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Some Observations on Arabic Poetry Author(s): Jaroslaw Stetkevych Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol

. 26, No. 1 (Jan., 1967), pp. 1-12 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 05/05/2012 06:44
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JOURNAL OF Near Eastern Studies EIGHTY-FOURTHYEAR JANUARY 1967 * VOLUME 26 * NUMBER I SOMEOBSERVATIONS ARABICPOETRY ON JAROSLA W STE TKEVYCH. Pp. Universityof Chicago THEbook under consideration1 represents a somewhat hasty rubbing on the Aladdin lamp of Arabic poetry. ARBERRY. but to a fair share of us it applies nevertheless. In isolated cases it may even reach the class-room and thus fulfil its mission as an introductory 1 A review article devoted to Arabic Poetry: A Primer for Students. v + 175. therefore. however. as it were. a phase in which it had seemed so natural and self-justifiable to want to become an Arabist. Nevertheless. the tender romantic soul of the young initiate receives its first taste of the Koranic cadences and cascading magnificence of ancient Arabian poetry in the magic formula of qatala-yaqtulu. $6.jinni. Once enrolled as a student at a privileged university which with full pride displays its list of offerings in Arabic studies. therefore. but inwardly already a sophisticated man of the world. he rides comfortably on the crest of the wave of success into academia or elsewhere. . as an attempt to conjure the old. It would be quite reasonable to assume that our colleagues and students in Arabic studies have at some more or less early stage of their lives passed through a romantic phase. He is not ashamed of them. however. however. From the didactic point of view it may well fulfil its restricted mission. graduates as an expert on land tenure in nineteenth century Iraq. a new book on Arabic literature is always something of an event in our circles. out of sheer nostalgia. still a bohemian on the outside.50. they are good to wear. of bothered conscience on our crowded wall of scholarly Arabism. It is bought if rarely read. maybe out of a feeling of loss of innocence. With a lifetime career of conferences ahead of him. it is not altogether unimportant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Like a flower in the lapel of a well-presseddinner jacket. 1965. almost forgotten by western Arabism. 1 . . Above all.. Such is not necessarily the life-story of every Arabist. In general terms. of nostalgia and. It is also safe to assume that many of them had been tempted into this particular field by vague presentiments of mysterious wisdom and rare delights of an "Oriental"culture all wrapped up in a splendid literary attire. the young adept. Ultimate fulfilment seems so near then. Several years later. Professor Arberry'snew book on Arabic poetry will certainly receive a warm reception. The old dreams of aesthetic discovery he now terms youthful fancies merely. Maybe. its appearance helps to keep alive the flickering flame of that magic lamp whose light draws now only elegiac shadows of regret. Just for the touch of it. By A. J.

This aspect of inquiry cannot be declared a closed chapter so easily. In some way this also hangs together with the author's statement that "the theory that all. maybe such an investigation would also illuminate and strengthen. 1938). Al-Hayawdn (Cairo. 4. It begins with a series of classical quotations from such authorities as Gibb. and whose observance in the later poetic development lacks the proverbial rigor one so readily accepts to be a matter of fact. a definition which in its fulness applies to a relatively small part of the earliest Arabic poetry. It is rather a formal abstraction. The rest consists of 31 selected and chronologically arranged poems-with the Arabic text and the English version handily facing each other-ranging from pre-Islamic times until the practically contemporary Macrfif al-Rusrifi(1945).since there were no meaningful corroboratingstudies done in this respect. 98.ah importance than is generally being assumed. . al-Ja$hiz. and therefore it lends itself to being erroneously qit. The rest of Arabic poetry can be forced into the pattern of that definition only as a sum total of composites to which an abstract common denominator is then applied in a manner which treats all of classical Arabic poetry as a generic mass which should be manipulated and ordered from the outside rather than from within each individual poem. a critical and linguistic study of that literature. saving some miraculous discovery in the unexplored caves of Arabia of an Arabic counterpart of the Dead Sea Scrolls" (p. The book contains a fairly long (27 pages) introductory essay. Furthermore. over the qa•idah. whatever has been done in this respect thus far should rather seem to be a beginning-a first step only.2 The term is etymologically misleading. or vice versa.2 STUDIES JOURNAL NEAREASTERN OF guide to the mysteries of that "gardenclosed to many. footnote).ah as part of the standard qasidah as the latter appears in the definition of Ibn viewed Qutaybah. by relatively few clear examples. attested. our views on the origins of Arabic poetry. should still be capable of yielding further internal data. as far as it is possible to judge on the basis of the preserved staple of early poetry." using the metaphor of a Spanish poet from Granada. or eventually modify. and of an excessively concise appendix with bibliographicalnotes. The problem of chronological priority of the a lesser which the author reviews briefly. and Lyall. a synopsis which the author concludes with a rather discouraging statement that "it is most unlikely that more than this will ever be known. This theory is thus being abandoned even more lightly (much more so) than it had been embraced. Mere declarations of preference for one view or another do not advance the solution of that interesting problem. and critical tools. In it the author may even be underestimating the intellectual inquisitiveness of a truly motivated student. III. even if it be not much more than the rigor of translation. is perhaps of qi. It will be helpful to remember that one of the early Arabic literary critics. 3).t. if this latter problem were duly investigated with the use of all our historical. in the fashion of a synopsis of the existing view on the origins and nature of classical Arabic poetry. Professor Arberry'sis a slender book which nevertheless must have imposed a certain rigor on its author. linguistic. or most. as it is available now.terms this type of poem al-qasidah al-qa•irah instead. pre-Islamic poetry is a forgery has now been generally abandoned" (p. Nicholson. Whereas it is true that decisive additional documentary information on the earliest period of Arabic literature should hardly be anticipated. since. The introductory essay is disappointingly unoriginal.

