Lament for the Fall of Seville (1267)

Abu al-Baqa' al-Rundi (d.1285),

Translated from Arabic by James T. Monroe

Little is known of Abu al-Baqa' al-Rundi, a poet from Ronda who died in 1285. This poem was written in the hope of gaining aid from Muslims in North Africa to help battle Christian armies. Although the fall of Seville is its theme, the text was actually written in 1267, after the Nasrid ruler Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar surrendered several cities to Alfonso X. The poet refers to events in ancient Arabian and Persian history as well as to the capture of Seville in his attempt to inspire military support. (ORC)

  1. Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life.

  2. As you have observed, these are the decrees that are inconstant: he whom a single moment has made happy, has been harmed by many other moments;

  3. And this is the abode that will show pity for no man, nor will any condition remain in its state for it.

  4. Fate irrevocably destroys every ample coat of mail when Mashrifi [1] swords and spears glance off without effect;

  5. It unsheaths each sword only to destroy it even if it be an Ibn Dhi Yazan and the scabbard Ghumdan[2]

  6. Where are the crowned kings of Yemen and where are their jewel-studded diadems and crowns?

  7. Where are [the buildings] Shaddad raised in Iram[3] and where [the empire] the Sassanians ruled in Persia?

  8. Where is the gold Qarun[4] once possessed; where are `Ad and Shaddad and Qahtan?[5]

  9. An irrevocable decree overcame them all so that they passed away and the people came to be as though they had never existed.

  10. The kingdoms and kings that had been came to be like what a sleeper has told about [his] dream vision.

  11. Fate turned against Darius as well as his slayer,[6]  and as for Chosroes,[7] no vaulted palace offered him protection.

  12. It is as if no cause had ever made the hard easy to bear, and as if Solomon had never ruled the world.

  13. The misfortunes brought on by Fate are of many different kinds, while Time has causes of joy and of sorrow.

  14. For the accidents [of fortune] there is a consolation that makes them easy to bear, yet there is no consolation for what has befallen Islam.

  15. An event which cannot be endured has overtaken the peninsula; one such that Uhud has collapsed because of it and Thahlan has crumbled![8]

  16. The evil eye has struck [the peninsula][9] in its Islam so that [the land] decreased until whole regions and districts were despoiled of [the faith]

  17. Therefore ask Valencia what is the state of Murcia; and where is Jativa, and where is Jaén?

  18. Where is Cordoba, the home of the sciences, and many a scholar whose rank was once lofty in it?

  19. Where is Seville and the pleasures it contains, as well as its sweet river overflowing and brimming full?

  20. [They are] capitals which were the pillars of the land, yet when the pillars are gone, it may no longer endure!

  21. The tap of the white ablution fount weeps in despair, like a passionate lover weeping at the departure of the beloved,

  22. Over dwellings emptied of Islam that were first vacated and are now inhabited by unbelief;

  23. In which the mosques have become churches wherein only bells and crosses may be found.

  24. Even the mihrabs weep though they are solid; even the pulpits mourn though they are wooden!

  25. 0 you who remain heedless though you have a warning in Fate: if you are asleep, Fate is always awake!

  26. And you who walk forth cheerfully while your homeland diverts you [from cares], can a homeland beguile any man after [the loss of] Seville?

  27. This misfortune has caused those that preceded it to be forgotten, nor can it ever be forgotten for the length of all time!

  28. 0 you who ride lean, thoroughbred steeds which seem like eagles in the racecourse;

  29. And you who carry slender, Indian blades which seem like fires in the darkness caused by the dust cloud [of war],

  30. And you who are living in luxury beyond the sea enjoying life, you who have strength and power in your homelands,

  31. Have you no news of the people of Andalus, for riders have carried forth what men have said [about them]?

  32. How often have the weak, who were being killed and captured while no man stirred, asked our help?

  33. What means this severing of the bonds of Islam on your behalf, when you, 0 worshipers of God, are [our] brethren?

  34. Are there no heroic souls with lofty ambitions; are there no helpers and defenders of righteousness?

  35. 0, who will redress the humiliation of a people who were once powerful, a people whose condition injustice and tyrants have changed?

  36. Yesterday they were kings in their own homes, but today they are slaves in the land of the infidel!

  37. Thus, were you to see them perplexed, with no one to guide them, wearing the cloth of shame in its different shades,

  38. And were you to behold their weeping when they are sold, the matter would strike fear into your heart, and sorrow would seize you.

  39. Alas, many a mother and child have been parted as souls and bodies are separated!

  40. And many a maiden fair as the sun when it rises, as though she were rubies and pearls,

  41. Is led off to abomination by a barbarian against her will, while her eye is in tears and her heart is stunned.

  42. The heart melts with sorrow at such [sights], if there is any Islam or belief in that heart!


NOTE: For the Arabic text click here. English text from Hispano-Arabic Poetry, translated by James T. Monroe (Berkeley: Uni­versity of California Press, 1974), pp. 332-334. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. For additional commentary, see Charles Melville and Ahmad Ubaydli, Christians and Moors in Spain (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1992), p.145.

[1] Mashrifi swords were proverbial for their excellence. See a technical Article on making the metal that goes into these swords.

[2] Saif ibn Dhi Yazan was a pre-Islamic Yemenite king and Ghumdan was his castle.

[3] Shaddad was a king of the legendary people of `Ad of Hadramaut, who built a city called "many-columned Iram" (d. Qur'an 89:6).

[4] Cf. Qur'an 28:76.

[5] Qahtan was the ancestor of the South Arabians.

[6] The slayer of Darius was Alexander the Great.

[7] The Shah of Persia.

[8] Uhud is a mountain near Medinah and Thahlan is a  mountain near Mecca ? Perhaps in Iraq (ed.).

[9] Al-Andalus.


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