59. Contemporary Arab poetry, Bedouin and urban.



It should be known that poetry is not restricted exclusively to the Arabic language. It exists in every language, Arabic and non-Arabic.1616 There were poets among the Persians and among the Greeks. (The Greek poet) Homer was mentioned and praised by Aristotle in the Logic. 1617 The Himyarites, too, had their poets in ancient times.

Later on, corruption affected the language of the Mudar, whose forms, and whose rules governing the vowel end­ings, had been systematized (as the pure Arabic language). The various later dialects differed according to the (more or less close) contact with (non-Arabs) and the (larger or smaller) admixture of non-Arab (elements). 1618 As a result, the Bedouin Arabs themselves came to speak a language completely different from that of their Mudar ancestors with regard to vowel endings, and different in many respects with regard to the (conventional) meanings and forms of words. Among the urban population, too, another language originated, which was different from that of the Mudar with regard to vowel endings, as well as most meanings and grammatical inflections. It differs also from the language of present-day Arab Bedouins. Again, it differs within itself according to the (different) terminologies of the inhabitants of the various regions.1619 Thus, the urban population of the East speaks a dialect different from that of the Maghribis. And the language of the urban population in Spain differs from both of them.

Now, poetry exists by nature among the speakers of every language, since meters of a certain harmonious arrangement, with the alternation of (fixed) numbers of consonants, with and without vowels, exist in the nature of all human beings. Therefore, poetry is never abolished as the result of the disappearance of one particular language in this case, that of the Mudar, who, as everybody knows, were outstanding champions of poetry. In fact, every racial and dialect group among the Arab Bedouins who have undergone some non-Arab influence, or the urban population, attempts to cultivate poetry and to fit it into the pattern of their speech, as much as it suits them.

Contemporary Arab Bedouins who gave up the language of their Mudar ancestors under non-Arab influence, produce poetry in all the meters used by their Arab ancestors. They make long poems in (those meters). (Their poems) represent all the ways and purposes of poetry,1620 the erotic (nasib), the laudatory, the elegiac, and the satirical (parts of the ancient qasidahs).1621 They switch from one subject to another in their speech (as was done in the ancient gasidahs). They often brusquely state what they want to say at the beginning of the poem. Most of their poems begin with the name of the poet. Then, they pass on to the erotic part (nasib). The Western Arabs call those poems Asma`iyat, after al­Asma`i,1622 the great transmitter of Arab poetry. The Eastern Arabs call it Baddawi 1623 (Bedouin) and Hawrani and Qubaysi [?] 1624 poetry. In connection with it, they often use plain melodies which are not artistic musical compositions. They sing the (poems). They call such songs Hawrani songs, after the Hawran, a section of the 'Iraq and Syria where Bedouin Arabs used to live and are still living at this time. 1625

The (Arabs) have another kind (of poetry) which is widely in use among them. It employs four lines, 1626 of which the fourth has a rhyme different from that of the first three. The fourth rhyme, then, is continued in each stanza through the whole poem, similar to the quatrains and the stanzas of five lines which were originated by recent poets of mixed Arab and non-Arab parentage (muwallaa).1627 These Arabs show an admirable eloquence in the use of this type of poetry. There are outstanding and less outstanding poets among them:

Most contemporary scholars, philologists in particular, disapprove of these types (of poems) when they hear them, and refuse to consider them poetry when they are recited. They believe that their (literary) taste recoils from them, because they are (linguistically) incorrect and lack vowel endings. This, however, is merely the result of the loss of the habit (of using vowel endings) in the dialect of the (Arabs). If these (philologists) possessed the same (speech) habit, taste and natural (feeling) would prove to them that these poems are eloquent, provided that their (own) natural dispositions and point of view were not distorted. Vowel endings have nothing to do with eloquence. Eloquence is the conformity of speech to what one wants to express and to the requirements of a given situation,1628 regardless of whether the u-ending indicates the subject and the a-ending the object, or vice versa. These things are indicated by syntactic combinations (qara'in) as used in the particular dialect used by the (Arabs). 1629 The meanings are based upon the technical conventions of people who have a particular (linguistic) habit. When the technical terminology (as it is used) in a particular (linguistic) habit is generally known, the meaning comes out correctly. And if the indicated meaning is in conformity with what one wants to express and with the requirements of the situation, we have sound eloquence.1630 The rules of the grammarians have nothing to do with that.

The poems of (the Arabs) show all the methods and forms of (true) poetry. They lack only the vowel endings. Most words have no vowel after the last consonant, and the subject and object of verbal sentences as well as the subject and predicate of nominal sentences are distinguished from each other by syntactic means (qara'in), and not by vowel endings.

One 1631 such poem is put in the mouth of the sharif Ibn Hashim.1632 In it, he weeps for al-Jaziyah bint Sarhan and mentions her departure with her people to the Maghrib. (It runs:)

Then spoke the war hero,1633 the sharif Ibn Hashim, concerning

The affliction of his soul, complaining of its misfortune.

He hastened to tell (us) how his mind has gone

After a young Bedouin who torments (his soul), already afflicted.

(He told) of how (his) spirit complains about its affliction,

(How) when the morning to say farewell had come - God may destroy him who knows about it!

(His spirit) felt as if a man with a scalpel had sliced down through it

With a blade of pure Indian steel.

It has become a bleating (sheep) in the hand of (the man who) washes it,

Whose harshness in handling its strap is (as painful) as the thorns of an acacia.

Double (fetters) hold together its feet and its head,

And while (the washer) scrubs it, he holds it by the end of a rope [?].

My tears have begun to flow, as if

Controlled by the operator who turns the water wheels.

At the least let-up, (the tears) are made to flow all the more copiously,

(Like) the rain that pours down in sheets from the rain clouds,

(That) flows from the plains at as-Safi

Heavily, blocking the lightning,1634 it is so abundant.

This song of mine is preparation for a raid,

Which has aroused even the poor people of Baghdad. 1635

The crier called out the departure, and people secured (their baggage),

And the money lenders of (the tribe) pressed the borrowers.

Hinder her [them?] from leaving now, O Dhiyib b. Ghinim!

Midi b. Muqarrab 1636 controls her [their?] journey.

Hasan [?] 1637 b. Sarhan says to them: Go west!

Drive (before you) the herds! I am their watchman.

He urges them and drives them on, with the bleating [sheep?]. ...............................................

Zayyan b. 'Abis, the kind, left me.

He was not satisfied with the splendor and provision of (the) Himyar.

He left me, who pretended to be my friend and companion,

And I have no shield (left) to turn around.

He says to them again: The land of Ibn Hashim

I can protect, but not if it is parched by 1638 thirst.

The entrance and territory of Baghdad are forbidden to me.

We cannot go in or out there, and my mount is scared away from it.

My spirit turns away from the country of Ibn Hashim

Because of the (parching) sun. (Otherwise), death will come upon me in its noontime heat.

The fires of the maids continued all night to send off sparks,

Looking for shelter [?], while they bind 1639 the captive of their (charms) with [in?]... .

Another such poem is the mocking elegy in which the (Hilal) mourned the Zanatah amir, Abu Su'di al-Yafrani,1640 their adversary in Ifriqiyah and the land of Zab. (It runs:)

Then spoke Su'da, she with the pure cheeks, while

The lament among the litter-bearing camels, kneeling (ready to depart), renewed her grief:

O you who ask about the grave of Khalifah az-Zanati,

Take the description from me! Do not be stupid!

I see him go up the river Ran [?],1641 above which

There is a Christian 1642 monastery [?] of a lofty construction.

I see him where the low ground turns aways from the road up the sand hill,

The river to the east of him, and the patch of reeds indicating (where he is).

Oh, how my soul suffers because of Khalifah az-Zanati,

Who was the offspring of generous ancestors.

He was killed by the fighting hero, Dhiyib b. Ghinim,

By wounds that made (his blood) to flow (as water flows out of) the openings of a water bag.

O  Jaziyah! 1643 Khalifah az-Zanati is dead!

Do not leave, unless you want to leave!

Go, calumniator! We sent you away thirty times.

And ten and six during the day (which is) little [?].

Another such poem is put in the mouth of the sharif Ibn Hashim, with reference to an altercation between him and Midi b. Muqarrab. (It runs:) 1644

The excellent Midi started to say:

O Shukr, we are not satisfied with you.

O Shukr, return to the Najd, and do not add any more censure!

(Only) he who cultivates his own land (really) lives.

You have kept away from us, O Shukr. You have approached others.

You have attracted (to yourself) Arabs who wear fine garments.

We have come to face what is destined for us

Just as . . .

If she-camels in the seventh month 1645 can become pregnant again in your land,

We Arabs here could not have more fertile ones.

Another such poem deals with the journey of (the Hilal) to the Maghrib and how they took it away from the Zanatah. (It runs:)

What a good friend have I lost in Ibn Hashim!

(But) what men before me have lost good friends!

He and I had a proud (quarrel) between ourselves,

And he defeated me with an argument whose force did not escape me.

I remained (dumbfounded), as if (the argument) had been pure and

Strong wine, which renders powerless those who gulp it down.

Or (I could be compared) with a gray-haired woman who dies consumed by grief

In a strange country, driven out from her tribe,

Who had come upon hard times and finally was rejected

And had to live among Arabs who disregarded their guest.