are structurally simple or. It is highly sensual. For the most part descriptive poetry. are fragments. but the very selections which the author offers to the student of Arabic poetry will be an amorphous conglomerate of verse. erotic. In the . This difference. however. that they had ever formed part of conventionally structured qa•idah-poems. unified as well. Viewing the various types of Arabic poetry which reveal a formal differentiation. What one must not forget in attempting to put some order into the development of Arabic poetry is the existence within it. The discussion of the Arabic poem in Professor Arberry's Introduction does overlook one important aspect which could be connected with the existence of smaller forms. too. classical Arabic erotic poetry submits at first more easily to the unity of theme rather than to that of genre. which can be descriptive. should be viewed as underlying the limitations of Arabic poetry with regard to a fuller development of genres. the small poem must have had its natural place. In a variety of combinationsthe basic poetic themes are only integrated and structured into the various types of Arabic poetry. heroic. It is not necessarily true. The only distinction he makes concerningthe nature of the Arabic poem is between the large qag•dah and the fragmentary poem. more than that of length and more than the nature of Arabic prosody. Its lyricism tends to be descriptive rather than spontaneously emotional. without precluding the cultivation of grander genres. like those of :Abu Tammam and al-Mutanabbi. The antithesis of mood and the contrasting statement of the poet's condition in each section serve to heighten the heroic exaltation of the poet as hero. with its chronological arrangement giving the impression of a mere accident.we see that structurally the heroic poem can be either simple or complex. of a thematic and genre differentiation. however. for example. The highly rhetorical panegyrics of later periods. Without this further differentiation. Both the descriptive and the pathetic rhetorical styles dominate its mood and diction. The thematic diversity of classical Arabic poetry does not constitute separate genres. The same can be said about similar fragmentary poetry contained in the Aghdini. not only the formal questions in Arabic poetry will remain obscure. The complex heroic ode is the most common genre in pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry. satyrical. and its two basic elements are the erotic prelude and the Bedouin self-praise. and it reflects a poem's style rather than its genre. With great frequency the erotic and the properly heroic sections are in an intended antithetical relation to each other. to be more precise. as if no further classification were possibleparticularly what we should call classification into genres. and elegiac. ranging in mood from unfulfilled yearning to carefree erotic infatuationin the style of the C Udhri poets as well as in that of cUmar ibnDAbi Rabicah.At first it is less strictly a panegyric in the usual sense. from earliest times onwards. The simple form is best represented by the shorter or longer odes of the so-called brigand poets. It is profusely illustrated in the Mufaddalydt and the DAsmaciydt. Because of its structural involvement in the other genres. although showing an independent development. with their remarkable unity of theme and mood. does not constitute a genre category.SOME OBSERVATIONSARABIC ON POETRY 3 It is quite obvious that by and large the selections contained in Absf Tammam's anthology. It can be found in all the remaining types.too.In a literary situation of oral transmission. Most of Arabic heroic poetry is therefore highly subjectivized and thus essentially different from the Greek and medieval European heroic poetry in its epic form.

