DESCRIPTION IN CLASSICAL ARABIC POETRY

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					 DESCRIPTION IN
CLASSICAL ARABIC
    POETRY:
WASF, EKPHRASIS,
 AND INTERARTS
    THEORY


AKIKO MOTOYOSHI SUMI



       BRILL
DESCRIPTION IN CLASSICAL ARABIC POETRY
                   BRILL STUDIES IN
MIDDLE EASTERN LITERATURES
                    SUPPLEMENTS TO THE
                JOURNAL OF ARABIC LITERATURE

The series Studies in Arabic Literature has now expanded its purview to include
other literatures (Persian, Turkish, etc.) of the Islamic Middle East. While
preserving the same format as SAL, the title of the expanded series will be Brill
Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures (BSMEL). As in the past, the series aims to
publish literary critical and historical studies on a broad range of literary
materials: classical and modern, written and oral, poetry and prose. It will also
publish scholarly translations of major literary works. Studies that seek to
integrate Middle Eastern literatures into the broader discourses of the humanities
and the social sciences will take their place alongside works of a more technical
and specialized nature.
                                   EDITED BY
                        Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych
                                VOLUME XXV
 DESCRIPTION IN
CLASSICAL ARABIC
    POETRY
WA‘F, EKPHRASIS, AND INTERARTS THEORY


                 BY



        AKIKO MOTOYOSHI SUMI




                BRILL
           LEIDEN • BOSTON
                2004
                            This book is printed on acid-free paper.

              Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sumi, Akiko Motoyoshi.
  Description in classical Arabic poetry : waßf, ekphrasis, and interarts theory / by Akiko
 Motoyoshi Sumi.
      p. cm.
  Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.
  ISBN 90-04-12922-7 (alk. paper)
   1. Arabic poetry—History and criticism. 2. Ekphrasis. I. Title.

  PJ7541.S84 2003
  892.7’1009—dc22
                                                                                       2003057806




                                        ISSN 0169-9903
                                        ISBN 90 04 12922 7

                © Copyright 2004 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
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                                 PRINTED IN THE NETHERLANDS
To the memory of my mother
     Tomoko Motoyoshi
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                                        CONTENTS


Preface ........................................................................................ ix
Acknowledgments ........................................................................ xv
A Note on Translation and Transliteration ............................ xvii

Introduction ................................................................................     1
Chapter One
  Contest as Ceremony: A Pre-Islamic Poetic Contest in
  Horse Description of Imru" al-Qays vs. 'Alqamah
  al-Fa˙l ...................................................................................... 19
Chapter Two
  Remedy and Resolution: Bees and Honey-Gathering in
  Two Hudhalì Odes ................................................................ 61
Chapter Three
  Reality and Reverie: Wine and Ekphrasis in the 'Abbàsid
  Poetry of Abù Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì .................................. 92
Chapter Four
  Sensibility and Synaesthesia: Ibn al-Rùmì’s Singing
  Slave-Girl ................................................................................ 122
Chapter Five
  Poetry and Portraiture: A Double Portrait in a Panegyric
  by Ibn Zamrak ...................................................................... 155
Conclusion .................................................................................. 194

Appendix of Arabic Texts ........................................................ 199
Works Cited ................................................................................ 235
Index ............................................................................................ 243
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                                   PREFACE


At present, we scarcely find secondary literature on the subject of
classical Arabic poetry or the qaßìdah studied from the perspective of
modern Western literary theories and interartistic perspectives. This
book demonstrates that those contemporary theories are useful for
discovering and reconstructing a possible original meaning of the
qaßìdah.
   This study was submitted in its original version as a doctoral dis-
sertation to the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures,
Indiana University (October 2001); the study has now been reassessed
and revised. The subject of the study is waßf or “description” as one
of the salient characteristics of the qaßìdah tradition. We find some-
thing similar to waßf in the Western tradition under the name of
ekphrasis. Originally interpreted in the Western rhetorical tradition
as “clear and distinct description” of any object, ekphrasis in its mod-
ern understanding bears a more limited sense, “verbal representa-
tion of non-verbal texts.” In this modern conception, ekphrasis is
concerned with the transdisciplinary field of intermedial and inter-
arts studies.
   This study aims at reexamining the functions and significance of
waßf in a selected group of Arabic qaßìdahs. My goal is to reveal
unrecognized aesthetic dimensions in the qaßìdah genre in a way that
is consistent with Western critical discourse. I employ various theo-
ries of culture and anthropology, of art history, and of interarts stud-
ies, including the concept of ekphrasis, which refers to the representation
in verbal art of the other arts: painting, singing performance, and
architecture.
   The qaßìdah must be analyzed within its conventional framework
in light of its thematic unity and “frame of reference” (a set of stan-
dards, beliefs, or assumptions governing perceptual or logical evalu-
ation or social behavior).1 One aspect of classical Arabic poetry’s
conventionality, reflected in every ode in this study, is its bipartite


  1
   The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “frame of reference.” For its further
meaning, see pp. 124–25 in Chap. 4.
x                               

or tripartite structure—nasìb (elegiac prelude), ra˙ìl (the poet’s jour-
ney through the desert and his mount, the she-camel), and fakhr (the
poet’s praise or boast of himself and his tribe) or madì˙ (court pan-
egyric in which the praise of the ruler substitutes for fakhr)—with
polythematic formation. I investigate not only how waßf functions in
each section, but also how it furthers or echoes a larger aim of the
entire poem, e.g., boasting or panegyric, both structurally and the-
matically. I do not analyze descriptive sections solely as individual
parts, but in relation to the whole thematic structure of the qaßìdah.
   With regard to the “frame of reference,” I attempt to re-construct
the meaning that the qaßìdah held for its audiences and the effect it
had on them, because the original audience would receive much
more than what is in the text. It is this view that allows me to inter-
pret descriptive passages in an ode as fully integrated into the pan-
egyric function of the entire ode and show the complex interaction
of aesthetic, ideological, political, and self-(pre)serving motivations
that were apparently clear to the original audiences but have been
lost to later critics and scholars.
   Hence, I believe that in terms of methodology, a combination of
the consideration of the conventional characteristics of classical Arabic
poetry and modern Western theories serves to clarify the nature of
the genre. Above all, modern Western interarts theories have not
been applied extensively to the qaßìdah before. The concept of con-
test likewise plays a pivotal part in the qaßìdah genre, for it is an
essential incentive for the poet’s enterprise of waßf.
   To provide a broader picture of waßf and various facets of the
verbal description of other types of art, instead of focusing on one
poet and his works, I have selected eight odes characterized by rep-
resentative descriptive motifs from different periods: two odes with
the motif of a horse from the pre-Islamic era (the sixth century C.E.),
two odes with a motif of bees and honey-gathering from the Jàhilì
(pre-Islamic) and Mukha∂ram (straddling the pre-Islamic and Islamic
age) eras, two odes with a motif of visual arts (a design on a wine
goblet and a wall painting), another on the theme of a singing per-
formance from the 'Abbàsid era (the eighth and ninth centuries C.E.),
and one ode with an architectural motif from the Andalusian era
(the fourteenth century C.E.). While descriptions in Chapters One
and Two are investigated in association with the poems’ cultural and
literary milieu, relying on their related anecdotes (akhbàr) and the
ancient symbolism of the poetic objects, the last three chapters attempt
                                                                        xi

to examine descriptions from the perspective of the transdisciplinary
area of interarts studies.
   Technically speaking, my approach in each chapter except for the
Introduction is the detailed discussion of one or two poems for the
purpose of creating a new reading of the odes. I do not, however,
elaborate every line or phrase. Rather, I focus on sections which are
crucial for my argument. Moreover, I use the word “poet” to refer
to the maker of a poem, while employing the word “persona” or
the poet’s name in quotation marks to indicate the speaker in the
poem.
   The Introduction offers the theoretical background for both waßf
and ekphrasis, showing how the two concepts were treated and under-
stood in their own literary traditions and the commensurable aspects
of these two concepts. I demonstrate where the Arabic materials
under examination in the following five case-studies are situated in
light of the understanding of ekphrasis.
   The subject of the first chapter is the description of a horse by
Imru" al-Qays (d. circa 550 C.E.) and 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l (active in
the mid-sixth century) in the pre-Islamic era in the context of a
poetic contest (mu'àra∂ah) narrated in an accompanying khabar (anec-
dote). I demonstrate the concept of tribal reaggregation and sexual-
ity in the horse description within a social and cultural paradigm.
   In the second chapter, I analyze the description of bees and honey-
collecting by two Hudhalì poets, Sà'idah ibn Ju"ayyah (date of death
unknown) from the Jàhilì (pre-Islamic) period and his ràwì (trans-
mitter) Khuwaylid ibn Khàlid known as Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì
(d. 649? C.E.) who lived through the Mukha∂ram era. Using an
anthropological approach, I investigate the symbolic meanings of the
bee, honey, and honey-gathering, relying on The Sacred Bee by Hilda
M. Ransome.2 The bees and honey-gathering are symbols of heal-
ing and ordeal and at the same time form a metaphor for the lost
meadow.
   For the 'Abbàsid period, I deal in Chapter Three with the descrip-
tion of a wine cup and a painting by the 'Abbàsid poets Abù Nuwàs
(c. 747/762–815) and al-Bu˙turì (821–97). In approaching the descrip-
tion of the works of visual art, I make use of the studies of ekphrasis


  2
    Hilda M. Ransome, The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore (London: George
Allen and Unwin, 1937).
xii                                   

by Andrew Sprague Becker.3 In the two poems on visual art works,
the waßf functions as madì˙ without an explicit expression of the words
of praise.
   Chapter Four deals with the description of a singing slave-girl by
Ibn al-Rùmì (836–96). I examine the mutual relations between poetry
and musical performance in light of the contemporary account of
singing slave-girls by al-Jà˙iΩ (776–869).4 I use the concept of the
“gestural” in Lawrence Kramer’s book, Music and Poetry: The Nineteenth
Century and After.5 The poem fully expresses emotion and affections,
and the image of the songstress’s body is revealed through all the
senses.
   The last topic is the description of the Alhambra Palace by the
Andalusian court poet Ibn Zamrak (1333–93?). In this chapter I uti-
lize Richard Brilliant’s theories of portraiture in visual arts.6 The ode
is shown to offer an emblematic portrait of the ruler, because he is
rendered by means of an ekphrastic representation of the famous
palace he (re)constructed. Also, the poem serves as a double portrait
of the patron-ruler and the poet.
   The qaßìdah was negatively judged by many traditional Orientalists
who failed to engage it as poetry; they viewed the qaßìdah as merely
descriptive, purely objective, and devoid of individual feelings. Objecting
to this criticism, I claim that description in traditional Arabic poetry
does not only attempt to express pictorial, mimetic images of objects,
but also to form a larger conceptual metaphor in an emblematic,
psychological, spiritual, metonymical, or symbolic manner. Waßf thus
has a much more important role than merely describing objects.

My work is related to the school of Jaroslav Stetkevych and Suzanne
Stetkevych, what may be called the “Chicago school” in the field of
the classical Arabic poetic tradition. Their work has demonstrated a
break with the views of the traditional Orientalists by attempting to
give a positive picture of the qaßìdah to its reader. Along with other


   3
     Andrew Sprague Becker, The Shield of Achilles and the Poetics of Ekphrasis (Lanham,
Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1995).
   4
     al-Jà˙iΩ 'Amr ibn Ba˙r, “Kitàb al-Qiyàn,” Rasà"il al-Jà˙iΩ, ed. with commen-
tary, 'Abd Muhannà, 2 vols. (Beirut: Dàr al-Óadàthah, 1987–88).
   5
     Lawrence Kramer, Music and Poetry: The Nineteenth Century and After (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1984).
   6
     Richard Brilliant, Portraiture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991).
                                                            xiii

new Orientalist scholars such as James T. Monroe, Michael Zwettler,
and Michael Sells, the field remains open to further exploration from
different angles, particularly with regard to interdisciplinary and lit-
erary critical methods. My study is intended to strengthen the qaßì-
dah’s modern reappraisal in terms of its aesthetic and experiential
value. Hence, I aim to further develop and evolve new points of
view in the discipline of the qaßìdah tradition on the basis of this
new Orientalist scholarly approach. Throughout my study, such new
and innovative work on the interpretation of classical Arabic poetic
traditions serves to establish the essential foundation on which I
build. It need scarcely be said that the canonical and commentary
works of Arab littérateurs provide useful and informative sources in
developing this debate on a new approach, perhaps leading to a
consensus of opinion in the future. In accordance with the goal of
this study, I attempt to show how the theories of ekphrasis and inter-
arts studies in general are related to waßf and how they serve to
enlighten the analysis of my Arabic materials.

I have no intention of claiming that my understanding and inter-
pretations in this study are absolute or complete. It is hoped that
the approach I have used, and the results I have achieved to date,
will contribute to the advance of our understanding of the waßf in
the Arabic panegyrical qaßìdah and that innovative and untried meth-
ods will provide us with new and wider perspectives on the Arabic
poetic tradition.
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                     ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


There are many to whom I owe my thanks. During my study of
Arabic and the Arab world over the years I received warm support
and assistance from numerous fine friends and teachers. Special men-
tion should go to Kay Wada, Hiromi and Miyoko Oda, David
Fletcher and Hui-hua Chang, Professors Osamu Ikeda and Yoshiyuki
Takashina of Osaka University of Foreign Studies, Japan, Professor
Ernest McCarus of the University of Michigan, Professor Sumie Jones
of Indiana University, Professor Kuniaki Mukai of Keio University,
Japan, and Professor Jun’ichi Oda of Tokyo University of Foreign
Studies.
   But to the committee members of my doctoral dissertation at
Indiana University, on which this book is originally based, I owe a
most unrepayable debt. My academic advisor, Professor Suzanne
Pinckney Stetkevych introduced me to classical Arabic poetry and
spent much time helping me in translating Arabic poems; without
her tremendous assistance and warmhearted encouragement, I could
never have finished this study. Professor Claus Clüver taught me
much about the theories of ekphrasis and interarts, and patiently
guided me with close, careful, and critical reading. Professor Paul
Losensky offered me valuable thoughts and suggestions with wit and
humor. And Professor Consuelo Lopez-Morillas gave me helpful, crit-
ical comments and ideas. To Professor Jaroslav Stetkevych of the
University of Chicago, who read most chapters in the various stages
of this book, I am deeply indebted for his expertise and insightful
analysis. I would also like to thank all who read and commented on
the manuscript.
   I also received support from Dr. As'ad Khairallah at the American
University of Beirut and Dr. Rachid El Daif at the Lebanese University,
who graciously offered their vast knowledge and generosity. I thank
Ambassadors Matsushiro Horiguchi and Naoto Amaki, and my former
colleagues at the Embassy of Japan in Beirut for their assistance and
understanding during my service as cultural attaché. I also wish to
express my gratitude to Dr. Eiichi Kajita, President of Kyoto Notre
Dame University, Japan and my present colleagues at the univer-
sity, for the kind environment that they provided, which helped me
xvi                       

to finish this book. Thanks go to Dr. Ruth I. Meserve for her care-
ful, thorough proofreading of the entire manuscript and Trudy
Kamperveen and Tanja Cowall of Brill Academic Publishers for their
kindness and patience. I thank my parents and siblings for their con-
stant aid during my long term of study abroad. Finally, my special
gratitude goes to my husband Katsunori Sumi who constantly sup-
ported me with affection and understanding.
   I would like to express my appreciation as well to the editors
and publishers for their permission to reprint previously published
articles that, in revised form, are part of the present book. My paper
in Japanese, “Shôchôteki hyôgen to shite no waßf: Ekphrasis ni tera-
shiawaseta rironteki kôsatsu (Waßf as Symbolic Expression: Theoretical
Examination in Comparison with Ekphrasis),” Kansai Journal of Arabic
and Islamic Studies 2 (2002), pp. 53–69, partly forms the basis for the
Introduction. My essay in Arabic, “Al-Mubàràh ˇaqsan I˙tifàliyyan:
Mubàràh Shi'riyyah Jàhiliyyah fì Waßf al-Khayl bayna Imri" al-Qays
wa 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l (Contest as Ceremony: A Pre-Islamic Poetic
Contest in Horse Description of Imru" al-Qays vs. 'Alqamah al-
(Fa˙l),” Al-Ab˙àth 50–51 (2002–2003), pp. 95–144, is placed with
some revision as Chapter 1. My article, “Remedy and Resolution:
Bees and Honey-Collecting in Two Hudhalì Odes,” Journal of Arabic
and Middle Eastern Literatures 6, no. 2 (2003), pp. 131–57, with some
revision appears as Chapter 2. In revised form “Reality and Reverie:
Wine and Ekphrasis in the 'Abbàsid Poetry of Abù Nuwàs and al-
Bu˙turì,” Annals of Japan Association for Middle East Studies 14 (1999),
pp. 85–120, appear as Chapter 3. My essay, “Sensibility and
Synaesthesia: Ibn al-Rùmì’s Singing Slave-Girl,” Journal of Arabic
Literature 32, no. 1 (2001), pp. 1–29, is placed with some revision as
Chapter 4. My article “Poetry and Portraiture: A Double Portrait
in an Arabic Panegyric by Ibn Zamrak,” Journal of Arabic Literature
30, no. 3 (1999), pp. 199–239, with slight revision, forms the last
chapter.
  A NOTE ON TRANSLATION AND TRANSLITERATION


All translations of the Arabic odes and anecdotes in the text are my
own, unless otherwise indicated. I have aimed to provide at least
adequate and readable English versions of the literal meaning of the
originals. Moreover, the original Arabic texts of the odes are pro-
vided as an Appendix.
   For the transliteration of Arabic names, terms, and bibliographi-
cal citations I have followed the Library of Congress system with
slight modification.
                               INTRODUCTION*


The classical Arabic ode, the qaßìdah, is a polythematic and mono-
rhymed poetic form, generally ranging in length from fifteen to eighty
lines. The qaßìdah genre flourished from the outset of its history
approximately in the late fifth century C.E. during the pre-Islamic
age (the Jàhiliyyah or “Age of Ignorance”) to its decline at the begin-
ning of the twentieth century, carrying with it a long continuity of
cultural heritage. Traditionally, the qaßìdah consists of three sections,
the nasìb, the ra˙ìl, and the fakhr or the madì˙.1 The nasìb, the open-
ing section, deals with elegiac motifs such as the ruined abodes and
deals with amatory themes such as unrequited love. The second part,
the ra˙ìl, contains the poetic persona’s travel scene through the desert
and his mount, the she-camel. The concluding fakhr presents the
poet’s praise or boast of himself and his tribe, and the madì˙ (eulogy)
offers praise.2 Stylized and regulated in both content and form, tra-
ditional Arabic poetry is substantially conventional and formalistic
and is based on intertextuality and interreferentiality.3 Thus the genre
expects the reader to be familiar with its formal and thematic tra-
ditions. Its form, fixed and complex both in structure and theme,
can be perceived only by the educated, knowledgeable reader.4


   * An earlier version of parts of this section appeared in Japanese as Akiko
Motoyoshi Sumi, “Shôchôteki hyôgen to shite no waßf: Ekphrasis ni terashiawaseta
rironteki kôsatsu (Waßf as Symbolic Expression: Theoretical Examination in Comparison
with Ekphrasis),” Kansai Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 2 (2002): 53–69.
   1
     Although the Arabic qaßìdah is conventionally made up of the three parts, the
two-part nasìb-madì˙ form increasingly dominates the 'Abbàsid (750–1258) and post-
'Abbàsid qaßìdah, and through the centuries the Arabic poetic tradition abounds in
variant form.
   2
     Fakhr or madì˙ can be replaced by hijà" (invective). Madì˙ is a court panegyric
in which the praise of the ruler takes the place of fakhr. Fakhr predominates in pre-
Islamic poetry, while madì˙ is the dominant genre in the qaßìdah of the Islamic age.
   3
     For an overview of the qaßìdah genre, see Roger Allen, “Poetry,” chap. 4 of
The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Development of Its Genres and Criticism (Cambridge, U.K.:
Cambridge University Press, 1998).
   4
     The Eastern tradition shows some similarities with the classical Western liter-
ary tradition in terms of prosody and tropes. However, the Arabic genre expects
the reader to know more rigorous thematic and structural factors in terms of what
comes next. The genre has a fully developed order. Traditional Orientalists were
uneasy with the qaßìdah because it involved a concept of originality and creativity
2                                   

   Partly because of its conventionality and formalism, the qaßìdah
has been misunderstood and judged negatively in the past by many
traditional Orientalists. They failed to engage the qaßìdah as poetry;
as a result, they focused mostly on its value as an anthropological
and historical artefact. Their negative evaluation is represented by
the “barbarism hypothesis” of Ignaz Goldziher, the “atomism hypo-
thesis” of R. A. Nicholson, and the “objective description hypothe-
sis” of Gustav von Grunebaum.5 Over the past twenty years, however,
a new movement of modern Western scholars has emerged that
has reassessed the value of the qaßìdah from various perspectives;
representative studies include those of the Chicago school formed by
Jaroslav Stetkevych, the oral-performative studies of early Arabic
poetry by such scholars as James Monroe and Michael Zwettler, and
the works of Suzanne Stetkevych.6 These modern Orientalists have
attempted to demonstrate the artistic integrity of the qaßìdah.
   I believe that my major contribution to the scholarly study of the
qaßìdah is to strengthen this sense of its artistic integrity. Though the
modern Orientalists have rated the qaßìdah tradition highly, super-
seding the supposedly “artificial mechanism” of previous generations
of Orientalists, “descriptiveness” itself has not been studied in a seri-
ous, extensive manner from the viewpoints of literary theory, except

that was different from their own, which was based on eighteenth-century Western
ideas. The qaßìdah relies on a whole set of intertextualities which contains repeti-
tions and variations; variation is allowed but strictly controlled. The qaßìdah poet
reworks older conventional motifs—he does not or should not create entirely new
matter.
   5
     On the negative reception to the qaßìdah in the West, Jaroslav Stetkevych has
an insightful study, “Arabic Poetry and Assorted Poetics,” in Islamic Studies: A Tradition
and Its Problems, ed. Malcolm H. Kerr (Malibu, CA: Undena Publications, 1980),
103–23. In his article, he points out that there was a favorable response before tra-
ditional Orientalists’ criticism, such as by Goethe. For the two quotations on the
following page illustrating the negative reception of the qaßìdah by traditional
Orientalists, I have relied on Michael Sells, “The Qaßìda and the West: Self-Reflective
Stereotype and Critical Encounter,” Al-'Arabiyya 20 (1987): 307–57.
   6
     Some representative works are: Jaroslav Stetkevych, The Zephyrs of Najd: The
Poetics of Nostalgia in the Classical Arabic Nasìb (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1993), and Suzanne Stetkevych, The Mute Immortals Speak: Pre-Islamic Poetry and the
Poetics of Ritual (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993). For oral-performative
studies of early Arabic poetry, see James Monroe, “Oral Composition in Pre-Islamic
Poetry,” Journal of Arabic Literature 3 (1972): 1–53, and Michael Zwettler, The Oral
Tradition of Classical Arabic Poetry: Character and Implications (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 1978). About their further contributions, see Sells, “Qaßìda,” 331–46.
Also, Stefan Sperl has a fine study, demonstrating thematic unity and coherence in
the qaßìdah, “Islamic Kingship and Arabic Panegyric Poetry in the Early Ninth
Century,” Journal of Arabic Literature 8 (1977): 20–35.
                                                                          3

by Michael Sells in his “Guises of the Ghùl: Dissembling Simile and
Semantic Overflow in the Classical Arabic Nasìb.”7 To further this
reevaluation of the qaßìdah as poetry, I have chosen waßf or “descrip-
tion” as my topic of study, because, albeit other perceptions of the
qaßìdah, such as the atomism and barbarism hypotheses, also con-
tributed to devaluing the Arabic poetic tradition, its “descriptiveness”
played a prominent role in the traditional Orientalists’ disparage-
ment of the poetry.8 Their consideration of the qaßìdah as second-
rate poetry was based largely on what they censured as its highly
descriptive and repetitive qualities.
   Many traditional Orientalists made negative judgment part of
their definition of the qaßìdah. F. Krenkow introduced the ˚aßìda (qaßì-
dah) in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition, published in 1927, by
claiming:
     An Arabic (or Persian, etc.) ˚aßìda is a very artificial composition; the
     same rhyme has to run through the whole of the verses, however long
     the poem may be. In addition the composition is bound by a meter
     which the poet has to guard most scrupulously through the whole
     course of the poem. The result is that we cannot expect much beautiful
     poetry; the description of the desert and its animals and terrors may
     have a certain charm at first, but when the same descriptions recur
     in endless poems expressed in the same manner, only with different
     words, the monotony becomes nauseous.9
Description also played a major role in A. S. Tritton’s negative
definition of shi'r (poetry) in 1934:
     Arab poetry is essentially atomic; a string of isolated statements which
     might be accumulated but could not be combined. Sustained narra-
     tive and speculation are both alien to it. It is descriptive but the descrip-
     tion is a thumbnail sketch; it is thoughtful but the result is aphoristic.
     The poet looks on the world through a microscope. Minute peculiar-
     ities of places and animals catch his attention and make his poetry
     versified geology and anatomy; untranslatable and dull. Forceful speech
     is his aim and the result is—to Western minds—often grotesque or
     even repulsive.10

    7
      Michael Sells, “Guises of the Ghùl: Dissembling Simile and Semantic Overflow
in the Classical Arabic Nasìb,” in Reorientations/Arabic and Persian Poetry, ed. Suzanne
Stetkevych (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994), 130–64.
    8
      For the atomism hypothesis of R. A. Nicholson and the barbarism hypothesis
of Ignaz Goldziher as ways of devaluing the qaßìdah, see Sells, “Qaßìda.”
    9
      F. Krenkow, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1st ed., s.v. “˚aßìda,” ed. M. Th.
Houtsma, et al., 9 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 1927).
   10
      A. S. Tritton, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1st ed., s.v. “shi'r.”
4                               

Finally, Gustav von Grunebaum argued in 1945 that description in
Arabic poetry is essentially detached, objective, and superficial:
     The poet is wholly dedicated to the task of adequately describing his
     theme down to its most intimate and, at the same time, most typical
     peculiarities. There is no doubt that here the Arabs contributed a
     number of masterpieces to descriptive art. . . . Whatever the subject, it
     is presented for its inherent interest, never for any emotion it may
     have touched off in the observer or listener. . . . Whatever his subject,
     he will reproduce it as it is, or perhaps rather as tradition has taught
     him to see it, refraining carefully from personalized comment or from
     putting his feelings unduly to the fore. If we disregard the perfection
     of form and language, the beauty of his presentation derives entirely
     from the fidelity of his observation, not from his reaction to the impres-
     sions that actually inspired his song. . . . The poet’s organ of percep-
     tion is the eye.11
These Orientalists looked at the qaßìdah poet’s description on the sur-
face and claimed that it was absolutely objective, mimetic, and real-
istic, suggesting a lack of creativity and originality, as a result of the
Arab poet’s blind obedience to literary convention. They viewed the
genre as mechanistic and artificial, paratactic, atomistic, and devoid
of individual expressions of emotion. Their negative attitude is directed
not only toward descriptiveness, but also toward the whole set of
conventional characteristics of classical Arabic poetry. These Orientalists
also failed to find the correlation between thematic sections and
underestimated the aesthetic, literary qualities of the qaßìdah genre.12
    It is true that the Arabic qaßìdah has many descriptive verses, par-
ticularly when one sees only the isolated descriptive passages. However,
the metaphorical intent of the descriptive passages comes to light
when they are seen in the structural and thematic context of the
entire qaßìdah. By ignoring the context of the entire work, the reader
may be misled by arguments that appear to confirm the traditional
Orientalists’ idea that the qaßìdah is merely descriptive, assessing this
genre in a narrow—and negative—manner. It is my proposal that
we need to broaden the way in which we interpret the qaßìdah.
    Description is called waßf in the Arabic literary tradition and is
characterized by the minute, thorough description of certain objects.


