November 30, 2012


Brothers, don't let too many of you become teachers. Error is common to everyone, of course, but we who teach are subject to even sterner judgment. The consummate man is he whose discourse is free from error, because he maintains a hold on the bridle to his whole body. So do we steer whole horse's bodies, when we put bridle-bits in their mouths, in order that they obey. And behold the ships: big as they are and driven by the crashing winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder in whatever direction the pilot pleases. This is how the tongue works: a small appendage, it makes grandiose declarations. Behold the quantity of timber kindled by a tongue-sized fire!

The tongue is itself a fire. Among our appendages, the tongue was installed as an ornament of iniquity, defiling our whole body and setting alight the wheel of coming-into-being with a flame caught from Gehenna. Humankind is capable of enslaving every stripe of beast and bird, every reptile and creature of the sea, and has done so; but the tongue is something no human being has ever enslaved - an unsteady evil, swollen with deadly venom. We bless the Lord and Father with it, and with it we curse [our fellow] human beings, who were born into God's likeness. Brothers, it should not happen that curse and blessing issue from the same mouth. Do fresh and stagnant water bubble up from the same spring? My brothers: can fig trees put forth olives? or grapevines figs? No more than seawater can be made fresh to drink.

James 3:1-12

November 15, 2012

Madmen who were poets 2

['Abd al-Rahmān Muhammad ibn 'Ubayd Allāh] al-'Utbī said: "Abū Wā'il said to my father: 'Despite my dementia, if you ask me about poetry you'll find that I know a thing or two about it.' My father said: 'Do you compose any poetry yourself?' Abū Wā'il said: 'Yes - much better than yours. Here's one of mine:

   If, after my ribs lie buried, their weeping forgotten,
      Jawmal would only speak to me,
   I bet my bones would answer her.
      I bet my old carcass would spring back to life.'

My father said to him: 'Not bad, except that the woman's name is ill-chosen.' Abū Wā'il said: "In reality her name is Juml ["Stout rope"], but I improved it.' My father said to him: 'God save us from the dementia that makes you think so.'
      "My father also told me that Abū Wā'il recited to him:

   When it hurts this much to part from a stranger,
      how much more when from a lover's side [min habībi]?
   My heart is stupefied with longing
      when I remember he is dead [yamūtu].

'That doesn't even rhyme!' my father told him. 'One verse ends with bā' (ب), the other tā' (ت).' 'And you cannot supply the missing point?' said Abū Wā'il. 'Furthermore,' my father said, 'the voweling is off. One verse has a genitive case ending where the other ends in an indicative verbal suffix.' 'I say,' replied Abū Wā'il, 'when faced with difficulty you supply no point.' "
      When the mother of Sulaymān ibn Wahb al-Kātib passed away, a lunatic scribe named Sālih ibn Shīrzādh regaled him with an elegy, reciting:

   By what happened to Umm Sulaymān we are laid low
      as if at a blow from the amputator's sword.
   You were the reins of the house, Umm Sālim; now,
      the house's reins have wound up in the grave.

Ibn Wahb said: "When was one of God's creatures so mistreated? To lose one's mother and hear her mourned with such a [crappy] poem, in which my name is changed from Sulaymān to Sālim!"
      Another verse of Sālih ibn Shīrzādh's goes like this:

   Do not liken the silent fart to a curative;
      the audible fart is the true Ādharītūs [Adrestos?]

Continued from Ibn 'Abd Rabbih's Necklace Without Peer

November 4, 2012

Names of the Rain

Al-dayima is "continuous" rain without thunder or lightning, lasting no less than one third of a day or night. Most rains do not last this long. Similar to al-dayima is al-tahtān ["The Trickle"]. A poet said:

   My beloved, the weeping of your nostrils
      is like the tahtān of a rainy day.

Two varieties of al-dayima are al-hadb ["The Hard Rain"] and al-hatl ["The Spattering"]. A poet said:

   At Dhu ’l-Radm the tended fires were overshadowed
      by summer rains hadb-down-coming.