it developed into one of the most advanced poetic forms (if such a thing as advancement can be said to exist in art). It also provided the vehicle for the symbolic poetry of Arabic mysticism. That means. be it in connection with the religious and dynastic partisanships. It in itself. not as a loose prelude) in the satire. By virtue of its dominant mood of bereavement and sadness it was destined to a higher degree of formal unity. without necessarily suffering from disruption into unrelated topical sections in the manner of other Arabic poetic genres. producing those glimpses of true poetic experience which are so rare in a poetry otherwise highly form-oriented and conventionalized in theme and diction. however. largely in its later development. in language and form. the erotic and the elegiac. The function of the theme of nightly loneliness and star gazing is equally legitimate within both genres. Philosophical poetry. or rather the philosophical mood. The Arabic elegy can be structurally very rich and complex. Nevertheless. since it was most receptive to the which advanced the developbaroque involution of the Arabic poetic diction of the badiC ment of the poetic image from the concrete to the conceptual and abstract. it may or may not have a prelude of an erotic nature. The cathartic impact of tragedy and the melancholy of sorrow which issued from it involved the Arab poet more directly in his theme. From an early simplicity of mood.In this latter respect it not only can serve as prelude to other themes in the form of a nasib section: its language and imagery can reappear indirectly in the elegy or in the panegyric-so characteristic in al-Mutanabbi--or it can become fully merged. Poetic description of . theme. Arabic erotic poetry chooses the small form. could absorb and still survive generically. It can also be used organically (i. only such extrinsic elements as nature description and sententious poetry. Within the austerely realistic language and imagery of classical Arabic poetry. In theme and language it thus proved to be the most pliable and submissive of the poetic genres. Yet at the same time it failed to produce a fully structured form which would be different from the structure it receives when it functions as a component of a complex qapidah. blends perhaps most harmoniously with its elegiac cousin. too. like the heroic ode. as if against the poet's will. Satire finds its form of expression in political poetry too. and it may even be originally elegiac. The Arabic satyrical poem. The heroic theme. Otherwise it is closely related to the heroic ode by virtue of the frequent contrasting of the satire with the themes of self-praise and tribal panegyric. as when the Umayyad poet al-'Arji lays false pretenses to the favors of the women of his enemies.e. with the mystical poem. as the fierce promise of revenge was part of the Bedouin feeling of bereavement. In such cases the inorganic character of the Arabic qaszdah becomes much more accentuated. or otherwise as a mirror of the shuc•ibyah. to which self-praise and panegyric are only appended. blends harmoniously with the poet's sadness. the erotic section may often constitute the chief element.4 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES independent poem. it contributed greatly to the enrichment of the metaphor. since the poem then lacks the balance and harmony dictated by the aesthetic canon of sound structure. Among the Arabic poetic genres the elegy is perhaps the most interesting as well as the most challenging one to the critic. and structure. no matter how conventional that structure may appear. The elegiac use of the theme of evocation of desolate encampments is different from the use made of the same theme within the nasib. can be either simple or complex. one should not forget that even within a complex qa•idah.

into a single unit of emotional "crescendo. E. p. Kritik und Dichtkunst. It would be oversimplified. Thou fowle abettor. Never. from low key melancholy to high rhetorical pathos. 76-79. O never! (Marmion) Similarly. (The Rape of Lucrece) 3Suras 81." From alMuhalhil ibn Rabicah and al-Khansa' until the present day this psalmodic reiteration has continued to characterize the style of the Arabic elegy. Weg dein Fleiss und deine RuhAch. Cheikho. in the manner of the classical ubi sunt. vss. Arabic elegiac style and diction can and often do range. Quite characteristically. Scarce are boughs waving. warum du dich betruebtest. where Frangois Villon and Ibn al-Rfmimspeak in unison. Weg ist alles. and its use reaches a large variety of poetic moods and modes. thou traytor. where Sir Walter Scott psalmodizes in a familiar tone: There. or which even repeat the entire first hemistich throughout a series of verses. Parted forever. 6L. There thy rest shalt thou take. Cool streams are laving. There. and displacest lawd. thou notorious bawd. was du liebtest. thou murtherest troth. 82. wie kamst du nur dazu! Or in the invective outburst of Shakespeare: Thou makest the vestall violate her oath. however. see G. pp. Thou blowest the fire when temperance is thawd. Weg. thou false theefe. through the summer day. this style is also represented in western poetry in its heroic mood. inside a single poem. . Thy honie turnes to gall. (Beirut.SOME OBSERVATIONS ON ARABIC POETRY 5 inanimate nature receives in the elegy a less objective quality and functions organically within the determining mood of the poem. mein Herz. 35.3 cAmr ibn Kulthfim uses it in the heroic mood4 and Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulm& in the satyrical. 562-63. was soll das geben? Was bedraenget dich so sehr? Welch ein fremdes neues Leben! Ich erkenne dich nicht mehr. while the tempests sway. thy joy to greefe. Shu ar4c al-Naipraniyah 1920). 4 Mucallaqah. Thou ravisher. as in Blake's: Bring me my Bow of burning gold! Bring me my Arrows of desire! Bring me my Spear! O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire! (The Book of Hell) Or in the pristine lyricism of Goethe: Herz. to regard this reiterative style as elegiac only. whenever the poet aims at rhetorical heightening of the emotional pitch. von Grunebaum. A distinctive feature of the latter style is the grouping of verses which begin alike.5 As a rhetorical device this style is also universal. Basically it is a rhetorical device and therefore it is used effectively in all types of poetry. It is only the marriage of rhetoric and lyricism that makes it most effective in the elegy. Never again to wake. Thou smoothest honestie. Thou plantest scandall. one of the most effective uses of this style is to be found in the Koran.

