November 10, 2017

Over a dead highwayman II

By Malik ibn al-Rayb (meter: kāmil):

  O you who whip your mount under cover of the dark
      and pretend to a knight's hauteur: You were no contender
  when I knelt before the beast of the interlacing teeth
      that sought my company in the dark, for a fight spoiling.
  Great with muscled shoulders unbearded by a mane,
      [calamity, like a lioness,] does not upset
  the chameleon on his branch, knuckles bare like bladed swords,
      nor the chameleon of a house abandoned by women.
  Unknown to him's the shade of thick-walled upper rooms,
      to him who rides a palm of the nodding grove.
  If hearts are prone to panic, his heart is just awake
      when report contorts the face of the startle-ready.
  Where darkness blots perception in obscurity of gloom,
      rearing up like the deceiving wolf,
  you'll find him brave and constant on the inside of himself,
      as he mounts the dire weaving of affairs.
  Then you're greeted with a cut from a white-as-lightning
      [sword], the bright bisector of my beaten foe,
  and face-first down you go, before there lands a second blow
      to stain the upraised victor's [blade] and dye the ground.

From the Book of Songs