Like (her), I am as the result of humiliating experience

Complaining about my soul, which has been killed by boredom. 1646

I ordered my people to depart, and in the morning

They firmly fastened the packsaddles to the backs of their mounts.1647

For seven days, our tents remained folded,

And the Bedouin did not erect tent poles to set them up,1648

Spending all the time upon the humps of hills parallel to each other


The following verses are from a poem of Sultan b. Muzaffar b. Yahya of the Dawawidah, a subtribe of the Riyah, 1649 and one of their chieftains. He composed them when he was confined in al-Mahdiyah in the prison of the amir, Abu Zakariya' b. Abi Hafs, the first Almohad ruler of Ifriqiyah:

(The poet) speaks, when, with the coming of the morning, his weakness has left him:

May sleep be forbidden to the lids of my eyes!

Who will help a heart that has become the ally of pain and sorrow,

And a spirit that is tormented by love, whose illness has long been with me?

(I love) a woman from the Hijaz, an Arab Bedouin woman,

A young kid [?],1650 a passionate one, who is hard to catch,

Who loves the desert and is not used to villages,

But only (to) sandy plains where the tents receive

The spring rains. There, she spends her winters,

For she is tempted by the desert and in love with it.1651

She spends the spring among lands green from the rain


(The lands) charm the eye, after they have received

Rain from the passing clouds.

How do (these clouds) shed tears of water, and how do

Gushing springs with their abundance of fresh water compete with each other in murmuring? 1652

(The lands are) a virgin bride with garment resplendent

Upon her and with a belt of camomile blossoms.

(They are) a desert, a plain, a vast expanse, a far place to travel,

A pasture where ostriches wander among animals led to pasture.

The drink of (the desert) 1653 is the pure milk of she­camels in their seventh month,1654

Which are milked in the evening.1655 Its food is the meat of sheep [?].1656

It has no need of gates, nor of battles whose

Ferocity turns the hair of the young men gray.

May God water the winding valleys of al-Musayjid 1657 with rain

Continuously, so that the decayed bones there come to life again.

Their recompensation (for the happiness they brought me shall be) my love. Would that I

Could relive the days that went by in their sandy hills!

The nights when the bows of youth were in my arms,

Whose arrows never missed, when I stood up (to shoot)!

And my horse, always ready under my saddle, a mare 1658

In the time of (my) youth in (my) prime, while my hand was holding its reins!

And how many fleshy beauties kept me awake! I did not think

That there could be anything more splendid in the world than the rows of their teeth when they smiled.

And how many other maids with full bosoms and swaying hips,

With blackened eyelids and brilliant tattooing!

My passion for them makes (me) beat myself heavily [?]

With my hand. My heart will not forget their claims (on me),1659

Nor the fire kindled by passion that burns in my entrails,

Burns in a flame that cannot be extinguished by the water (of my tears).

O you who gave me your promise (to set me free), 1660 until when

Shall (my) life be spent in a house whose darkness makes me blind?

But I have seen the sun in eclipse for a while

And overcast, and then, the clouds (that covered it) disappeared.

Banner and flags, let them come to us and bring us luck

With the help of God! May their insignia flutter in the wind.

There come into (my) sight the warriors ready to go.

My lance on my shoulder, I march in front of them,

On the sandy plain of Ghiyath al-Farq above Shamis,1661

God's country whose hillocks I like best of all,

To a camping place at al-Ja'fariyah, near the sands,

Staying there, as long as it pleases me.

(There) we shall meet the generous leader of Hilal b. 'Amir

Whose greeting will remove all my burning thirst from me.

They are proverbial (for their courage) in the West and the East.

People attacked by them are quickly routed.

Greetings to them and to everyone under their tents!

Fate may let (it) last, as long as the pigeons coo in Ghina!

But leave that alone! Do not be grieved by something that has gone!

In this world, nothing is permanent for anyone.


A poem by a recent (Maghribi Arab) poet is that of Khalid b. Hamzah b. 'Umar, the shaykh of the Ku'ub,1662 of the Awlad Abul-Layl. In it, the poet censures their enemies, the Awlad Muhalhil, and replies to verses by their poet Shibl b. Miskiyanah b. Muhalhil, in which he boasted of the superiority of his tribe to the (Ku'ub). (It runs:)

Thus speaks 1663-and this is said by an unfortunate person who has smelled

The blows of abuse of critical pundits, 1664 having had to deal with the hardest of them,

Which smell to him like the stench of drainage areas [?] 1665

Who, however, (on his part) has selected the sweetest kinds of rhymes for recitation,

Well-embroidered, 1666 choice ones, of our own composition [?],1667

With which you will find me amusing myself, when my detractors are asleep.1668

Sieved ones (separated) from him who might criticize them 1669 as to their stanzas,

Whose ways, as well as mine, have been well established 1670 by the critical pundits.

My mentioning them (here), O noble people, serves the purpose of breaking 1671

Blows from a young lion (Shibl), with a lamb-like answer:

O Shibl,1672 there came to us 1673 from among nice pregnant (she-camels)

Several full-grown ones, whose possession is reassuring to those in pain,

But you appropriated them and took all you could, though you were not in need.

However, you said, of the people who own them, things that make those (camels) blameworthy.

Your statement concerning the mother of . . . , 1674 the son of Hamzah,

The protector of their 1675 grounds, ... the rebuilder of their ruins, (is wrong).

Do you not know that he raised them up after he had met

The lead [?] of the Banu Yahya and . . . 1676 which he melted [?]?

A firebrand of a leader, O Shibl, a burning one.

Have you ever seen one who (dared to) approach (the fire of) Hell 1677 and warm himself at it?

(There are) Hell fires [?] which he extinguished, yet they started burning again after being extinguished,

And he extinguished them a second time, being a bold person, not fearing them.

And they started burning again after being twice extinguished. . . . [?]


As he is in demand on account of his (heroism),

Thus, the men of the Banu Ka'b, on account of whom he is feared, are to be avoided.

It has, thus, become clear to him who has sense that they stretch out to the limit

And that they belong 1678 among the greatest things he has to fear.

Verses on censure from the same poem:

Whenever you brag about what you possess, I possess more because 1679

My possession consists of the firm tie and connection of glory.

I 1680 have a dignity [?] 1681 with the help of which I can repel every group [?] 1682

With swords from whose necks (backs) hostile people back away.

If property is the requirement for brides,

We are able to woo them with (booty gained at) the points of (our) spears.

Their dowry 1683 consists of nothing less than slender, lean,

Bluish-grey (horses), as quick in their movements as the tongues of vipers.

O my cousins, humiliation is not for young men to appreciate

(Whose very) captives ride mounted when they travel.

They know that fate will stalk them

Without doubt, since the world quickly changes.

Verses on women departing in their litters, from the same poem:

In departing women, 1684 crossing deserts, not fearing hostile people,

Cutting through tracts of land in a much feared environment,

The eye sees-tell Shibl!-(dear) acquaintances.

Every wild cow 1685 has for friends those who are able to get her [?]! 1686

You see 1687 their people in the early morning [?] 1688 carry them

With every . . . .1689

There are some people killed every day because of them among the signs erected in the desert [?], 1690

And the promiscuous [?] libertine has no chance to kiss them. 1691

Here is a wise maxim from (Maghribi Arab) poetry:

It is stupid of you to seek the impossible.

It is correct to keep away from those who keep away from you.

Let people close their doors to you!

Mount the backs of (your) camels, and God will open a gate (for you).

In the following verse Shibl refers to the fact that the Ku'ub trace their pedigree back to Tarjam:

Both the old and the young descendants of Tarjam

Make everybody complain of their violence.

The following poem is a poem by Khalid,1692 in which he blames his tribesmen (ikhwan) for allying themselves with the Almohad shaykh Abu Muhammad b. Tafragin who had seized control of Tunis from his charge, the Sultan of Tunis, Abu Ishaq, the son of Sultan Abu Yahya. This happened near our own times. (The poem runs as follows:)


Well-informed, the generous hero, Khalid, gives a speech

Worthy of an orator. What he says is always correct,

The speech of a sage, an intelligent speech, without

Confusion. One cannot escape (the logic of) what he says. 1693

I have conceived an intelligent idea, not for any compelling reason .

And not in order to cause trouble that would result in reproaches.

I have kept (the speech) as a treasure [?] 1694 What a good thing to have it was,

A treasure of thought! Every treasure is discovered [sooner or later?].

(Now,) I openly come out with it and speak about things

Done by men related (to us) in the tribe,

The Bane Ka'b, our closest blood relatives,

Our cousins, both the old and young men.

When the country was conquered, some of (its inhabitants) were treated by us

As true friends and as hospitably received neighbors.

Others were defended by us against their adversaries.

You know that what I say is supported by the truth.1695

To others we gave part of our own property

As a reward. That is written down in the official decree.1696

Others came to us in need. Our high-mindedness

Made us generous to them and we gave them ample (gifts).

Others attacked us with malice.

We reproved them, 1697 until the things with which they were concerned disappeared.



Others complained about the servants of an important person 1698

Who closed the door to them when decisions were being made in the halls.