without which all the theoretical precision in the world will remain dead and meaningless. A more immediate reflection of tragic historical events is the elegy on the destruction of Baghdad during the Abbasid dynastic strife. let alone his appreciation of it. and "the arabesque of words and rhythms which is so great a pleasure for the informed critic to analyse. and finally to the land as the elegiac object. The remainingpart of the Introduction contains an exposition of the rules of Arabic prosody. and this time what bothers him is the value of a merely theoretical approach to Arabic prosody. Whatever has been said above concerning the topic of Arabic metrics must not be a 6 A review of the Arab critics' understanding of the poetic genres can be seen in Amjad Trabulsi's La critique podtique des arabes (Damascus. But such is not the reason why poetry has a metre. traditionally Arabic system of the tafdcil representation may be more organic and in the final run more productive a way to stimulate in a student of Arabic poetry a sense of rhythm and melody. Since the student is not encouraged. of course. and its mathematical units and numbers are made of a different stuff than the cerebralabstractions of mathematics as a science. as seems to be the rule and practice. and a review of the rhetorical figuresthat characterizethe full development of the Arabic art of rhetoric-the so-called al-badic." will remain but a myth to him. With the last sigh of "Ay de mi Alhama. let us now turn to the ones that are. The same is true of our learning and teaching of the Arabic language as a whole.even though it is difficult to dispute-as far as scientific precision is concerned-the merit of abstract representation of the Arabic metric units. once the text has been properly edited and reasonably vocalized. We seem to forget that we do not read Arabic poetry. his familiarity with the theory of metrics only will not improve his understanding of poetry. Later additions to al-Rundi's elegy are only an epilogue to a genre. Within our petrified attitude to Arabic poetry the science of metrics will be of practical value to editors of texts only. It should be clear by now that the reviewer. has usurped for himself the right to think aloud on whatever comes to his mind as he reads the book in front of him. and. a term which originally had this technical meaning of a new theory of rhetoric and which in a popular fashion only received the connotation of a style. in striding out so far in his digressions. pp. divorced from the sound of the language and irrelevant even to the task of correct translation. an illustration of the richness of variations of some representative macdni or poetic motives. In al-Buhturi's poem on the 'Iwdn Kisrd we find samples of the first topic. A further development of this elegiac topic takes place in Moorish Spain. Ibn al-Rfimi's elegy on Basra. as it can be a helpful tool in securing a proper "textual" reading of a verse in manuscript.6 After this review of things which are not in Professor Arberry's book. the more concrete. . to reproduce the sound and the metric cadence of an Arabic verse. by 'Abfi Yacqfib Ishaiqal-Khuzaymi. A poetic verse needs to be read as only poetry needs to be read. In such circumstances Arabic prosody and particularly metrics become a completely abstract science. where one could say that it and the classical Arabic elegy culminate with Abfi al-Baqa' al-Rundi's (second half of thirteenth century) mourning over the loss of an entire land and heritage.6 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES One of the most interesting developments within the Arabic elegy is its turning to history personifiedin dynasties and monuments. Therefore. to the city." a Romance echo of this mood dies on the lips of a Spanish balladier. 215-38. We translate it and leave matters at that. 1956).

