preciousness and leadership, except in false analogy? The ordering of the artistry897 in this passage is as follows: first, he effects the reversal of the terms of comparison,898 as has been discussed above, in the chapter on comparison. Thus he compares the redness of the rose to the redness of blushing in shame. Then he pretends to forget this, deceiving himself into the belief that it is real shame. Then, having become assured of this in his heart, after the image has taken hold, he looks for a cause899 for that shame and makes that cause the fact that the rose has been preferred to the narcissus and has been given a place that even it does not think it deserved. It begins to feel embarrassed and becomes fearful of the blame of critics and the taunts of mockers. It finds itself being extolled with praise that is clearly false and so exaggerated that his praise becomes, 283 283 283 283 ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjān...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814745113
Related ISBN
9780814770276
MARC Record
OCLC
859687281
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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