September 15, 2016

Adventures in Guest-Blogging

Three versions of a poem by Abū Ṣakhr al-Hudhalī (d. ca. 700 CE),
translated with introductions by me.

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As in the Collected Poems of the Tribe of Hudhayl by Abū Sa‘īd al-Sukkarī
(d. 888), hosted on Pierre Joris's blog at Jacket2

As in the Dictations of Abū ‘Alī al-Qālī (d. 966), hosted on Pierre's
blog Nomadics

As in the Book of Songs of Abu 'l-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī (d. 967),
hosted on the tumblr Lyric Poets

Plus a fourth variant attributed to Majnun Layla, hosted right here

ETA: My article gathering all these versions with a new introduction came out in Cambridge Literary Review 10 (2017) and is viewable here.

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As recited by Adel Bin Hazman Al-Azimi (al-Sukkarī's version):

September 10, 2016

As attributed to Majnun

O departure of Layla! You have spared me nothing.
            To the anguish of abandonment, you added more.
The lengths that time went through to come between us
            were amazing. Done with what was between us, time stood still.
O love! Let nothing halt the nightly increase
            of my ardor for her. Let the Day of Resurrection be my relief.
To all love but ‘Āmirī love, my heart is resistant.
          "Abū ‘Amr without the ‘amr," you could call it.
My hands are at the verge of dampness, touching her. 
            She is [like a pool] ringed with plants of leafy green.
And the way her face's beauty lifts my trial and brings down rain!
            It is a marvel worthy of the Prophet's tribe.
Below her robes, the motion of her frame shows through
            quite like the motion of a willow branch in flower.
Beloved are all living things, as long as you may live,
            and when a grave contain you, beloved be the dead!
At the mention of her name, my heart quickens 
            like a rain-drenched sparrow shaking off [its wings].
If I were to make the major and minor pilgrimages, and renounce
            my visits to Layla, would I then perchance be recompensed?
No sooner do I see her than I am struck dumb,
            abandoned by all cleverness and all reserve.
If a pebble came under what I undergo, it would split the pebble.
            If the giant boulder underwent it, that boulder would crack.
Wild animals would not put up with it, if it happened to them.
            Life-sustaining waters would not swallow it, nor would a flower.
If the seas went through what I went through, [they would all fall still;]
           no more would swelling seas be crossed by waves.

Dīwān Majnūn Laylā 102-3

September 2, 2016

Choral fun in old Medina

Abu ‘Abd Allah [al-Hishami?] said: One day, Jamila convened a gathering to which she wore a long burnoose, and dressed her companions in burnooses of lesser make. Among the group was Ibn Surayj, who compensated for his baldness with a hairy wig he used to put on his head. But Jamila liked the sight of his baldness, and when Ibn Surayj was given his burnoose, he uncovered his pate and said, "By the Lord of the Ka‘ba, you've pulled one over on me!" And he fitted the cowl of his burnoose over his head while the rest of the group laughed at his baldness.

Jamila then stood up and began to dance while strumming a lute, in her long burnoose with a Yemeni mantle about her shoulders. Ibn Surayj too stood up to dance, along with Ma‘bad, Ghariḍ, Ibn ‘A’isha and Malik, all of them costumed like Jamila, with lutes in their hands which they played in time with her strumming and dancing, and joined their voices with hers in song [meter: kāmil]:

   Youth has gone - if only it had not! -
      when a light gray touch surmounts the hair's parting.
   Pretty women want companions who are other than you.
      Your intimates once, now all they do is leave.
   What I say is informed by experience truly.
      You have not heard from one so experienced before:
   Treat the noble with unmixed good, and uphold your honor.
      and from the blameworthy and his like just step aside.

Jamila then called for a dyed robe and a wig of hair like Ibn Surayj's, which she fitted to her head. The rest of the group called for similar outfits, which they all put on. Jamila began to promenade while playing the lute, and the rest of the group walked behind her, as in unison they sang [verses 3, 5 and 7 of a qaṣīda by al-Kumayt al-Asadi, meter: ṭawīl]:

   Slender of waist, they walk with stately buttocks,
     bent over like sand-grouses of al-Biṭaḥ.
   She is one of those women - shy but friendly,
      no shameless flirt but neither unperfumed.
   It's like a musk-and-wine concoction,
      the bouquet of her mouth when you get her aroused.

Jamila then gave an indelicate cry, which was echoed musically by the group. When she sat down, the others did likewise, stripping off their costumes and resuming their everyday clothes. A group of callers was at Jamila's door, and when she let them in, the male singers all departed, leaving her in conversation with her hetairai.

From the Book of Songs of Abu 'l-Faraj al-Iṣbahani