"7 responds: "It is something that throbs in my bosom and . 136. a goldsmith of words." for Mallarm6 or Juan Ramon Jimenez.construes an imaginary conversation with 'Abi^ Tammam. Creative talent. and at this advanced point monotonously. It is particularly important that a student of Arabic poetry should be an alert detector of figures of speech. The author's discussion of the two remaining topics (the poetic motives and the rhetorical figures). reused from older books. is once again a late development. as a craftsman like other craftsmen. Raw is uttered by my tongue. although invariably. But this does not diminish the artistic value of Arabic poetry. all these are complicated problems in Arabic literature. Neither the badic rhetoric nor the parallel over-exploitation of otherwise basic poetic motives throw a definitive light on the nature of Arabic poetry. has proven to be as tempting as it may seem easy. and which would situate the Arabic poetic endeavor in the proper frame 7 Al-clqd al-Farid (Cairo. 8 Al-Tawabic wa al-Zawdbic (Beirut. should be intrinsically very useful. It grows out of the entire Arabic natural and social environment and thus out of a particular innate concept of imagination. what is poetry. and that no matter how neatly we pin on our artificial wings of aesthetic sophistication. we do not seem to be getting off the ground. The virtuosity of Ibn al-Farid in this field. . with which it also dies. 283. and even of inspiration in the unrestricted sense. Then. if one uses the statistical approach of the average or if one limits oneself to an arbitrarily chosen period. a jeweller of verbal images" (p. when the badiCenrichment of Arabic rhetoric finds its way into the poetic practice. originality. should not be taken with the same conviction the author himself has put into it. Some discrimination as to its chronologicalvalidity. conceivable in that poet's period only.hah The Andalusian poet Ibn Shuhayd. the poet Thus. however. but they come mostly from non-poets and from rather sterile quarters of rhetorical and philological criticism. should be attempted. Their reduction to a capsule definition. 1951). V. was never completely absent from Arabic poetic practice and theory.and judged. in which that representative of high badiC advises him not to interfere with his natural talent if he should feel the compulsion to compose poetry and when his soul would summon him to it. It is rather a brooding over the painful fact that our feet are lame and heavy as they walk this field of our choice and not of our making. The concept of poetic creation as pure inspiration is an offshoot of western romanticism. since these constitute a substantial share of the Arab poet's technical equipment. after having completed his composition. The concept of controlled inspiration. p. however. Otherwisethere would be no room for symbolist or "purepoetry.8 It is true that opposite views on poetic creation abound in Arabic literary criticism as well. however. 17). 1956). a contemporaryof Ibn HIazm. The fact that already the early poets took great pain in proper composition should become self-evident from even a hurried look at the impressively disciplined classical poem. But this is fully valid for the later development of Arabic poetry only. Professor Arberry's well-wrought but very-often-heard-before statement that "the Arab poet is rather to be considered. to say the least. the lyrical sense. he should wait at least three days before undertaking a revision. or poetic experience. inspiration.SOME OBSERVATIONS ON ARABIc POETRY 7 criticism of anything nor anybody in particular. when the Prophet asks the poet CAbdal-LAhb. The interest in the poetic macdni is in this respect an older one. A juster and more productive approach to the Arab poets' attitudes to these problems would be one which would avoid the average as something whose relevance is more sociological than aesthetic.

reflecting a modern semantic development. as fancy in the Coleridgean sense. having failed to formulate an aesthetics of the original.tbi2 to the exclusion of others-among the pre-Islamic poets as well as among those of later centuries and epochs. Within such a frame of referencewe see the Arab poet as cherishing both inborn talent and artifice. fail to give us a convincing idea of what is unoriginal-save in the grossest form of plagiarism. The only form of imagination known to classical Arabic literary criticism even at its highest point of development was that of a pictorial conjuring of metaphorical allusions to otherwise concrete or realistically conceivable things. And yet the extraordinary interest which Arabic literary criticism displays in the problem of plagiarism should nevertheless indicate a deep concern precisely with originality. The closest classical Arabic equivalent to our concept of the original would be badic. But then. We see him proud of both. Poetic inspiration was known to exist and was referred to in two ways. it also taught the Arab poet to seek refuge in complicated disguises rather than reveal his literary parentage openly. does not help us either. with Schelling and Coleridge. was more clearly manifested. and in comparison with al-Qahir anything prior to that period in the West. again. Thus it seems as if Arabic literary criticism.8 JOURNAL NEAR EASTERNSTUDIES OF of reference of an historically defined cultural atmosphere with its intellectual concerns and aesthetics of taste. The quality of being nm. Ibtikdr. The problem of originality in Arabic poetry needs a particularly dispassionate or or even tarif. Only a quotation of one verse or another is produced as illustrating testimony of a supposedly complex critical motivation. one should keep in mind that the aesthetics of originality is a . had turned with double zeal to the detection and definition of its opposite. Arabic terms like hadith. It is interesting to notice that in the later Abbasid period as well as in Moorish Spain the archaic idea of the poetic shaytdn reappears in Arabic poetry already fully transformed and deprived of its archaic pathos. and we see his critics was attributed to some poets judging him on both accounts. or rather referredto. from without. more specific meaning within the terminology of Arabic literary criticism. too. motivating it aesthetically. however. while it may have had a useful function in an attempt to check ruthless plagiarism. therefore. an organizing faculty rather than a creative one. The Arab poet's imagination. it would be erroneous to search for this type of conceptualization of the creative process and for the awareness of a higher form of imagination so completely outside of the proper historical and philosophical context. Imagination as a creative poetic factor does not appear separately spelled out or even recognized as an abstract concept broad enough to be given this particular literary interpretation. so the negative terms like sariqahand intihdl. such Arab critics as al-'Dmidi. In western literature and critical thought such an awareness did not appear until after Kant. do not imply originalapproach. This negative critical zeal quite clearly characterizes Arabic literary criticism in all its aspects and. ity in a creative sense. Just as these positive terms do not provide us with a clear definition of originality.had it not soon acquired a different. Above all. mu~hdath jadid. CAbd al-Jurjani or Ibn al-'Athir loom up as true pioneers towards our present understandingof the nature and the mechanism of literary expression. both familiar to the western view of it: one as an undefined feeling surging in the poet's own soul and the other as mythicized personificationof the creative impulse coming to the poet as his shay~tn. Unfortunately the reasons for such discrimination are not satisfactorily explained in critical terms. and becomes very much analogous to the renaissance view of the poetic muse.