Al-dhihāb are both weak and strong rains. Cloud cover that darkens the sky and brings no rain is called al-dujunna ["The Overshadow"]; such a cloud is called dājina or mudjina. Days and nights so affected are described as dajn and dujunna, both adjectivally ["the day was dujn"] and in the genitive ["a day of dujn"]. Al-dājina is also said for a raincloud that covers the sky, delivering rain continuously, and al-dajn is a plentiful rain. Another kind of continuous rain is al-rihma ["The Discharge"]. Of all the dayima rains, al-rihma falls hardest and is first to pass away. Al-hafā' ["The Flutters"] are similar to al-rihma and are called by al-'Anbarī al-afā'. Yet another kind of dayima is the light rain called al-daththa ["The Scotch Mist"], which is a light rain, and similar to it is al-hadma ["The Nebulous"]. Al-watfā' ["The Beetle-Brow"] is a cloud of rapid-flowing rain that is counted among the dayima rains whether it is of long or short shedding. Al-qatr ["The Drip"] is said for all rain, weak and strong, as is al-dhihab. A diffuse fall of light droplets is called al-rashsh ["The Spray"]. The most abundant rain with the biggest droplets is called al-wābil [“The Downpour"]. Al-jawd ["The Profusion"] is said generally for abundant rain falling at any time of year. A poet said:

   I am Jawād son of Jawād, and the grandson of Sabal:
      When we rain, we're a jawd; when we pour we're a wābil

Al-'Anbarī recited this verse with a slight variation.
      When part after part of something comes in succession, the whole is called al-midrār and al-dirra ["The Torrent"]. This may be said of all rains. Al-rikk ["The Lean"] is a weak rain of no benefit unless it is followed by al-tabi'a ["The Consequent"] which is one rain after another.       Al-sāhiya ["The Inundation"] is an epithet of al-wābil, and vice versa: both wābilun sāhiyatun and sāhiyatun wābilun are heard. It is an expression for the rain that scours all it touches and sweeps it away. When profuse rains grip the earth to the point that its depths are uprooted, its topsoil becomes its bottom, and its hidden and visible shares are inverted, it is said to be mashūra ["Ensorced"]. The rain called jārr al-dabu' ["The Hyena Driver"] never falls without setting the earth aflow, and is so called because it penetrates the hyena’s den and sends it fleeing.
      Al-muhtafal ["The Hugger-Mugger"] is a fast-falling, uninterrupted rain. Similar to it is al-sahh ["The Flow"], with the difference that in al-sahh individual droplets may not be observable. Al-munhamir ["The Fluent"] is like al-sahh, as is al-wadq ["The Bout"]. Al-darb ["The Stroke"] is used for light rain, as is al-qatr, and al-dihhān ["The Gentle Strokes"] are much the same. Al-murawwiya ["The Water-Bringer"] is a rain that quenches the earth, while al-mulabbid ["The Damper"] wets its surface and causes its dust to settle. Al-hayā ["The Life-Giver"] is abundant rain. Al-ahādīb (plural of the plural of al-hadb, q.v.) are hard rains consequent upon other rains. Al-halal ["The Incipient"] are the beginnings of rain. Al-muth'anjir ["The Plenishing"] and al-mushanfir ["The Fleet"] are plentiful in their flow. Al-waliyy ["The Boon Companion"] is said for rain that follows rain in any season. Al-'ahd ["The Pledge"] is a first rain; a land in which the rain is widespread is said to be ma'hūda ["fulfilled"], and when it is touched by a nufda of rain it is said to be mu'ahhada ["empledged."]. Al-nufda ["The Shiver"] is said of rain that falls on one region and passes over another, as are al-shu'būb ["The Cloudburst"] and al-najw ["The Wind-Breaker"]. And land that is mansūha ["satisfied"] has been blessed with abundant rain.
      Al-ghayth is a name for rain in general. Al-sabal ["The Trailing Garment"] is rain that hangs between cloud and earth, from the point of its leaving the cloud to its landing on the ground.

From Abū Zayd al-Ansārī's Book of Rain