   11
      Gustav E. von Grunebaum, “The Response to Nature in Arabic Poetry,” Journal
of Near Eastern Studies 4 (1945): 139–40.
   12
      See Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Arabic Poetry,” 116–17.
                                                                      5

It is a key element in the qaßìdah genre, as it is an inevitable and
indispensable means for expression in most literatures. The well-
known medieval Arab literary critic Ibn Rashìq al-Qayrawànì (d. circa
1065 C.E.) states, “All poetry, except for small portions, is attribut-
able to the category of waßf, and it is not possible to limit nor thor-
oughly examine it,”13 because of its comprehensive, overwhelming
permeation of poetry. The poets followed in their predecessors’ foot-
steps in preserving this mimetic feature, because they perceived and
appreciated the important and valuable functions of waßf.
   Similar to the traditional Orientalists, classical Arabic scholars,
who focused largely on rhetorical and philological matters, seldom
thoroughly explored the theoretical dimensions of waßf. They used
it merely for categorization in a dìwàn (poetry collection) like other
terms, such as nasìb, ra˙ìl, or ghazal (amatory lyric). The 'Umdah of
Ibn Rashìq on the art of poetry, one of the well-known critical works
of medieval Arabic literature, has a section on waßf, a major part of
which is devoted to listing the names of poets who are adept in waßf
and their celebrated descriptive passages.14 Pursuing that tradition,
modern scholarly books on poetry often include in the table of con-
tents a chapter on “waßf,” in which the authors introduce represen-
tative descriptive passages, followed by their statement of how skillful
and beautiful the poet’s waßf is.
   In a way, waßf functioned as a criterion for the evaluation of
poetry. This function is supported by the etymological concept of
waßf ; apart from its meaning of “description,” waßf also means “char-
acterization,” “quality,” “attribute,” “distinguishing mark,” “adjective.”
The form I verb of waßf is waßafa, which means not only “to describe;
to characterize,” but also “to praise, laud, extol.” A poet sometimes
undertakes waßf in order to praise the object of description. Moreover,
a derivative noun of waßf, ßifah, which means “a quality, an attribute,
a property, and a description,” has two synonyms: ßinf and ˙àl.15 Íinf

  13
      Ibn Rashìq al-Qayrawànì, Al-'Umdah fì Ma˙àsin al-Shi'r wa Àdàbih wa Naqdih,
2nd ed., 2 vols. (Cairo: Al-Maktabah al-Tijàrìyyah al-Kubrà, 1955), 2: 294. The
translation is mine. The Arabic text corresponding to the first half of the quote is
“al-shi'r illà aqalluh ràji'un ilà bàbi-l-waßf.”
   14
      Modern scholars also have a number of works on the topic of waßf, e.g., Iliyyà
al-Óàwì, Fann al-Waßf wa Ta†awwuruh fì al-Shi'r al-'Arabì, 3rd ed. (Beirut: Dàr al-
Kitàb al-Lubnànì, 1980), and Alma Giese, Wasf bei Kushàjim (Berlin: K. Schwarz,
1981).
   15
      Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Islamic Texts
Society Trust, 1984), w-ß-f.
6                                   

means “a sort, species, constituent,” while ˙àl means “state, condi-
tion, case.”16 Thus, waßf, whose core meaning is description, contains
a secondary meaning of showing the states or attributes of an object
that can be an index for categorization or basis for evaluation. Na't,
translated as “an epithet or that whereby a person or thing is
described,” etc., is likewise often regarded as a synonym of waßf.17


                                  Waßf and Ekphrasis

In order to get a clear overview of waßf and grasp its operation, the
criticism of ekphrasis and the perspectives of interarts theory will be
helpful, inasmuch as ekphrasis can be considered a Western coun-
terpart of waßf. The term can be employed in two ways: first in its
original meaning and second in its modern sense. Originally, as a
term in Classical rhetoric, ekphrasis is understood as “clear and dis-
tinct description” of any object, standing almost as firm and long in
the traditions of Occidental civilization as waßf does in the Arabic.
The term in the title of this book intends this broader meaning of
ekphrasis. But the last three chapters deal with poetic descriptions
of works of art or artistic performance, and here the term also applies
to its current, narrower usage in the transdisciplinary field of inter-
medial and interarts studies which is concerned with the relations
among music, architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry, and other arts
and media. In this modern understanding, ekphrasis is “the verbal
representation of non-verbal texts.” The term “text” is here used to
refer to a complex sign in any culturally produced semiotic system.
The objects of description in the Arabic poems studied in Chapters
One and Two, the horse and the bee and honey-gathering, are nat-
ural objects and therefore not “texts” according to the narrower
understanding of ekphrasis in interarts studies, while they would be
acceptable subjects for rhetorical ekphrasis. The objects of poetic
description in the last three chapters—the design on a wine cup, the
wall painting (Chapter Three), the performance of a song (Chapter
Four), and the palace (Chapter Five)—are all man-made objects that
can be read as “texts.” If one finds these “verbal representations of


    16
         Lane, ß-n-f and ˙-w-l.
    17
         Lane, n-'-t.
                                                                            7

non-verbal texts” to be “clear and distinct,” one could also think of
them as satisfying the expectations of classical ekphrasis.
   Let me first clarify the origin of ekphrasis in the Western rhetorical
tradition. Etymologically, “ekphrasis” is derived from the Greek verb
“ekphratzein,” according to Fritz Graf, one of the authorities on the
historical study of ekphrasis. The word is derived from “phratzein,”
“to show in speech,” “to make clear,” while the prefix “ek” suggests
that the activity in question reaches its intended goal. Hence, Graf
draws out as its intended meaning “the (verbal) activity of clarifying
something completely without a remainder.” Ekphrasis as a term
originally comes from the field of rhetoric in Antiquity, translated
simply as “description,” as rhetorical exercise as well as descriptive
passage, as shown by its Latin equivalent “descriptio.” In Greek
rhetorical handbooks, ekphrasis would be defined as “a descriptive
text which places the matter communicated clearly and distinctly
before our eyes.”18
   Understanding ekphrasis as a long-standing rhetorical practice may
serve to elucidate waßf, which also had a function as a rhetorical
exercise in classical Arabic poetics. Bernhard Scholz states that as
late as the middle of the sixteenth century, ekphrasis was considered
as “a procedure for describing any object whatever.” He goes on to
say that what was important was not what we describe but how we
describe it.19 As a rhetorical technique ekphrasis aims at precise
description, regardless of its object. It is designed to enable speeches
to be persuasive, resorting to verbal force in producing an image
before the listener’s mental eye.20
   The aim of ekphrasis is to achieve enargeia, “pictorial vividness,”
the Greek term that Jean H. Hagstrum, noted for his celebrated
book The Sister Arts, attributes to Plutarch’s comment on Thucydides.21



  18
     See two articles in Pictures into Words: Theoretical and Descriptive Approaches to
Ekphrasis, ed. Valerie Robillard and Els Jongeneel (Amsterdam: VU University Press,
1998): Bernhard F. Scholz, “ ‘Sub Oculos Subiectio’: Quintilian on Ekphrasis and
Enargeia,” 73–99 and Claus Clüver, “Quotation, Enargeia, and the Function of
Ekphrasis,” 35–52. All the quotations in this paragraph are from Fritz Graf, “Ekphrasis:
Die Entstehung der Gattung in der Antike,” in Beschreibungskunst—Kunstbeschreibung:
Ekphrasis von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, ed. G. Boehm and H. Pfotenhauer (München:
Wilhelm Fink, 1995), 143–55, as translated by Scholz (76) or Clüver (36–37).
  19
     Scholz, 83.
  20
     Ibid., 77.
  21
     Jean H. Hagstrum, The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English
8                                

Enargeia attempts to represent verbally the object before the hearer’s/
reader’s eye, transforming the listener to spectator. As for the con-
cept of waßf in the Arabic tradition, Ibn Rashìq likewise claims that
the best waßf is a description that represents its object in such a way
that the listener almost envisions it with his/her own eyes. Ibn Rashìq
further says that some of his contemporary littérateurs (al-muta"akhkhirùn)
argue that the most eloquent waßf is a transformation of hearing
(sam' ) into seeing/vision (baßar). According to him, the origin of waßf
is “revealing” (kashf ) and “showing” (iΩhàr), as seen in the statement,
“The attire described (wußifat) the body underneath it.” Ibn al-Rùmì
says,
     When her gowns reveal what is above the edge of her veils,
     her slips repel the glance.22
However, the procedure of enargeia aids in the formation of a men-
tal picture to a degree which Ibn Rashìq does not develop in his
account of waßf. Nicolaos of Myra (the fifth century C.E.) describes
enargeia as follows:
     Enargeia is the distinctive feature of ekphrasis since it is this charac-
     teristic which most clearly distinguishes ekphrastic writing from mere
     reporting; the latter namely contains only bare representation of the
     object while the former tries to turn readers into spectators.23
Quintilian (35–97), the influential Roman rhetorician whose theories
Scholz has analyzed, had offered an earlier distinction between “vivid
illustration” (enargeia/evidentia), or, as some would call it, “represen-
tation” (repraesentatio), and “mere clearness” ( perspicuitas) stating, “ ‘mere
clearness’ merely lets itself be seen, whereas ‘vivid illustration’ thrusts
itself upon our notice.” He went on to say that “vivid illustration”
should display “facts . . . in their living truth to the eyes of the mind.”
Quintilian argued that oratorical speech must not only visualize
exactly the object of the speech through the audience’s ear, but also
stimulate the mind of the audience’s eye.24


Poetry from Dryden to Gray (1958; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1987), 11.
  22
      Ibn Rashìq, 2: 295. In this poem the word “reveal” corresponds to wußifat (the
passive voice of waßafat) in Arabic. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
  23
      Quoted by Scholz, 77.
  24
      For Quintilian’s idea in this paragraph, I rely on Scholz, 78. According to
Scholz, Quintilian shows in the procedure of achieving enargeia, a shift from the
                                                                    9

   In connection with our Arabic subjects, one of the significant
aspects of ekphrasis as understood by modern semiotics is the cultural
presuppositions that, as Scholz points out, “assume a community of
interpretation with a shared life-world and a set of cultural codes.”25
Modern criticism has come to realize that in the qaßìdah tradition as
in any other poetic tradition, for the reader/listener to understand
and appreciate a text it is indispensable to be cognizant of the generic
conventions and of intertextual and interreferential codes behind it,
and that it is as important to be familiar with what Scholz calls the
“life-world” represented in the poem, including its values and cus-
toms. Scholz, who makes no reference to Arabic poetry, continues:
     . . . we also have to acknowledge that it is not the presence of certain
     enargeia-signals in the text which turns us from readers into spectators,
     certain textual elements to which the reader has to pay attention in
     order to undergo that transformation, but the experience of undergo-
     ing that metamorphosis which allows us to say that the text in question
     possesses enargeia and hence deserves to be called ‘ekphrastic.’26
For the reader to be able to undergo the experience of that meta-
morphosis, he must have access to the cultural lexicon on which the
author drew in creating the text. Especially in such a long-established
poetic tradition as that of the qaßìdah, poets and listeners share a
whole range of expectations, including the ways in which objects will
be experienced and described. Therefore, mere suggestions may some-
times suffice, because the listeners will fill in the gaps and experi-
ence a description as “clear and distinct” and possessing enargeia
where to the non-initiate it may have no such qualities. There are,
as Scholz points out, no neutral “enargeia-signals”; they are always
predicated on shared cultural codes.
   On the other hand, Aristotle, in his discussion of mimesis in his
Poetics, used not the word enargeia, but the word energeia. Hagstrum
formulates an illustration of the difference between the two near-
homonyms:
     Enargeia implies the achievement in verbal discourse of a natural qual-
     ity or of a pictorial quality that is highly natural. Energeia refers to the
     actualization of potency, the realization of capacity or capability, the


“outer” ear to the inner eye, which is parallel to the shift from “mere” narration
to a specific type of description, 78.
  25
     Scholz, 79.
  26
     Ibid.
10                               

       achievement in art and rhetoric of the dynamic and purposive life of
       nature. Poetry possesses energeia when it has achieved its final form and
       produces its proper pleasure, when it has achieved its own indepen-
       dent being quite apart from its analogies with nature or another art,
       and when it operates as an autonomous form with an effectual work-
       ing power of its own. But Plutarch, Horace, and the later Hellenistic
       and Roman critics found poetry effective when it achieved verisimili-
       tude—when it resembled nature or a pictorial representation of nature.
       For Plutarchian enargeia, the analogy with painting is important; for
       Aristotelian energeia, it is not.27
Principles of mimetic verisimilitude indeed dominated later Greek,
Hellenistic and Roman painting and sculpture, and ekphrastic enargeia
seems to have shared these principles. They were not in force during
the European Middle Ages, but returned with the Renaissance, when
there also arose a new discourse about the rivalry of the represen-
tational powers of poetry and painting. The ideal of mimetic verisimil-
itude has retained a strong hold in the tradition of Western visual
representation and was prominent in the realisms of the nineteenth
century, both in literature and the visual arts, which provided the
cultural codes of traditional Orientalists. It might be interesting to
inquire to what extent their criteria for assessing the qaßìdah were
formed by such expectations. It is my thesis that, while waßf has
some functions similar to those of ekphrastic descriptions striving for
verisimilitude, it also has more profound and complicated functions
which allow it to create a unified imagery in a different way. Though
each waßf stands independently in a qaßìdah, it is closely linked, both
in form and content, to other motifs of the qaßìdah within the entire
poetic scheme.
   Mimesis is a form of representation. According to Charles Sanders
Peirce, “a representation is an object which stands for another so
that an experience of the former affords us a knowledge of the lat-
ter.”28 W. J. T. Mitchell, who bases his article on “Representation”
in part on Peirce’s semiotic, emphasizes that it is crucial to take into
account “the relationship between the representational material and
that which it represents,” and points out that “mimesis and imita-
tion are iconic forms of representation that transcend the differences


  27
      Hagstrum, 12.
  28
      Charles Sanders Peirce, “On Representations,” Writings of Charles S. Peirce, 6
vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1857–90), 3: 62.
                                                                      11

between media: I can imitate—i.e., mimic or produce a resemblance
of—a sound, speech act, gesture, or facial expression and, thus, icon-
ically reproduce it; icons are not just pictures.”29 In other words,
mimetic representation is not limited to pictorial means. But words
can only mimic, or made to resemble, sounds or speech acts. Except
for such rare instances, the relationship between verbal signs and
what they represent is conventional and arbitrary (Peirce calls it
“symbolic”). Verbal representations are therefore hardly ever iconic.
Nevertheless, there are many procedures by which descriptions can
induce listeners or readers to create a mental “image” of the object
described—whether such object is perceived in the phenomenal world
by our eyes or any of our other senses. Such procedures may involve
use of similes and similar tropes without disturbing the effect of
verisimilitude. But descriptions may also have allegorical, metaphor-
ical, or symbolic meanings deeply rooted in a culture’s world view
and value system, and similes can be not only conventional, but also
charged with cultural significance. That is frequently the case with
the verbal representation of certain objects (waßf ) in the qaßìdah. We
will examine how the qaßìdah poet offers his representational mate-
rial and how it is related to what it represents.


                Ekphrasis in Its Interarts Implication and Waßf

All of my subjects, particularly those in the first two chapters, are
related to the broader, rhetorical definition of ekphrasis outlined
above. However, my Arabic materials in Chapters Three, Four, and
Five can also be classified as ekphrastic in the narrower, modern
understanding—“verbal representation of non-verbal texts”—in con-
nection with the relationships between the arts.
   The practice of mimetic representation that was reintroduced into
the visual arts during the Renaissance led to a poetic practice of
writing poems on paintings or sculptures. There also arose a type
of poetry describing objects, such as landscapes, that were the objects
of new pictorial genres. Hagstrum’s book The Sister Arts (1958) dealt


  29
     W. J. T. Mitchell, “Representation,” Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank
Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1995), 14.
12                                 

with “the tradition of literary pictorialism” in eighteenth-century
English poetry, which he placed in the tradition of ekphrasis as well
as of a critical discourse based on a misunderstanding of Horace’s
phrase “ut pictura poesis” (understood to mean “as is painting so is
poetry”). Leo Spitzer had used the term ekphrasis in 1955 in an
essay on John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,”30 a much quoted
example of poetry evoking a work of visual art. Since then, the term
has been used in Western interarts studies, and over the last decades,
ekphrasis as a topic has inspired a scholarly discussion that has not
resulted in a consensus.
   Spitzer had defined ekphrasis loosely as “the poetic description of
a pictorial or sculptural work of art,”31 which served his own pur-
poses as well as much of the critical work done at the time, which
was mainly concerned with the relationship between verbal art and
visual art. Murray Krieger, who developed the impulse received from
Spitzer much later into a book-length study, Ekphrasis: The Illusion of
the Natural Sign (1992), recognized the existence of what he called a
“classic genre,” namely “the imitation in literature of a work of plas-
tic art,” but broadened the discourse on “the ekphrastic dimension
in literature”32 to the point that, in the view of James Heffernan and
others, the term no longer applied to any specific set of literary texts.
In his own study of ekphrasis Heffernan defined it as “the verbal
representation of visual representation.”33 While this definition is
broader than Spitzer’s and also than Krieger’s usage in that it also
covers verbal representations that are not literary, and visual ones
that are not “art,” it restricts the visual texts to representational
works and thereby intentionally excludes architecture, among other
kinds. The subjects of chapter three, the descriptions of a design on
a wine cup and a wall painting by two 'Abbàsid poets, Abù Nuwàs


    30
       Leo Spitzer, “The ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn,’ or Content vs. Metagrammar,”
in Essays on English and American Literature, ed. Anna Hatcher (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1962), 67–97.
    31
       Ibid., 72.
    32
       Murray Krieger, Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1992), 265–66.
    33
       James A. W. Heffernan, Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to
Ashbery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 3. Heffernan also states, “Where
Krieger defines ekphrasis as an impulse toward illusionistic word-painting, I treat it
as a kind of poetry that deliberately foregrounds the difference between verbal and
visual representation—and in so doing forestalls or at the very least complicates any
illusionistic effect,” 3 n. 191.
                                                                      13

and al-Bu˙turì, accord with both Spitzer’s and Heffernan’s definitions.
But qaßìdahs describing paintings or other sorts of visual art are rel-
atively rare, simply because of the scarcity of pictorial representations
in the Arabo-Islamic tradition. The concept of an Islamic prohibi-
tion of idolatry or visual/pictorial representation is widely accepted.
This ban is not due to explicit verses in the Qur"àn but to the Óadìth,
Prophetic sayings and acts.34 For this reason, qaßìdahs containing
ekphrastic descriptions as defined by Spitzer and Heffernan, if found,
are often about non-Arabic motifs, such as the Sàsànian (Persian)-
related motifs in the poems of Abù Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì, or by
poets who are of foreign descent. In the Arabo-Islamic poetic tra-
dition, therefore, there hardly exists the concept of the paragone (con-
test) between poetry and painting, or an equivalent to the Western
discourse on ut pictura poesis.35 I shall have more to say on this sub-
ject in the third chapter. It is interesting, however, to reflect on how
the prohibition of pictorial representation may have affected the qaßì-
dah genre. The qaßìdat al-mad˙ (panegyric), a sub-genre of the genre,
flourished especially in the medieval Arabo-Islamic dynasties, partly
because the sovereign was unable to resort to visual portraiture as
a means to spread his glorious image as the leader of the legitimized
Islamic polity.
   Returning to the discussion of ekphrasis in modern Western inter-
arts discourse, Heffernan’s restriction of the term to verbal representa-
tions of representational visual texts appeared arbitrary in view of
the many poems and even more numerous prose descriptions of non-
representational art (and non-art), including architecture, which serve
the same function and use the same forms and techniques as texts
covered by his definition. Moreover, there are verbal representations
of music and musical performance, of dance, and of multimedia
texts, likewise with identical or similar functions. Claus Clüver, dis-
puting the definitions offered by Leo Spitzer and James Heffernan,
has therefore proposed to define ekphrasis as “the verbal representation



   34
      See K. A. C. Creswell, “The Lawfulness of Painting in Early Islam,” Ars Islamica
11–12 (1946): 159–66.
   35
      Jaroslav Stetkevych claims, “It is only in the instances where the Horatian sim-
ile ut pictura poesis shows its semblance that form and content seem to unite more
closely under the general intention of mimetic function,” in his article “The Arabic
Qaßìdah: From Form and Content to Mood and Meaning,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies
3/4 (1979–80): 775.
14                                  

of real or fictitious texts composed in a non-verbal sign system.”36
While maintaining “verbal representation” (rather than “literary”),
Clüver widens the range from “visual art” and “visual representation”
to “non-verbal texts,” thus extending the term to cover a broader
context of interartistic connections. I choose his definition because
Western critics have constantly pointed out that the term “image”
refers to more than the merely visual, pictorial, or concrete; “imagery”
includes conceptual, symbolic, abstract images. Moreover, Clüver’s
understanding allows us to deal with waßf in this context of “imagery”
so far as the phenomenon of waßf appears involved in it. I include
the description of a singing performance and of a building in my
subjects because they clearly show the mission of waßf, that is, to
generate a certain unified concept exceeding the pictorial, visual,
mimetic images of objects. My Arabic materials in the last two chap-
ters fit neither Spitzer’s nor Heffernan’s definition inasmuch as these
discount music and architecture.37 However, the interarts perspec-
tives of ekphrasis established by Clüver’s definition of the term clearly
address the verbal representation of a songstress’s musical perform-
ance examined in chapter four and of the Alhambra palace ana-
lyzed in chapter five as ekphrastic poetry. Overall, the understanding
of ekphrasis in its modern sense allows us to look at waßf within the
perspectives of interarts studies that include perceptions beyond the
pursuit of mimetic imitation.


                                  Word and “Image”

In a poem the bard attempts to create an image with words. In his
book on Iconology, W. J. T. Mitchell explores “image as likeness” say-

   36
      Claus Clüver, “Ekphrasis Reconsidered: On Verbal Representations of Non-
Verbal Texts,” in Interart Poetics: Essays on the Interrelations Between the Arts and Media,
ed. Ulla-Britta Lagerroth, Hans Lund, and Erik Hedling (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997),
19–33, definition 26. Clüver temporarily revised his definition to read “verbaliza-
tion” instead of “verbal representation”; see “Quotation,” 49 and “The Musikgedicht:
Notes on an Ekphrastic Genre,” in Word and Music Studies: Defining the Field, ed.
Walter Bernhart, Steven Paul Scher, and Werner Wolf (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999),
187–204, def. 188. He has meanwhile returned to using the more effective “verbal
representation.”
   37
      Spitzer’s definition is more limited because he speaks only of literary texts and
visual art, whereas Heffernan includes all kinds of verbal texts and visual repre-
sentation; however, Heffernan’s definition excludes architecture, which he does not
consider as representational.
                                                                         15

ing that it is generally assumed that, though “the literal sense of the
word ‘image’ is a graphic, pictorial representation, a concrete, mate-
rial object,” notions like mental, verbal, or perceptual imagery are
not derived from this literal sense. Conversely, however, one can
also understand “the literal sense of the word ‘image’ as an absolutely
non- or even anti-pictorial meaning,” which originates with the
account of man’s creation “in the image and likeness of God.” The
original words translated now as “image” (Hebrew tselem, Greek eikon,
and Latin imago) are correctly understood, not as referring to any
material picture, but to an abstract, general, spiritual “likeness.” As
Mitchell formulates it: “image is to be understood not as ‘picture,’
but as ‘likeness,’ a matter of spiritual similarity.”38
   By this token, the Arabic concept of ßùrah, usually translated as
“image,” has etymologically a similar meaning to the “images” of
the above-mentioned foreign cultures: “mental image, a resemblance
of any object, formed or conceived by the mind, an idea, a mean-
ing of frequent occurrence in philosophical works,” in addition to a
meaning of “a shape,” “a picture,” “an effigy.”39 A derivative verb
of ßùrah, ßawwara (form II) means “to form, shape; to paint, draw;
to illustrate; to describe, represent,” and its verbal noun is taßwìr,
which is understood as representation. On the other hand, tamthìl,
a synonym of taßwìr and waßf, is listed as meaning, “representation;
exemplification; likening, comparison; picturing, description,” in an
Arabic-English dictionary, and its derivative verb (II) maththala means
“to make (something) like something, to compare, liken; to illustrate
something with pictures (ßawwara) to the extent as if it were seen.”40
For traditional Orientalists, the function of waßf would have been
tamthìl, which is likewise used by Ibn Rashìq for the explanation of
waßf: “to see a waßf is how it consists in (qàma bi) itself and represents


   38
      W. J. T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1986), 30–31.
   39
      Lane’s dictionary defines the meaning of ßùrah: “an effigy; an image, or a
statue; a picture; anything that is formed, fashioned, figured, or shaped, after the
likeness of any of God’s creatures, animate or inanimate: it is said that the maker
of an effigy or image will be punished on the day of resurrection, and will be com-
manded to put life into it; and that the angels will not enter a house in which a
ßùrah is present.” Lane, ß-w-r.
   40
      See Lane, m-th-l and Mu˙ammad ibn Mukarram Ibn ManΩùr, Lisàn al-'Arab,
15 vols. (Beirut: Dàr Íàdir, 1955–56), m-th-l. Tamthìl has a figurative and metaphor-
ical meaning in the classical Arabic rhetoric, balàghah. Here I do not deal with the
concept of tamthìl in terms of balàghah.
16                              

pictorially (maththala) the described/the object (al-mawßùf ) in the heart
of the listener.”41
    What I argue is that in traditional Arabic poetry abstract, spirit-
ual, or metaphorical concepts can be revealed through mimetic,
descriptive devices. As my study will show, what characterizes waßf
is a different understanding and usage of connotation from that found
in rhetorical ekphrasis. Therefore, I must view waßf against the
Western concept of ekphrasis as “clear and distinct description” as
if it creates a mirror image of objects. I use ekphrasis as a foil against
which to set the descriptive process and meaning of waßf because
what waßf ultimately aims to achieve is beyond the scope of rhetor-
ical ekphrasis.
    In his analysis of similes in the classical Arabic nasìb, Michael Sells
claims, following Roman Jakobson, that there are “two primary forms
of poetic signification: the metaphorical, based on relations of simi-
larity, and the metonymic, based upon relationships of contiguity.”
He goes on to say that the nasìb’s simile contains “the relationship
between apparent object of description (the beloved),” depending on
physical likeness, and “the symbolic analogue of the beloved (the lost
garden),” depending on symbolic resemblance.42 His idea can be
applied not only to a waßf of the nasìb but also to that of a qaßìdah.
If the minute descriptions of objects can operate with relations of
physical likeness to other objects that represent these objects by their
resemblance to them, metaphorical concepts yielded through the
descriptions are shown by relations of symbolic or “spiritual” like-
ness, in Mitchell’s sense. In the qaßìdah, symbolic analogue often oper-
ates by the relations of metonymy or synecdoche. Needless to say,
the intertextual and interreferential characteristics of the Arabic qaßì-
dah play an important role allowing objects to symbolize some con-
cept or a certain larger image. This function of symbolic analogue
is largely dependent on the readers’ knowledge of the classical Arabic
poetic tradition and probably their imaginative processes.
    In the qaßìdah, hence, there often are two simultaneous operations:
one occurs on the level of mimetic, concrete, and physical repre-