Categorical originality to them was no prerequisiteof artistic validity. The quick succession of schools and aesthetic premises which began with European romanticism is essentially a development dispossessed of an ideal canon lying in the past. it would soon have ended up totally exhausted. 6-10. for example. The aesthetic canon of the preterit ideal. however. as they did not exist in eighteenth century neo-classicism and academicism."g As the reader's patience should not be tested beyond the limit of endurance. An anthology whose purpose is pedagogical should instruct and stimulate interest at the same time. we may now attempt to understand why Arabic poetry was so "unoriginal"according to the modern understanding of this term. pp. Returning to the Arabic literary example. 21. Of course. Therefore the renaissance artist imitated.l-Thaqdfah. Arabic poetry had to be interested in perfection as a means of formal approximation to a goal from which time was separating it more and more. pp. will care to maintain his interest. Vol. The rest. Classicism to us. To the renaissance man. 1. although broken or misunderstood in artistic practice. too.. rather than to be original and thus depart even further from the ideal. the renaissance still strikes us as an original and exciting movement in the arts. and why it laid so much weight on the technical accomplishment." retains only a mythic quality as far as our views of beauty are concerned. once initiated in Arabic poetry. and his baroque heir improvised on his predecessor's imitation. Something of this A. Within such an attitude the realm of originality became forcibly reduced to a definite set of aesthetic premises. It is in such a light also that one should re-examine what D'Ahmad 'Amin called "the crime perpetrated by pre-Islamic poetry against Arabic literature. remained unchallenged in theory. is left to the student. and also because it generated an unparallelled outburst of individual genius. . 5-9. It is almost a critical norm that no reviewer is ever entirely satisfied with what makes a particular anthology. mainly because it supposes a rediscovery of classical aesthetic ideals and not their uninterrupted linear continuation. It instructs philologically and rhetorically.ON POETRY SOMEOBSERVATIONS ARABIC 9 modern notion. Thus it went on cultivating a basically classicist tradition. Let us not establish an exception. Within it. The present one. Vol. Arabic poetry could not outrun its own shadow. and the excitement and creative ferment of rediscovery-psychologically so much more romantic than classicist-would have never existed. as far as the furthering of a deeper interest in Arabic poetry is concerned. which is about all that matters. 19. No. No. Such is the case with modern western culture. instructs without particularly minding whether the student. the classic ideal was alive as a purpose. craftsmanship or the artistic technique was bound to receive special emphasis. Having inherited its own classical ideal of literary perfection. therefore. a comparatively hurried look at the anthological section of Professor Arberry'sbook will have to suffice. however. because it ceased to be the determiningideal of our artistic endeavor: it ceased to be a purpose. Had the classical code been handed down directly from the antiquity and upheld throughout the European middle ages. We do not attempt to equal it. ibid. As a result. the generations of the flashing "isms. a notion which can only exist in a time and in a culture which is not normatively bound to an ideal of perfection lying in the past. I. one where the aesthetic ideal and the formal canon this ideal meant to imply were lying in the past. and having developed inside a medieval culture of set values.