Against the former, we protected the latter.1699 He required them to let them in

Against the will of the master of al-Yalifi and Rabab.1700

All the while, we sought to exalt

Them. We never let down a veil to betray (them).

We took the land of Tarshish (Tunis) under our protection as our possession after

We had risked (our) swift (horses) and (our own) necks for it

. . . of possessions those which were outside

Of the control of their rulers who had . . .

With the help of the resistance of the chiefs of our tribe,

The Bane-Ka`b .. .

They helped us against any hostile coalition.

They freed us from the fetters of any (unpleasant) occurrence,

Until those among them who did not have so much as a lamb came to be

Affluent and abundantly blessed with goods,

And used the captive (women) who were sold dear 1701 by the people who owned them

And dressed in different kinds of silk. They drove (riding) animals .. .

Numerous ones .. .

They acquired large stocks of different kinds of animals, 1702

Such as can only be met with at special times.

They came to be similar to the Barmecides of old,

Or to the Hilal in the time of Dhiyib. 1703

They came to be our shields in every important danger,

Until the enemy's fire (of war) turned into a blaze.

(Then,) they left home under the cover of darkness, but they did not fear

Blame, because the home of noble persons is never subject to censure.

They clothed the tribe in fur pelisses to cover it,

While they themselves-would that they knew it wore mean coats.

There is also among them a spy [?] 1704 who has not got the (right) information.

My opinion about his forgetfulness 1705 is that his mind is deranged.

He holds suspicions about us that do not apply to us.

Let us wish that he may have several avenues to earn forgiveness!

He is wrong, and so are all those involved with him in his error,

As is established. Those who hold evil suspicions are blameworthy.

Oh, 1706 how to find consolation (over the death of) the hero Bu Muhammad (b. Tafragin),

Who used to give away thousands without counting it!

(His) servants are afflicted by his (loss). They thought of

His appearance, so long as he lived, like the appearance of (rain) clouds.

(Now, however,) they run in search of watering places under the (rain) clouds,

(But) find that all they had hoped to find is a mirage.

When he gave gifts, he knew what was appropriate.

Even when he gave little, it was right.

We have no hope ever to be consoled,

Since the arrows of death struck him down.

The broad land of Tarshish (Tunis) has become too strait

For him, and the setting sun is gone with the scattered clouds.

He [?] will soon depart from it


And from maids with charming eyes, slender, coquettish ones,

Who were reared behind curtains and behind veils.

He is haughty when they are, and he is gay when they are,

Under the influence of the beautiful (music of) the ganun and the sound of the rebec.1707

They lead him astray, because he has no (longer) any certainty (of himself). And often

He talks (with them), even as though he were a young man.

He spent (happy) days with them. (His) orders were obeyed.

There was delicious food and good drinks.

Now, past friendship no longer is available to Ibn Tifrigin.

Instead of it, he received only death.

If he has outstanding intelligence, (even) a raven [?] dare enter the deep sea.

Unforeseen events require men of action,

Great ones, until the people are welded together,

And (until) the snatched lances and quivers are red (with blood),

And (until) the slave (young man) who wants to gain our royal authority comes to

Repent and does not come to be sound... .

O you who eat 1708 bread and like to season it,

You mixed and seasoned the good stuff with poison.1709


'Ali b. `Umar b. Ibrahim, a contemporary chieftain of the Banu 'Amir, one of the subtribes of the Zughbah, censures his cousins who aspire to the leadership of his clan in the following poem: 1710

. . . Sweet 1711 verses of poetic speech,

Well embroidered, like pearls in the hand of a craftsman

When all are in order on the silken thread (on which they are strung),

I bring them (here) 1712 to show the reasons for what happened,

While there appeared the departure 1713 of the camels with their litters, (causing) a separation [?],

That resulted in (the splitting of) the mother tribe into two tribes, and the staff

Is split-May we never meet people who would condemn (us) for it!

But on the day, when the(ir evil) intention 1714 went away

with them, my heart

Felt a sting (like) that of the thorn of the tragacanth,

Or like that of the fiery sparks the smith makes,1715

Kindled by them among curved tongs.

Or rather, (my) heart is in the hands of a (wood) splitter [?] 1716

Who brought them the saw for (wood) cutting, a stupid one.1717

Whenever I say: Let us be spared the pain of separation, I am visited and

Encircled by someone [?] who announces the separation.

O that place, which was yesterday (still) populated

With a large tribe and group, while there were many slaves (there);

Servants who bind up (the horses) tightly for the riders 1718 in tournaments [?],

Some of whom, in the darkness of the night, are awake and (others) asleep;

And cattle whose gathering pleases those who see (the cattle),

Whenever (the cattle) appear from plain or mountain path; 1719

And crows 1720 whose young ones frighten even (or, please only) their parents; 1721

And herds 1722 upon herds of wild cows and ostriches.

Today, (however), there is nothing there except owls around it,1723

Wailing over the traces of abandoned camps there and the round hillocks. 1724

I stood a long time there questioning 1725 the (scene)

With a weak eye, while (my) tears flowed copiously.

All I got from it was a feeling of desolation in my heart

And sickness, for reasons that I know, and (my heart) has become deranged [?].1726

Now then, you should bring greetings 1727 to Mansur Bu 'Ali

And after greetings, there is well-being.1728

Say to him: O Abul-Wafa',1729 who is the evil spirit [?] of your [pl.] opinions,

You [pl.] entered dark, deep waters,

Turbulent ones; which cannot be measured with the rod. They just

Flow over land and hills.

You were not (able to) measure off in them a measure to guide you.

Swollen waters cannot be crossed by swimmers.

There have helped-preparing for your undoing by entering them

Certain vile men without intelligence.

O raiders, 1730 they made a mistake, and they will not Last.

There are no worlds 1731 that persist. ... would 1732 you could see how their opinions

Are a stopgap, 1733 and like rags 1734 that cannot be repaired,

Without usefulness or desirability. 1735 At the outpost on high

There are places that are no places for them to occupy.

By the Prophet and the House and its corners that

Are visited 1736 at all times and in every year,

If life lasts in me 1737 for the . . .1738 of the nights,

You shall taste a bitter-tasting 1739 wine.

. . .1740 we follow 1741 the deserts perseveringly,

With every spear a narrow path, and (with every) sword,

And (with) every horse, (quick) like the winds, that runs fast, 1742

Worthy to carry upon itself a young man of noble birth,

And (with) every bay (steed) with short tail and mane, 1743 which gnashes its teeth,

And in harness continuously champs (the) bit.

The sterile earth will be pregnant with us for a while,

And then give birth to us 1744 from every narrow mountain path, 1745

With heroes, and strong-bodied camels, and lances

Coming in huge numbers while the enemy assembles tumultuously.

I hold them back [?], being the commander 1746 who leads them,

With my sharp spear a sign for wars.

We 1747 shall go after your pastures like greedy falcons,1748

So that you will pay back the debts you owe (us, your) creditors,

When the owl of the plain, O Amir Bu 'Ali,

Meets hungry hunters starving for meat. 1749

Also, Bu Hammu 1750 bought a stumbling race horse,

And he let precious horses in great numbers go.1751

He let men go whose neighbor (guest) never sees any wrong (done to him)

And who do not knuckle under, fearing 1752 the enemy, humble ones.

Why do you not set them up (help them), and they will

(then be able to) follow their intended course. 1753

They are the glory of the Zughbah, first and last.

How often has a camel-driver stirred their 1754 (women) departing in the camel litters toward the desert,

Between the level ground and the hillocks,1755

After him 1756 who crosses the elevations of the desert . . . 1757

When the departure [?] of the camels with their litters . . .1758

And how much booty do they bring (back) when they follow him,

The ally of glory, the best vintage of all [?]! 1759

And when kings come to tyrannize him and to be unfair,

He departs early in the morning, traveling 1760 while it is still dark.

Farewell 1761 to you from an eloquent (poet), who understands

The song of the dove and the wailing of the pigeon.


The following poem is a poem of the Arab Bedouins of the Syrian desert in the region of the Hawran. It was (composed) by a wife whose husband had been killed and who sent to his Qaysite allies, instigating them to seek revenge for him:

The valiant tribeswoman, Umm Salamah, speaks

About a dear person-God frighten those who do not mourn for him!

She spends long nights unused to sleep,

Full of grief, and sorrow is wherever she turns,

Because of what happened in her house and family.

In one moment, separation (from her husband who was killed) changed her position.

You have lost Shihab-ad-din, all you Qays,

And you have neglected to take revenge. Is that (your) friendship for her?

I said, when they sent me a letter to cheer me

And to cool the fire burning in my heart:

"What a shame, 1762 to comb forelocks and beards,

And not to protect the beauty of white-skinned virgins!"

The following verses are by a man of the tribe of Hulubba,1763 of the Judham Bedouins of Egypt: 1764

Thus speaks ar-Rudayni-ar-Rudayni 1765 speaks truth -

Preparing well-constructed, original verses:

O you who are coming upon a she-camel, 1766

A strong one, filling out the fine saddle straps, 1767

One that (is fit to) carry a young man who does not consider sleep something to be earned without toil

By him 1768 who possesses great qualifications, is clever, and knows what is going on!