  41
     Ibn Rashìq, 2: 294.
  42
     Sells, “Ghùl,” 130–31. See also Roman Jakobson, “Two Aspects of Language
and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,” in Language: An Enquiry into Its Meaning
and Function, ed. Ruth Nanda Anshen (New York: Harper, 1957), 99–100.
                                                         17

sentation, and the other on the level of intangible, abstract, and sym-
bolic representation. Mimetic representation proceeds through rela-
tions of resemblance; abstract representation functions through symbolic
relations. Mimetic representation is seen, for example, in the com-
parison of a beloved to a gazelle, while symbolic representation is
revealed in such instances as establishing a metonymic relationship
between the Alhambra palace and the ruler. In the poetic tradition,
mimetic representation and symbolic representation operate simulta-
neously and complement each other to create an integrated multi-
layered imagery. In this study, I hope to demonstrate in a way that
is consistent with contemporary Western criticism that waßf is not
merely mimetic, but operates also metaphorically and metonymically
to generate and convey symbolic and emblematic meanings.
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                                 CHAPTER ONE

    CONTEST AS CEREMONY: A PRE-ISLAMIC POETIC
     CONTEST IN HORSE DESCRIPTION OF IMRU"
          AL-QAYS VS. 'ALQAMAH AL-FAÓL*


     The Horse
     God created the horse from the wind. Many prophets have proclaimed
     the following: When God wanted to create the horse, He said to the
     South Wind: “I want to make a creature out of you. Condense.” And
     the wind condensed. Archangel Gabriel immediately appeared and
     took a handful of that stuff and presented it to God, Who made a
     brown bay or burnt chestnut (kumayt—red mixed with black) upon say-
     ing: “I call you Horse; I make you Arabian and I give you the chest-
     nut color of the ant; I have hung happiness from the forelock which
     hangs between your eyes; you shall be the lord of other animals. Men
     shall follow you wherever you go; you shall be as good for pursuit as
     for flight; you shall fly without wings; riches shall be on your back
     and fortune shall come through your mediation.” Then He put on the
     horse the mark of glory and happiness (ghurrah)—a white mark in the
     middle of the forehead.
                    Letter of the Emir Abd-el-Kader to General E. Daumas
                               (General E. Daumas, The Horses of the Sahara)1

The chivalrous hunt on horseback is one of the major Arabic poetic
motifs, taking place in the fakhr or self-exaltation section within the
tripartite structure of the traditional Arabic qaßìdah. The horse is the
symbol of speed, prowess, prosperity, glory, happiness, immortality,


   * An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the annual meeting of the
Middle East Studies Association of North America, Orlando, Florida, November,
2000, and appeared in Arabic as Akiko Motoyoshi Sumi, “Al-Mubàràh ˇaqsan
I˙tifàliyyan: Mubàràh Shi'riyyah Jàhiliyya fì Waßf al-Khayl bayna Imri" al-Qays wa
'Alqamah al-Fa˙l,” Al-Ab˙àth 50–51 (2002–2003), pp. 95–144.
   1
     General E. Daumas, The Horses of the Sahara, trans. Sheila M. Ohlendorf, revised,
augmented with commentary, The Emir Abd-el-Kader, 9th ed. (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1968), 7. Daumas relied on the Emir Abd-el-Kader (1808–83) for
the information on the horse because he was a noted Algerian horseman and scholar
as well as an illustrious chieftain. There is a similar ˙adìth in 'Alì ibn 'Abd al-
Ra˙màn ibn Hudhayl al-Andalusì, Óilyat al-Fursàn wa Shi'àr al-Shuj'àn, ed. Mu˙ammad
'Abd al-Ghinà Óasan (Cairo: Dàr al-Ma'àrif lil-ˇibà'ah wa al-Nashr, 1951), 27–28.
20                                    

fertility, and vital force. It is said that the horse is called khayl in
Arabic for its ikhtiyàl (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) in walking, and
al-Jà˙iΩ (776–869), the prominent classical Arab littérateur, relates
that its natural disposition is likewise zahw (splendor, pride, haugh-
tiness, arrogance, vanity) in walking.2
   Imru" al-Qays ibn Óujr and 'Alqamah ibn 'Abadah al-Tamìmì
al-Fa˙l, the celebrated Jàhilì (pre-Islamic) poets, bequeathed to us
qaßìdahs of the chivalrous hunt in the context of the poetic contest,
mu'àra∂ah. Mu'àra∂ah (opposition, contest) indicates literary imitation
or emulation in the Arabic poetic tradition.3 A poet composes a work
in the same rhyme and meter as those of his target poem, while
attempting to outdo that original. The imitation of another poet’s
work was considered an act of homage. In imitation and emulation,
waßf or description plays an important role, for it offers a basis for
comparison in deciding the victor of a contest. The concept of
mu'àra∂ah existed already as early as the Jàhiliyyah or the pre-Islamic
era. A well-known khabar (anecdote) concerns a poetic contest in the
waßf of the horse between the two Jàhilì poets, Imru" al-Qays and
'Alqamah al-Fa˙l; 'Alqamah fought and won a verbal duel in describ-
ing horses with Imru" al-Qays, judged by Imru" al-Qays’s wife Umm
Jundab;4 as a result, Imru" al-Qays divorced her and then 'Alqamah
married her, whereupon 'Alqamah was given the honorific title,
“fa˙l”—“stallion” or “master poet.” This chapter aims to explore
the waßf of the chivalrous hunt in the two qaßìdahs in association with
the khabar, investigating the function and role of the waßf. This horse
description is considered ekphrasis in its original meaning, “clear and
distinct description” of any object.

  2
     See al-Andalusì, 28–29.
  3
     Information about mu'àra∂ah in this paragraph is largely taken from, A. Schippers,
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “mu'àra∂a.” According to A. Schippers there
are related notions of mu'àra∂ah: naqì∂ah, mufàkharah, and munàfarah. Naqì∂ah is under-
stood as a contradicting poem, flyting; a form of poetic dueling in which tribal or
personal invectives are exchanged, usually in pairs, using the same rhyme and meter.
Mufàkharah is meant either as a self-praise or a contest for precedence and glory.
G. J. H. van Gelder, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “na˚à"i∂.” As a con-
test, mufàkharah occurred at definite times after the pilgrimage or at random (espe-
cially, at the sùq of 'UkàΩ) generally between groups, tribes and clans and occasionally
between families and individuals. Bichr Farès, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed.,
s.v. “mufàkhara.” There is a book on Persian poetry dealing with mu'àra∂ah: Paul
Losensky, Welcoming Fighànì: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal
(Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1998).
   4
     For the vocalization of the name of Imru" al-Qays’s wife, though some ver-
sions of the khabar give “Jundub,” most versions vocalize it as “Jundab.”
                                                                    21

   As I stated earlier, the Arabic qaßìdah has been criticized by many
traditional Orientalists who claim that the qaßìdah is merely pure
objective description and that the description bears no meaning other
than what is described.5 Objecting to this criticism, I argue that waßf
does not merely describe the physical object in question, but more-
over conveys abstract, metaphysical concepts through emblem, sym-
bol, and metaphor in the social and cultural context. In the present
case, I argue that the two descriptions are intended not to tell us
merely about the appearance of the horses, but rather to convey the
pre-Islamic tribal notion of virility (murù"ah) that implies strength,
aggressive power and violence, and fertility, embodying the ideal
image of the persona himself and his tribal community. With the
emblem of the horse, our understanding of the poems, both in social
and individual domains, is enhanced by the khabar, as it situates the
two odes in the narrative context of a poetic contest. Wit and play-
fulness in the anecdotes serve to explicate the odes in terms of sex-
uality and masculinity from the standpoint of the female judge Umm
Jundab.
   Despite the wide diffusion of this story of the two poets, the prob-
lem of the remarkable resemblance between the two poems has not
been seriously and critically studied.6 Strictly speaking, the phenom-
enon is not one of similarities, but rather of identical lines that con-
stitute approximately one-third of each qaßìdah; eighteen verses out
of the forty-six-verse qaßìdah by 'Alqamah are the same as those from
the fifty-five-verse qaßìdah by Imru" al-Qays, as I show in a graph
on the following page. Their verse sequences are dissimilar, and their
contents or motifs are somewhat different, but many of the descrip-
tive lines that contain the most important elements for the contest
are identical. The overlapping verses are mostly found in the fakhr
(boast) or the hunt section. There are three possible sources of this
overlap: 1. ta∂mìn—that the second poet quoted or appropriated the
original lines in his own poem; 2. the vagaries of oral transmission,
through which lines of two very closely associated poems in a pas-
sage of identical rhyme, meter and subject, got confused; 3. literary




  5
     Cf. pp. 2–4 in the Introduction.
  6
     The German Orientalist Wilhelm Ahlwardt raised the issue in his book Bemerkungen
über die Aechtheit der alten Arabischen Gedichte (Osnabrück: Biblio Verlag, 1972), 68–71.
                         The overlapping verses in the odes of Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l




                                                                                                                                       22
Imru" al-Qays
    nasìb
    nasìb                ra˙ìl
                         ra˙ìl                                                     fakhr

1 • • • • • • 8 9 10 • • • • 15 • • • 19 20 21 • • • • 25 26 27 28 • 30 • 32 • • 35 • • • • • 41 42 43 44 45 • • • • 50 • 52 53 • 55




                                                                                                                                        
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 • • 13 14 • 16 17 18 19 20 • • • 24 • 26 • 28 • • • 32 • • 35 36 37 38 39 • • 42 43 44 45 46

            nasìb                ra˙ìl                                    fakhr
'Alqamah al-Fa˙l
* Some of the overlapping lines are not exactly identical; for each variant part, see the footnotes of Imru" al-Qays’s poem.
                                                                       23

manipulation of the texts. Given that we have no means of establishing
the original textual authenticity or even authorship of pre-Islamic
poems—not to mention the historicity of the (less stable) prose khabar—
our argument and discussion take as its basis recensions of the poems
considered authentic/authoritative by the classical tradition, in the
context of biographical anecdotes that accompany the poems or are
associated with the poems in that tradition. There is also the possi-
bility that the khabar about the contest brought the poems into closer
proximity, thereby allowing for textual “contamination.”
   With reference to the concept of contest, I mainly use as theo-
retical tools Johan Huizinga’s well-known work Homo Ludens: A Study
of the Play-Element in Culture, Walter J. Ong’s Fighting for Life: Contest,
Sexuality, and Consciousness, and Ward Parks’s Verbal Dueling in Heroic
Narrative.7 First, I analyze three variant versions of the khabar about
the horse descriptions in the two qaßìdahs in terms of poetic contest.
Then, I examine the ode by Imru" al-Qays, followed by the explo-
ration of the poem by 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l, based on the former’s ode;
in both, I focus on the functions and the meaning of the horse
descriptions in the fakhr (boast). Imru" al-Qays’s qaßìdah is explored
first, because he recites before 'Alqamah does in the poetic duel.
I do not examine in detail the nasìb and the ra˙ìl sections in the
two poems, except as they contribute to the aim of the present
exploration.


                                   Two Jàhilì Poets

Imru" al-Qays ibn Óujr and 'Alqamah ibn 'Abadah al-Tamìmì al-
Fa˙l are among the most celebrated poets in the pre-Islamic era.
Imru" al-Qays, who is said to have died in circa 550 C.E., has been
considered the foremost poet of pre-Islamic Arabia. He is the author
of one of the Mu'allaqàt (The Suspended Poems), the anthology of
seven canonical masterpieces, “Golden Odes,” transmitted through
ràwìs (reciters) in the eighth century C.E., to which three other poems



   7
     Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: The
Beacon Press, 1962). Walter J. Ong, Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981). Ward Parks, Verbal Dueling in Heroic
Narrative (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).
24                                   

are sometimes appended.8 It is reported that he was the descendant
of the royal house of Kindah, the Arab tribe that spread all over
Arabia in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E. from southern Arabia
into central and northern Arabia. Imru" al-Qays was born at the
court of Óujr to the last king of the Kindah; he was his youngest
son, but was expelled more than once from his father’s house because
of his passion for poetry, and in particular for erotic verse. Noted
for his wayward youth and amorous affairs, during his expulsion
from court, he wandered in the desert, hunting, drinking, and com-
posing songs. Then his father was assassinated by the Banù Asad.
From this time on he devoted himself to avenging his father. Helped
by other tribes, he was able to inflict substantial damage on his ene-
mies, but he was not content and continued in his pursuit of revenge.
It is said that the poet met with a tragic end; he was killed through
wearing a robe permeated with poison which was a present given
to him by Justinian, the Byzantine emperor.9
    'Alqamah al-Fa˙l was active in the mid-sixth century, and very
little is known of his life.10 The Arab critics reckon 'Alqamah one
of the fu˙ùl (the plural form of fa˙l) or master poets. His poetry
speaks about the battles waged between the Lakhmids and the
Ghassànids. It is reported that as the spokesman of his tribe he
succeeded in releasing his brother Sha"s and the other Tamìmites
who were imprisoned by the Ghassànid king, al-Óàrith b. Jabalah
(c. 529–69).11 Of these two poets—Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah,
there is no doubt that Imru" al-Qays has been regarded as a more
distinguished poet than 'Alqamah who, nevertheless, has been accorded
the epithet, al-Fa˙l (the master poet), literally “stallion.”12


    8
      See H. A. R. Gibb, Arabic Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 22 and
Reynold A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs (1930; reprint, Richmond: Curzon
Press, 1995), 101 n. According to Nicholson, the best edition of the Mu'allaqàt is
Sir Charles Lyall’s A Commentary on Ten Ancient Arabic Poems (Calcutta, 1894). It con-
tains the seven Mu'allaqàt by Imru" al-Qays, ˇarafah, 'Amr ibn Kulthùm, Óàrith
ibn Óillizah, 'Antarah, Zuhayr, Labìd and three other poems by A'shà, al-Nàbighah,
and 'Abìd ibn al-Abraß. For a translation and analysis of the Mu'allaqah of Imru"
al-Qays, see Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 241–85.
    9
      Information about Imru" al-Qays in this paragraph is largely taken from
S. Boustany, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Imru" al-ays b. Óudjr.”
   10
      This date is according to Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol. 2,
Poesie bis ca. 430 H. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975), 120–22.
   11
      Information about 'Alqamah in this paragraph is largely taken from G. E. von
Grunebaum, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “'Al˚ama b. 'Abada al-Tamìmì.”
   12
      Khabar functions as etiological myth, “Why was 'Alqamah called ‘al-Fa˙l’?—
                                                                   25

                     Waßf as Sexual Metaphor in Khabar

In the classical Arabo-Islamic written literary tradition, both khabar
and poetry are presented originally as oral transmission. A khabar is
a narrative anecdote or episode, generally composed of isnàd (chain
of authorities) and matn (the narrative itself ).13 Here let us first con-
sider the formation process of the khabar about the contest between
Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah in connection with their qaßìdahs. Due
to poetry’s memorable oral formulas, its transmission process is more
stable, and it should be better preserved and more authentic than
akhbàr (plural of khabar).14 On the basis of this hypothesis, we can
propose that the khabar may in some cases be derived from the
poems. During the long period of the oral transmission of the odes
of Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah, the shared rhyme and meter and
the prominent horse-description passages may have suggested, within
the Arabic poetic and cultural tradition, the scenario of a mu'àra∂ah
or poetic contest between the two poets. In other words, I believe
that, with the device of the mechanism of contest and play, the
khabar shows its desire to explain the resemblance between the two
odes. That is, the poetic or technical characteristics of mu'àra∂ah, i.e.,
having two poems that share the same rhyme and meter, suggests
or generates the idea that there actually was a mu'àra∂ah—a poetic
contest between the two poets.
   The khabar concerning the poetic contest reveals to us that peo-
ple interpreted the two Jàhilì poems in a particular manner. It is
clear from the gist of the khabar that they interpreted the ekphras-
tic description of the horse sexually.15 The sexual prowess that the



because one day. . . .” Others were given the title “al-fa˙l” in the Arabo-Islamic
tradition (Imru" al-Qays, etc.), cf. ˇabaqàt Fu˙ùl al-Shu'arà"; for 'Alqamah, it is also
an epithet “'Alqamah al-Fa˙l.”
   13
      Isnàd assumes the form of X told me that he heard Y telling a story which
he had heard from Z.
   14
      For mnemonic features of Arabic poetry, see Monroe, “Oral Composition,”
Michael Zwettler, Oral Tradition, and Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 81.
   15
      The interpretation of the khabar as a sexual double-entendre is discussed in
Suzanne Stetkevych, “Pre-Islamic Panegyric and the Poetics of Redemption,”
Reorientations/Arabic and Persian Poetry, ed. Suzanne Stetkevych (Bloomington, IN:
Indiana University Press, 1994), 20. See also James E. Montgomery, “'Alqama al-
Fa˙l’s Contest with Imru" al-Qays: What Happens When a Poet Is Umpired by
His Wife?” Arabica: Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 44 (1997): 144–49 and
Mu˙ammad ibn 'Abd al-Ra˙man al-Hadlaq, “Qißßat Naqd Umm Jundab li-Imri"
26                                  

khabar emphasizes is merely one aspect, which is prominent enough to
make a joke, but I will argue that what the poetic text tries to convey
to us is the concept of murù"ah, mature manhood, manly perfection,
or male aggression.16 I will examine three versions of the khabar (anec-
dote) regarding the poetic duel: two versions from the Mufa∂∂aliyyàt
(khabar 1 and 2) and one from Al-Shi'r wa al-Shu'arà" (Book of Poetry
and Poets) of Ibn Qutaybah (khabar 3).17 Their plots are very simi-
lar, and the verses quoted are almost the same, but they differ as
to the reason for Umm Jundab’s judgment in favor of 'Alqamah.
Khabar 1 attributes it to Imru" al-Qays’s goading his horse with his
legs in his poem. Although khabar 2 gives the same reason as khabar
1, it adds information about Umm Jundab’s dissatisfaction with Imru"
al-Qays’s sexual performance; thus it makes explicit the khabar’s
double-entendre of horse description as sexual description. Khabar 3
gives the final verse of 'Alqamah’s poem as evidence to show how 'Alqa-
mah succeeds in stirring his horse in a civilized manner with a bridle.


                     Khabar 1 from the Mufa∂∂aliyyàt18

     On the authority of al-Rustamì and Imrà" Abì 'Ikrimah al-Îabbì:

     'Alqamah was alive in the dawn of the Jàhiliyyah and its traditions.
     He was a friend of Imru" al-Qays and visited him one day. One of
     them asked his ['Alqamah’s] companion, “Which of us is a better
     poet?” One of them said, “I am,” and the other said, “I am.” They
     reviled each other until Imru" al-Qays said, “Describe your she-camel
     and horse, and I will describe my she-camel and horse.” 'Alqamah

al-Qays wa 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l,” Majallat Jàmi'at al-Malik Sa'ùd, Al-Àdàb 2–1 (1990):
3–35 on the variants of this khabar.
   16
      B. Farès says that murù"ah is one of the Arabic terms whose meaning is impre-
cise, being understood as “good nature and observance of Qurànic laws,” “dignity
and compassion,” “urbanity,” “ideal manhood.” Murù"ah, according to Farès, con-
tains both the physical qualities of man mar" and his moral qualities by a process
of spiritualisation and abstraction. B. Farès, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v.
“murù"a.”
   17
      Abù al-'Abbàs al-Mufa∂∂al ibn Mu˙ammad al-Îabbì, Dìwàn al-Mufa∂∂alìyàt,
commentary by Abù Mu˙ammad al-Qàsim ibn Mu˙ammad ibn Bashshàr al-Anbàrì,
2 vols., Arabic Text, ed. Charles James Lyall (Beirut: Ma†ba'at al-Àbà" al-Yasù'iyyìn,
1921), 2: 763–64. 'Abd Allàh ibn Muslim Ibn Qutaybah, Kitàb al-Shi'r wa al-Shu'arà",
2 vols., ed. with commentary A˙mad Mu˙ammad Shàkir (Cairo: Dàr al-Ma'àrif,
1966), 218–19.
   18
      All translations of the three khabars are mine.
                                                     27

answered, “Yes, I will do it, if the judge between you and me is this
woman behind you.” The woman was Imru" al-Qays’s wife from ˇayyi".

Imru" al-Qays said,

  O my two friends, pass by Umm Jundab with me
   and we will fulfill the needs of a tormented heart.

'Alqamah said,

  You departed after she left you with no direction;
    it was not right of her to shun you.
  Those nights when we still gave each other sincere advice,
    nights when [our tribes] were settled at al-Sitàr and Ghurrab.

When they finished reciting their poems, they turned to the wife of
Imru" al-Qays. She said, “The stallion of Ibn 'Abadah 'Alqamah is
better than yours.” Imru" al-Qays asked her how was it better. She
said, “Because you goaded him and kicked him with your legs, while
he went straight after the quarry.” He ['Alqamah] said,

  When we hunt, we do not sneak up on [our game] stealthily,
   but we call from far: Let’s go!

Then, Imru" al-Qays got angry with her and divorced her.


               Khabar 2 from the Mufa∂∂aliyyàt

On the authority of A˙mad ibn 'Abìd and others of our shaykhs:

Imru" al-Qays got married to a woman from ˇayyi", and she hated
him. On the wedding night, she detested him and started saying: “O
night, become morning! O best of youth, it’s morning! [Get up!]” He
looked around and saw it was still night, so he stayed [in bed] till
morning. Then 'Alqamah, who was one of the master poets of the
Jàhiliyyah and his friend, visited him. They narrated the tradition which
was above-mentioned, except that they related as follows:

Imru" al-Qays recited,

  O my two friends, pass by Umm Jundab with me
   and we will fulfill the needs of a tormented heart.

He continued till the end of the poem. 'Alqamah said,
28                                

       You departed after she left you with no direction;
         it was not right of her to shun you.
       Those nights when we still gave each other sincere advice,
         nights when [our tribes] were settled at al-Sitàr and Ghurrab.

     When they finished their poems, they turned to the woman from
     ˇayyi", Imru" al-Qays’s wife. She said that 'Alqamah’s horse is better
     than yours. Imru" al-Qays asked her how was it better. She said,
     “Because you goaded him and kicked him with your legs, while he
     ['Alqamah] went straight after the quarry.” He ['Alqamah] said, “When
     we hunt,” (the above-mentioned verse). Then he was mad at her and
     said, “You hate me. What made you that?” She said, “You are heavy
     in the chest, light in the hips. You come too fast and you are very
     slow to get an erection.” When he heard this, he divorced her.


     Khabar 3 from Kitàb al-Shi'r wa al-Shu'arà" by Ibn Qutaybah

     You (Imru" al-Qays) said,

       To the leg he is fiery, to the whip like a flood,
         when you chide him, he takes off like an ostrich.

     'Alqamah said,

       He overtook them [the she-camels] and galloped off,
        passing quickly like a pouring cloud.19

     So, he ['Alqamah] reached his game beast, and he galloped off by
     pulling his steed’s bridle. He did not hit it with a whip, nor urge it
     with his legs, nor goad it. Imru" al-Qays said, “What is more poetic
     than I in him? After all, you must be in love with him!” Then he
     divorced her, and 'Alqamah got her. He ['Alqamah] was named “al-
     Fa˙l” [lit. “stallion”]. It was said, “There was a man in his tribe called
     'Alqamat al-Khaßì [“the eunuch”]. They distinguished them with the
     name.”
The khabar also puns on the double meaning of a “stallion” and a
“master poet” in the epithet fa˙l, the title awarded to the winning
poet. Fa˙l also has another meaning: a male animal of any kind.20


  19
      This is line 45 of the version of al-Sandùbì, 48; Imru" al-Qays, Shar˙ Dìwàn
Imri" al-Qays, ed. Óasan al-Sandùbì (Cairo: Ma†ba'at al-Istiqàmah, 1939).
  20
      According to Lane, fa˙l has the meanings of a male animal of any kind,
                                                                29

By conferring the title of al-Fa˙l on 'Alqamah, the woman judges
him the master both in poetic creation and in sexual prowess. His
poetic accomplishment, his description of the horse, serves to show
heroic as well as sexual prowess. The horse is a symbol of mas-
culinity, reproduction, and hence, immortality. This symbol is elicited
not only through the sexual double-entendre of the khabar, but also
through the image of the horse in a generic sense.
  Ong explains the image of horses in William Faulkner’s comic
novella, Spotted Horses, as the symbol of masculinity, both in the sub-
conscious and real-world mechanics.21 The story is, according to Ong,
as follows:
     When each townsman has bought himself one of the horses, by now
     untied and running loose in a crude corral, the men cannot of course
     catch their animals (ineffectiveness of males in dealing with their own mas-
     culinity—the male clown figure, the limp phallus), and some of the horses
     break loose. One of them bolts into the home of a Mrs. Armstid, who
     with magnificent womanly indignation snatches up a washboard and
     smashes it into the animal’s face—the stupid male, boys-will-be-boys
     game playing is tearing up her home.22
The inability of the men to control their horses expresses their inabil-
ity to govern their own masculinity and sexual urges. Likewise, the
steed that is broken in and trained to serve in battle and in the hunt
represents the native male who curbs his passions and channels his
aggression to the service of the tribe.23 As for the khabar, by cursing
Imru" al-Qays’s horse description, Umm Jundab intends to dispar-
age his sexual competence, as she clarified in the end of khabar 2.
Her vilification was devastating for Imru" al-Qays. This anecdote is
amusing because Imru" al-Qays was well-known as a womanizer even
when he was a mere youth.
   Khabar 3 closes by informing us that there was another man in


particularly a stallion or a he-camel, and the verb of form I, fa˙ala iblahu, means,
“He sent a male camel among the [she-] camels.” In other words, fa˙l signifies
masculinity as opposed to femininity. Fa˙l, therefore, should emphasize “being a
male.” Another meaning of fa˙l is “a poet,” or “anyone who, when he vies with a
poet, is judged to have excelled him is called a fa˙l.” Therefore, fa˙l itself means
being or becoming a male, having won a (poetic) contest, and incorporates with
the three meanings, a stallion, masculinity, and a contest. Lane, f-˙-l.
  21
     See Ong, 62–63. See also The Portable Faulkner, ed. Malcolm Cowley (New
York: Viking Press, 1954), 367–439.
  22
     Quoted by Ong, 63. Emphasis is mine.
  23
     See Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 35–36.
30                                

the tribe named 'Alqamah, in addition to our 'Alqamah, and that
the former was called al-Khaßì (the gelded horse/castrated man),
while the latter was named al-Fa˙l (the strong, energetic stallion/
virile man). The derivative verb and noun of each word are respec-
tively khaßà (to geld, to castrate, to emasculate), khußyah (testicle), and
tafa˙˙ala (to be manly, masculine) and fu˙ùlah (the quality of being
a male, masculineness).24 The information of the contrast between
al-Fa˙l and al-Khaßì does not draw much attention from the reader,
considering its brief appearance at the end. Nevertheless, it significantly
hints at the khabar’s desire to emphasize that 'Alqamah is al-Fa˙l,
whose meaning is in opposition to al-Khaßì and is based on his sex-
ual strength and virility.
   Hence, for Umm Jundab, the horse description is understood as
sexual metaphor, or at least a double-entendre. She measures the
quality of the horses in sexual prowess and stamina by identifying
them with the poets. Line 39 says, “when you chide him, he takes
off like an ostrich.” This is interpreted metaphorically to mean that
Imru" al-Qays comes too fast and is very slow to get an erection in
khabar 2. On the other hand, 'Alqamah is fair and goes straight after
his game, which means that he is spontaneously active and aggres-
sive. Moreover, 'Alqamah’s horse, in the final line of the poem, over-
takes the she-camels and gallops off, passing quickly like a pouring
cloud, as seen in khabar 3. Umm Jundab quotes it, for she suggests
that 'Alqamah’s steed does not become fatigued even after a good
amount of running, while Imru" al-Qays’s gets weary very quickly;
that is why he needs to be goaded. Although it would be a mistake
to reduce Imru" al-Qays’s and 'Alqamah’s horse descriptions to an
amusing sexual double-entendre—which is the gist of the khabar—
the khabar does provide a useful critical function by alerting us to
the underlying masculine symbolism of the horse description and the
emblematic identification of the steed with the poet (see further
below); with this in mind, we can now turn to the poems themselves.