one should understand it according to the expression land yawmun ft al-'ac dd'i. there is relatively little to say. The first hemistich of vs. A few remarks or suggestions might be called for. however.Only selections No." In vs. The hemistich would then mean: "Our 'days' against our enemy are famous. Khalil Matran (No.and al-Rusaifi(No. however.e. Concerningthe quality of the translations. This is wrong. 6 does not agree in with the translation." Instead. The real problem. 4) the reading ghayrakhawwdri vs. 2 (al-Nabighah). 2) the rendering of the second half of vs. but he also has some loyalty to Arabic poetry. Maybe because of this. and that is in poetry as an historical and political commentary. 30) creates the impressionof being but an average patriotic versifier." In context with the preceding verse.aktharina very many in number." but "those who are qalilun. or any meaningful development taking place in Arabic poetry. Thus. because al-aktharina can only be properly understood contextually. 10 lacks precision as well. only that then murakkabanft nisdbin would gain a differentmeaning. Thus we fail to find among the poems in the anthology a single one which would convincingly illustrate Ibn Qutaybah's definition of the qaspdah. in the poem by al-Samaw'al (No. The translator. 8 (Abfi al-'AtThiyah)and No. Fa tacazzaytu. have any relation to it at all. vs. Professor Arberry is certainly the most dedicated and experienced translator of Arabic verse into English to-day. . 137). the longest poem of the entire anathology is al-Shidydq's grotesque ode to Queen Victoria (No. . 27) which Professor Arberry somehow manages to find "a very interesting example of the nineteenth-century revival of the classical norms" (p.. The second hemistich of vs. without revealing any valid line of taste of the anthologist." i. To begin with. In the poem by al-Nabighah (No." Only then will the entire verse have a convincing meaning. just as he (Nucmin) did not find any fault in the gratitude his own proteg6es expressed to him. IHaythuis to be understood as well as grammatically." is incorrect logically as . Because of this. obviously. jdr may not be understood as kinsman but rather as neighbor under protection. 31)with more justification-a journalist in verse. Literally translated. which appears translated as "the most part of men". however. 6). Such a reading is possible. 1). The overall approach to the selecting and the listing of the poems is dry and impersonal.: what we have done to our enemies is famous. 16. 7 neglects the specific meaning of dhllika. 4 resists the translator'sunderstanding of it. too. the reviewer has a great sympathy and admiration for al-Shidyaq. In the poem by Bashshshkribn Burd (No. Maybe one interest of the author can be detected. introducesan independentsentenceand shouldbe translated: "There"wherever. Therefore al-. with reference to the meaning of cannd here are not "the most part of men. 12 "females and stallions who bore us . the poet thus wants to say that Nucmin should not blame him for having been grateful to his former patron. Mihyhral-Daylami's otherwise solid poetic talent is poorly represented by selection No. No. 18 receives the easy yet doubtful reading of "Our 'days' are famous among our foes. In the poem by al-KhanstA(No. understoodthe verse according to the standard reading ghayri khawwdri. vs. the poet says in this hemistich: "you did not consider them to be sinning in their gratitude for it.. no critical questions raised in the Introduction are fully answered by the verse selections. with their extremely lopsided structure. The footnote which explains this verse is misleading too. 5. is with al2-aktharina. 29 (Shawqi). To be sure.10 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES has already been intimated in our discussion of the genre-differentiationin Arabic poetry.

Because of the familiar traditional situation given by the verses that follow. is too noncommittal. In al-Buhturi's poem (No. Verses 8 and 9 in this poem have to be understood in context.. for which there is no place in his version: "Marvels they alleged the days would reA reasonable translation seems to be: "Marvels would there be! The days. as in the present case. In the poem by 'AbfI Tammam (No. the more useful it becomes poetically. In any case. In vs. in cajd"iban. the translator chooses to follow al-Tibrizi as well but without accepting that This is confusing. 26." There is an antiposition of meaning. He laments the briefness of the time spent there and not the decaying romantic sites. they should convey opposing actions proper of a battle. one should still understand the verse as referring to the swords requirements being plunged into the bodies of the enemies rather than returned into their sheaths." one should read "diligently (or strongly) advancing . (when or as it gives fresh pleasure) of vs. The word gawmin vs. 9)." in vs.. 11 rahli can also mean "camel saddle.." substantially affecting the understanding of the line. .. 11)." they alleged..di's: In vs. Granting the commentator's reading of 'atrdban instead of Dabddnan. and the more such connotation it has. . Grama matically this construction could be understood either as the first al-aakhassibeing substantive and the second its adjective. 5 cannot be translated al-aakhassi as "towards the ignoblest of the ignoble. In various contexts it can refer either to tribesmen. but at least in a case like this. of which one word can have several.. or as an emphatic reiteration of a type formally related to al-Sharif fihi al-. 66. The suggestion of a construct will only puzzle the student. . CAldal-'askarayni in vs.." Concerning veal vs. 15. vs.acazzu al-'a~habbu (No. 29 should be understood as "in view of . What the poet gives us is a recollection of a gay excursion to rather bucolic places where the ruins are merely decorative.. As such it is rather a new theme appearing in the matla'. as The translation of hdudui "rest" in vs." The second al-'akhassi stands in apposition to the first one.." The translator's "over" is flat. the students should be warned that any translation is a mere guess. Other existing attempts at renderingthis hemistich are equally unsuccessful.SOME OBSERVATIONS ON ARABIC POETRY 11 fore I consoled myself . The note to vs. . "Filled with awe" should be better. or to a group.. In vs.. 35 is completely meaningless as an image. would take fright from them in the Safar of all Safars or Rajab.. hudi~ refers to a stage of night. 8 is not simply people. 1 of the poem by 'Abuial-'Atahiyah (No. 32 should then begin "That it is poured into .. The jinds appears only as a further allusion or connotation... The reviewer has nothing positive to offer either." This will also alter the punctuation of the preceding verses." Since mush•hprovokes the reaction of mulh.naive fawn is in a deceptive fashion instrumental to the extraction of secrets through the power of the wine. 8) which says that "the poet laments in Jahili fashion the ruins of a former 'encampment' is misleading. fails to convey the right connotation. 12 of the same poem.. 22. The inexperienced (ghartr). 7 "and then" should ratheral-R." The rendering of the second hemistich of vs. the translation of vs. to fighting men." without be "lest.. or like a paradox. 6 represents perhaps too confident a reliance on al-Tibrlzi. Thereforethe adjective ghartrdoes not mean "shy. since precisely concerning this verse there is no explanatory note.. "You are alarmed. the translator does not take into account the acc. instead of "cautiously . There is no archaic lamentation here. 13). of jinds. between these two verses. 31 should have been retained. VIdhd. Verses 31 and 32 appear blurred in the translation.. Other commentaries do not agree with such an interpretation. implying further emphasis. and vs. maca al-'akhassiof vs.

