December 17, 2012

Madmen who were poets 3

Abu 'l-Wāsi' [a companion of the poet Abū 'Īsā Sālih al-Rashīd] was in the company of his sons when a poet of the madmen called and asked permission to perform an ode. Abu 'l-Wāsi' declined, but the poet importuned until his resistance fell. After the final verse:

   Irrefutable man, on this day you are their head,
      and around you the cream of your eminent sons!

Abu 'l-Wāsi' said to him: "If you would only leave us en masse" (lit. "head by head").
      It is said that a mad poet of the Bedouin visited Nasr ibn Sayyār and declaimed a poem composed of one hundred amatory verses and only two lines of praise. "By God," said Nasr to him, "the words of your poem are as graceless as their meaning. All your effort was spent on amatory prelude, with nothing left over for panegyric!" The poet said: "I can change that." So he came back the next morning with a poem that began:

   Can you make out the house of Umm al-Ghamr?
      - Leave that! and let's have a poem in praise of Nasr.

"Neither one of these [is any good]," said Nasr.
      One of the scholars said: "For sheer hermeneutic depravity, the only thing I have heard to rival the Rāfida was something a madman of Mecca said about a poem [by al-Farazdaq]. This man said: 'The Banū Tamīm are the biggest liars I have ever heard. In the poem:

   He Who hung the sky has built for us
      a house whose columns soar above all others.
  The house the Sovereign built is ours, and what
      Heaven's Arbitrator builds cannot be shaken.
   The house in whose courtyard Zurāra sits arrayed,
      and Mujāshi' and Nahshal, father to horsemen...

The Banū Tamīm claim these names belong to their own!' " [As is the case, Mujāshi' and Nahshal being direct ancestors of the poet himself.]
      The scholar said: "I asked him: 'In your view, what do they mean?' He said: 'The "house" is the house of God; Zurāra is the stone that is "buttoned" [zurrirat] around it. Mujāshi' is the well of Zamzam, whose water is "coveted" [jushi'at], and "Father to Horsemen" is the mountain of Abū Qubays in Mecca.' I said to him: 'And Nahshal?' For a whole hour he thought it over, then said: 'It is the tall black lamp-stand of the Ka'ba. That is what Nahshal is.' "

Continued from Ibn 'Abd Rabbih's Necklace Without Peer