August 16, 2015

A Bacchic scene by ‘Ali ibn al-Jahm

A flute pours out its woes with a plaintive sob, to the
     tumult of the bows and strings. And the rose is laughing.
It is a breezy day's debut into the bloom of spring,
     highlit like a bride's outfit in pearls and gold.
The revels of night become day-drinks. Frivolity keeps
     [the cup] going round in the same order, whether
          willed [by the drinker]
or pressed upon him. Were we heated! I swear, it was
     the sun's own beams that swirled in our cup and
          heated us.
The people were a brotherhood of truth. The tie uniting
     them was a love surpassing kinship by descent.
Nursed together on the squirting stream of a pale pink
     [quantity of wine], each gave his fellow nursling
          his due,
and the drunken man's offense was not held against him.
     No doubt about their character need trouble you.
The best teachers are the days themselves, and time's
          long stretches, and those
     moments when defects of fortune are overturned.