26 "as victory advanced" is not exact. The verse would then cease to be . however. With some tailoring. 11 is a al-Rd. 37 seems to be lacking coherence.. In vs. Verse 15 would be better understood if. In the poem by al-Mutanabbi(No. 38. since wa al-nasru qddimudenotes result or effect. 19. The excessively formalistic rendering of jardthfm as "deep-rooted trunks." is self-understood. The correct reading is limd." or ". 40 can hardly be translated as "capitals. of Muhammad Muhiy al-Din CAbdal-Hamid. The translator's note concerning the interpretation of verses 48 and 49 is wrong. In these verses the poet wants to say that the evocation of the past is so strong and so immediate that (vs. and should thus be translated: "and victory has come. 23 unintelligible. Thus. with the second hemistich following as a general statement or verdict. The translation of vs. Verse 19 should thus be read: "The d1zddi ba~t. nor quarter for and nights pass. petititioners to turn to. 19 has been completely misunderstood by the translator. 7. where'and al-jdru calayhimutakes us back to jandbu.i rhetorical one. 39 to vs." Al-cawdsimin vs. 16). 23. Here the meaning of Dujinnacan only be "buried" (for "hidden" or "deposited"). 49) one could almost think of overtaking it." there were a colon. The entire verse sounds rather like a proverb. 1949). 39 (the clearly misunderstood one) can be restored. and therefore 'illd should not be rendered as "except. 47 more convincing. The question in vs. the conventional metaphoricusage of "pearl"as the component part of the poem. one should rather read: "Nor would a beautiful woman (dropping "be") secure the whole of her life from some evil eye. 12 is a misprint. In order to make the syntax of vs. Only in vs. instead of wa kayfa. vs. although the translator's phrasing is ambiguous enough so as to cause some difficulty in disentangling his own understanding of the vss. 14).iaythu interrogative and would follow along the descriptive line of vs. The statement in this verse is an absolute one: "but one who escaped from you being despoiled is a spoiler.un there is no place with regard to me to look for profit. to the wave which throws that pearl ashore (lafazahu). "Yours is the praise in regard to the pearl which I spit out" is excessively archaic and inadmissible.12 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERNSTUDIES The second half of vs. because it does not take notice of the true metaphor contained in this hemistich. in context with vs. In vs. ." The second half of vs. has gained booty indeed. 13).. Cairo." The translation of the poem by al-Sharif is on the whole uneven. 38 and 39. his poetic gift. 41.dan should be preferable (as in the ed. Its meaning will become quite clear as we come to vs. although correctly interpreted in the note. Verse 6 should probably be read as a question." In vs. but the reviewer is too anxious to abandon this course of criticism which he sincerely wishes had been avoidable. lahd in vs." particularly with referenceto Sayf al-Dawlah. with lafazaas "to utter. instead of the semicolon after "arbiters. instead of ramidun ramf. 18. the reading wa is to be preferred. 38." There should still be a few minor observations to make concerningone or another of the remaining translations." makes vs. the meaning of vs. In the poem by 'AbiuFirAs(No. 46 might well be understood differently: "consisting of (min) men standing (wuqtfin) behind the throng and of camels able to endure thirst (khunsi). is not renderedforcefully enough. applicable absolutely." or "came. Here the poet compares Sayf al-Dawlah's exploits to a pearl and himself. 65 contains an obvious absurdity.Of course. the contextual relationship of vss. In the poem by Mihydral-Daylami (No. 50 does the "passing of dynasties" theme come up. be (instead of "being") in need of amulets.