  24
       Lane, kh-ß-y and f-˙-l.
                                                                   31

                 Waßf as Fertility, Speed, and Power in Poems

We can only speculate about the causes of the remarkable overlap
in the two qaßìdahs of Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l, partic-
ularly in the horse description that dominates the fakhr section. Until
the oral-formulaism of pre-Islamic poetry was demonstrated by the
application of the Parry-Lord theory of oral poetry (by James T.
Monroe in 1972), the authenticity of the entire corpus of pre-Islamic
qaßìdah had been subject to doubt.25 According to Monroe, in 1925
the authenticity of pre-Islamic poetry was openly questioned by the
Egyptian scholar ˇàhà Óusayn and the British Orientalist D. S.
Margoliouth.26 They believed that almost all pre-Islamic poems had
been forged in the Islamic period. Monroe, however, states that the
oral-formulaic evidence proves that pre-Islamic poetry “could not
have been forged by literate authors in Islamic times.”27 Another
issue related to our two poems may be the problem of saraq/sariqah
(theft or plagiarism).28 The nineteenth century German Orientalist
Wilhelm Ahlwardt, considering the fact that there are identical lines
in the poems, was of the opinion that 'Alqamah plagiarized Imru"
al-Qays’s poem because he was unable to produce so excellent a
hunt scene.29
   However, if we take into consideration that the entire corpus of
pre-Islamic poetry is heavily based on intertextuality and interrefer-
entiality and that the concept of plagiarism in the Arabo-Islamic cul-
ture is considerably different from the modern concept of plagiarism
in the West, the discussion of plagiarism with regard to a corpus of
orally transmitted pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry may well
prove futile. Monroe explains, “An oral poem has no fixed text until



  25
      Monroe, “Oral Composition,” 39.
  26
      See Monroe, “Oral Composition,” 1–2. ˇàhà Óusayn, Fì l-Adab al-Jàhilì (Cairo:
Dàr al-Ma'àrif, 1958), 63. D. S. Margoliouth, “The Origins of Arabic Poetry,”
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1925): 417–49.
   27
      Monroe, “Oral Composition,” 39. Zwettler also has a book on the same sub-
ject, Oral Tradition.
   28
      The concept of inti˙àl can be applied to the case of Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah.
Although it is often interpreted as forgery or falsification of verses, Zwettler believes
that inti˙àl should be understood as “one of false, dubious, or mixed attribution:
that is, verses judged to be by one poet were thought to have been wrongly claimed
by, or ascribed to, another,” 197.
   29
      Ahlwardt, 68–71.
32                                   

it is written down from a composer’s dictation. Before this moment,
its ‘text’ circulates from mouth to mouth, never being retold word
for word or line for line in exactly the same way.”30 By the time
medieval philologists compiled a corpus of the pre-Islamic poetry in
the eighth century C.E. in pursuit of the knowledge of its gram-
matical structure and vocabulary for the interpretation of the Qur"àn,
the corpus had already gone through several generations of oral
transmission by numerous ràwìs or transmitters.31 Hence, there is no
point at present in our trying to determine which of the two poets
composed the original horse description; rather we will examine each
of the two poems as it stands in the classical tradition and turn our
attention to the relationship between the poems and the khabar.
    The two poems by Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah presently under
discussion show the conventional tripartite structure: the nasìb (ele-
giac prelude), the ra˙ìl (the poet’s journey through the desert and
his she-camel), and the fakhr (boasting). The poets similarly recite
their sorrow and complaint about their unrequited love in the nasìb,
a journey on a she-camel in the ra˙ìl, and the dramatic hunt scene
in the fakhr. This tripartite structure can be explained in light of
Victor Turner’s application of Van Gennep’s rites of passage. According
to Turner, “Van Gennep has shown that all rites of passage or ‘tran-
sition’ are marked by three phases: separation, margin (or limen, sig-
nifying ‘threshold’ in Latin), and aggregation.” Separation signifies
“the detachment of the individual or group either from an earlier
fixed point in the social structure, from a set of cultural conditions,
or from both.” In the second phase, the marginal or liminal period,
“the characteristics of the ritual subject are ambiguous.” Lastly, the
third phase signifies “the consummation of the passage.”32 In this
light, the separation of the poet from his beloved presented in the
nasìb in our two poems symbolizes the poet’s detachment from his

  30
      Monroe, “Oral Composition,” 8.
  31
      Zwettler believes that early Arabic poems were transmitted by memory before
they were written down, 31. See also Monroe, “Oral Composition,” 40.
   32
      Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1977), 94–95. Furthermore, Mary Douglas’s paradigm of ritual
also is applicable to the qaßìdah structure: the tertiary structure metaphorically rep-
resents “the three stages of psycho-social development—childhood, adolescence, and
adulthood” and “some concept of its narrative embodiment in the heroic quest,”
Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1966), 96–97. For these applications, see Suzanne Stetkevych,
Mute, 6–8.
                                                              33

society. The journey in the ra˙ìl shows his liminal stage. In the fakhr,
aggregation is consummated through the hunt scene.


                            Ode by Imru" al-Qays33

1.   O my two friends,
       pass by Umm Jundab with me
     and we will fulfill
       the needs of a tormented heart.

2.   For surely
        if you wait for me a while
     it will be good for me
        [to visit] Umm Jundab.

3.   Don’t you see that each time
       I visit her by night
     I find she has a sweet fragrance
       through she wears no perfume?

4.   The loveliest of
       all her companions,
     neither short nor,
       when you consider her, stout.

5.   O would that I knew
       how my bond with her fares,
     and how she treats her bond
       with one who is absent!

6.   Does Umaymah stay [true]
      to the love that is between us




   33
      The meter of this ode is †awìl. Though there are many published versions of
this poem, I mainly use a version found in Imru" al-Qays, Dìwàn Imri" al-Qays, ed.
Mu˙ammad Abù al-Fa∂l Ibràhìm (Cairo: Dàr al-Ma'àrif bi-Mißr, 1964), 40–55. I
have also consulted al-Sandùbì’s edition. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
34                                 

       or is she swayed by
         the words of the deceiver?

 7.    If you are away from her for a while,
          you won’t meet her again;
       surely you are experienced in
          how she behaves.

 8.    She said “Whenever I am stingy with you
         and make excuses, it hurts you,
       but if I show passion for you,
         you take me for granted.”34

 9.    O my friend, do you see
          the departing women on their camels
       following a mountain trail between the two rough lands
          by Sha'ab'ab’s Spring?

10.    They have covered their howdahs with the An†àkì cloth
          over the red embroidered cloth,
       [till they looked] like the dates of palm trees
          or the date groves of Yathrib.

11.    [May] God [have mercy on] the eyes of him
         who saw a separation
       that was more scattered and distant
         than the separation at al-Mu˙assab.

12.    [They split into] two groups,
         one crossing the valley of palms,
       the other cutting across
         the highland of Kabkab.

13.    So your eyes flowed like the branches
          of a stream on a flood plain,
       like the current of a water channel
          running down over sheetrock.

  34
     'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 9) is not exactly identical with this line: the
second word of the first hemistich is matà in this line, while in 'Alqamah it is in.
                                                                 35

14.   You are not one to let [have not let]
        a weakling boast over you
      or a loser win out
        over you. (loose translation)

15.   And you have not cut off the cares of
        a passionate lover by [mounting] the likes of a [she-camel]
      that goes out [to pasture] in the morning
        and returns at evening.35

16.   On a long white one,
        as if her saddle were
      on the piebald flanks [of a wild ass],
        its eyelids not fringed with white.

17.   It sings for dawn
         in the watches of the night
      like a [drunken] singer reeling
         among the boon companions.

18.   A lean young ass of
         the asses of Mount 'Amàyah,
      his spittle is full of green herbs
         whenever he drinks.

19.   In a bend in the wadi where
        the grass is as tall as the Îàl-trees,
      through which armies pass, both those with booty
        and those that return empty-handed.

20.   I would ride forth early
        when the birds were still in their nests,
      and rain water was still running
        in every torrent channel,36

   35
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 13) is not exactly identical with this line: the
second word of the second hemistich is ghuduwwin in this line, while in 'Alqamah
it is bukùrin. We can find an additional four lines between lines 15 and 16 in the
version of al-Sandùbì.
   36
      The first hemistich is identical with the first hemistich of line 53 in Imru" al-
Qays’s Mu'allaqah.
36                                  

21.    On a sleek steed,
          a shackle for wild game,
       left thin by his pursuit of the herd’s lead runners
          on every long chase.37

22.    Despite fatigue, he is ebullient, tall,
         as if his withers,
       despite leanness and much running,
         were a large tree on a lookout hill.

23.    [In galloping] he vies with the wild ass
         who kicks out his legs
       as his fetlock hair flies; you see
         he is built like the wood of a cloth rack.

24.    He has the two flanks of an antelope,
         the (two) legs of an ostrich
       and the withers of a wild ass
         standing on a lookout peak.

25.    He steps on hooves
         solid and hard
       as if they were the stones of a stream
         bright green with moss.38

26.    His rump is like a sandhill
         packed down by rain,
       and his withers
         like a howdah’s wide saddle.39

27.    He has an eye
        like an artisan’s mirror

   37
      The first hemistich is identical with the second hemistich of line 53 in Imru"
al-Qays’s Mu'allaqah.
   38
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 28) is not entirely identical with this line: the
first three words of the second hemistich are wa yakh†ù 'alà ßummin ßilàbin in this
line, while in 'Alqamah they are wa sumrun yufalliqna Ω-Ωiràba.
   39
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 26) with this line is not entirely identical: the
first two-thirds of this line is kafalun ka-ddi'ßi labbadahu n-nadà ilà ˙àrikin, while in
'Alqamah it is qa†àtun kakardùsi l-ma˙àlah ashrafat ilà sanadin. Imru" al-Qays’s line 32
also overlaps with 'Alqamah’s line 26.
                                                                  37

      which she turns around her eye
        to examine a veil.40 (loose translation)

28.   He has two ears in which
        you perceive good breeding
      [pricked up] like the ears of a frightened oryx-doe
        in the middle of her herd.41

29.   His ear bone is round
        as if his reins and
      bridle were on top of
        smooth stripped palm-trunk.

30.   His tail is black
         with a fleshy pliant bone,
      like the date-laden boughs
         of Sumay˙ah Spring.42

31.   When he runs a double heat
        and his sides are wet [with sweat]
      you would say [his breathing sounds like]
        the rustling of the wind as it passes by a huge tree.

32.   He turns a croup
        like a large pulley
      that overlooks a rump
        like a wide pack-saddle.43



   40
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 16) is not exactly identical with this line: the
first part of the first hemistich is wa 'aynun in this line, while in 'Alqamah it is bi-
'aynin.
   41
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 24) is not entirely identical with this line: the
second word of the first hemistich is udhunàn in this line, while in 'Alqamah it is
˙urratàni.
   42
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 17) is not entirely identical with this line: the
first hemistich is wa as˙amu rayyànu l-'asìbi ka"annahu in this line, while in 'Alqamah
it is ka"anna bi-˙àdhayhà"idhà mà tashadhdharat; also the second word of the second
hemistich is qinwin in this line, while in 'Alqamah it is 'idhqin.
   43
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 26) is not entirely identical with this line: the
first three words in the first hemistich are yudìru qa†àtan ka-l-ma˙àlati in this line,
while in 'Alqamah they are qa†àtun kakurdùsi al-ma˙àlati.
38                                  

33.    [Impatient] he chews on the tethering post
         until he seems mad
       and possessed by a demon
         that won’t let him go.

34.    One day he pursued
         a herd of white-coated [oryx]
       and another day he pursued
         a wild desert ass with foal.

35.    Then while the white [oryx] cows
         were grazing in a thicket,
       walking like maidens
         in fringed white robes.44

36.    We called out to each other
         as we fastened his cheek-strap
       and my friends said,
         “They have escaped you, so chase them!”

37.    With great difficulty
         we mounted our boy
       on the curved back
         with a strong spine.

38.    And he took off
         like an evening downpour
       as [the oryx] emerged from a whirl-wind of dust.
         [= dust cloud rising in the air.]

39.    To the leg he is fiery,
         to the whip like a flood,
       when you chide him,
         he takes off like an ostrich.




  44
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 32) is not entirely identical with this line: the
first two words of the first hemistich are fabaynà ni'àjun in this line, while in 'Alqamah
they are ra"aynà shiyàhan.
                                                                    39

40.    He reached [the game/the oryx],
         without effort and without a second try,
       whirling like a child’s
         button on a string.

41.    You see the mice of
         the low soft ground
       heading for the dry hard ground
         from his thundering gallop.45

42.    It drove them out
          from their holes
       just as a noisy evening
          downpour does.46

43.    He struck in succession
         an oryx bull and cow,
       an old bull white
         as a sheet of parchment.47

44.    As the oryx bulls of
         the sanddune bellowed
       he kept striking them with a Samharì spear
         reinforced with a sinew.48

45.    Then one bull fell
         on its white face prostrate,
       [while another] protected itself
         with a horn like the tip of an awl.49

  45
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 35) is not entirely identical with this line: the
second half of the first hemistich is fì mustanqa'i l-qà'i là˙iban in this line, while in
'Alqamah it is 'an mustarghabi l-qadri là"i˙an.
   46
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 36) is partly different from this line: the entire
line is khafàhunna min anfàqihinna ka"annamà khafàhunna wadqun min 'ashiyyin mujallibi in
this line, while in 'Alqamah it is khafà l-fa'ra min anfàqihi faka"annamà takhallalahu
shu"ùbu ghaythin munaqqibi.
   47
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 39) is not entirely identical with this line: the
second hemistich is wa bayna shabùbin ka-l-qa∂ìmati qarhabi in this line, while in
'Alqamah it is wa taysin shabùbin ka-l-hashìmati qarhabi.
   48
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 37) is not entirely identical with this line: the
second word of the second hemistich is al-samharì in this line, while in 'Alqamah it
is al-na∂ì.
   49
      'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 38) is not entirely identical with this line: the
40                                 

46.   And we said to
        the noble youth,
      “Dismount and raise the extra clothes
        over us as a tent.”

47.   Its tentpegs were
         chain mail;
      its tentpole a Rudaynì spear
         with a spear-tip of Qa'∂abi’s make.

48.   Its tentropes were
         the ropes of hollow-eyed camels
      of excellent breed;
         its top a striped Yemeni mantle.

49.   When we entered it
        we leaned our backs
      against each streaked
        Óìran saddle.

50.   As if the eyes of the wild game
        around our tent
      and our camel saddles were
        unbored onyx beads.

51.   We wiped our hands
        on the manes of our steeds
      when we rose
        from meat roasted rare.

52.   We began, in the evening,
         as if we were [date merchants] from Juwàthà,
      loading some of the oryx meat in saddle bags
         and some behind [the saddle].

53.   And the horse, like a roebuck
        that has grazed on the Rabl plant [of autumn],
first word of the first hemistich is fa-kàba in this line, while in 'Alqamah it is fa-
˙àwin, and the first word of the second hemistich is bi-madriyatin in this line, while
in 'Alqamah it is bi-midràtihi.
                                                                   41

       began shaking his head
         with annoyance from the pouring sweat.50

54.    As if the blood of the lead oryx
         upon his throat were
       henna juice dyeing
         [an old man’s] white hair.51

55.    When you look at him from behind,
         the gap between his legs is filled by a full [black] tail
       reaching a bit above the ground,
         not tinged with red.

Imru" al-Qays opens his nasìb (ll. 1–15) quite conventionally by
addressing the persona’s two companions and informing them that
his love with Umm Jundab has ended bitterly (l. 1). This opening
reveals the theme of the entire nasìb, “separation” and “barrenness.”
We should not take the appearance of the name Umm Jundab to
substantiate the historicity of the associated khabar; to the contrary,
the nasìb is entirely conventional. There is no indication in the poetic
text that Umm Jundab is the persona’s wife; rather she appears as
the typical cruel mistress of the nasìb. The middle part, the ra˙ìl,
consisting of only four lines (ll. 16–19), likewise pursues the tradi-
tional ra˙ìl motif, the description of a journey on a she-camel.
   In the fakhr (ll. 20–55), the poet attempts to demonstrate man-
hood—glory, fertility, and prowess—through the ekphrastic descrip-
tion of a chivalrous hunt scene. The first line (l. 20), wa qad aghtadì
wa †-†ayru fì wukunàtihà, describes the poet’s setting out for the hunt
in the very early morning when the birds are still in their nests.52



  50
       'Alqamah’s overlapping line (l. 44) is not entirely identical with this line: the
second word of the first hemistich is ka-taysi in this line, while in 'Alqamah it is ka-
shàti.
   51
       This line is identical with line 63 of Imru" al-Qays’s Mu'allaqah poem except
of the last word.
   52
       Jaroslav Stetkevych states that the phrase is a characteristic, micro-paradig-
matic opening motif of “setting out” of the hunt poetry and is proper of the sub-
jective style. “The Hunt in the Arabic Qaßìdah: The Antecedents of the ˇardiyyah,”
in Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Language and Literature, ed. J. R. Smart (Sussex:
Curzon, 1996), 109. See also his article, “The Hunt in Classical Arabic Poetry:
42                                  

This opening phrase, found also in the Mu'allaqah of Imru" al-Qays,
is a conventional opening for the chivalrous hunt of the fakhr in the
Arabic qaßidah tradition. In fact, 'Alqamah likewise uses the phrase
in his poem for the beginning of the fakhr. We can often find the
association of birds with horses in the Arab tradition. For example,
there is a saying of the Arabs: “Horses are birds without wings.”53
'Alì ibn 'Abd al-Ra˙màn ibn Hudhayl al-Andalusì indicates one of
the sayings of the Prophet: “God said to the horse, ‘I shall make
you fly without wings.’”54 A horse’s parts are sometimes named after
birds’ parts: such as nasr (vulture/eagle), the interior of a hoof; hàmah
(owl), the top of a head; and 'asfùr (sparrow), a brow-bone, etc.55
The bird is a symbol of speed and loftiness, for it is capable of flying
high and swiftly. The horse ought to run as the bird flies. Imru" al-
Qays further combines the imagery of birds and water saying, “I
would ride forth early when the birds were still in their nests, and
rainwater was still running in every torrent channel” (l. 20). In addi-
tion, a Bedouin hero’s steeds are frequently named “rushing waters,”
“flood,” “rain,” or “river.” For example, Prophet Mu˙ammad’s
favorite horse was named Uskùb (The Torrent) from sakab (swiftly
running water).56 Such names may symbolize “insemination.”57 The
heavy torrent with the image of “insemination” in Imru" al-Qays’s
ode thus insinuates the impression of fertility and reproduction.
   The horse emerges in the second line of the fakhr section with its
epithet, a sleek, swift steed (munjarid) (l. 21). Munjarid originally means
“to be stripped.” A shackle for game (qaydi al-awàbidi ) is another epi-
thet for the steed. With regard to the Arabic tradition of epithets,
important subjects tend to be indirectly presented by the use of



from Mukha∂ram Qaßìdah to Umayyad ˇardiyyah,” Journal of Arabic Literature 30, no.
2 (1999): 116.
   53
      Daumas, 187.
   54
      Al-Andalusì, 27.
   55
      Al-Andalusì, 63–67. According to al-Andalusì, al-Aßma'ì relates that Harùn
Rashìd, who had heard that twenty names of birds were used to depict the parts
of the horse, asked him to take his horse by the forelock and describe the horse
from poll to hoof. Then al-Aßma'ì recited for him a poem. See also Janet C. E.
Watson, Lexicon of Arabic Horse Terminology (London: Kegan Paul International, 1996),
4–11.
   56
      Daumas, 14.
   57
      Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Name and Epithet: The Philology and Semiotics of Animal
Nomenclature in Early Arabic Poetry,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 45, no. 2 (1986):
104, 112–25.
                                                              43

epithets rather than denotants. Since the she-camel bears significance
in the ra˙ìl, being an indispensable vehicle and companion for the
poet’s journey, she is rarely explicitly named as nàqah, as we like-
wise see in the ra˙ìl part of Imru" al-Qays’s poem.58 The horse in
the fakhr is no exception. In the earliest Arabic poetry, “there is no
aesthetic synthesis—or rather no aesthetic conceptualization con-
densed into a term—of what the she-camel intimately meant to the
poet.”59
   I further speculate that the poet may realize the condensed poetic
force of a qaßìdah epithet that is capable of expressing the most appro-
priate state or a quality of its object, fitting the exact poetic timing,
without mentioning the name of the object. For the poet, the qual-
ity may be more important than the object itself—that is why he
has no need to state its name. We can assume, moreover, that qual-
ities that are generally presented by epithets mostly describing phys-
ical aspects do not only denote the physical appearance, but also
connote the concept behind the appearance, such as fertility, speed,
and power. In doing so, the poet relies on the epithet to convey
emblematic and symbolic meanings.
   The persona is the hunter riding on a sleek steed. Despite fatigue,
his steed is ebullient (l. 22). His withers (saràt)60 look like a large tree
on a lookout hill, though lean and quick. From the high lookout of
the tree, which is the highest place in the tribal community, a tribal
guard is watching his tribe’s enemies. The implication of this simile
is that the horse, due to his great height, has an unobstructed view
of the enemies’ approach. The association between the horse’s back
and the tree is not so much based on analogies, but rather on sym-
bolic concepts; by means of its height and vigilance, the steed pro-
tects the rider/persona. According to al-Andalusì, Ibn Qutaybah (b.
828 C.E.) states that a long, supple neck for a horse is considered
most desirable.61 The horse is excited, for he has spotted his game.
He competes with a “kicker,” an epithet for a wild ass. The wild



  58
     Ibid., 100. He finds that the word nàqah itself is rare in the earliest Arabic
poetry.
  59
     Ibid., 110. He further mentions, “The word nàqah was as yet latent and incu-
bating, waiting to emerge as some unexpressed future meaning that would subsume
the often disjointed, functional aesthetic of the countless epithets.”
  60
     Saràt is the highest part of a horse. See al-Andalusì, 53.
  61
     Al-Andalusì, 72.
44                                 

ass is known for the strength of its legs, particularly its pastern-joints.
The horse’s body is like the wood of a cloth rack in its leanness,
smoothness, and firmness.
   The poet portrays the steed’s body using similes, as if it were a
collage, i.e., a collection of best parts from other animals: “the two
flanks of an antelope, the (two) legs of an ostrich and the withers of
a wild ass standing on a lookout peak” (l. 24). Al-Andalusì claims
that Imru" al-Qays in his Mu'allaqah was the first poet to compare
the horse to those animals. The ideal characteristics for a horse are
modeled on what is distinctive in each of these species: the ante-
lope’s slender waist, the ostrich’s short thighs, the wild ass’s wide
back.62 They are signs of good breeding. One can imagine these as
(mnemonic) “rules of thumb” among horsemen in an oral society.
Jaroslav Stetkevych argues that many epithets for animals in the qaßì-
dah are “idealizing selective perceptions that are strung out some-
times in close semantic interdependence and sometimes paratactically
as glimpses of illuminations.” He further claims that “such a pres-
ence of a protagonist animal is as powerfully and imaginatively insin-
uated as it is diffused and deconcretized in the sense that would
denote a separate palpable individual.”63
   Similar remarks concerning the epithets of the horse can be applied
as well to Imru" al-Qays’s string of similes. He selects distinctive parts
from the other animals and forms them into an idealized image.
Though the parts of the horse are individually enumerated, they are
to be unified in an ideal figure, visualized through the imagination
of the audience. Just as the epithets encapsulate the “respective
model’s enacted semblance and ‘meaning,’” so too, as I see it, do
the similes.64 The epithets, or similes, are “aimed at a constructed
ideal image: the type beyond the individual, the archetype beyond
the type, and the symbol beyond the archetype.”65 The audience of
the oral tradition was educated and cultivated through the intertex-
tuality and interreferentiality of the qaßìdah so that they intuitively
grasped the full subject, despite the seemingly scattered, diverse
images. When they were listening, they could easily imagine the
complete image of the ideal creature.