If you come from 1769 the tribe Hulubba, a group

Ever ready to excel in fighting when someone struts into war, 1770

And 1771 (from) my people, the.Banu Manzur-may I never taste the loss of them! -

A group of people representing all mankind, the rallying point of the weak and fearful,

I myself (personally) having all my experience from the Banu Raddad 1772

- May my God protect them against serious setbacks! -

(Then, let me inform you:) There has come to me, together with the caravan, confusing information

And (news of) divided intentions and contradictory opinions.

How can I (alone) stay the injustice (being done me), while you 1773 are a group,

(Riding upon and disposing over) every neighing horse with a long mane?

<I hope and pray> 1774 that you may all reach a decision, 1775

Even if 1776 (your) property and life perish in its (execution).

I have 'Ubayd b. Malik (as support) among the high leaders, 1777

In whom there is high nobility, with command over the people,

And (I have) true friends in the leaders of the Al Muslim,

While I (suffer) from my own people many unpleasant things. 1778

There 1779 are many such poems. They circulate among (Arab Bedouins). Some tribes cultivate them. Others, including, for instance, most of the contemporary chiefs of the Riyah, Zughbah, and Sulaym,1780 and others, disdain cultivating them, as we explained in the section on poetry.1781


The Spanish muwashshahahs and zajals


Poetry was greatly cultivated in Spain. Its various ways and types were refined. Poems came to be most artistic. As a result, recent Spaniards created the kind of poetry called muwashshah. 1782

The muwashshahah consists of "branches" (ghusn) and "strings" (simt) 1783 in great number and different meters. A certain number (of "branches" and "strings") is called a single verse (stanza). There must be the same number of rhymes in the "branches" (of each stanza) and the same meter (for the "branches" of the whole poem) throughout the whole poem. The largest number of stanzas employed is seven. Each stanza contains as many "branches" as is consistent with purpose and method. Like the gasidah, the muwashshahah is used for erotic and laudatory poetry.

(The authors of muwashshahahs) vied to the utmost with each other in this (kind of poetry). Everybody, the elite and the common people, liked and knew these poems because they were easy to grasp and understand. They were invented in Spain by Muqaddam b. Mu'afa al-Qabri,1784 a poet under the amir 'Abdallah b. Muhammad al-Marwani. Ahmad 1785 b. 'Abdrabbih, the author of the 'Iqd, learned this (type of poetry) from him. 1786 (Muqaddam and Ibn 'Abdrabbih) were not mentioned together with the recent (authors of muwashshahahs), and thus their muwashshahahs fell into desuetude. The first poet after them who excelled in this subject was 'Ubadah al-Qazzaz,1787 the poet of al-Mu'tasim b. Sumadih, the lord of Almeria. Al-A'lam al-Batalyawsi 1788 mentions that he heard Abu Bakr b. Zuhr 1789 say that all authors of muwashshahahs are indebted to the following verses which 'Ubadah al-Qazzaz happened to make:

Full moon-Late morning sun-Bough on a sandhill -sweet smelling musk:

How perfect-how resplendent-how exuberant-how fragrant! 1790

No doubt - he who sees her - falls in love with her - has lost Out! 1791

It is believed that no contemporary from the time of the reyes de taifas preceded ('Ubadah) as author of muwash­shahahs.

('Ub idah) was followed by Ibn Arfa'-ra'sah,1792 the poet of al-Ma'mun b. Dhi n-Nun, the lord of Toledo. It has been said that he did very well with the beginning of his famous muwashshahah, where he says:

The lute sings - the most original melody. - Wild brooks running through -the lawns of gardens

and at the end, where he says:

You are bold and do not submit-Perhaps you are al­Ma'mun-who frightens the companies (of the enemy) -Yahya b. Dhi n-Nun.

There was much competition (in muwashshah poetry) during the reign of the Veiled (Almoravid) Sinhajah. Original things were produced at that time. The champions in the race were al-A'ma at-Tutili 1793 and Yahya b. Bagi.1794 One of the "gilded 1795 muwashshahahs" of at-Tutili is the following:

How can I be patient, when the way signs (fill me with) emotion,

And the caravan in the desert with the chaste and tender (maids) is gone?

A number of shaykhs have mentioned that Spaniards interested in (muwashshah poetry) tell how a number of authors of muwashshahahs once gathered in Sevilla, each of them with a very artistic muwashshah poem of his own composition. Al-A'ma at-Tutili stepped forward to recite his poem. He began with his famous muwashshahah:

Laughing and revealing (teeth like) pearls - showing a face beautiful like the moon - time is too narrow to hold (the beauty of the beloved) - but my bosom encloses it.

(When the assembled poets heard that,) Ibn Baqi tore up his muwashshahah, and all the others followed suit.1796

Al-A'lam al-Batalyawsi mentioned that he heard Ibn Zuhr say: "The only muwashshah poem I ever envied the poet is the following lines by Ibn Bagi:

Look at Ahmad-at the peak of glory - which cannot be reached (by anyone else)! - The West caused his rise - Show us someone like him - O East!" 1797

In the time of (at-Tutili and Ibn Bagi), there lived the gifted muwashshahah poet Abu Bakr al-Abyad.1798 In their time, there also lived the philosopher Abu Bakr b. Bajjah, 1799 the author of famous melodies. There is a famous story that relates how he attended the reception of his master Ibn Tifalwit,1800 the lord of Saragossa, and had one of his singing girls recite the following muwashshahah of his own composition: 1800a

Let the train (of your robe) drag wherever it will-and add drunkenness (with the love of your beloved) 1800b to drunkenness (with wine)!

This greatly moved (Ibn Tifalwit), to whom the praise was directed. Then, (Ibn Bajjah) finished the poem with these words:

Let God raise the banner of victory - for the distinguished amir Abu Bakr!

When the song was over, Ibn Tifalwit was heard to exclaim: "How moving!" He tore his garments (as a sign of joyous emotion) and said: "What a beautiful beginning and end!" And he swore the most binding oaths that Ibn Bajjah should walk home upon gold. The philosopher was afraid that it would not end well, so he employed the ruse of putting gold in his shoes and walking home on that gold. 1801

Abul-Khattab b. Zuhr 1802 mentioned that in the salon of Abu Bakr b. Zuhr, the afore-mentioned muwashshahah poet Abu Bakr al-Abyad was mentioned. One of those present spoke slightingly of him, whereupon (Abu Bakr b. Zuhr) said: "How can one speak slightingly of a person who made the following poem: 1803

I get no pleasure out of drinking wine - on meadows of camomile flowers - unless one with slender hips - when he bends down in the morning-or in the evening - says: Why does the evening drink (shamfil) - beat my cheek - and why does the north wind (shamal) blow - so that it bends-the well-proportioned bough - that my garment covers?

This is what makes hearts vanish - The way he walks throws me into confusion - O glance, sin more and more! - O red lips, and the fine teeth of his! - Cool the thirst - of a sickly lover - (who) will not.give up­(his) love pact with his (beloved) - and will not cease - in every condition - hoping to be united with him - though he is unapproachable."

Subsequently, at the beginning of the Almohad dynasty, Muhammad b. Abil-Fadl b. Sharaf 1804 became famous. Alms [?] 1805 b. Duwayridah said: "I saw Hatim b. Sa'id 1806 begin a poem thus:

A sun in conjunction with a full moon: - Wine and a boon companion.

Further, Ibn Hardus,1807 who made the following poem:

O night of union and happiness -by God, return!

(Further,) Ibn Mu'ahhil,1808 who made the following poem:

A holiday is not made by a (fine) dress and scarf - and the smell of perfume - A holiday is when one meets - with the beloved."

(There was also) Abu Ishaq ad-Duwayni.1809 Ibn Sa'id 1810 said: "I heard Abul-Hasan Sahl b. Malik say that (Abu Ishaq) came to Ibn Zuhr when (the latter) was advanced in years. He wore rustic clothes, as he was living at Hisn Istabbah. 1811 He was not recognized. (Abu Ishaq) sat at the very end of the room. The conversation was in progress, and he recited a muwashshahah of his own composition in which the following verses occurred:

The antimony of darkness runs - from the white eyeball of dawn - in the morn - and the wrist of the river - is clad in garments of green (plants) - from the marshes.

Ibn Zuhr stirred and asked: 'You can make such verses?' (Abu Ishaq) replied: 'Try me.' Whereupon (Ibn Zuhr) asked who he was. He told him, and (Ibn Zuhr) said: 'Come up.1812 Really I did not recognize you.' "

Ibn Sa'id continued: "The champion of the whole group was Abu Bakr b. Zuhr. His muwashshahahs are known in the East and the West." He said: "I heard Abul-Hasan Sahl b. Malik say that people asked Ibn Zuhr: 'If you were asked what is your most original muwashshahah (what would you say)?' (Ibn Zuhr) replied: 'I would say the following poem:

Why does the infatuated person-not wake up from his drunkenness? - How drunk he is - without wine! 1813 - Why is the grieved person full of longing - home­sick? - Will our days along the canal - and our nights - ever return - when we enjoyed the balmy breeze ­fragrant as Darin 1814 musk-and when we almost ­ received new life - from the beauty of the pleasant spot? - A river which is given shade - by splendid large trees along it - with thick green foliage - and the water runs - (carrying) on its surface and submerged under the water-fallen myrtle (leaves).' " 1815

Afterwards, Ibn Hayyun 1816 became famous. He composed the following famous zajal:

His arrow is more dangerous than death - whether shot by the hand or by the eye. 1817

He also wrote the following couplet:

I was created beautiful and am known as a skillful archer.

Hence, I do not stop fighting for a moment.

I do, with these two eyes of mine,

What my hand does with the arrow.1818

Together (with Ibn Zuhr and Ibn Hayyin), al-Muhr b. al-Faras became famous at that time in Granada. Ibn Sa'id said: "When Ibn Zuhr heard his poem:

By God, what a splendid day it was - at the river of Hims (Sevilla) on those meadows! - We then turned around to the mouth, of the canal - breaking the musk seals - on (the bottles of) golden wine - while the cloak of evening was being folded up by the hand of darkness.1819

he said: 'We could not invent such a (beautiful comparison as that of the) cloak!' "

Mutarrif lived in the same place as (al-Muhr). Ibn Sa'id reported, on the authority of his father, that Mutarrif came to Ibn al-Faras, who got up to honor him. When Mutarrif told him not to do that, Ibn al-Faras replied: "What - not get up for the poet who made these verses:

Hearts are smitten - by well-aimed glances.

- Say, how can you remain - without emotion?" 1820

Later, there was Ibn Hazmun 1821 in Murcia. Ibn ar-Ra.'is mentioned that Yahya al-Khazraji 1822 came to his salon and recited a muwashshahah of his own composition. Ibn Hazmim said to him: "A muwashshahah is not a muwashshahah, until it is entirely free from forced (artificiality)." When Yahya asked: "How, for instance?" Ibn Hazmun replied: "As, for instance, the following verses of mine:

O you who are keeping away from me - to be united with you - is there a way? Or do you think - your love can be forgotten - by the heart of the (love)sick person?" 1823

Abul-Hasan Sahl b. Malik in Granada. 1824 Ibn Sa'id said: "My father used to. admire his poem (which reads):

The brook of the morning in the east - turns into a sea everywhere - and the doves cry out plaintively to each other - as if they are afraid of drowning - and they weep in the early morning among the foliage (of the trees)."

At that time, Abul-Hasan b. al-Fadl 1825 became famous in Sevilla. Ibn Sa'id, on the authority of his father, said: "I heard Sahl b. Malik say to (Ibn al-Fadl): 'O Ibn al-Fadl, you excel (fadl) among the writers of muwashshahahs with these verses of yours:

Alas for a time that has passed - In the evening, passion is finished and gone - I am alone against my will, not willingly - I spend the night by the bright - burning fire of tamarisk coals - in my mind embracing those remnants of the abandoned camps - in my imagination kissing their traces.' "

Ibn Sa`id) continued: "I heard Abu Bakr b. as-Sabuni 1826 recite his muwashshahahs to Professor Abul-Hasan ad­Dabbaj 1827 many times, but I heard (ad-Dabbaj) praise him highly only for the following verses:

Swearing by the love of him who keeps (me) off: - The night of one consumed by longing has no dawn - The morning is frozen and does not flow 1828 - My night, I think, has no morn - Is it correct, O night, that you are eternal - Or, have the tips of the wings of the eagle 1829 been clipped - so that the stars of heaven do not run their course?"

One of the best muwashshahahs by Ibn as-Sabuni runs:

What is the matter with the person in love who pines away in grief? Woe unto him! The physician who should have cured him made him ill.

His beloved avoids him - and then, slumber imitates the example of the beloved in this respect (and also avoids him).

Sleep treats my eyelids cruelly, but I do not weep for it, except (that having no sleep) means loss of (seeing) the image (of the beloved in my dreams).1830

The (hoped for) meeting (with the beloved) today was a disappointment for me (as it did not take place), just as he wanted it. What a sad meeting!

But I do not blame him who keeps me off, in the form of reality or unreality.1831

Among the people of the (African) shore, Ibn Khalaf al-Jaza'iri 1832 became famous. He is the author of the famous muwashshahah:

The hand of morn has lighted - sparks of light - in the braziers of the flowers.

(Another author from northwestern Africa is) Ibn Khazar al-Baja'i.1833 One of his muwashshahahs runs:

Some fortunate circumstance greeted you with a smile from the teeth of time.

A muwashshahah by a recent poet is that of Ibn Sahl,1834 a poet first in Sevilla and later on in Ceuta. The following verses are from his poem:

Does the gazelle of al-Hima 1835 know that it inflamed (hamd) - the heart of a lover which it-has made its dwelling place? - Now, it is afire and throbbing, like a firebrand with which- the east wind plays. 1836

Our afore-mentioned friend, the wazir Abu 'Abdallah b. al-Khatib, who was in his day the (leading) poet of Spain and the Maghrib, wove on (Ibn Sahl's) loom. He thus said: 1837

May the abundant rain, as it pours down, benefit you,

O time of the meeting in Spain!

My meeting with you is but a dream

In (my) slumber, or a furtive moment.

Time presents such a diversity of wishes,

That proceed in a prescribed order,

One by one, or two by two,

Like groups (of pilgrims) whom the festival calls (to Mecca).

Rain gave a generous sparkle to the meadow.

So that brilliant flowers are smiling in it.

An-Nu'man transmits on the authority of Ma'-as-sama',

Exactly as Malik transmits on the authority of Anas. 1838

Beauty has clothed the (beloved) with an embroidered garment

That makes him look scornfully upon the most splendid dress,

On nights when I would have covered the secret of (my) love

With (their) darkness, had there not been the suns of gleaming white (faces).

On (such occasions), the star of the cup inclined and fell

In a straight course with happy results.

A desirable situation, with which there is nothing wrong, except

That it passed as quickly as a glance of the eye,

Just when (we) were enjoying being together,1839 or as suddenly as

The (disappearance of the) watchful stars ushers in the morning.

Shooting stars fell upon us, or The eyes of narcissuses affected us.

What else could a man (wish) for who has escaped (from sorrow),

So that (the beauty of) the meadow 1840 could gain a place (in him) ?

The flowers seize this opportunity

Of being safe from his trickery, and do not fear him.

Then, the water (of the brook) whispers with the pebbles.

Every lover is alone with his friend.

One beholds the rose, jealous and annoyed (because of the beauty of the beloved),

Covering itself, flushing with anger, with its (red color).

One sees the myrtle, intelligent and understanding,

Listening clandestinely with sharp ears.1841

Dear (fellow-) tribesmen from Wadi al-Ghada,1842

In my heart there is a place where you live.

My longing for you cannot be encompassed by (even) the widest space;

I do not care to distinguish its East from its West.

Bring back the past times of intimacy,

And you will liberate (me) who cares for you from his sadness.

Fear God, and revive a passionate lover

Whose life spends itself with (each) breath.

His respect for you made his heart a prison.

Would you want that prison to be destroyed?

In my heart, one of you is near

In wishful thought, while he is far away.

A moon whose rise in the west caused

Unhappiness (for me) who is deeply in love with him, while he himself is happy!

The virtuous and the sinners know no distinction,

When they love him, between the divine promise and the divine threat. 1843

He charms with his eyes, with red lips sweet as honey.

He roams in the soul like (life-giving) breath.

He aimed his arrow, said: "In the name of God," 1844 and let fly.

Thus, my heart became the prey of the wild beast (of passion).

Even when he is unfair and (my) hope is disappointed,

So that the heart of the lover melts with longing,

Still, he is the first (best) beloved of my soul.

As it is no sin to love one's beloved,

His orders are executed and obeyed

In bosoms 1845 that he has rent (with love's pain), and hearts.

(His) glance sits in judgment over them, and he has his way.

He does not heed, in connection with the poor weak souls (of his lovers),

Him who renders justice to the one who is treated unjustly, against the one who treats him unjustly,

And who rewards pious (souls) and (punishes) the evildoer.

What is the matter with my heart? Whenever the east wind blows,

It has a new attack of longing.

On the tablet (of destiny) was written for (my heart) 1846

These divine words: "My punishment, indeed, will be severe." 1847

It is worried and ill,

But, still, always very eager for torturing (emotions).

A burning (passion) is kindled in my boso

A fire among dry stubble.

It has left only a little of (my) lifeblood,

Just as the morn remains after the last darkness of the night.

Submit, O my soul, to the decision of destiny,

And use the time (that is left) in (thinking of) my return (to God) and repentance.

Do not think back to a time that has passed,

When (I received) alternately (from the beloved) favors long gone, and reproaches.

Address now the gracious master,

Who was inspired with the success (announced) in the heavenly prototype (of the Qur'an),

Who is noble in end and origin,

The lion of the flock, 1848 the full moon of the assembly,

Upon whom victory descends, as

The revelation descends by means of the holy spirit.1849

The attempts at muwashshahahs by Easterners are ob­viously forced. One of the best muwashshahahs they happened to produce is by Ibn Sana'-al-Mulk al-Misri.1850 It became famous in the East and the West. It begins:

O my beloved, lift the veil (which covers) the light - from (your) face,

So that we may behold musk (black eyebrows) on camphor (white skin) - in pomegranates (red cheeks).

Encircle, O clouds, the crowns of the hills -with ornaments,

And give them as bracelets winding brooks.