  62
       Ibid., 80–81.
  63
       Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Name,” 118.
  64
       Ibid., 116–17.
  65
       Ibid., 118.
                                                               45

   The description of the horse continues. The horse runs on hooves
depicted with the epithets ßumm ßilàb, hard and solid (l. 25). The
poet says that they were like the stones of a streamlet covered by
green moss. Again for him, the outward resemblance between the
hooves and the stones is not paramount, but his emphasis is rather
on the extreme solidness which is a common physical feature in the
two components. The horse’s rump is like a sandhill, and his with-
ers are like a howdah’s wide saddle. The wide saddle of a howdah
is a metaphor for the beautiful curve of the withers (the ridge between
the shoulder bones) for its elevation and width. His eye is likened
to an artisan’s mirror, which is polished and always clear (l. 27).
   The horse has sharp-pointed ears revealing 'itq (beauty and nobil-
ity) or good breeding.66 The term, 'itq, is often used for the excel-
lent quality of the horse. His ears are compared to those of an
alarmed (madh'ùrah) oryx-doe whose ears stand up because she is
frightened. By the use of the epithet for a fearful oryx-doe and its
erect ears, the sharpness of the horse’s ears is intensified. The back
of the ear is round/revolving, which shows his high-breeding, as if
his reins and bridle because of his tall neck were on top of a sleek
palm trunk (l. 29). The black thick tail is likened to moist date-laden
boughs at Sumay˙ah Spring (l. 30), which implies fruitfulness.
   The similes of the horse we have discussed so far reflect two
aspects: 1. the noble lineage of the horse and 2. the poet’s consid-
erable poetic knowledge of the horse. The ample signs of the horse’s
good-breeding demonstrate the cultivation of the steed by human
beings, because he could not possess those excellent attributes if he
were not the product of selective breeding and expert care. Indeed,
according to Janet C. E. Watson, many pre-Islamic poets, who would
improvise poems, were required to display extensive technical knowl-
edge of the horse in their odes to prove themselves to be distin-
guished poets and often participated in poetic duels.67
   Although the description of the horse’s body parts in lines 26–30
appears static, it is actually integrated into a dynamic movement
because it occurs during his swift gallop. Those concepts, signified
through the physical depiction, now converge and are unified into
an image of speed and momentum. The steed’s speed and the sound

   66
      A sharp-pointed ear is a symbol of ˙usn and 'itq (beauty and excellence). See
al-Andalusì, 81.
   67
      Watson, xv.
46                                 

of his breathing are compared to a strong, powerful wind that causes
even a huge tree to shake (l. 31). This simile reminds us of the image
of the horse, “created out of wind.” The comparison to a large pul-
ley shows the strength of the croup’s vertebrae (l. 32). He champs
on the tethering post so vehemently that he seems to be possessed
by an inescapable demon’s madness.
   Let us now consider why the poet devotes as many as fourteen
lines (20–33) to the physical description of the horse. The poet’s ulti-
mate goal is to show the steed’s inner superiority through the depic-
tion of his physical strength and beauty. One view maintains, “In
orally preserved poetry, abstract concepts are expressed as physical
attributes of concrete objects.”68 To this view we can add Daumas’s
description of the pure-bred horse and the importance of breeding
in relation to the horse’s character by quoting the Emir Abd-el-
Kader’s remarks:
       The Emir Abd-el-Kader takes physical and moral attributes as being
       inseparable, . . . his moral attributes must correspond to his physical
       appearance. . . . We should judge the horse more by his character
       [moral attributes] than by his appearance. By outward indications one
       can judge the breeding. From character alone you will have confirmation
       of the extreme care which is taken in breeding and of the vigilance
       which has been exercised to adamantly prohibit misalliances.69
The Emir further testifies to the excellence of the horse:
       We have many anecdotes about the qualities of horses. From all of
       them it may be deduced that next to man the horse is the noblest
       creature, the most patient, the most useful. . . . Arabs will make every
       conceivable sacrifice to succeed in getting offspring from a stallion or
       mare when they are convinced that one or the other has given proof
       of extraordinary speed, notable sobriety, acute intelligence, or affection
       toward the hand that feeds it, as they are fully persuaded that the
       qualities of the parents will appear in the progeny. We grant then,
       that a horse is truly noble when, in addition to having beautiful con-
       formation, he joins courage to fieriness and glows with pride in the
       midst of gunpowder and dangers.70
It is not coincidental that the Arabic poetic tradition selected the
horse as one of the main motifs of the fakhr unit; the horse, as the


  68
       Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 274.
  69
       Daumas, 11–20.
  70
       Ibid.
                                                                 47

Emir argues, is the symbol of excellence and nobility in the poet’s
tribal community. In order to build the ideal image of culmination
in light of both the qaßìdah structure and of the tribal community,
the poet makes use of the steed’s physical beauty and sturdiness,
which God granted only to the horse among beasts.71 The horse is
chosen to be the lord of beasts by God for its beauty and high value.
According to the tradition, God conferred khayr on the horse, joined
in its forelock. Khayr is “moral or physical good, anything that is
good or ideal, good fortune, prosperity, happiness.”72 Khayr is also
used by the Arabs to signify horses.
   Having illustrated the steed’s dignity in all senses, Imru" al-Qays
further utilizes the technique of waßf in order to construct his own
image as champion by overlapping himself with the image of the
massive, powerful steed.73 For the poet, the horse is not a mere
object of poetic waßf. The poem instead presents the symbiotic rela-
tionship of poet and horse. Furthermore, according to Daumas, the
Emir states, “physical attributes alone do not constitute a perfect
horse. It is necessary, because of his intelligence, because of his
affection for the man who feeds him, cares for him, and rides him,
that man and horse be as one.”74 Moreover, in the hunt, the steed
also “keeps the hunter/persona safe from dangers in the chase” and
“shares the emotions of sorrow and pleasure of the hunter by
fighting.”75 The hunter/persona and the horse are portrayed as united
not only in the sphere of body, but also in spirit.
   The poem now moves on to the dramatic hunt scene. The scene
of the hunt and feast is the expression of invigoration and jubila-
tion, according to the phase of plerosis or filling of Gaster’s seasonal
pattern.76 If the loss in the nasìb is presented in the phase of keno-
sis or emptying, the gain in the fakhr is in that of filling. Suzanne
Stetkevych argues, referring to Imru" al-Qays’s Mu'allaqah poem, “the

  71
      See Daumas, 7.
  72
      Lane, kh-y-r.
   73
      Adnan Haydar finds the complete identification of poet and horse in the end
of the fakhr section of the Mu'allaqah of Imru" al-Qays; however, in both that poem
and this one, the poet is present with the horse, hence my preference for the term
“overlapping.” See Adnan Haydar, “The Mu'allaqa of Imru" al-Qays: It’s Structure
and Meaning, I,” Edebiyàt 2, no. 2 (1977): 244.
   74
      Daumas, 20.
   75
      Ibid., 12.
   76
      See Theodor H. Gaster, Thespis: Ritual, Myth, and Drama in the Ancient Near East
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 23. Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 277, 258–59.
48                                

hunt and feast constitute the sacrifice that signals aggregation and
the commensal meal that celebrates it.”77 The chivalrous hunt is an
expression of virility—generating new life through male aggression.
One day the horse chases a herd of white, wild oryx cows and
another day wild asses with foals (l. 34). Naqì (pure) is an epithet for
white oryxes, and baydànah is an epithet for a wild she-ass in a dan-
gerous desert, which no one wants to draw near. The game emerges,
and the hunt panel begins. There wild cows graze in a thicket, going
like a procession maidens in white robes (l. 35). Ni'àj (“intensely
white” or “women”) is likewise an epithet for wild cows. This use
of epithet, by not mentioning the word “the cow,” allows the verse
to create a (subliminal) picture of a strong male assaulting a virgin
maiden. The hunt is described so as to suggest a sexual act: the
steed playing the male role, the oryx cows like virgins.
   Having shown incredible power and energy, the steed wins his
game. During the hunt the steed’s gallop is likened to the down-
pour of an evening raincloud—the fierce, abundant rain symbolizes
again fertility, vigor, and speed. The hunters begin to make a tent
for shade with their cloth, mail, and spears in order to have a feast
with the slain quarry. The chain mail is used for pegs (i.e., to weight
down the corners of the tent) and the spears, from Rudaynah, the
name of a woman who was selling them, are for the poles. The
spearheads are made by Qa'∂ab who was said to have been a hus-
band of Rudaynah.78 It looks to the persona as if the game’s eyes
are like black and white onyx beads that are unbored—an unbored
one is pure and beautiful (l. 50).79 If the bull were alive, his eyes
would have been only black. But he is dead; they roll back to show
both black and white.80 The hunters wipe their hands on their horses’
manes when they stand up from their rare roast meat. This is the
ritual marking the end of the feast.
   The she-camel is loaded with the freshly-killed game,81 like camels
laden with bags of dates returning from Juwàthà at evening (l. 52)—
Juwàthà is a place where people buy dates and put them in two

  77
     Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 277.
  78
     See line 47’s shar˙ in Ibràhìm’s edition.
  79
     See line 50’s shar˙ in Ibràhìm’s edition.
  80
     Ibid.
  81
     Hunters used to use horses only for the hunt itself; to go to and return from
a hunt, they ride she-camels, which also carry the game, while leading their horses
with ropes.
                                                                 49

sacks on a beast’s croup on their return. When the horse shakes his
head, he smells like a buck feeding on rabl (autumn herbage). The
rabl shrubs sprout green leaves at the end of a hot season without
rain. Since a buck of the rabl eats both spring-herbage and autumn-
herbage, he has great energy and power.82 This line suggests fertil-
ity and strength through metaphors of the fruitful land and the buck
that is grazing on it. Bloodstains on the horse’s chest reveal his tri-
umph in the chase. Suzanne Stetkevych claims that the comparison
of the bloodstains to henna upon an old man’s hair (white) presents
the intended analogy of “the revitalizing effect of blood shed in the
hunt to the rejuvenating effect of henna on hoary locks,” and fur-
ther associates the subject with “the Islamic use of henna in accor-
dance with the Sunnah of the Prophet a symbolic expression of the
immortality conferred by Islam.”83 The association of the bloodshed
of the hunt with the blood shed by deflowering a virgin also has a
place here. The ending line shows that the steed has a thick, long
tail that blocks the gap between his hind legs. According to Ibn
Qutaybah, the horse’s tail ought to be long and abundant enough
to cover the gap,84 but never to reach the ground, which was regarded
as a flaw.85 Imru" al-Qays’s horse has a reddish tail that reaches just
a bit above the ground.


                           Ode by 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l 86

1.        You departed after she left you
            with no direction;


     82
      See line 53’s shar˙ in Ibràhìm’s edition.
     83
      Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 277.
   84
      Watson, xiv.
   85
      A horse’s tail reaching the ground is considered a defect, for a horse may
tread on the tail. See Shar˙ al-Mu'allaqàt al-'Ashar wa Akhbàr Shu'arà"ihà, ed. A˙mad
ibn al-Amìn al-Shinqì†ì (Beirut: Dàr al-Andalus, 1970), 88 and Abù 'Abd Allàh al-
Óusayn ibn A˙mad al-Zawzanì, Shar˙ al-Mu'allaqàt al-Sab', ed. Mu˙ammad 'Alì
Óamd Allàh (Damascus: Al-Maktabah al-Umawiyyah, 1963), 118.
   86
      I mainly rely on an edition found in Shar˙ Dìwàn 'Alqamah b. 'Abadah al-Fa˙l,
ed. Lu†fì al-Íaqqàl and Wariyyah al-Kha†ìb, with a commentary by Abù al-Óajjàj
Yùsuf ibn Sulaymàn ibn 'Ìsà known as al-A'lam al-Shantamarì, with review of Fakhr
al-Dìn Qabàwah (Aleppo: Dàr al-Kitàb al-'Arabì, 1969), 79–100. I also consult a
version in Shar˙ Dìwàn Imri" al-Qays, ed. Óasan al-Sandùbì (Cairo: Ma†ba'at al-
Istqàmah, 1939), 42–47. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
50                              

     it was not right of her
        to shun you.

2.   Those nights when we still gave
       each other sincere advice,
     nights when [our tribes] were settled
       at al-Sitàr and Ghurrab.

3.   She is slender
       as if her delicate jewelry were
     on [the neck of ] a pet gazelle
       fawn from Íà˙ah.

4.   [She is adorned with] musk-filled gold beads
       like locust shells,
     unbored pearls,
       and phials of perfume.

5.   When the slanderers spread lies
       to come between us,
     the love between us
       grew truer and stronger.

6.   What use is it to remember her,
       a woman of the Rabì'ah tribe,
     who has scattered at Ìr
       or along the banks of the Wadi Shurbub?

7.   You obeyed the slanderers and the calumniators
       in breaking up with her,
     the ties to her had been worn out
       and were ready to cut.

8.   She made a promise to you,
       if only she had kept it,
     but her promise was like the promise of 'Urqùb
       to his brother in Yathrib.

9.   She said “Whenever I am stingy with you
       and make excuses, you complain,
                                                             51

       but if I show passion for you,
         you take me for granted.”

10.    I said to her,
          “Return to your family,
       for those with lovely eyes
          and hennaed fingers don’t excite me.”

11.    So she returned just as a doe
         with fawn of the brown gazelles of Bìshah,
       grazing on "Aràk
         and Óullab trees, returns.

12.    We lived a good life
         with her for much of our youth,
       but then, the gossip of the slanderers
         succeeded [in driving us apart].

13.    And you have not cut off the cares of
         a passionate lover by [mounting] the likes of [a she-camel]
       that goes out [to pasture] in the morning
         and returns at evening.

14.    On a bulky camel with full flanks,
         as brisk as you desire,
       a swift runner,
         despite fatigue, spritely.

15.    When I hit her flank,
         she fairly leaps beneath me,
       and watches me closely
         from the corner of her eye. (loose translation)

16.    She has an eye
         like an artisan’s mirror which
       she turns around her eye
         to examine a veil.87 (loose translation)


 87
      Lines 16 and 17 overlap with lines 27 and 30 of Imru" al-Qays’s poem. Imru"
52                             

17.   As if there were on her rump,
        when she is lively,
      the date-laden boughs
        of Sumay˙ah Spring.

18.   She sometimes drives away flies with her tail,
         and, at others, swings it back and forth,
      like a messenger of good tidings
         in a fringed cloak waving his arms.

19.   I would ride forth early
        when the birds were still in their nests,
      and rain water was still running
        in every torrent channel,

20.   On a sleek steed,
         a shackle for wild game,
      left thin by his pursuit of the herd’s lead runners
         on every long chase.

21.   On a supple steed
        on whose chest is an amulet string
      that a sorcerer has spit on
        out of fear of the evil eye.

22.   A dark bay like the color
        of a red-dyed cloth
      that you spread out to display for sale
        the cloak that had been folded in the clothes bag.

23.   Firm like a tightly twisted
         Andarì leather rope,
      he is adorned with beauty
         by a full build, not short.




al-Qays uses these descriptions for a horse, while 'Alqamah employs the same
descriptions for a she-camel.
                                           53

24.   He has two ears in which
        you perceive good breeding
      [pricked up] like the ears of a frightened oryx-doe
        in the middle of her herd.

25.   He has a large hollow belly
         beneath his back
      like a smooth hill
         that children use for a slide.

26.   He has a high rump
        like the back of a camel,
      and broad like
        a howdah’s wide saddle.

27.   He has legs as sturdy as
        the necks of male-hyenas,
      the sinews of his shank bones are sound
        and with them he pounds every road.

28.   He has dark hard hooves
        that split projecting rocks,
      as if they were the stones of a stream,
        bright green with moss.

29.   When we hunt,
        we do not sneak up on [our game] stealthily,
      but we call from far:
        Let’s go!

30.   [We have] confidence in him;
        the tribe does not curse him;
      he is patient despite fatigue;
        he is not reviled.

31.   When they have exhausted
         their travel-provisions,
      his rein and his shanks, when put to use,
         are the best means to acquire more.
54                           

32.   We saw white [oryx] cows were
        grazing in a thicket,
      walking like maidens
        in fringed white robes.

33.   While we were arguing
        and fastening his cheek-strap,
      the wild cows came out before us
        like a row of pierced silver beads.

34.   He followed the tracks of the cows
         at a hard fast gallop
      like the abundant rainpour
         of an evening cloud.

35.   You see the mice of
        the low soft ground
      heading for the dry hard ground
        from his thundering gallop.

36.   It drove them out
         from their holes
      just as a noisy evening
         downpour does.

37.   As the oryx bulls of
        the sanddune bellowed
      he kept striking them with a Samharì spear
        reinforced with a sinew.

38.   Then one bull fell
        on its white face prostrate,
      [while another] protected itself
        with a horn like the tip of an awl.

39.   He struck in succession
        an oryx bull and cow,
      a huge old buck
        like a Hashìmah tree.
                                                                 55

40.   We said,
         “The hunters have bagged game;
      dismount and raise the extra clothes
         over us as a tent.”

41.   [Our] hands kept on reaching out
        for well-done roast meat
      to a chest like
        a perfume-pounding stone.

42.   As if the eyes of the wild game
        around our tent
      and our camel saddles
        were unbored onyx beads.

43.   We began, in the evening,
         as if we were [date merchants] from Juwàthà,
      loading some of the oryx meat in saddle bags
         and some behind [the saddle].

44.   And the horse, like a roebuck
        that has grazed on the Rabl plant [of autumn],
      began shaking its head
        with annoyance from the pouring sweat.

45.   And it began racing with our young she-camel
         as we led it beside her;
      it is hard for us to handle,
         like a snake let loose.

46.   It overtook them [the she-camels]
         and galloped off,
      passing quickly
         like a pouring cloud.88


  88
      This line is found in line 45 of the edition of al-Sandùbì, 48. I include it in
the poem because the line is introduced in the khabar, though it is not in other
editions.
56                                 

'Alqamah’s poem of 45 lines, which was said to have been a response
to Imru" al-Qays’s qaßìdah in the poetic contest, similarly shows the
conventional tripartite structure and themes. In the nasìb (ll. 1–13)
'Alqamah presents a lament over the persona’s separation from his
beloved and in the ra˙ìl, depicts his journey on a she-camel, sturdy
and swift (ll. 14–18), in order to forget his unrequited love. As for
the fakhr (ll. 19–45), 'Alqamah like Imru" al-Qays describes the chival-
rous hunt. A number of the verses (14 out of 33) in the fakhr are
identical to those of Imru" al-Qays, including its first two lines (ll.
19–20). Since I have already investigated the overlap lines in the
section on Imru" al-Qays, I will only examine the lines that differ.
First, in lines 21–23 'Alqamah mentions that the persona’s steed has
a broad chest wearing an amulet with a sorcerer’s spell against the
evil eye. The horse is kumayt (red mixed with black) or the dark bay
that Arab bedouins were always fond of, for they believed that the
kumayt color reflects the inherent good qualities of a well-bred horse.89
The twisted knot of an Andarì leather rope describes the firmness
of the steed’s parted legs. His balanced proportions increase his
beauty. Line 24, expressing the noble breeding detectable in the
shape of his ears, is identical with Imru" al-Qays’s line 28. 'Alqamah
continues to describe the horse’s huge body and smooth coat (l. 25).
The depiction of the steed’s rump in line 26 is almost the same as
line 26 of Imru" al-Qays. The steed’s legs are as thick and strong
as the necks of male-hyenas. This comparison to another animal is
again the expression of the ideal, perfect image of the steed. Ghulbun
(thick) is an epithet for his feet. His dark (sumrun) hooves are com-
pared to the stones of a streambed, as we see in Imru" al-Qays’s
line 25. Thus, much like Imru" al-Qays, 'Alqamah constructs the
beautiful form of the lord of beasts, the horse, through the physical
description.
   The dramatic hunt begins. The hunter signals the chase by call-
ing out to his fellow-riders (l. 29). The tribal members always rely
on the steed for the hunt. When they lack food, the steed is the one
who satisfies the need by overtaking the best game (l. 31). Line 32
is almost identical with Imru" al-Qays’s line 35. 'Alqamah starts to
depict the scene of the contest between the hunter/persona and the
hunted (l. 33). The row of oryx is likened to silver beads. The


  89
       See information on the horse’s color in Daumas, 17.
                                                                57

momentum of the steed’s attack is as vehement as the evening down-
pour, which symbolizes fertility. The descriptions of the mice in lines
35–36 and the slaying of an oryx cow overlap with Imru" al-Qays’s.
Imru" al-Qays devotes six lines (46–51) to the description of build-
ing a tent and the feast, while 'Alqamah employs only three lines
(40–42) to describe them. 'Alqamah likewise expresses his identity
and attachment to his society. In lines 43–44 (overlap) he recounts
the hunters’ return to their community with the prey that announces
his successful hunt to his tribe, suggesting that “each successful hunt
and its following feast serve to reaffirm the tribal social structure.”90
In the ending line, the persona’s horse outstrips the she-camel, pass-
ing like a pouring rain-cloud, which again serves as a symbol of
speed and fertility. 'Alqamah’s poem concludes with the expression
of vigor, endurance, and fertility.


                               Contest as Ceremony

Let us conclude by returning once more to the story of the poetic
contest between Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah in the akhbàr that pro-
vides the traditional Arabic literary context for the two poems. The
work of such scholars as Johan Huizinga, Walter J. Ong, and Ward
Parks has demonstrated the pervasiveness of the contest, and fur-
ther, the verbal duel—flyting as poetic contest—particularly in archaic
societies. A consideration of the story of the poetic contest between
Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah in light of their findings will help us
understand the deeper cultural significance of these akhbàr and the
poems they relate to.
   Walter J. Ong claims that contests and adversatives are indis-
pensable in human life.91 The antagonistic and antithetical structure
of the community played a significant role in the archaic period.92
Bragging and scoffing matches bear in their structure the concept of

  90
     Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 277.
  91
     Ong, 15.
  92
     See Huizinga, 53. The ancient Arabs had a custom similar to mu'àra∂ah, called
mumàjadah, “a public and apparently quite structured ‘vying in glory’” by wagering
property including animals, food, and wine. See Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Sacrifice and
Redemption in Early Islamic Poetry: Al-Óu†ay"ah’s ‘Wretched Hunter,’” Journal of
Arabic Literature 31, no. 3 (2000): 101–4. As an analogous custom to mumàjadah,
Huizinga introduces potlatch, “a great solemn feast, during which one of two groups,
with much pomp and ceremony, makes gifts on a large scale to the other group
58                                 

play.93 Johan Huizinga explains, “In play there is something ‘at play’
which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning
to the action.”94 Ong also cites Alvin W. Gouldner’s idea that the
ancient Greek way of life was characterized by three elements: “1.
the quest for fame through 2. personal action in 3. a contest system
or operation setting person against person.”95 This characterization
of ancient Greek society can be applied fruitfully to pre-Islamic tribal
Arabia and in particular to the poetic contest between Imru" al-Qays
and 'Alqamah. The fakhr or boast is one of the major themes of the
pre-Islamic qaßìdah. Thus we can see that the competing poets 1.
quest for fame through 2. personal action—that is, composing poetry—
in a contest system that sets poet against poet. Even when a fakhr
qaßìdah appears to stand by itself, the idea of competition is inher-
ent in the genre, for the goal of fakhr is to establish the superiority
of the virtue and might of the persona and his tribe over compet-
ing tribes, that is, as a genre, fakhr or boast implies mufàkharah (boast-
ing contest, flyting). Within the sphere of poetry itself, such poems
are intrinsically competitive.
   The verbal dueling process in Homeric epics also helps us under-
stand the contour of the khabar. Ward Parks has formulated the
process for Homer: 1. engagement, 2. flyting (a) eris (the heroes con-
tend for kleos or glory), (b) contract, 3. trial of arms, 4. ritual reso-
lution (retrospective speech and symbolic action).96 The same elements
can be detected in the khabar: 1. engagement, the khabar brings the
two poets to the arena of the poetic contest; 2. flyting (a) the poets
contend for glory and (b) consent to compete in the description of
horse; 3. they vie by reciting the odes; 4. Umm Jundab’s judgment,
the conferring of the title “fa˙l” on and marrying 'Alqamah, which
fulfill the function of ritual resolution both in terms of retrospective
speech and symbolic action.
   Ong points out that the contest functioned to transmit conceptual-
ized knowledge from one generation to another.97 By taking a form


for the express purpose of showing its superiority,” which was practiced by Indian
tribes in British Columbia, 58.
   93
      See Huizinga, 65.
   94
      Huizinga, 1.
   95
      Ong, 21, citing Alvin W. Gouldner, Enter Plato: Classical Greece and the Origins
of Social Theory (New York: Basic Books, 1965), 43–55.
   96
      See Parks, 45.
   97
      Ong, 29.
                                                      59

of contest, the khabar and the poems continued to circulate among
people because the form itself fascinated the audience, along with
the khabar’s wit and play. The mechanism of a contest through the
agency of a witness or a judge endows 'Alqamah with the title of
Master Poet. Ong explains the etymological origin of “contest” in
English as a third person standing between two other persons.98
Because of the existence of a third person (a witness or a judge), we
can determine who is a winner and a loser. Before reciting their
poems, the two poets make a contract by stating that they will
describe their she-camel and horse and that the judge will be Imru"
al-Qays’s wife. Making a contract is equivalent to swearing an oath
in a ceremonial contest. If the contestants do not observe the rules,
the ritual will not be consummated, and the one who did not live
up to his words will be disgraced.99
   The poetic contest, presented in the khabar, is a ritual that made
'Alqamah a master poet or al-Fa˙l by his victory over Imru" al-
Qays, who had been considered the most distinguished poet of the
pre-Islamic era. In other words, Imru" al-Qays’s recognized status
enabled 'Alqamah through defeating him to be named a master poet.
The mechanism of the dichotomy between “praise and blame” func-
tions effectively in the competition.100 In this system, Imru" al-Qays
plays the role of the one disgraced, and his humiliation intensifies
the glory of 'Alqamah. The khabar is amusing and playful, but its
framework as a contest is grave and serious—the two poets com-
peted for honor and glory (Greek: kleos) not only in poetry, but also
in virility. We can argue that the double-entendre of sexual for poetic
prowess is not meant to be merely amusing; rather, within pre-Islamic
Arabic culture, it tells us, poetic prowess is virility. It thus functions
both as a pun on and explanation of the title “al-Fa˙l.”
   The mu'àra∂ah provides the poets with a milieu for public recog-
nition of their fame. Parks argues, “honor plays a crucial role in the
valorization of the heroic individual, it simultaneously binds that indi-
vidual to his community. Selfhood is not self-determining in the ear-
liest strata of oral epics; the hero must first establish himself in the
eyes of others.”101 Likewise it appears that honor and glory had to


  98
        Ibid., 45.
  99
        Parks, 63.
  100
        See Parks, 29.
  101
        Parks, 27.
60                                   

be acknowledged by others in pre-Islamic, Arabic tribal society; oth-
erwise the qaßìdah of the fakhr or self-magnification would not have
flourished. The integration of the persona as a mature male into his
society, one purpose of the horse description in the fakhr is to estab-
lish his courage, honor, loyalty, and generosity before other mem-
bers of his community. In order to be recognized, 'Alqamah and
Imru" al-Qays compete before a judge. In other words, a competi-
tive setting allows the verbal battle to be public, so that the winner
will gain kleos (honor, glory, fame).102 This paradigm is also in accord
with the symbiotic and integrated picture of the persona and the
horse which I discussed above, because the minute horse description
metaphorically represents the persona (either of 'Alqamah and Imru"
al-Qays) himself in pursuit of kleos through the chivalrous hunt and
through poetry. Moreover, the social setting of the contest confirms
the poet’s glory, symbolized by the image of excellence and prowess
in the horse and embodied in the excellence of his poetry.
   The formalized contest, set by the khabar, provides 'Alqamah the
glory of victory and the foundation of heroic honor.103 By contrast,
Imru" al-Qays was unable to prevent his wife from leaving, nor could
he maintain the title of fa˙l (“champion”). Accordingly, Imru" al-
Qays is undoubtedly the loser in the mu'àra∂ah. On the other hand,
his persona is still the winner of the hunt in his poem, being as suc-
cessful as 'Alqamah. Poetic creation for Imru" al-Qays is compen-
satory for the sexual act. The contest adds a metapoetic and metaphoric
level—prowess in the hunt equates with sexual prowess, which equates
with poetic prowess. Therefore, the physical, mimetic description of
the horse can be interpreted as an expression of the concept of
murù"ah or virility. Metaphorically, the verbal duel is a physical com-
bat both in its sexual connotation and in terms of the poetic strat-
egy in which each poet aims to embody his persona in the figure
of the horse and the power of his verse. Similarly, the accomplish-
ment in the waßf of the horse expresses the establishment of the self
in the context of a tribal society. However, in the end, Imru" al-
Qays could not surpass 'Alqamah. Although Imru" al-Qays presents
an ideal picture of himself through the waßf of the horse as an ideal
member of the community, 'Alqamah gains the title al-Fa˙l.