Muwashshah poetry spread among the Spaniards. The great mass took to it because of its smoothness, artistic language, and the (many) internal rhymes found in it (which made them popular). As a result, the common people in the cities imitated them. They made poems of the (muwashshah) type in their sedentary dialect, without employing vowel endings. They thus invented a new form, which they called zajal. They have continued to compose poems of this type down to this time. They achieved remarkable things in it. The (zajal) opened a wide field for eloquent (poetry) in the (Spanish-Arabic) dialect, which is influenced by non-Arab (speech habits).

The first to create the zajal method was Abu Bakr b. Quzman,1851 even though zajal poems were composed in Spain before his time. But the beauty of the zajal became evident, its ideas took on their artistic shape, and its elegance became famous, only in Ibn Quzman's time. He lived in the days of the Veiled (Sinhajah Almoravids). He is (indisputably) the leading zajal poet.

Ibn Sa'id said: "I saw his zajals recited in Baghdad more often than I had seen them recited in the cities of the West. And," continued Ibn Sa`id, "I heard Abul-Hasan b. Jahdar al-Ishbili,1852 the leading contemporary zajal poet, say: 'No leading zajal poet has produced a zajal like that of Ibn Quzman, the principal zajal artist, (which he made on the following occasion) He had gone to a park with-some of his friends, and they were sitting in an arbor. In front of them was the marble statue of a lion. From its mouth water flowed down over blocks of stone set in steps. Whereupon Ibn Quzman said:

An arbor that is standing upon a platform-like a portico,

And a lion that has swallowed a snake-thick as a thigh,

And opens its mouth like a man-who loudly breathes his last,

And (the snake) goes from there on blocks of stone­making a great noise.' "

Although Ibn Quzman had his residence in Cordoba, he often came to Sevilla and spent a good deal of time along the river there. It happened that one day a group of noted zajal poets came together and took a boat ride on the river for recreation. They were accompanied by a handsome lad from one of the wealthy leading families of the place. They were together in a boat fishing and made poems describing their situation. 'Isa al-Balid led off with the following verses:

My heart desires freedom, but cannot get it,-for love has checkmated it.

You can see that (my heart) has become completely miserable - and is restless and also suffers greatly.

It is affected by 1853 loneliness for eyelids dark with antimony,

Those eyes are what make it miserable. 1854

Then, Abu 'Amr b. az-Zahid al-Ishbili said:

He is caught. All those who enter the ocean of passion are caught. 1855

You can see what causes him pain and difficulties.

He wanted to play with love. Many people have died in that game.

Then, Abul-Hasan al-Muqri' ad-Dani said:

A nice day, everything about which pleases me: - Drinks and handsome (boys) surround me.

The finch sings in the willow tree - while a fish in the pot is my reward. 1856

Then, Abu Bakr b. Martin said:

You (he [?]) want(s) it to be true when you (he) say(s): "I have to go back

To the river," you (he [?]) announce(s) [?], "and recreation and fishing.1857

Those are not fish that he wants to hook

The hearts of men are in his little net.

Then, Abu Bakr b. Quzman said:

When he rolls up his sleeves to cast (his little net),

One sees the fish run in his direction.

They do not want to fall into it.

They want only to kiss his little hands.1858

In the eastern Spain of their time, Yakhlaf 1859 al-Aswad composed fine zajals, for instance:

I was caught. I was afraid to be caught.

Love has brought me into difficulties.

(Later on) in (this poem) he says:

When I look into the brilliant, resplendent face (of the beloved), its redness reaches its limit.

O student of alchemy, alchemy is in my eye.

I look with it at silver, and it turns into gold. 1860

After these (poets) came a period in which Madghallis 1861 was the champion. He accomplished marvelous things in zajal poetry. The following verses are from his famous zajal 1862 that goes:

And a fine rain that falls-and beats the rays of the sun. 1863

The one appears silvery,1864 and the other golden.

The plants drink and get drunk - the boughs dance and are excited.

They want to come to us - Then, they are ashamed and go back.

A fine zajal of his is the following:1865

The bright sunlight has come, and the stars are confused.1866 - Let us get up and shake off laziness!

A little mixed 1867 wine from a bottle seems to me sweeter than honey. .

O you who censure me for my behavior! May God let you behave according to your words!

You say that (wine) -generates sin and that it corrupts the intellect.

Go to the Hijaz! It will be better for you:

What leads you into such superfluous (talk) with me?

Go you on the pilgrimage (to Mecca) and visit (Medina),

But let me be engrossed in drinking!

If one does not have the power and ability (to behave),

Intention is more effective than action.

They were succeeded in Sevilla by Ibn Jahdar.1868 He showed himself superior to (all other) zajal poets on the occasion of the conquest of Majorca, when he composed the zajal that begins:

Those who oppose the oneness of God will be wiped out by the sword.

I have nothing to do with those who oppose the truth.1869

Ibn Sa'id said: "I met (Ibn Jahdar). I also met his pupil al-Ya'ya',1870 the author of the famous zajal that begins:

Would that, when I see my beloved, I might tempt his ear with a little message:

Why did he adopt the neck of the little gazelle and steal the mouth of the partridge? 1871

They were succeeded by Abul-hasan Sahl b. Malik, 1872 the leading litterateur. Also, (still) later, (close) to the present time, there was our friend, the wazir Abu 'Abdallah b. al-Khatib, the leading poet and a prose writer without peer in Islam. A fine poem of this type by him is the following:

Mix the goblets and fill mine, so that I maystart all over again! 1873

Money was created only to be squandered.1874

A poem in Sufi style in the manner of the Sufi ash­Shushtari 1875 (by Ibn al-Khatib) is the following:

Between sunrise and sunset, love poems of various kinds were composed.

Gone are (the mortals) who (were created and) had not been before. There remains (God) who never ceases.1876

Another fine poem in this sense by (Ibn al-Khatib) is the following:

To be away from you, son - is my greatest misfortune.

When I can be near (qurb) you - I let my boat (qarib) drift.

A contemporary of the wazir Ibn al-Khatib in Spain was Muhammad b. 'Abd-al-'Azim, 1877 from Guadix. He was a leading zajal poet. He wrote a zajal in which he imitated Madghallis' verse: "The bright sunlight has come, and the stars are confused." 1878 It runs as follows:

Dissipation is permitted, you clever fellows,

Since the sun entered into Aries.

Thus, commit a new immorality every day!

Don't let a boring period intervene between them!

Let us go after them at the Genil, 1879

Upon the verdant meadows there!

Let Baghdad alone and do not talk about the Nile!

I like these regions here better,

A plain which is - better than an expanse of forty miles.1880

When the winds blow over it to and fro,

No trace of dust is found,

Not even enough to apply as antimony to the eyes.

How could it be different, since there is no pleasant spot here

Where the bees do not swarm.1881

At the present time, the zajal method is what the common people in Spain use for their poetry. They even employ all fifteen meters for poems 1882 in the vulgar dialect and call them zajals. For instance, we have the following verses by a Spanish poet:

A long time, years, I have loved your eyes.

But you have no pity and no softness in your heart.

You can see how my heart has become, because of you,

Like a ploughshare in the smiths' hands.

Tears 1883 stream down. Fire burns.

Hammers to the right and the left.

God created the Christians to be raided,

But you raid the hearts of (your) lovers.

At the beginning of this century, an excellent representative of this method was the litterateur Abu 'Abdallah al­Lushl.1884 He wrote a poem in which he praised Sultan Ibn al-Ahmar: 1885

Morning has come. Get up, O my boon companion, let us drink

And be gay, after we have been moved by music!

The gold ingot of dawn has rubbed (its) red color

Against the touchstone of the night. Get up and pour (the wine)!

You will find (it) to be of pure alloy, white and clean.

It is silver, but the red color of the dawn made it golden.1886

(Wine) is a currency that has great circulation among mankind.

The light in the eyes (of the beloved) is acquired from the light of (that currency).

This is the day, O my companion, when we can (really) live.

By God, how pleasant is a young man's life on (such a day)! 1887

The night, too, is for kissing and embracing,

Turning over and over on the bed of (love) union.1888

A good time has come now after a stingy one.

Why should it 1889 let good fortune escape its hands?

As one 1890 swallowed its bitterness in the past,

So one now drinks its delectable (wine) and eats fine food. 1890a

The watcher asks: You litterateurs, why do we

See you so generous 1891 with wine and love?

Those who censure me are astonished by it,

But I say: You people, why are you astonished?

Could anyone but a sensitive (poet really) love a handsome (boy), .

As, by God, we find it said and stated in writing?

Beauty can be acquired only by a cultured poet

Who deflowers virginal (beauty) and does not bother with (beauty) that has belonged to others before. 1892

The cup is forbidden, but only to those Who do not know how to drink it.

Intelligent, delicate [?],1893 or dissolute people

Are forgiven the sins they may commit in this respect.

There is one whose beauty captivates me, and I cannot captivate it with the choicest words.

A handsome fawn, fat enough to put out the coals (on which it is roasted),

While it sets my heart afire with (burning hot) tamarisk coal.

A (handsome) gazelle, who so moves the hearts of lions when they see it,

And even when they do not see it but only imagine (they see it), they run away.

She then revives them when she smiles,

And they are gay, after having been sad.

She has a little mouth like a seal ring and a row of white teeth.

The preacher of the people 1894 demands (in his sermon) to kiss them.

What a necklace of pearls and corals (those teeth are), O man.

Well strung and not pierced!

A darkish down on her lips,1895 which want something. 1896

To compare it with musk would be an insult.

Hair black as the raven's wing

Which (even) the nights when I am separated from her consider remarkable, 1897 falls down

Upon a body, milk white, whiter

Than any ever got by shepherd from his flock,

And two little breasts. I did not know before

That anything could be so firm.

Under the fat (bosom), there is a slim waist,

So slim that it could hardly be found when one looks for it. 1898

It is slimmer than my religion, as I might say.

Come, look at your slave, my lady! I do not lie in this respect. 1898a

What religion remains to me, and what intelligence?

You deprive those who follow you of both the one and the other.

She has buttocks as heavy as a watcher 1899

When he observes and watches a lover.1900



The place becomes a castle when you are here,

But when you are away, it seems to me a cave. 1901

Your good qualities are like those of the Amir,

Or like the sand, who could count it?

He is the pillar of the cities. He speaks pure Arabic.

He is outstanding in knowledge and actions.

He is an original poet, and how well he writes!

How he pierces with his lance the breasts (of the enemy)!

How he smites their necks with the sword!

Heaven envies him four of his qualities.

Who could count his (qualities), tell me, or estimate them?

The sun (envies) his light, the moon his ambition,

The rain his generosity, and the stars his position.

He rides on the steed of generosity 1902 and gives free rein

To enterprise and zeal in being (generous).

Every day, we put on the robes of honor that he gives us.

With the perfume of his high glory we consider (the day) perfumed.

His kindness is showered upon everybody who comes to him.

He lets no one who approaches him go home with empty hands.

He brought out the truth that had been concealed.

Falsehood can (now) no longer conceal it.

He rebuilt the crumbling pillar of piety (toward God) Which time had ruined.

He is feared when he is met, just as one puts one's hope in him.

In spite of the kindness of his face, how forbidding he can be!

He goes to war laughing, and war is frowning.

He is superior. No one in the world is superior to him.

When he draws his sword among the engines of war,1903

No second stroke is needed where he strikes.

He is the namesake 1904 of the chosen (Prophet Muhammad). God

Selected and chose him to be ruler.

One can see that he is caliph, the commander of the Muslims.

He leads his armies and is an ornament of his cavalcade.

All heads bow and obey the chief.

Indeed, they desire to kiss his hand.

His house, the Band Nasr, are the full moon of the time.

Their glory (steadily) rises and (never) sets.

They go far in loftiness and nobility.

They do not go far in humbleness and shame.1905

Let God preserve them, as long as the firmament revolves.

And the sun rises and the stars sparkle,

And as long as this poem shall be sung to music,

O sun of the harem, that never sets.1906

The urban population of the Maghrib then created a new poetical form in meters with internally rhyming couplets,1907 similar to the muwashshahah. They wrote poetry in this form in their sedentary dialect, too. They called it "local meter." 1908 The first to create the form was a Spaniard who settled in Fez, by name Ibn 'Umayr. He wrote a fragmentary piece in the manner of the muwashshahah, in which he only rarely 1909 disregarded the rules of the vowel endings. It begins:

On the bank of the river, the plaint of a dove

Upon a bough in the garden near morn made me weep.

The palm of morning was wiping off the ink of darkness,

And the drops of dew were flowing among the teeth of the camomiles.

I had gone to the meadows early in the morning. The dew was scattered about there

Like jewels strewn over the bosoms of maidens.

The tear of the water wheels was being shed

Like snakes wriggling around fruit.

The boughs are all twisted like an anklet around the thigh.

All of this surrounds the meadow like a bracelet.

The hands of the dew break through the folds of the calyxes,

And the winds carry a breeze from off (the flowers), which smells like musk.

The ivory of the clear sky is covered by the dark musk of the clouds.

The zephyr draws his train over (the flowers) and spreads their perfume.

I saw the dove in the foliage on a branch.

It had wetted its feathers with drops of dew.

It cooed plaintively, like a lovesick stranger.

Urban Poetry in the Contemporary Maghrib

It had covered itself with its new plumage as with a cloak,

But with its beak red and its leg colored.

It had a necklace of well-arranged strings of jewels.

It was sitting between the boughs like a lovesick person,

Using one wing as a cushion, and the other to cover itself.

It had come to complain about the passion in its heart,

And, on account of it, 1910 had put its beak to its breast and cried.

I said: O dove, my eye can no longer slumber.

Please, will you not stop crying and shedding tears?

The dove replied: I cried, until my tears ran dry. 1911

I cry plaintively all the time, without tears,

For a young bird that flew away from me and did not return.

I have been familiar with crying and grief since the time of Noah.

This is faithfulness, I say, this is fidelity.

Look, my eyes have become (red) like sores.

But you (human beings), if one of you is afflicted, after a year,

He says: I have had enough of this weeping and mourning.

I said: O dove, if you had plunged into the ocean of misery (in which I am),

You would cry and mourn for me with tears and sighs.

And if your heart felt like mine,

The boughs upon which you are sitting would be reduced to ashes.

How many years is it today that I suffered separation (from my beloved),

So that it is altogether impossible for the eyes (of anybody) to see me? 1912

My body is covered with thinness and disease.

My thinness conceals me from the eyes of spectators.

If death should come to me, I would die on the spot.

Those who are dead, my friends, at last enjoy rest.

(The dove) said to me: If the rivers in the meadows 1913 were to moan

Out of the (great) fear that I harbor for (my beloved), the soul would be returned to the heart. 1914

I am discolored by my tears. This whiteness

Will always be like a necklace around my neck to the day of the (last) convocation.

As for the tip of my beak, its story is known:

It is like a bit, of flame, while (the rest of my) body is (gray as) ashes.

All, 1915 kinds of doves cry and mourn for me.

He who experiences the anguish-of being kept apart and separated (from his beloved) might (well) mourn.1915a

O joy of this world, farewell to you,

Since we find no rest or place of repose in you!

The inhabitants of Fez liked it and applied this method in their poetry. They omitted the vowel endings with which they were not familiar. This kind of poetry gained a wide dif­fusion among them. Many of themexcelled in it. Theyused several forms, the muzawwaj, the kazi, the mal'abah, and the ghazal.1916 They differ according to the arrangement of the rhyming couplets and the contents the poets want to express in them.

A muzawwaj poem is that of Ibn Shuja`, an outstanding Maghribi poet, from Taza:

Money is the ornament of the world and the strength of the soul.

It makes faces that are not beautiful, beautiful.

Lo, anyone who has plenty of money to spend

Is made a spokesman and given a high rank.

Whoever has a great deal of money is great, even if he be small.

And the mighty man becomes small when he becomes poor.

The one thing warps my breast, and the other makes it jealous.

It would burst, if there were not the (possibility of) recourse to destiny.

A man who is great among his people may (have to) seek refuge

With a man who has no pedigree and no influence.

Such a reversal causes me sadness,

And because of it I put my garment over my head to conceal (myself) [?].

Thus, the tails have come to be in front of the heads,

And the river borrows water from the water wheel.

Did the weakness of man do that, or the corruption of time?

We do not know which we should blame more.

Someone came to be addressed 1917 as "Father of someone"

And "please!" and how (long it took) before he replied!

We have lived, thank God, long enough to see with our own eyes

The souls of princes in the skins of dogs.

Many with very great souls may have weak (material) foundations.

They are in one place, and glory is in another.

Whereas people see them as old fools, they see themselves

As the outstanding personalities of the country and (its) solid foundation.

The (Maghribi) method is represented by the following verses from a muzawwaj poem by Ibn Shuja':

He whose heart goes after the handsome (ones) of this day will be tired (and disappointed).

You had better leave off or beauty will use you for a plaything.

There is no handsome (beloved) 1918 among them who ever promised something and did not break his promise.

Few are those to whom you can be faithful, and who are faithful to you.

They are proud toward their lovers and refuse (them).

They deliberately set out to break people's hearts.

When they enter into a liaison, they break it up in their own good time.

When they make a promise, they break it in any case.

There is a handsome (youth) with whom I have fallen in love.

I have set my heart on him.

I have made my cheek the shoe for his foot.

I have given him a place in the center of my heart.

I said: O my heart, honor him who has taken up residence in you!

Think little of the humiliation that you suffer!

For you cannot escape being affected by the frightful power of passion.1919

I have given him power over me. I am satisfied to have him as my master.

If you 1920 could see my condition when I see him!

I am like a beetle upon the surface of a pond,

Which turns over in it and suffocates like a little (round fruit). 1921

I know at once what is in his mind. 1922

I understand what he wants before he mentions it.

I try to get (for him) what he wants, even if it be

Grape juice in spring, or early wheat in the winter. 1923

I go to fetch it,1924 even if it be in Isfahan.

Whenever he says: "I need something," I say to him: "You'll get it."

And so on.


Another (Maghribi) poet was 'Ali b. al-Mu'adhdhin of Tlemcen.