   102
       Parks states, “the public conferral of this excellency, it can be gained or estab-
lished in a competitive (and thus public) sphere,” 28.
   103
       See Parks, 30.
                                  CHAPTER TWO

                   REMEDY AND RESOLUTION:
                 BEES AND HONEY-GATHERING IN
                      TWO HUDHALÌ ODES*


The presentation of sexual implication in the horse description of the
two pre-Islamic poets leads us now to another erotic sphere of the
waßf, the description of bees and honey. The period of the materials
extends from the pre-Islamic over the dawn of Islam. Continuously,
ekphrastic moments of natural objects, bees and a honey-gatherer,
i.e., not “texts” in semiotic parlance, are before our eyes.
   From the outset of human society the origin and nature of the
bee have fascinated mankind. For thousands of years honey was one
of the few natural sweeteners known. Ancient people viewed the bee
that produces the sweet food with reverence and awe. The bee was
also regarded as sacred in many ancient literary and cultural tradi-
tions. Honey was used as part of a libation along with milk, oil, and
wine. Ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, and Greeks used to bury their
dead in honey, which has sterilizing power for preserving bodies.1
Bees are symbols of purity, assiduity, rebirth, and spirit, while honey
is a symbol of celestial food, eloquence (honeyed words), eroticism,
and immortality. Bees and honey are mentioned in the oldest liter-
atures of the world, such as those of ancient Egypt, Sumeria, Babylonia,
and Greece. Ancient Arabia is no exception.
   The Hudhalì tribe of the pre-Islamic era in the Óijàz bequeathed
to us some odes describing wild bees, honey, and the honey-gatherer.
In this chapter, I explore the functions and symbolism of the waßf
of the bee, honey, and its collectors in pre-Islamic Arabic odes.
The description can be regarded as ekphrasis in its original sense,


  * An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the annual meeting of the
Middle East Studies Association of North America, Chicago, Illinois, December,
1998, and appeared as Akiko Motoyoshi Sumi, “Remedy and Resolution: Bees and
Honey-Collecting in Two Hudhalì Odes,” Journal of Arabic and Middle Eastern Literatures,
vol. 6, no. 2 (2003): 131–57.
  1
     See Hilda M. Ransome, The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1937), 38.
62                                

inasmuch as it is “clear and distinct description.” We also examine
how the waßf expresses metonymically a larger image of the lost gar-
den of the nasìb with extended similes and of the dangerous trial of
a ra˙ìl-like motif. I investigate the description or waßf in the context
of two complete odes in terms of both structure and theme and
demonstrate how the two waßfs function differently. As critical tools,
I mainly use Hilda M. Ransome’s book The Sacred Bee and Michael
Sells’ article on simile. The Qur"àn and the Óadìth (which relates
deeds and utterances of the Prophet and his Companions) are our
useful source.
   The poems I have chosen were composed by the two Hudhalì
poets, Sà'idah ibn Ju"ayyah (his death date unknown)2 and Khuwaylid
ibn Khàlid known as Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì (d. 649? C.E.). As
for the biographical information on the two poets, while little has
come down to us concerning Sà'idah, there is some information on
Abù Dhu"ayb. Abù Dhu"ayb was a younger contemporary of the
Prophet, that is, a Mukha∂ram poet (i.e., one who spans the pre-
Islamic and Islamic periods), and was a ràwì (transmitter and reciter)
of Sà'idah, the pre-Islamic poet. Abù Dhu"ayb is regarded as the
foremost poet of his tribe. There is an anecdote that tells us that he
travelled to see the Prophet Mu˙ammad, but arrived at Medina the
day after his death. Abù Dhu"ayb also migrated to Egypt under
'Umar, and there lost five sons within one year because of the plague.
According to Gustave E. von Grunebaum, one aspect of Abù Dhu"ayb’s
poetry is that he is inclined to elaborate the nasìb into a complete
ode. He composed a number of elegies, showing “the gentle melan-
choly of his obsession with the instability of doom”—one of his mas-
terpieces is an elegy on the death of his sons.3
   In our poems, both poets use the image of wild honey and its
gatherer, showing the ekphrastic description of the bees as well as
the process of collection. The poets associate honey with wine, with
which it was often mixed to drink. The image of honey is linked


   2
     We do not know for sure when Sà'idah was alive, except that he was a pre-
Islamic poet and older than his ràwì, Abù Dhu"ayb.
   3
     G. E. von Grunebaum, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Abù Dhu"ayb
al-Hudhalì.” All the information on Abù Dhu"ayb in this paragraph is taken from
this source. We can find Abù Dhu"ayb’s elegy in al-Mufa∂∂al, Dìwàn al-Mufa∂∂alìyàt,
Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 3 vols. (Cairo: Al-Dàr al-Qawmiyyah al-ˇibà'ah wa al-Nashr,
1965), and A˙mad Kamàl Zakì, Shi'r al-Hudhaliyyìn fì 'Aßrayn al-Jàhilì wa al-Islàmì
(Cairo: Dàr al-Kàtib al-'Arabì lil-ˇibà'ah wa al-Nashr, 1969).
                                                               63

with eroticism and immortality. The motif of bees and honey was
not very popular with other Hudhalì poets—it was exclusive to these
two poets in the tribe—nor with other Arab poets.4
   The concepts of mu'àra∂ah (literary imitation and contest) are
involved in the description of honey-bees and honey collecting. In
the mechanism of contest, the younger Hudhalì poet attempted to
emulate and outdo the elder Hudhalì poet by using the same theme,
bees and honey-gathering. This form of contest is different from the
case of Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah, who at least according to the
khabar, competed in one and the same arena. It can be assumed that
Abù Dhu"ayb, who had learned poetry-composition from Sà'idah,
not only tried to imitate, but also to outdo his master. In doing so,
Abù Dhu"ayb could succeed his master and transmit the literary
theme to posterity.
   Sà'idah’s qaßìdah is bipartite, consisting of the nasìb (elegiac pre-
lude) and the fakhr (boast). By contrast, Abù Dhu"ayb’s presents the
nasìb section only, although we do not know if the piece is a frag-
ment of a formally complete qaßìdah or an independent amatory ode
in an intentionally truncated form. In both poems the description of
the bee and honey-gathering is embedded in the nasìb section, which
is the object of my comparative examination. As the images of the
bees gathering nectar in both odes are somehow related to the image
of the beloved that is the main motif in the nasìb, I also explore the
relationships between the images of the beloved and those of the
honey-bees.

  4
     See Grunebaum, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. “Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì” and
F. Viré, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “na˙l.” There is an anecdote in
relation to honey and the Hudhalì tribe, called “Ghàr al-'Asal” (“The Cave of
Honey”) about the pre-Islamic poet Ta"abba†a Sharran. The story tells us that
Ta"abba†a Sharran plundered the honey in a cave on the territory of the Hudhalì
tribe, his enemy, who found him and locked up him in the cave. However, he
managed to escape from it through a crack in which he emptied his honey, allow-
ing himself slide to on the honey. The poet boasts of this adventure in nine verses.
Abù al-Faraj al-Ißbahànì, Kitàb al-Aghànì, 25 vols., ed. 'Abd al-Sattàr A˙mad Farràj
(Beirut: Dàr al-Thaqàfah, 1955–61), 21: 158–59. Another pre-Islamic poet, Shanfarà
has a poem mentioning the honey-gatherer (mu'assil ). Al-Shanfarà, Làmiyyat al-'Arab,
ed. Mu˙ammad Badì' Sharìf (Beirut: Manshùràt Dàr Maktabat al-Óayàt, 1964),
43. E. Bräunlich discusses honey-gathering in the poetry of Sà'idah and Abù Dhu"ayb
in his article, “Versuch einer literargeschichtlichen Betrachtungsweise altarabischer
Poesien,” Der Islam 24 (1933), 201–69, esp. 222–26. There is also an Arabic arti-
cle on honey-collecting in the qaßìdahs of Sà'idah and Abù Dhu"ayb: Mu˙ammad
b. Sulaymàn al-Sudays, “Waßf Ishtiyàr al-'Asal fì Bi∂'at Nußùß min Shi'r Hudhayl,”
Majallat Ma'had al-Makh†ù†àt al-'Arabiyyah 33–1 (1989), 149–68.
64                                 

   The description of the bee and the honey-collector is clear and
distinct, i.e., ekphrastic, offering a visual picture before the hearer’s
eyes. The symbols in the ekphrastic description will be revealed
through the conventional codes of the Arabic qaßìdah tradition, which
the reader/listener recognizes. I argue that the bee and honey-gath-
ering are symbols of remedy and resolution in both poems, that is,
the bee and honey together with the wine motif express healing for
the two poets. At the same time, honey-collecting is presented as a
locus for trial and resolution. The waßf of the bee and honey is also
a metaphor for the lost meadow. Moreover, I demonstrate that the
stylistic and structural disparities between the two poems reflect a
contrast in their mood and meaning. The waßf of the bees and honey-
gathering may perform a ra˙ìl-like function as quest in both odes.
Sà'idah’s poem provides an exemplary model of the fakhr both in
structure and theme, while Abù Dhu"ayb’s is characterized by the
nasìb mood of loss and despondency. The waßf of the bees plays an
important role in revealing the two poets’ intentions in their respec-
tive poetic enterprises.


        Remedy and Quest in the Qaßìdah by Sà'idah ibn Ju"ayyah5

1.   Gha∂ùb has departed and
       though you still loved her passionately,6
     but obstacles came between you
       and separated you.

2.   Among the things that came between you
       were the fear of you that
     the jealous and hateful instilled in her,
       and those that spied on you.




  5
    The meter of this ode is kàmil. Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 167–91. I also rely on Abù
Sa'ìd al-Óasan ibn Óusayn al-Sukkarì, Kitàb Shar˙ Ash'àr al-Hudhaliyyìn, ed. 'Abd al-
Sattàr A˙mad Farràj, rev. Ma˙mùd Mu˙ammad Shàkir, 3 vols. (Cairo: Maktab
Dàr al-'Urùbah, 1963), 3: 1097–1121; and Bernhard Lewin, A Vocabulary of the
Hu≈ailian Poems (Göteborg: Kungl. Vetenskaps-och Vitterhets-Samhallet, 1978). See
the Appendix for the Arabic text.
  6
    According to Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, there is a variant of yata˙abbabu: yatajannabu.
                                                               65

3.       The black raven has turned white
           and still your heart does not leave off
         the memory of Gha∂ùb,
           nor can your reproaches be reversed.

4.       As if there appeared to you,
           the day you met her,
         a tent-reared fawn7
           from the wild herds of Wajrah,

5.       An awkward fawn
            with languid gaze and dark eyes;
         its back dark-striped,
            new to the grazing lands, deep-hued.

6.       On an elevated land, the soft tract
            of the sand dune, in its round hollows
         is an Ar†à tree beneath which
            [the fawn] seeks shelter when it is wet.

7.       It takes refuge beneath it
            from a shower of rain every evening
         when the water pours
            down on the tree.

8.       It follows strips of pasturage
            in rocky soil and sometimes draws
         near to warm lands
            where purslane grows.

9.       Indeed I swear by the forelegs [of she-camels]
            and every sacrificial beast
         from whose [slit]
            throat [blood] flows,




     7
    For the meaning of mutarabbabù (tent-reared), there is a variant of mutarabbab fì
n-nabt, mutarabbab fì l-bayt. See the shar˙ of Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn.
66                           

10.   And by their place,
         when they are shut up
      in the narrow bushy box canyon of Ma"zim,
         blocked off by Mount Akhshab.

11.   The oath of an honest man,
         —though you don’t know its worth,
      in the end its truth
         will be revealed—

12.   That I love her [madly],
        and [any] man
      upon whom she’s bestowed
        her gift desires her.

13.   I forbade you [my heart] to burden yourself
         with someone far away,
      [too] distant for you
         and hard to reach.

14.   Is this lightning
         from your [abode],
      as if its flash were a thicket
         set ablaze by burning kindling?

15.   A night-travelling cloud
        that spent eight nights in the islands,
      reaching the open seas,
        blown by the south wind,

16.   When it reached 'Amq,
         the cloud’s side resounded with a crash
      like the roar of
         an untamed stallion;

17.   When it reached Na'màn,
         it settled in a heap of clouds
      like riders knocked
         to the ground;
                                67

18.   The lotus tree was uprooted
        and the huge Ath"ab tree was swept away
      [by the torrent] floating
        between 'Ayn and Nabàt;

19.   Rain fell upon the tamarisk trees
        from Sa'yà and Óalyah,
      and [the torrents] of al-Shujùn and 'Ulyab
        washed down the Dawm palms.

20.   Then I lost sight of it
        and a distant roving part of it
      came to settle
        in the morning in Najd.

21.   She came to us with jet black hair,
        not too short,
      nor thinning at the part,
        nor grey,

22.   Like tufts of soft reeds
        covered with flowing water
      with moss spread
        on its two sides,

23.   And with even front teeth
        like camomile blossoms,
      white and gleaming, her side teeth
        glistening with cool saliva.

24.   [Her mouth is] like choice wine
        of pressed grapes
      mixed with aloe, cinnamon,
        and reddish brown musk.

25.   [Her mouth is] cool as if its saliva,
        when you taste it after a sleep,
      when the stars have risen
        high in the sky were
68                               

26.   The honey of bees on a lofty mountain peak
         where the vultures live
      like a group of men
         wrapped in their coats.8

27.   [Honey] from each steep ridge
         and bend of the valley
      from which after rainfall pure water
         gushes forth.

28.   Among them are pollen gathering bees
        in the mountain-ridge,
      and they produce honey [as abundant as]
        the streams of the bottom of the valley, when they flow.

29.   They revealed streaks of honey
        as white as linen,
      with no honey-combs
        empty or broken,

30.   As if the collected pollen
        on their hind legs,
      when they flew up the mountain paths,
        were kernels of wild cherry,

31.   Until there was preordained for them,
        when they were slow in returning,
      a man of endurance in walking,
        rough-fingered, short.

32.   With him are a water-skin,
        which he carries wherever he goes,
      a leather tool-bag, shining wood sticks [for honey-gathering],
        and a huge leather bag [for the honey].


  8
    Ta˙abbà (translated here as “wrapped in their coats”) actually means “with a
garment or piece of cloth, when sitting, to be like him who is leaning [his back
against a wall],” according to Lane, ˙-b-w.
                                           69

33.   The poor wretch let down the ropes
        to it from a precipice
      too steep for the eagle,
        as if he were lowering a veil,

34.   As if when he lowered himself
        to the ridge below their cave
      he were a ragged cloak
        fluttering in the wind.

35.   He completed his wild honey collecting
        and lowered himself
      as if he were a ragged cloak and
        continued gently descending the ropes.

36.   He separated the pure [honey]
         by mixing it with the water of a clear pool
      filled by streams from mountain cliffs
         where the Ta"lab tree grows.

37.   [The honey] is mixed with a red wine,
        its seal broken by a dumb (non-Arabic speaking) boy
      with short curly hair
        and bored pearl eardrops.

38.   As if her mouth tasted like this
        when it was strained,
      —by God, or even
        more delicious and sweeter.

39.   So today if we no longer
        visit her (in the evening)
      nor long for her
        (in the morning),

40.   It is because
         the swollen tribal gatherings from different clans
      cannot withstand
         the vicissitudes of fate [and the clans disperse].
70                                  

41.    [Some men sat] in a tribal council,
         their bright faces shaded
       by a thicket of upthrust [spears],
         straight as bucket-ropes in a well.

42.    Their lineages are
         close and mighty;
       men like them protect against injustice
         and they are dreaded.

43.    If a pasture is protected and forbidden,
          yet they would pasture there;
       and even if someone comes to warn them,
          they do not flee.9

44.    Men of great dignity,
          each one, when they are attacked,
       is treated warily,
          like a tar-smeared scabby camel.

45.    [Each one is] a violent assailant
         who protects his guest
       and [each is] eager to fight, when he is assaulted,
         almost like a rabid dog.

46.    One day when they were thus,
         there surprised them
       a group of iron-clad men
         gathered for a raid.

47.    They were protected by a squadron
         gleaming [with armor],
       wearing helmets, numerous, restless,
         disdaining to be plundered.

   9
     The word corresponding to “is protected and forbidden” is tu˙ùmiya which is
a derivative verb of al-˙imà (consecrated tribal precinct). Al-˙imà is the ancient insti-
tution of a forbidden sacred pasture-land in Arabia. See Jaroslav Stetkevych, Zephyrs,
32–33, 81–82, and William Robertson Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites
(New York: Macmillan, 1927), 112, 140–47.
                                    71

48.   From every ravine
        there came [galloping] straight down
      a swift noble mare
        or a thick-legged winning steed,

49.   Fleshy with massive
         curved ribs,
      his back long
         like a tightly twisted rope.

50.   His hard hooves
        hammer the ground
      as if solid rocks were
        attached to his fetlocks.

51.   He runs at full speed
        straining at the bit
      as if he were the trunk of a palm tree
        that is stripped for climbing.

52.   Their squadron advanced
        and what they feared came true
      through a raid that did not lie,
        from every mountain ravine.

53.   They were innumerable,
        uncountable; squadrons
      that had gathered together
        swelled [the ranks of ] their army.

54.   And when a scout came
        from the raiding party
      and said, “I have seen the [battle]-commotion,
        so mount your steeds!”

55.   The riders flew
        on every swift, sleek,
      milk-fed mare,
        and a tall dark bay led the way.
72                                 

56.   The horsemen were covered
        with dust rising in ribbons in the air,
      some of it spreading upwards in spumes,
        some hanging in thick clouds.

57.   They exchanged sword-blows
        and pointed at each other the spear-tips
      that the smiths had
        forged and mounted,

58.   Of each brown quivering spearshaft,
        not marred by too short a shaft
      nor by a weak joint
        reinforced with a sinew,

59.   An excellent spear of al-Kha††ì’s make,
        its point was sharpened
      as thin as a flame:
        when you raise it, it blazes up,

60.   With a shaft that has been straightened
        in the spear stretcher,
      adorned by a trimmed, sharpened spearhead
        like the inner feather of an eagle.

61.   Delightful to the trembling hand,
         its shaft quivers
      in the hand the way
         a fox quivers as it runs.10

62.   The swords scattered,
        destroyed their gathered [men]
      and exposed every henna-dyed woman
        to be dragged off and plundered.




   10
      In this verse, Sà'idah uses the verb 'asala twice for the meaning of “to quiver.”
It may suggest a punning connection between the use of this verb and a theme of
this poem, 'asal or honey.
                                                   73

63.   They pursued them,
        driving off as booty their vast herds of camels
      that swayed like rain-emptied clouds
        driven along by the south-east wind.

The first section (ll. 1–12) presents the persona’s love for his mis-
tress and the extended simile comparing her to a gazelle fawn.
Following the Arabic qaßìdah convention, Sà'idah opens the nasìb with
the persona’s separation from his beloved, Gha∂ùb. The persona,
addressing himself as “you,” states that Gha∂ùb, his beloved, has
forsaken him due to some obstacles. Gha∂ùb is derived from the
verb gha∂iba (to be angry) and can be an epithet for an angry man
or woman. This name suggests that she is angry with him. After he
declares that he will not leave off the memory of her, a young gazelle,
which is a simile for the beloved, is portrayed (l. 4). The compari-
son of the beloved to a gazelle is one of the highly conventional
motifs in the nasìb. The poet creates the image based on the phys-
ical analogy between the beloved and the gazelle by using the epi-
thet for the gazelle fawn 'àqid (bending the neck in lying down) in
line 4. The poet describes the beloved very little; instead, he elab-
orates upon the gazelle—her physical appearance, her actions, and
her environment (ll. 4–8). The persona makes an oath to love her
by sacrificial she-camels from whose breasts blood flows (ll. 9–12)
and confesses that he is madly in love with her (l. 12).
   The poem moves to the description of a storm cloud flashing with
lightning (l. 14). The persona asks if this lightning is from the direc-
tion of where his beloved resides—he is trying to locate his beloved’s
tribe. In other words, the description of the travelling cloud is still
in the context of the image of the beloved. “Sà'idah” loses sight of
the clouds in the direction of Najd (l. 20). He recollects the mem-
ory of her again—her hair is as black as coal and likened to soft
rushes in a stream. He describes her front teeth and their cold saliva.
The comparison of the beloved’s saliva to the best wine is one of
the established motifs in pre-Islamic poetry. Up to this point, Sà'idah
presents a string of similes for the beloved: she is like a gazelle fawn;
her hair is like reeds; her saliva is like wine. These similes are based
on physical likeness which also connotes abstract likeness, such as
vulnerability, softness, and youth. The imagery the poet intends to
produce consists of the various sorts of descriptions: the persona’s
state of affairs with his beloved, the gazelle, his passion for her, the
74                                  

rainstorm, the beloved herself, and the wine. Though appearing
digressive and disjunctive, they are connected through certain sym-
bolic relations grounded in the poet’s scheme as well as conventional
cultural codes. Taken together they create an image of the lost gar-
den based on “spiritual” likeness. This process continues further with
the next motif, the bee and honey.
   The sweetness and purity of the bee and honey are compared
to the beloved’s saliva (ll. 25–26). Sà'idah elaborates on how dili-
gently the bees produce honey. The scene of the bees gathering nec-
tar is ekphrastic because it shows a clear and distinct picture before
the audience’s eye. One can visualize the procedure of the bees’ col-
lecting nectar and storing it in the honey-comb. The bees gather
nectar and pollen on a lofty peak of a mountain that is close to the
sky. The towering peak is inhabited by vultures (l. 26), which indi-
cates that it is a high, dangerous place. In the ridges and precipices,
thawàb flows abundantly (l. 27). Thawàb simultaneously suggests three
meanings—water, honey, and reward for the good deeds of the
bees—though the shar˙ gives us, for the meaning of thawàb, the water
gushing forth to a wadi.11 Descending to the bottom of a valley, bees
carry nectar and move to a flowering tract of meadows to seek some
more. The purity of honey is presented through the description of
pure rain water (l. 27). In his book on animals, written in 1371, al-
Damìrì states that the bee was also known for its cleanliness because
it drinks only clean water.12 Every cave of those bees contains plen-
teous honey, which shows abundance and fertility. The scene of the
bees gathering nectar is intimately associated with water—pure rain-
water and mountain streams.
   Through its ekphrastic force, this description of the bees gather-
ing nectar signifies the lost meadow or the Garden of Paradise, not
only because of the physical resemblance, but also because of sym-
bolic and metonymic implications. For the symbolic connections, we
can turn to the sayings of the Qur"àn and the Óadìth (Prophetic tra-
dition). Like wine, honey symbolizes the rivers of the Garden of
Paradise in association with the lost meadow.13 The Qur"àn says,


  11
     Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 177.
  12
     Mu˙ammad ibn Mùsà al-Damìrì, Kitàb Óayàt al-Óayawàn al-Kubrà, 2 vols.
(Cairo: n.p., 1861–62), 2: 467.
  13
     See Suzanne Stetkevych, “Intoxication and Immortality: Wine and Associated
Imagery in al-Ma'arrì’s Garden,” in Critical Pilgrimages: Studies in the Arabic Literary
                                                               75

“There is the similitude of Paradise which the godfearing have been
promised: therein are rivers of water unstaling, rivers of milk unchang-
ing in flavour, and rivers of wine—a delight to the drinkers, rivers,
too, of honey purified.”14 Since there is honey in Paradise, it is,
therefore, a Muslim belief that bees exist there too. Al-Damìrì intro-
duces one ˙adìth saying that bees, honey-flies, are the only flies that
go to heaven, while all the others go to hell.15 Ransome also states
that the bee is a symbol of the soul who enters the kingdom of
heaven.16 Needless to say, the Garden of Paradise is the abode of
immortal life. Michael Sells argues that the description of the beloved
with its related similes in the nasìb is “the mythopoetic world of the
lost garden or meadow.”17 There is a sùrah named al-Na˙l (The Bee)
in the Qur"àn. The two verses regarding the bee are:
     And thy Lord revealed unto the bees, saying: “Take unto yourselves,
     of the mountains, houses, and of the trees, and of what they are build-
     ing. Then eat of all manner of fruit, and follow the ways of your Lord
     easy to go upon.” Then comes there forth out of their bellies a drink
     of diverse hues wherein is healing for men. Surely in that is a sign
     for a people who reflect.18
Al-ˇabarì comments that the bee’s instinct is referred to God’s teach-
ing and that God inspires the bee to gather its food from various
fruits and flowers and to convert it into honey. He goes on to state
that the honeycomb itself, with its hexagonal cells, is geometrically
perfect.19 The bee is selected as an exemplar of those that work
according to their natural instincts and produce excellent results.
   Bees were held to be models of industry, order, purity, economy,
courage, prudence, and communal cooperation. They are prudent
because they drink only clean water and cooperate effectively with
one another. Honey-bees are also known for their division of labor
as well as their social organization. They form colonies of from


Tradition, Literature East and West 25 (1989), ed. Fedwa Malti-Douglas, 32. See also
Sells, “Ghùl,” 131.
  14
      Qur"àn 47: 16. The Koran Interpreted, trans., Arthur J. Arberry, 2 vols. (1955;
reprint, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 2: 221.
  15
      Al-Damìrì, 2: 470.
  16
      Ransome, 146.
  17
      Sells, “Ghùl,” 130.
  18
      Qur"àn 16: 69–70. Arberry, 1: 293–94.
  19
      Abù Ja'far Mu˙ammad ibn Jarìr al-ˇabarì, Jàmi' al-Bayàn fì Tafsìr al-Qur"àn,
30 vols., 1st ed. (Cairo: Al-Ma†ba'ah al-Kubrà al-Amìriyyah, 1905–11), 14: 88–89.
76                                  

several hundred to 80,000 individuals, organized in a rigid caste sys-
tem. Aristotle points out that bee society is composed of three kinds:
the king bee, the worker bee, and the drone bee.20 Each kind per-
forms its specific task to create a productive society. Sà'idah delin-
eates the bees in detail, how, where, and in which order they act
in the course of their honey-producing and how industriously they
work. Through the waßf of the bees, apart from the imagery of the
Paradise, Sà'idah intends to convey those concepts, which will be
further related to the meaning of the waßf of the honey collecting.
    Like the description of the bees, the scene of the honey hunter
(ll. 31–35) is ekphrastic. His fingers, height, and belongings are por-
trayed. He is likened to a ragged cloak hanging and swinging in the
wind. This simile allows the audience to visualize the honey-gath-
erer. At the same time, the description is objective and dispassion-
ate, and the speaker describes the honey-collector from a certain
objective distance. Moreover, the honey-gatherer is portrayed as
confident, bold, strong, and well-prepared for his task; the poem pre-
sents his equipment, his fingers, and his way of walking (ll. 31–32).
Despite the steepness of the precipice, he hardly shows any fear or
other feelings. He expertly executes his task. Sà'idah portrays the
scene of the honey-collecting as if he knew from the beginning that
the gatherer would successfully gain the honey. That is why the poet
says that the honey-collector’s success was preordained (l. 31).
    The profound symbolism of honey likewise helps us to interpret
the waßf of the bees and honey-gathering. As the above-mentioned
Qur"ànic verses show, honey was well-known for its efficacy as a
medicine. There is a ˙adìth showing its medical effect:
     A man went to Mu˙ammad and told him his brother had violent
     pains in his body, and the Prophet told him to give the sick man
     honey. He did as he was told, but soon came back to say his brother
     was no better. Mu˙ammad answered, “Go back and give him more
     honey, for God speaks the truth, thy brother’s body lies.” When the
     honey was taken again, the sick man, thanks to the grace of God,
     recovered immediately.21




  20
     Aristotle, Historia Animalium, trans. A. L. Peck, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1965–1970), Book V, 4: 21. Aristotle called a chief bee
(queen bee) a “king bee” because he believed that it was a male bee.
  21
     Al-Damìrì, 2: 470. This quotation is from Ransome, 71–72.
                                                         77

Another ˙adìth indicates the significance of honey: “For you [Muslims]
there are two remedies: the Qur"àn and honey—Honey is the cure
for all maladies, while the Qur"àn is for the heart.”22 Also, honey
bears the signification of righteousness; the phrase, dhù (having) 'asal
(honey), means one who has a righteous, good, proper action ('amal
ßàli˙) attributable to him, for which the praise of him is deemed
sweet.23
   On the other hand, the term “honey” in Arabic, 'asal implies eroti-
cism and fertility because the Arabic phrase ma∂rib 'asalah, which
consists of the terms ma∂rib (place, spot) and 'asalah (honey), is a
euphemism for “the place of injection of sperm,” or “the source
from which one springs,” “ancestry.”24 We may assume that this
euphemism is grounded on the form in common between honey and
sperm, sticky liquid, and on the association between the delight of
intercourse and the taste of honey as Ibn ManΩùr suggests (more
below). It may also be associated with bees’ power to pollinate flowers
by carrying and spreading pollen among flowers, as they suck nec-
tar from the flowers. Furthermore, one ˙adìth clearly denotes the sex-
ual meaning of 'usaylah, a diminutive of 'asal; The Prophet said to a
woman who desired to be divorced from a husband because of his
sexual impotency in order that she might return to a former hus-
band, “No, [you must stay with the present husband] until you taste
'usaylatahu (his sperm) and he tastes 'usaylataki (your sperm).”25 Ibn
ManΩùr says that in this saying the delight of sexual intercourse is
likened to the taste of honey.26
   Sà'idah’s description of bees’ gathering nectar and honey-collect-
ing can be associated with an erotic, sexual image, which thus cre-
ates a connection with the scene of the kisses of the beloved and
the nights the persona spent with her. That is why the poet says
that for the persona his beloved’s kiss was like the honey of bees (ll.
25–26). In his discussion of the lost meadow, Michael Sells says the
description of a beloved introduces “a dynamic polarity of sexual
union and ablution or purification.”27 In light of his understanding,

  22
     Al-Damìrì, 2: 470.
  23
     See '-s-l in Lisàn al-'Arab and Lane.
  24
     See Lane, '-s-l.
  25
     Abù al-Óusayn Muslim ibn al-Óajjàj al-Qushayrì al-Naysàbùrì, Ía˙ì˙ Muslim,
4 vols., 1st ed. (Dàr "I˙yà" al-Kutub al-'Arabiyyah, 1955–56), 2: 1057–58.
  26
     Lisàn al-'Arab, '-s-l.
  27
     Sells, “Ghùl,” 131.
78                                  

in our poem purity and sexuality in the bee and honey are inter-
mingled. Honey implies simultaneously ablutionary water and sexual
water. On the other hand, from the distinct sexual signification of
'asal in the ˙adìth, the honey collecting suggests the quest for eroticism
and immortality. In a deeper meaning, what the honey-gatherer actu-
ally pursues is not the honey, but the beloved, the lost meadow, and
immortality.
   By the depiction of the bees and their honey, “Sà'idah” tries to
heal himself and to overcome his unrequited love for Gha∂ùb.
Although the nasìb changes motifs—his separation from the beloved,
a gazelle fawn, rainstorm, wine, and bees and honey—these motifs
converge on one theme, the beloved. Throughout the nasìb, from
the opening to line 40, the persona recalls the memory of Gha∂ùb
and simultaneously attempts to recover from the lovesickness that
torments him. Also, based on the symbolic implications of the bee
and honey—industry, social organization, and righteousness—the waßf
may also function as a restraint to the persona’s ardent passion for
Gha∂ùb. These implications generated from the bee and the honey
can suggest that through the waßf of them the persona directs him-
self toward a righteous path. That is, his reason and mind are inspired
by viewing the diligent work of the bees and by pursuing the honey.
   If the description of the bees can be understood as the expression
of healing, the scene of the man’s collecting of honey signifies the
persona’s resolution to get his beloved off his mind. In doing so, the
persona seeks immortality in the honey. Although the persona is not
the collector and is merely an observer of the collector’s action, the
persona makes up his mind through the process of viewing the scene.
The man appearing in line 31 is ready for the honey-collecting,
equipped with a water-skin, a leather vessel, and shining wood sticks.
His collecting honey is a perilous task because the honey is located
in some caves on a precipice. Actually, there are prehistoric rock
paintings (approximately 5000 B.C.E.) in eastern Spain and South
Africa, in which primitive people are climbing up a ladder to gather
honey in a bees’ nest located in a high location on some precipice.28


  28
      See the paintings in Eva Crane, The Archaeology of Beekeeping (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1983) 19–23. Crane also introduces ancient Egyptian beekeeping
practices with some wall-paintings of 2400 B.C.E. and 1450 B.C.E. that depict
honey being harvested from hives and packed into containers, thus, some of the
earliest recorded beekeeping scenes, 35–39.
                                                   79

Therefore, honey-gathering must have been a dangerous task. More-
over, if bees return to their hives while the gatherer collects honey,
they will attack him with their poisonous stings. Nevertheless, the
man lets himself down with the ropes that are his only mainstay.
   I argue that the description of the bees’ gathering nectar metaphor-
ically conveys the image or vestige of the beloved with reference to
the lost meadow or the Garden of Paradise. At the same time, the
waßf of the honey-collector suggests the two concepts: 1. healing,
restraint, and resolution as a part of the poet’s psychological move-
ment; 2. the quest for immortality in the lost garden. These two
concepts exist simultaneously in the text. As we see in the presen-
tation of the lost meadow, we recognize the persona’s psychological
and emotional movements through the shift of the various motifs in
the nasìb. Sà'idah’s nasìb shows delicate and gradual changes in the
persona’s mind through the poetic motifs within the larger frame-
work of the image: the lost garden.
   When the poem returns to wine (l. 37), we realize that the honey
produced by the bees’ nectar-gathering and the man’s honey-col-
lecting is mixed with the choicest wine. The poem goes on to say
that the beloved’s kiss is even sweeter than that excellent wine, which
Sà'idah has elaborately described (ll. 26–38). Therefore, the ultimate
goal for the poet is the world of the lost garden, evoked by the
image of the beloved, utilizing the profound symbolism of the bee
and honey. On one level, the waßf of the bee and honey-gathering
completes the description of the beloved by creating the profound
and complicated image of the beloved. At the same time, however,
the (dangerous) quest for cure, remedy, and immortality serve to
move the persona out of the mood of despondency of the nasìb to
the heroic self-assurance of the fakhr (boast) which follows the nasìb.
For “Sà'idah,” honey operates as an object of his quest, and once
obtained, through the honey’s remedial effects it becomes a ground-
work for his next step ( fakhr). In this regard, it performs a struc-
tural-functional role similar to that of the more conventional ra˙ìl
(desert journey/quest).
   We have seen the association of honey with eroticism, purity,
immortality, the lost meadow, Paradise, etc. While the ekphrasis of
the bee and honey offers us the pictorial image of the objects, the
ekphrasis in itself is not sufficient to explain the metaphoric, metonymic,
and symbolic aspect of the bees and honey-collector; rather the lis-
tener/reader has to know the cultural codes including the structural
80                                

and thematic significance of key images, shared by the poet and the
community of the audience. Although all the motifs with their waßfs
in the nasìb appear disjointed, they are connected both structurally
and thematically.
   Line 39 marks a transition from the evening to the morning, which
parallels a transition from erotic infatuation to social responsibility.
A shift from night to morning expresses not merely a change in tem-
poral state, but also changes in ritual or psychological states, with
the morning attack as a conventional qaßìdah characteristic, indicat-
ing the transition from the ra˙ìl to the fakhr.29 This line of Sà'idah
is the turning point for the persona both in his feelings and his poetic
form. The beloved’s mouth is sweeter than the honeyed wine, but
his affairs with her is in the past. Because of seasonal migration,
clans must disperse, and so the relationship with the beloved, how-
ever passionate, is also fleeting. Though he is captivated by her
astounding beauty and charm, his passion eventually wanes, for tribal
responsibilities and heroic pursuits beckon.
   Line 39 indeed demonstrates the poet’s transition from individual
concern to communal contribution. In the nasìb, his interest and con-
cern are exclusively for his departed beloved. He is dreaming and
is immersed in the sweet memory about the time he spent with her.
By contrast, in the fakhr, the poet boasts of his tribe with the descrip-
tion of the tribal assembly and the battle. Through the praise of his
own tribe, he can contribute to his tribe and society. This is a pro-
gression in him from individual self-absorption in the nasìb to col-
lective participation in the fakhr. This movement in the qaßìdah
demonstrates the persona’s psychological and social transformation.
In the nasìb, his recollection, disappointment, dreaming, and resolu-
tion are presented. On the other hand, in the fakhr, we witness brav-
ery, confidence, and pride. In lines 39 and 40, Sà'idah explicitly
presents the transition from separation to aggregation or from indi-
vidual to collective concerns.
   The fakhr section describes an attack of the persona’s tribe, the
Banù Hudhayl, on its enemy. It opens with the opponents’ tribal
assembly. The poem portrays their arms and excellent steeds, show-
ing how strong and valiant they are. A scout of the adversary tribe



  29
       See Suzanne Stetkevych, Mute, 228.
                                                             81

comes back and reports agitation and vigor of the Hudhalì squadron
to his men (l. 54). The battle scene between the two tribes with the
description of spearshafts and spear-tips continues till the Hudhalì
party destroys the other party. The ode ends with the Hudhalì tribe’s
victory over its enemies in plundering the enemies’ camel herds and
women as booty (ll. 62–63).


                  Heartrending Love in the Ode by Abù Dhu"ayb30

1.        Did what happened
            between us tell you of
          separation from Asmà"
            the day her riding camels departed?

2.        You scattered the augury birds
            [to read her fortune],
          then if misfortune strikes your love for her,
            she will depart from you.

3.        I circled around her
             and desired her for years,
          I feared her husband
             and was too shy to face her.

4.        Three years passed
            in this humiliation,
          while she was
            in the bloom of youth.

5.        My heart disobeyed me
            and went to her;
          certainly I was obedient to its command,
            but I did not know if seeking her was right.

6.        I said to my heart:
             I wish you all the best,

     30
     The meter of this poem is †awìl. Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 70–81. I have also con-
sulted al-Sukkarì’s recension, 1: 42–55. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
82                                

      but your love for her will lead you
        to an untimely death.31

 7.   Not even the wine 32
         —that Syrian wine that came exported [as a captive]
      for which a banner is raised
         whose eagle guides the generous [to purchase it],

 8.   Red wine like the juice of raw meat,
        neither an acid nor a sour wine
      whose flame burns
        its drinkers’ [throats].

 9.   [The wine-merchants] travel
        for a while with the riders
      and form a pact of protection,
        and the covenant guarantees their safety.

10.   [The wine-merchants] remained with the horsemen
        until they could clearly see the [Banù] Thaqìf
      whose domed tents were pitched
        on the rough ground of al-Ashàt.

11.   The [Thaqìf ] clan of Àl Mu'attib
        surrounded [the wine];
      both buying the wine and taking it by force
        were hard for them.

12.   When they saw that
        the merchants were adamant
      and that it was not permissible for them
        to attack them and take it by force,

   31
      After line 6 an additional line is given in al-Sukkarì’s recension: I swear it
must be a jar of musk whose mouth diffuses its odor, at the door of Persian per-
fume merchants.
   32
      The italic indicates that this line is the beginning of the series of extended
similes, ending with an elative form, comparing the beloved’s saliva to the wine
and honey. It is connected to lines 26 and 27, saying that her saliva is more tasty
than the wine and honey.
                                       83

13.   They paid the high price
        that [the merchants] demanded,
      then they seized it,
        for it was now permissible and easy to swallow.

14.   [Mixed] with the honey of bees
        which fly to every hidden place,
      and when the color of the sun turns yellow,
        it is time for them to return [to their hive].

15.   With the honey that
        the king bees make:
      who go in the morning to a high mountain
        whose peak almost reaches the sky.

16.   The honey-bees diligently gather nectar
        on the mountain’s crest
      and descend to the valleys
        with winding streams.

17.   When they ascend in it
         their swarm rises
      like a flight of arrows in a shooting contest,
         streaming toward the target.

18.   Among them are nectar gatherers
        that remain on the flower-filled mountain,
      sucking with red wings
        and downy necks.

19.   When the man
         from the Khàlid clan saw them,
      like pebbles thrown in the air,
         the swarm stumbling as it tried to rise,

20.   He made up his mind:
        he was determined to enter their hive
      or else another in a land
        with dust like flour.
84                                  

21.    [His friends] said to him:
         “O Óaràm, avoid them!”
       but he was enticed by the height
         and the size of the honeycomb.

22.    So he fastened ropes by which his [fate] hangs
         and was pleased by his skill,
       as long as the ropes didn’t
         betray him by breaking.

23.    He let himself down
         between a rope and a wooden peg
       on a rock, as smooth as a leather cloth
         on which even the raven slips.

24.    When he drove them out
         with the smoke, they were confused,33
       and humiliation and sadness
         came over them.

25.    How sweet is
         the wine of al-Sha"m and honey;
       when the wine is pure, aged,
         and red and the honey is mixed in—

26.    Not even
          [the wine mixed with honey]
       in a shining wooden wine bowl
          freshly carved and hewn

27.    Is sweeter than her mouth
          when you come [to her] at night,
       and her robe is
          wrapped around you.




  33
      I use a variant of ta˙ayyazat (gathered) (that is found in al-Sukkarì’s recension),
ta˙ayyarat (confused). See al-Sukkarì, 6 n. 79.
                                                85

28.     One day she saw me
          falling down drunk,
        then I grieved her at [Wadi] Qurràn,
          for indeed the companions of wine are disheveled.

29.     If she had wronged me,
           then I would not have blamed her for it
        nor would my response
           have caused her grief,

30.     My dog would not have growled at her
          to keep her people away,
        even if her dogs had barked
          at me with blame.

This amatory ode presents similar aspects structurally and themati-
cally to the nasìb of Sà'idah, whom Abù Dhu"ayb served as ràwì
(reciter). Abù Dhu"ayb begins his ode with the motif of Ωa'n, “depart-
ing women,” one of the common motifs of the nasìb. The persona
wonders if his beloved, Asmà", will forsake him and scatters birds
for augury to know her fortune (l. 2). A bird exposing its left side
as it flies by is considered a bad omen.34 Line 3 reveals that Asmà"
is married and that he fears her husband. His love is illicit and if
discovered would disgrace him and his beloved. The poem contin-
ues to present the persona’s past mental distress: his heart disobeys
him, but he obeys his heart. He wonders, however, if pursuing this
love is right. Then he begins to feel that he probably ought to aban-
don his ardent passion. The persona is aware that the love is haz-
ardous and will lead to an unexpected or untimely death, al-mawt
al-jadìd (l. 6).
   The next theme is wine (l. 7). The extended similes comparing
the beloved’s mouth to wine cover as many as twenty lines (ll. 7–27).
The poet tells us how precious and delicious the wine is because it
is carried to al-Ashàt by the wine merchants accompanied by some
riders who agreed to protect them. Though the Thaqìf clan of Àl
Mu'attib try to bargain for a better price, in the end they agree to
pay the high price that the merchants demand. The shar˙ (commentary)


  34
       See Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 5 n. 70.
86                              

says that merchants brought the wine from Sha"m (Damascus, Syria)
to Sùq 'UkàΩ (the market of 'UkàΩ). Sùq 'UkàΩ took place in Dhù
al-Óijjah (the month of the pilgrimage), a sacred month, when war
or fighting was forbidden. Because of the sacred month, the clan of
Àl Mu'attib cannot take the wine by force.35 The exquisite taste
satisfies the people of Àl Mu'attib that the wine was worth the dear
price that they paid.
   The wine is then mixed with honey, thereby leading the way to
the description of the bees and honey-collector. Abù Dhu"ayb’s
description of bees is functionally and structurally similar to that of
Sà'idah and, like it, conveys the concepts of immortality and eroti-
cism, and the image of the lost garden. However, Abù Dhu"ayb’s
waßf of the honey-collector is more subjective and emotional than
that of Sà'idah. While Sà'idah portrays his honey-collector from the
viewpoint of an objective observer, Abù Dhu"ayb’s persona seems to
identify with the collector. Abù Dhu"ayb specifies that the collector
is from the Khàlid clan (l. 19) who, according to the shar˙, were
famous for their honey-collecting.36 The bees are described from the
point of view of the Khàlidì; for him they are like pebbles thrown
in the air. The collector makes up his mind to approach the bee
hive and certainly knows that if the rope breaks, he will fall to the
earth (l. 20). His clansmen try to dissuade him (l. 21). Despite the
danger, the size of the honeycombs entices him (l. 21). He is relieved
that he has descended successfully to one rock, because he was afraid
that the ropes might fail him. Danger remains though, for the rock
he reaches is as slippery as a leather cloth.
   The Khàlidì, unlike the honey-gatherer in Sà'idah’s poem, uses
fumigation to sedate and drive out the bees. In Sà'idah’s poem, the
man approaches the honeycombs in the daytime when the bees are
away. By contrast, Abù Dhu"ayb’s honey-gatherer goes to the cave
when the bees are present, armed with a cultural weapon, smoke.37
Honey is a symbol of female sexuality, that is, the beloved. At the
same time, the scene of collecting honey is a locus for resolution.


  35
     Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 74.
  36
     Dìwàn al-Hudhaliyyìn, 1 n. 78.
  37
     According to Ransome, one passage is found concerning fumigation in the
Talmud. It refers to the medaph which was employed as a vessel for burning cow-
dung. One commentator explains that people used the medaph to smoke out the
bees when gathering honey. See Ransome, 70.
                                                   87

The persona through his “stand-in” the Khàlidì honey-collector truly
seeks honey which would cure his broken and devastated heart. In
line 24, the poem says, “humiliation and sadness came over them
[the bees].” The bees are forced out from their home. The poet
personifies the bees by giving them feelings.
   The persona’s ardent passion for his illicit beloved and his fear of
her husband is metaphorically connected to the Khàlidì honey-col-
lector’s craving for honey and fear of both the treacherous precipice
and the bees. If the gatherer can risk his life for honey, the persona
can also risk his life for his love. In the beginning of the ode he
admits that his love is dangerous and that he constantly wavers over
whether he should pursue this passion or not. The emphasis on the
wine’s value through the elaboration of the protection of the wine
and of the negotiation between the wine-merchants and the clans-
men confirms the worth of the beloved for him inasmuch as the
honeyed wine signifies female sexuality and immortality. The emotional
description of honey-collecting reveals how deeply the Khàlidì craves
honey. At the same time, we should not overlook the role of the
honey-collecting passage in Sà'idah’s poem, where the quest for honey
ultimately helps the persona to make the psychological transition
from the loss of the beloved to commitment to the tribe. The honey-
gathering scene thus contains complex and ambivalent dimensions.
   I suggest that the bees’ “humiliation and sadness” represent the
persona’s emotional state, that is, the personification of the bees sug-
gests the persona’s identification with them (in addition to his
identification with the honey-collector). Like the bees, he has lost his
“honey.” By ending the honey-collecting passage with an expression
of loss (rather than, for example, the triumphant happiness of the
honey-collector), the poet has set the stage for the anti-heroic, despon-
dent ending of the poem. In other words, although he first seems
to identify with the collector in his craving for honey, ultimately the
persona identifies emotionally with the bees who have been deprived
of it. Unlike the section of Sà'idah, where the description of the bees
and honey-collecting is regarded as functioning like a ra˙ìl, that is,
a transition between the passive despondency of the nasìb and the
active virility of the fakhr, Abù Dhu"ayb’s description ultimately con-
cludes with an image of loss and sorrow. Thus if we view the honey-
collecting description as a sort of quest, we can say that the persona
in Abù Dhu"ayb’s poem has started out identifying with the suc-
cessful seeker, but in the end identifies with the “losers” (the bees),
88                                

signaling thereby his inability to leave behind his sorrow and pas-
sion and to achieve the sense of self-confidence and accomplishment
of the fakhr.
   Honey taken by the Khàlidì is mixed with pure wine (l. 25). Line
26 marks the end of the long extended simile of the beloved that
goes back to line 7. It turns out that all the waßfs of the wine, the
bees’ gathering nectar, and the honey-collecting are to show the
beloved’s beauty to advantage. This technique, common in the Arabic
qaßìdah tradition, is called the “elative extended simile” because it
uses the structure, “such is ‘more than’ such.” The second half of
line 27 reinforces the reading of the waßf of the bee and honey as
eroticism, for it clearly denotes that her mouth is even sweeter than
the honeyed wine “when you [the persona] come [to her] at night,
and her robe is wrapped around you.” The final two lines present
the poet’s affection and tenderness toward Asmà". He would not
have blamed her, even if she had been harsh with him. Neither his
dog nor he would have barked at her people to drive them away,
even if her dogs or people had barked or slandered him. The per-
sona appears very generous towards her and her people. If he endures
the people’s slander of him and thus gives the beloved peace and
comfort, he will do it. The last remarks show that he is incapable
in the end of recovering from his lovesickness.
   Since we do not know whether this ode is a fragment (the nasìb
part) from a complete tripartite qaßìdah or constitutes the whole ode,
it is difficult to interpret the meaning of the ode. Nevertheless, Abù
Dhu"ayb’s ode appeals to me as a complete amatory ode rather than
a fragment of a qaßìdah. This can be accounted for by the fact that
if the honey-collecting can serve as a ra˙ìl-like function, and even
right after the nasìb, the poem should move up to the fakhr, having
left the memory of the beloved behind. As stated above, von
Grunebaum mentions that Abù Dhu"ayb tends to elaborate the nasìb
into a complete ode.38 The ode ends full of his passion and sorrow.
“Abù Dhu"ayb” may even continue desiring to love her and suffering
from the lovesickness. This ode expresses the insatiable desire and
the heartrending lamentation in “Abù Dhu"ayb.”


   38
      Grunebaum, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì.”
He also mentions that Abù Dhu"ayb was not good at the description of a hunt
scene.
                                                  89

                       Comparison: Pride or Love

Although the themes in the two poems reveal common aspects, we
have also found differences that are based on the two poets’ indi-
vidual and social stances. The major difference in structure is that
Sà'idah’s ode ends with the final boasting section, while Abù Dhu"ayb’s
consists of only the nasìb. In terms of motifs, the elder poet’s poem
contains the gazelle/oryx cow and the rainstorm scene, but the
younger’s does not. Instead, Abù Dhu"ayb’s includes the scene of
the wine-merchants and their transactions that eventually elevates
the value of the beloved. In both poems, the bees and honey with
the wine motif are linked to the imagery of the beloved. Both descrip-
tions of the bee and honey-gathering are ekphrastic. The waßf of the
bees plays a role as a metaphor for the lost meadow where the per-
sonae are restrained in their passion and healed of their lovesickness
by drinking the honeyed-wine, while the men’s honey-collecting pre-
sents a locus for trial and resolution. The bee descriptions of both
poets are similar; analogous similes and scenery show the bees’
industry.
   By contrast, the two poets create the waßf of the honey-collecting
differently. Sà'idah’s poem is objectified, while Abù Dhu"ayb shows
subjectivity and deep feelings. Sà'idah places his persona both psy-
chologically and physically remote from the poetic object, the col-
lector. Meanwhile, Abù Dhu"ayb identifies his persona with the
gatherer and the bees as if the persona were the one experiencing
these trials. I infer that one of the reasons for Sà'idah’s objective
depiction is that the poet had known that the persona would over-
come the trial—for the poet, the description of the trial is under-
taken from the psychological stance of the subsequent fakhr. Abù
Dhu"ayb’s more subjective description, by contrast, is undertaken
from the psychological stance of the nasìb, providing the desperate
situation for his honey-collector and renders it emotionally so that
he can show the persona’s fervent zeal for honey/the beloved.
   Parallel to this contrast of objective and subjective viewpoints, the
two waßfs of the same motif, the honey collecting, indicate different
functions on a deeper and more complicated level. In both poems,
the waßf represents simultaneously the quest for sexuality and the
beloved and the trial to leave off the memory of her. However, the
ra˙ìl-like function of Sà'idah’s waßf stands as a step to the higher
phase, the boasting of his tribe, whereas Abù Dhu"ayb’s description
90                            

works to intensify his quest for the beloved, by reconfirming her
charm as well as his longing for it. The resolution of Sà'idah’s honey-
collector is to forget about his mistress, whereas that of the younger
poet’s collector is to pursue his self-destructive love. The description
of the bees and honey acts positively on Sà'idah’s persona in terms
of its role of curing and restraining the passion, but the same motif
operates differently on Abù Dhu"ayb’s persona—namely, it works
more intensely in its function of yearning for immortality.
   Linked intimately to the themes, the structure of the two poems
is dissimilar. In Sà'idah’s work it is not difficult for the reader to
understand his poetic scheme, because he elucidates the important
transitional points. He declares that the persona still loves his beloved,
but determines to leave the memory of his beloved by saying that
the evening has gone. In the morning, the persona goes to a tribal
battle and boasts of his tribe with the description of the victorious
war scene. By contrast, a deep melancholic tone predominates through-
out Abù Dhu"ayb’s ode. It is indeed emotional, and the mental state
of its persona does not change greatly. He tries to move upward,
getting out of the morass of difficulties. However, he cannot, or he
may not desire to. He rather wants to be immersed in the world of
his beloved or the lost meadow for good.
   In this chapter, we have confirmed again that the physical and
mimetic description can convey a larger concept in a metaphorical,
symbolic, and metonymic manner. Furthermore, we have witnessed
that one and the same theme, the bee and honey-collecting, func-
tions very differently in the structural and thematic framework of an
entire ode, according to the poet’s poetic enterprise. So, the waßf is
not merely the minute and accurate description of nature. The waßf
is poetically flexible and serviceable, showing its complicated and
profound functions. All waßfs in the qaßìdahs are not disjointed nor
compartmentalized; rather they are fully integrated, through sym-
bolic and metonymic relations, into the overarching semantic struc-
ture of the poem. All the symbolic significations of the texts we have
examined are elicited from the cultural codes and the life-world of
the original audience of the two poems. The ekphrasis of the bee
and the honey-gathering becomes meaningful only after the contex-
tualization of the poems in the structural code of the qaßìdah form.
   Further contextualization provides us another dimension to explain
the contrast between the two poems: why does Sà'idah choose pride,
                                                           91

whereas Abù Dhu"ayb chooses love? Sà'idah’s nasìb is the overture
to victory or boasting, whereas Abù Dhu"ayb’s nasìb or the whole
ode reveals stagnation which has no destination nor way out. Abù
Dhu"ayb is pulled down to unexpected death (l. 6) and never ascends
to the end of the ode, or he would rather wish to keep dreaming
about Asmà". It can be assumed that this difference is caused by the
two poets’ surroundings; Abù Dhu"ayb lived through the drastic vicis-
situdes of the Mukha∂ram age in its literary as well as political
aspects, whereas Sà'idah enjoyed the firmly-established values and
significance of tribalism and the qaßìdah tradition without undergo-
ing the transition following the advent of the Prophet Mu˙ammad
and the Qur"àn. In his comparative analysis of the Mu'allaqah of
Labìd, another Mukha∂ram poet, and Abù Dhu"ayb’s renowned
elegy for his sons,39 Kamal Abu-Deeb points out that Abù Dhu"ayb,
who composed his poem after Islam, does not conceive of the tribe
or communal system as a force of preservation of life and continu-
ity. Abu-Deeb suggests that the dark vision of reality and the ulti-
mate power of death shown in Abù Dhu"ayb’s ode may have been
generated by the loss of the tribe as a physical and symbolic unit
which maintained his and his ancestors’ value system.40 Abù Dhu"ayb
may not have found a sense of continuity and a system of beliefs in
the new Muslim community. Abù Dhu"ayb’s despair, caused by these
socio-historical vicissitudes, prevented him from emulating the heroic
quest of Sà'idah’s poem, which embodies both physically and con-
ceptually a well-established ideal institution. Nonetheless, Abù Dhu"ayb
successfully expresses his heartrending love instead. I will, hence,
conclude by suggesting that while the pre-Islamic qaßìdah provides
the shared literary idiom for both the pre-Islamic and Mukha∂ram
poets, the formal and stylistic differences suggest that with the changes
in concepts of loyalty and leadership that accompanied the coming
of Islam the full tribal qaßìdah may have entered a period of crisis.