An outstanding poet in Zarhun, 1925 in the region of Meknes, close to the present time, was a man known as al­Kafif (the blind one). He produced original specimens of these types of poetry. The best poem of his that sticks in my memory is a poem on the trip of Sultan Abul-Hasan 1926 and the Merinids to Ifriqiyah. In it, he describes their rout at al­Qayrawan. He consoles them about it and cheers them by describing what happened to others, but first he blames them because of their raid against Ifriqiyah. It is a mal'abah, a variety of this sort of poetry. The beginning is one of the most original examples of how to indicate eloquently the purpose of a poem right at the start. This is called "excellence of beginning" (bara'at al-istihlal). His verses run:

Praised be He who holds the hearts of amirs

By their forelocks at any moment and time.

If we obey Him, He gives us much help.

If we disobey Him, He punishes (us) with all kinds of humiliation.

He goes on, until, after the transition (takhallus),1927 he comes to inquire after the armies of the Maghrib:

Be a sheep, but do not be a shepherd!

For a shepherd is held responsible for his flock.

Start with a prayer for him who called (us)

To Islam, the gracious, exalted, perfect (Prophet),

For the right-guided caliphs, and the men of the second generation!

Afterwards, mention whatever you like, and speak out:

O pilgrims,1928 cross the desert

And describe the countries with (their) inhabitants!

Where did the intention of the Sultan lead

The army of brilliant, beautiful Fez?

O pilgrims, by the Prophet whom you visited

And for whose sake you traversed the sand hills of the desert,

I have come to ask you about the army of the West

That perished in black Ifrigiyah,

And about the (ruler) who provided you (for your pilgrimage) by his gifts

And made the desert of the Hijaz a place of luxurious living.

There 1929 has come up something like a dam facing a slope,

And a gorge is cleft after the water of a deluge [?].1930

It (the army) is crushed like Sodom and trampled into the earth [?].

Tell me now, did Zughar 1931 become their jailer?

If the region from near Tunis

To the country of the West were an Alexandrian obstacle 1932

Built (across the world) from the East to the West,

With one layer of iron, and a second of bronze,1933

Still, the birds should answer us,

Or the wind should bring us special news from them.

Vexing and bad things,

If they were recited .. .

Stones would run with blood and burst,

Hillocks 1934 would tumble and be carried away by a torrent.

Let me know with your penetrating intelligence

And think it over for me completely [?] in your heart,

If you know, whether a pigeon or messenger

From the Sultan has become known, and speak out seven times [?]

About the announcement of 'Abd-al-Muhayman al­Ghawwas [?]

And (further) indications spread (from) atop the minarets.

They are indeed people, naked, unprotected,

Ignored, with no place and no power.

They do not know how to picture (their) failure,

Or how they (might have) entered the city of al­Qayrawan.

O my Lord Abul-Hasan, we come to the gate (court)

On a definite matter: Let us go to Tunis!

We are enough for you, and you do not need the Jarid and the Zab.

What do you have to do with the Arabs of dark 1935 Ifriqiyah?

Do you not know the story of 'Umar, the son of al­Khattab,

The Faruq, conqueror of villages, the treacherously (assassinated caliph)?

He took possession of Syria, the Hijaz, and the crown 1936 of Khosraw (the 'Iraq),

And he conquered a part of the entrance to Ifriqiyah.

He was a person of great renown [?], 1937

And still he used to say: "In (Ifriqiyah), our friends will be divided." 1938

This Faruq, the emerald of all beings, Pronounced himself thus concerning Ifriqiyah. It remained quiet to the time of 'Uthman.

Ibn az-Zubayr 1939 conquered it according to verified information.

When the spoils from it arrived at the government office,

'Uthman died, and the atmosphere changed for us.

People were divided under three amirs.

Something (better) treated with silence came to be (considered true) faith.

If that was the situation in the days of the pious (early Muslims),

What shall we do in later times?

The experts in jafr 1940 in their little booklets,

And in the history of their Mercury 1941 and Saturn,

Mention in their pamphlets and verses­

(Experts such as) Shiqq and Satih 1942 and Ibn Murranah 1943

-That, when Merin's creatures have to lean

On the walls of Tunis, Merin loses its importance.

And remember what 1944 the chief minister,

The influential 'Isa b. al-Hasan, said to me.

He said to me: I ought to be the person who knows,

But when fate comes, eyes are blind.

I tell you: What brought the Merinids

From the capital of Fez to the Dabbab Arabs?

May our lord profit from the death of Bu Yahya,

The Sultan of Tunis and master of al-'Unnab! 1945

Then, he began to describe the trip of the Sultan and his armies, to the end of that, and then on to the end of the whole affair with the Arabs of Ifriqiyah, using in his description every kind of remarkable, original (expression).

The inhabitants of Tunis also produced mal'abahs in their dialect. However, most of them are bad. Nothing has stuck in my memory, because they are so bad.

The common people of Baghdad also had a kind of (popular) poetry. They called these poems al-mawaliya. (The mawaliya) have many subdivisions. They are called al­Hawfi,1946 Kan-wa-kan, and Dubayt. All the different meters recognized by them are used for these poems. Most of the verses are couplets of four "branches" that rhyme with each other.

The Egyptians followed the Baghdadis in this respect. They produced remarkable poems of this type. They rivaled (each other in) expressing in them all the methods of rhetorical expression as required by their dialect. They produced marvelous things.

I 1947 have seen it stated in the Diwan of Safi-ad-din al­Hilli that a mawaliya has the meter basit and consists of four rhyming "branches." It is also called sawt "tune" and baytan "double verse." It was invented by the people of Wasit. Kan-wa-kan has one rhyme (throughout) and different meters in its hemistichs. The first hemistich is longer than the second. The rhyme letter must be accompanied by one of the weak letters (i, u, a). It was invented by the Baghdadis. The following (kan-wa-kan) is recited:

In the winking of the eyelids we have a conversation that is self-explanatory.

The mother of the dumb (child) understands - the language of the dumb. 1948

End of the quotation from Safi-ad-din.

The most remarkable poem of the sort that has stuck in my memory is that of an (Egyptian) poet. (It runs:)

This wound is still fresh - and the blood is still flowing ­ and my killer, 1949 dear brother - has a good time in the desert - They said: We shall avenge you - I said: This is worse - He 1950 who wounded me shall heal me - That will be better.

Another poet says:

I knocked at the door of the tent. She said: Who is knocking? - I said: One enamored, no robber or thief.

She smiled - A flash like lightning came to me from her teeth - I returned perturbed, drowned in the ocean of my tears.

Another poet says:

There was a time in our relationship when she could not guarantee me that she would not depart. And when I complained about my passion, she said: I would give (my) eye for you.

But when someone else, a handsome youth, caught her eye, I reminded her of our relationship, but she (merely) said: I am in your debt.1951

Another poet describes hashish as follows:

A choice intoxicant whose effect always lasts with me - It makes wine, wine merchant, and cupbearer superfluous.

It is an old strumpet whose viciousness 1952 inflames me - I conceal it in my intestines, and it comes out of my eyes.

Another poet says: 1953

You who like to be united with the children of love, nab - how much pain will separation cause to the heart, awwah ah (Oh, ouch).

I deposited my heart haw-haw,1954 and my patience is bah-Everybody is kakh in my eye. Your person is dah.

Another poet says:

I called her, while gray hair already enveloped me: Give me a loving kiss, O Mayyah.

She said, having burnt out the inside of my heart, I would not think that such cotton could ever cover the mouth of a person who is still alive.1955

Another poet says:

He saw me and smiled. The rain clouds of my tears preceded the lightning (smile of his brilliant teeth) - He withdrew the veil. The full moon seemed to rise.

He lowered his dark hair. The heart got lost in its net ­ He led us aright again with the thread of dawn coming from where his hair was parted.

Another poet says:

O camel driver, shout at the animals - and stop at the dwelling of my beloved ones shortly before dawn!

Call out among their tribe: Let him who wants the (heavenly) reward-rise and pray for a deceased person who was killed by separation (from the beloved).

Another poet says: 1956

The eye with which I was observing you, spent the night - observing the stars, and fed on sleeplessness.

The arrows of separation hit me and did not pass me by - My solace - Let God give you a great reward - is dead.

Another poet says: 1957

In your district, O cruel pretty ones, I loved - a gazelle that afflicts ferocious lions with pensiveness.

A bough that captivates chaste girls when it bends - and when it lights up, the full moon cannot compare with it.

The following poem is one of the poems called dubayt:

The one whom I love has sworn by the Creator - that he would send his apparition in the early mornings.1958

O fire of my desire for him, burn - all night. Perhaps he will be guided by the fire.

It should be. known that taste as to what constitutes eloquence in connection with such poetry is possessed only by those who have contact with the dialect in which (a particular poem) is composed, and who have had much practice in using it among the people who speak it. Only thus do they acquire the habit of it, as we stated with regard to the Arabic language.1959 A Spaniard has no understanding of the eloquence of Maghribi poetry. Maghribis have none for the eloquence of the poetry of Easterners or Spaniards, and Easterners have none for the eloquence of Spaniards and Maghribis. All of them use different dialects and word combinations. Everybody understands eloquence in his own dialect and has a taste for the beauties of the poetry of his own people.

"In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the difference of your tongues and colors, there are, indeed, signs for those who know." 1960