  39
      The ode is found in al-Sukkarì, Kitàb Shar˙ Ash'àr al-Hudhaliyyìn, 1: 4–14.
  40
      Kamal Abu-Deeb, “Toward A Structural Analysis of Pre-Islamic Poetry,”
International Journal of Middle East Studies 6 (1975), 178–79.
                                CHAPTER THREE

             REALITY AND REVERIE:
  WINE AND EKPHRASIS IN THE 'ABBÀSID POETRY OF
          ABÙ NUWÀS AND AL-BUÓTURÌ*


Having left the waßfs of natural objects––the horse, the bee and
honey-gathering––behind, we enter the world of ekphrasis in its mod-
ern conception, the verbal representation of non-verbal texts. That
is, the domain of ekphrasis in its broader meaning, clear and dis-
tinct description of any object, now takes a step forward into the
domain of ekphrasis in the sphere of interarts and intermedial stud-
ies. Our first concern of interartistic relevance lies in the waßfs of
visual arts produced under the 'Abbàsid reign of the Islamic era.
   In the Arabo-Islamic tradition, poetry—“licit magic”—as well as
the visual arts and music all express artistic powers that are sup-
posed to be in conflict with the Almightiness of God. Only God is
to possess all power and might. Nevertheless, poetry, particularly the
qaßìdat al-mad˙ (panegyrical ode), was allowed to flourish in the tra-
dition, because it glorified and exalted the mamdù˙s (patron-rulers)
who were legitimized by God, whereas music and painting (consid-
ered unlawful in Islam) were actively discouraged.1 Above all, the
idea that painting is unlawful in Islam is widely accepted.2 Therefore,
it is relatively rare for us to encounter qaßìdahs containing the ren-
ditions of paintings or other kinds of visual art, but there are such
poems of non-Arabic motifs or by poets who are of non-Arab descent.
   Due to the fact that both the qaßìdah and the visual portrait serve
to legitimize a ruler while preserving the social and cultural values


   * An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the annual meeting of the
Middle East Studies Association of North America, Providence, R. I., November
1996, and appeared as Akiko Motoyoshi, “Reality and Reverie: Wine and Ekphrasis
in the 'Abbàsid Poetry of Abù Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì,” Annals of the Japan Association
for Middle East Studies 14 (1999): 85–120.
   1
     See Johann Christoph Bürgel, The Feather of Simurgh: The “Licit Magic” of the Arts
in Medieval Islam (New York: New York University Press, 1988), 1–4.
   2
     See Creswell, 159–66.
                                                                   93

of the monarchy, in the Arabo-Islamic tradition the qaßìdah played
a role that corresponds to the function of visual portraiture in Western
court culture.3 This function of the qaßìdah was crucial for the ruler
to maintain the support of his subjects and to uphold the dignity of
legitimate Islamic sovereignty. Additionally, it can be assumed that
the aversion to painting in Islam helped the qaßìdah tradition to
develop and prosper, because the Arabo-Islamic political institution
required some means other than visual portraiture to maintain the
perfect image of the rulership, by which a sense of its greatness and
authenticity could spread throughout the realm. This means was the
qaßìdat al-mad˙.
   In this chapter, I deal with the qaßìdahs of visual arts, a design on
a wine goblet and of a wall painting by the two 'Abbàsid poets Abù
Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì. These two odes are considered excellent qaßì-
dahs by Arab critics. Their ekphrastic objects were related to Sàsànian
(Persian) history, and Abù Nuwàs was of Persian descent. The waßfs
of a design on a wine cup and of a wall painting are of man-made
objects and “texts” (in a semiotic sense). The description of visual
art objects can be classified under the modern meaning of ekphra-
sis, “the verbal representation of real or fictitious texts composed in
a non-verbal sign system.”4 The waßfs concern particularly the rela-
tionship between poetry and painting, which has been studied sub-
stantially in the Western literary tradition. For my examination of
the ekphrasis in this chapter, I rely on the theoretical approaches to
the ekphrasis of the Shield of Achilles in the Homeric Iliad by Andrew
Sprague Becker.5
   My concern in this chapter is the role of ekphrasis in association
with the notion of reality, reverie, and wine. I show that the persona’s


   3
     See Suzanne Stetkevych, “The Qaßìdah and the Poetics of Ceremony: Three
'Ìd Panegyrics to the Cordoban Caliphate,” in Languages of Power in Islamic Spain,
ed. Ross Brann, Occasional Publications of the Department of Near Eastern Studies
and the Program of Jewish Studies, Cornell University, vol. 3 (Bethesda: CDL Press,
1997), 25. She also maintains that the panegyric qaßìdah in the Arabo-Islamic tra-
dition is comparable to royal portraiture in the European context, 27.
   4
     This definition is by Claus Clüver. The description of the wine cup and the
wall painting by our Arab poets also fit the understanding of ekphrasis by Spitzer
and Heffernan, “the verbal representation of the visual art works.” For further dis-
cussion on the definitions of ekphrasis, see pp. 11–14 in the Introduction.
   5
     Andrew Sprague Becker, The Shield of Achilles and the Poetics of Ekphrasis (Lanham,
Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1995).
94                                

psychological states shift between reality and reverie as they move
into and out of the spheres of visual objects and of intoxication. I
analyze the qaßìdah of Abù Nuwàs (747/762–815), “A†làl Óànah”
(The Ruins of a Tavern),6 and the qaßìdah of al-Bu˙turì (821–97),
“Ìwàn Kisrà” (The Palace of the Sàsànian Sovereigns). I have selected
these two qaßìdahs because of their common aspects: the employment
of ekphrastic and wine motifs and of the motif of the Sàsànians. I
investigate the functions of the waßfs in relation to a structural analy-
sis focusing on the bipartite structure of nasìb-madì˙ or the tripartite
organization of qaßìdat al-mad˙: nasìb (elegiac prelude), ra˙ìl (the jour-
ney of the poet through the desert and his mount, the she-camel),
and madì˙ (panegyric).
   The classical Arabic commentators and traditional Orientalists may
have denied the minute depiction of visual objects in the two qaßì-
dahs any deeper function than presenting what is described, since
they relegated the qaßìdah to “a plane of nonaesthetic, nonexperien-
tial, merely culturally descriptive usefulness.”7 Hideaki Sugita, after
his thorough comparative investigation of the depiction of visual
works of art in Arabic and Persian poetry (including the two poems
I deal with in this chapter), more recently concluded that the Arabic
qaßìdah shows “practical realism” for its descriptive quality, in con-
trast to Persian poetry, which exhibits “fantastic symbolism.”8
   Beyond this, I argue in this chapter as well that the waßf plays an
important thematic and structural role in a more complicated man-
ner than mere “description.” In the case of these two poets’ qaßì-
dahs, the waßf or ekphrasis functions as madì˙ for the Sàsànian kings
without an explicit expression of praise. The two poets manipulate



  6
     The term qaßìdah is usually defined according to its length, that is, between
fifteen and eighty lines, as stated earlier. In this light, Abù Nuwàs’s ode, consisting
of eight lines, is not considered a qaßìdah but rather a khamriyyah (wine poem).
Nevertheless, I would view his poem in terms of thematic and structural aspects as
a condensed qaßìdah. It neither contains the subtlety of wine poems nor shows a
monothematic poetic form as a conventional khamriyyah does. Rather, this poem
evokes a fuller, longer qaßìdah by alluding to its tripartite and polythematic form.
For Abù Nuwàs’s other khamriyyàt, see Philip F. Kennedy, The Wine Song in Classical
Arabic Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
   7
     Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Arabic Poetry,” 116.
   8
     Hideaki Sugita, Jibutsu no koe, kaiga no shi (The Voice of Things and the Poetry
of Painting) (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1993), 247–48, 409–10.
                                                   95

the ekphrastic force of the description differently, but both utilize
ekphrasis in order to traverse the boundary between the world of
reality and the world of reverie. I suggest that Abù Nuwàs’s poem
moves in one direction, from reverie to reality, while al-Bu˙turì’s
moves in the opposite direction. In both poems, wine serves as a
facilitator of this movement, blurring the distinction between the two
worlds. When I say reality and reverie, I am characterizing the per-
sona’s state of mind—in reality, the persona sees and thinks of things
that truly exist, while in reverie the persona views and thinks of
things in his imagination.
   My approach follows three steps: 1. thematic and structural explo-
ration based on the qaßìdah conventions, 2. theoretical discussion of
ekphrasis and psychoanalytical examination, and 3. analysis of the
poem’s structural intent in relation to the poets’ socio-political sur-
roundings. I first investigate closely each of the two qaßìdahs in light
of ekphrasis or waßf as madì˙ within the conventional tripartite struc-
ture. I next show how ekphrasis and wine are linked to the notion
of reality and reverie in a comparative study of the two 'Abbàsid
odes. Finally, I intend to explore how the poetic structure of these
two qaßìdahs reflects the poets’ political situations.


                         Ekphrasis as Madì˙

Al-Óasan b. Hàni" al-Óakamì, known as Abù Nuwàs (747/762–815)
is one of the most famous poets of the 'Abbàsid era, renowned for
his song on wine and pederasty. He was born in al-Ahwàz and died
in Baghdad. His father belonged to the army of the last Umayyad,
Marwàn II, and his mother was Persian. When he was still young,
the poet moved to al-Baßrah and later to al-Kùfah. He received his
education from a number of poets and grammarians, and is reported
to have spent some time among bedouins to strengthen his linguis-
tic knowledge. He then came to Baghdad for the purpose of obtaining
the favor of the caliph with panegyrics. Having been unsuccessful in
this attempt, he instead found favor in the Barmakids’ eyes. Because
of the decline of the Barmakids, he fled to Egypt where he com-
posed panegyrics on al-Kha†ìb b. 'Abd al-Óamìd. The poet later
came back to Baghdad and won the favor of the caliph al-Amìn as
his boon companion. During these most glorious years of his life,
96                            

nevertheless, even al-Amìn forbade him wine and imprisoned him
for his drinking habit.9
   The qaßìdah of Abù Nuwàs, “The Ruins of a Tavern (A†làl Óànah),”
though characterized by its terse eight lines which prompted the edi-
tor to term it a qi†'ah (short poem or fragment), is widely known and
recited. A˙mad 'Abd al-Majìd al-Ghazàlì, in his commentary on
Dìwàn Abì Nuwàs, prefaces the poem: “Accompanied by his com-
panions, Abù Nuwàs passed by al-Madà"in, the residence of the
Sàsànian Kings, where he found one of their taverns. Nothing
remained of it save its ruins.”10


                     “A†làl Óànah” by Abù Nuwàs11

1.   Many an abode,
       whose drinking companions forsook it
     and set out at nightfall,
       still bears their traces, both recent and old:

2.   A trail where a wine jar was
       dragged on the ground,
     and bunches of basil boughs,
       fresh ones and dry.

3.   I detained my companions there;
       I renewed my pledge to them.
     Indeed I am one who detains his companions
       at [places] such as this.

4.   I did not know who they were
       [that had dwelt there],
     except for what the deserted abodes
       in the east of Sàbà† testified.12


    9
      Information on Abù Nuwàs in this paragraph is largely taken from Ewald
Wagner, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s. v. “Abù Nuwàs.”
   10
      Al-Óasan ibn Hànì" Abù Nuwàs, Dìwàn Abì Nuwàs, ed. A˙mad 'Abd al-Majìd
al-Ghazàlì (Beirut: Dàr al-Kitàb al-'Arabì, 1966), 37.
   11
      Ibid. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
   12
      Íàbà† is a Persian city near al-Madà"in.
                                                                97

5.   We stayed there for one day,
       another day, a third day,
     while the next day
       was the day of departure.13

6.   The wine is passed round among us
       in a golden wine cup
     which a Persian has decorated
       with all sorts of pictures:

7.   On the bottom,
      inside of the cup, is Kisrà;
     On its sides,
      an oryx that horsemen are hunting with bows.

8.   “The wine, [pour it] up to
       where the collars are buttoned;
     The water, [pour it] up
       to their caps!”

This poem opens with the description of the ruins of a tavern in
Ctesiphon. Ctesiphon was called al-Madà"in, the ancient city of Kisrà.
The Arabs usually identified Kisrà with the Sàsànid rulers because
the two Kisràs, Kisrà Anùshirwàn (531–79) and Kisrà Aparwìz
(591–628), dominated the late Sàsànid period.14 The Sàsànid was a
pre-Islamic Persian dynasty that ruled a large part of western Asia
from 224 C.E. until 651 C.E. Lines 1–4 present the nasìb mood,
imagining the age of the tavern by recognizing old and recent traces
in the a†làl or ruins. The a†làl motif is one of the highly established
qaßìdah conventions—the persona usually laments over past, unre-
quited love on the ruins of his beloved’s abode. In the first two lines,
the poet speaks about drinking companions from the time when the
Sàsànid dynasty flourished, particularly in the sixth century C.E. In



   13
      Lines 6–7 use the present tense in the Arabic text, and logically and gram-
matically, line 5 casts the rest of the poem into the past tense. However, the effect
of the imperfect in line 6 and 7 gives us a feeling of the past being relived much
as the use of historical present does in English.
   14
      See M. Morony, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Kisrà.”
98                                  

depicting the vestiges found in the a†làl of the tavern, the trail of a
wine jar and bundles of herbs, he reminisces about the Sàsànians.
ˇibàq (antithesis) is found in the first two lines—a recent trace and
an old trace (l. 1), fresh and dry bundles of basil (l. 2). These antithe-
ses suggest the poet’s intention to reduce the temporal distance
between his time and that of the Sàsànians. The old trace and the
dry basil present a vestige of the Sàsànians, whereas the recent trace
and the fresh basil could have been left by people who had just
recently visited. “Abù Nuwàs” recollects, or rather imagines, the
Sàsànian pomp that is now past, transporting himself back to the
splendor of the Sàsànian Kings and their boon companions. The per-
sona states that he does not know anything about the people who
used to reside there, except for what the deserted abodes testify
(l. 4). The sole entities that can attest to them are the deserted
abodes. The abodes, however, cannot tell much, for they are merely
ruins.
   “Abù Nuwàs” is engrossed in the mood of loss and yearning,
which is the main theme of the nasìb.15 The persona and his com-
panions stayed for four days at the Ìwàn Kisrà where the tavern
was located and then departed (l. 5), which suggests the ra˙ìl, jour-
ney. It should be noted that here, as is increasingly the case in
'Abbàsid poetry, the ra˙ìl is only alluded to in the nasìb-motif of
departure. The poet then begins to present a drinking scene and
describes a golden wine cup which was made by a Persian. Here
an ekphrastic technique is employed. Abù Nuwàs describes figures
of Kisrà or Khusraw and his horsemen’s oryx-hunt incised on a
golden goblet. At the end of the qaßìdah, the persona pours wine
and water into the goblet.
   The figures of Kisrà and his horsemen hunting an oryx can be
interpreted as a panegyric to the Sàsànians, for such images of the
ruler and the hunt are conventions of the madì˙ of the classical qaßì-
dah form. Moreover, according to M. Morony, for the Arabs, “Kisrà
was a poetic symbol of past glory and fate that overtakes even mighty
kings.” The Arabs viewed Kisrà with admiration and awe for his
splendor and valor. The great audience hall in Ctesiphon, the Ìwàn
Kisrà, was well-known by the Arab people: they spoke of the crown,
treasure, dazzling carpet, sword and armor of Kisrà, and golden


  15
       See Jaroslav Stetkevych, Zephyrs, 2.
                                                                 99

tableware with lavish hospitality.16 Though the description of the
wine cup is denotative and brief with merely one line (l. 7), for the
reader in the 'Abbàsid time the line is powerful enough to elicit
the heroic, splendid image of Kisrà. Scenes of royal hunting are
characteristically Sàsànian subjects and motifs engraved on silver
plates or other sorts of materials. They are usually rendered with
“ribbons attached as symbols to specific animals, birds, and plants,”
or “jeweled bands placed around the necks of animals and birds.”17
By the repetitive use of the motif by Sàsànian artists, the motif of
royal hunting was diffused and influenced not only among peoples
living in neighboring areas but also those distant from Iran.18 Kisrà
thus embodied a symbol of Persian high culture and represented the
Persian sovereign in lists of kings of the world.19 Therefore, we can
speculate that the terse denotation is capable of stimulating the orig-
inal readers, the 'Abbàsid Arabs, to imagine the brave picture of the
Sàsànian royalty.
   This employment of Persian elements as poetic objects is to be
associated with the Shu'ùbiyyah movement of the eighth and ninth
centuries C.E., when a group of authors and scholars claimed equal-
ity for non-Arabs with Arabs in Islam and even suggested the supe-
riority of Persian to Arab culture. In fact, most of the Shu'ùbìs were
Persians who developed the movement based on a pro-Persian and
anti-Arab ideology.20 In his poetry, Abù Nuwàs, whose mother was
Persian, would often adopt not only Persian words and motifs, but
also refer to the heroes of Persian history.21 Though he is not usu-
ally considered a poet of the Shu'ùbiyyah, his employment of the
Persian motif in “A†làl Óànah” reflects the background of the era
in which the Shu'ùbiyyah movement began to dominate the culture
of 'Abbàsid society. This context also enables us to read the ekphra-
sis of Kisrà’s hunting as praise of the Sàsànid rulership.
   Considered together with the nasìb and ra˙ìl motifs that precede



  16
      M. Morony, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. “Kisrà.”
  17
      Prudence Oliver Harper, The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire (New York:
The Asia Society, 1978), 17. Harper shows a number of actual figures and designs
of the hunting scene on various materials in her book.
   18
      See ibid.
   19
      M. Morony, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. “Kisrà.”
   20
      See S. Enderwitz, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “shu'ùbiyyah.”
   21
      Ewald Wagner, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. “Abù Nuwàs.”
100                               

the ekphrastic motif, I argue that Abù Nuwàs subtly suggests the
conventional tripartite qaßìdah structure by manipulatively setting up
the incised motif of the goblet as the madì˙. The description of the
golden goblet is situated at the end of the poem after the departure
scene. However, the drinking scene seems to have occurred before
the departure, and the persona appears to look back on the scene
of drinking parties during his stay in the a†làl of the tavern with his
boon companions. He places the motif of the golden wine cup near
the end of the ode, despite the chronologically inappropriate sequence
of the occurrences, thereby achieving a sequence of topics that is
consistent with the traditional tripartite structure.
   In the finale, an ekphrastic moment is achieved. The poured liq-
uid (wine) halts for a second at the line of the horsemen’s collars,
and at that moment merely the faces of the horsemen remain in the
goblet. Then the water is added, which covers their caps. This descrip-
tion allows the readers to “see” the object with their inner eyes.
That is to say, it is ekphrastic. Moreover, by indicating the liquids’
quantity, the line stresses that the mixture of wine and water should
have a lot of wine and only a little water—it is as strong as possi-
ble. So the last line suggests the persona’s intent, “Let’s drink and
enjoy wine!”


                         “Ìwàn Kisrà” by al-Bu˙turì 22

The other 'Abbàsid poet, Abù 'Ubàdah al-Walìd b. 'Ubayd al-Bu˙turì
(821–97), was born at Manbij into a family belonging to the Bu˙tur,
a branch of the ˇayyi". Attracted by al-Bu˙turì’s youthful talent,
Abù Tammàm (d. 846), one of the eminent 'Abbàsid poets, encour-
aged and supported him. After serving several patrons, al-Bu˙turì
gained the favor of al-Fat˙ b. Khàqàn, who introduced him to al-
Mutawakkil in approximately 848. In this way he started his brilliant
career as court poet. He is said to have been involved in the assas-
sination of al-Mutawakkil and al-Fat˙. In spite of this matter, he


  22
     Retranslated with close reference to A. J. Arberry’s translation. Arabic text:
A. J. Arberry, Arabic Poetry: A Primer for Students (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge
University Press, 1965), 72–80. See also Abù 'Ubàdah al-Walìd ibn 'Ubayd al-
Bu˙turì al-ˇà"ì, Dìwàn al-Bu˙turì, 5 vols., ed. Óasan Kàmil al-Íìrafì (Cairo: Dàr al-
Ma'àrif, 1963–78), 2: 1152–62. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
                                                               101

soon came back with a panegyric of al-Muntaßir, and later composed
numerous poems for al-Mu'tazz and other caliphs. The last caliph
to whom he dedicated panegyrics was al-Mu'ta∂id. He died in his
birthplace after a long illness. In the early days of his career, he
wrote poems mostly about his desert wanderings, while, after he
became court poet, his main work was the panegyric. The pane-
gyric is embellished with splendid descriptions, in particular, of the
palace.23 Now we will examine one of his most famous works, “Ìwàn
Kisrà.”

1.        I guarded myself from things
            that defile me.
          I held myself aloof
            from the gift of every coward.

2.        I stood firm
             when fate shook me,
          seeking to bring me ill-luck
             and overthrow me.

3.        Bare subsistence from the dregs of life
            is all I have;
          the days have given me
            deficient measure.

4.        How different is he who goes to water daily
             for his second drink
          from him who drinks
             after three days’ thirsting.

5.        As if capricious fate
            has come to favor
          the vilest
            of the vile.




     23
    Information on al-Bu˙turì in this paragraph is largely taken from Charles Pellat,
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “al-Bu˙turì.”
102                        

 6.   In my purchasing Iraq
         I was duped
      after my selling al-Sham
         at a loss.

 7.   Do not keep testing me
        about my experience of this sorrow,
      so that you deny
        my calamity.

 8.   In the past, you knew me
        to be a man of quality
      who disdained lowly things,
        stubbornly proud.

 9.   The remoteness of my cousin
         disquieted me
      after his tenderness
         and kindness.

10.   When I have been treated harshly,
         you won’t find me
      in the morning where
         I was the night before.

11.   Cares attended my mount;
         therefore,
      I turned my strong she-camel
         toward the white [palace] of al-Madà"in.

12.   I am consoled
        for my own bad luck
      as I grieve for the ruined abode
        of the Sàsànians.

13.   Continuous misfortunes
        remind me of them—
      misfortunes make people
        remember and forget—
                                     103

14.   When they dwelt in the shadow
        of a high lofty palace,
      so dazzling
        it weakens the eye.

15.   Its gate is closed
         before the mountain of al-Qabq
      toward the two uplands
         of Khilà† and Muks.

16.   Abodes [it has] that were not
         like the traces
      of Su'dà [’s encampment]
         in a wild deserted land.

17.   Heroic deeds [it boasts] which,
        were it not for my bias [toward the Arabs],
      the heroic deeds of 'Ans and 'Abs
        could not surpass.

18.   Fate has removed
        their age from newness
      until they have become
        like worn-out rags,

19.   As if al-Jirmàz were
        the edifice of a grave
      because of lack of inhabitants
        and their forsaking it.

20.   If you had seen it,
         you would know that
      the nights had held a funeral in it
         after a wedding feast.

21.   It informs you of
         wonders of the people
      whose clarity was not mixed
         with any confusion.
104                             

22.    When you see
         the picture of Antioch
       you are in panic
         between the Byzantine and Persian [armies].

23.    The Fates
         are standing,24
       while Anùshirwàn urges
         on the ranks beneath his banner,

24.    In green robe
         over yellow
       which seems dyed
         with turmeric,

25.    The battle of fighting men
          before him,
       silent, lowering
          their voices,

26.    Some cautiously advancing
         with pointed spears,
       others fearfully protecting themselves
         with their shields.

27.    The eye describes them
          as really alive,
       signalling to one another
          like the dumb.

28.    My curiosity
         concerning them increases
       until I explore
         and touch them.

29.    Abù al-Ghawth has already
         given me a drink, generously,

  24
     “Fates” can be the gods (Mazda, Anahita) that commonly hover above Sàsànian
rulers in paintings and rock inscriptions.
                                  105

      over the two armies
        a hasty draught

30.   Of a wine you would say
        was a star
      that irradiates the night,
        or the saliva of a sun.

31.   You see it
        reviving the happiness
      and peacefulness of him
        who sips it.

32.   It is poured into
         the glass of every heart;
      and it is the beloved
         of every soul.

33.   I imagined that
         Kisrà Abarwìz was offering me [the wine]
      and that al-Balahbadh was
         my boon-companion.

34.   Is this a dream that has closed
         my eyes to doubt,
      or desire that has changed my suspicion
         and uncertainty [to certainty]?

35.   As if the great hall of
        its wonderful artistry were
      an open space carved out
        of the cliff of the mountain,

36.   It is so melancholy that
         to one coming upon it,
      whether in the morning or evening,
         it would seem like

37.   A man disquieted by the departure
        of the company of a beloved,
106                            

      dear to him, or oppressed
        by the divorce of a wife.

38.   Time overturned
        its good fortune,
      and Jupiter remained there
        through the night as an inauspicious star.

39.   But it shows
        endurance,
      even though the oppressive breast of fate
        weighs down upon it.

40.   There is no disgrace in that
        its broad carpet has been taken away
      and the curtains of white silk
        have been plundered.

41.   Lofty, it has battlements
        raised up
      on the heads of
        Ra∂wà and Quds.

42.   They are clothed
        in white;
      you can see
        only cotton tunics.

43.   Nobody knows whether it was built
        by men for jinn
      who then resided in it
        or by jinn for men.

44.   But I see it testifying that
        its builders are
      among the kings
        who were not insignificant,

45.   As though I saw
        the processions of the warriors
                             107

      when I reached
        the limit of my perception,

46.   As though the delegations
         were standing under the sun,
      tired of standing
         behind the crowd, waiting,

47.   As though the singing-girls
        in the midst of the pavilions
      were singing through
        dark lips or red,

48.   As though the encounter were
        the day before yesterday
      and the hasty parting
        only yesterday,

49.   As though he who desires
        to follow them yearns
      to catch up with them
        on the morning of the fifth day.

50.   It remained prosperous
         and happy for a time;
      then their abodes became a place
         for condolence and consolation.

51.   The only succor
        I can offer it is tears
      deeded to be forever
        shed out of passion.

52.   That is how I feel,
        though the abode is not mine
      by blood kinship.
        Its race is not my race,

53.   Except for the good deed
        of her people to my people;
108                                   

        they have planted
          the seeds of a lasting bond.

54.     They supported our sovereignty
          and strengthened its power
        by brave horsemen
          under the protection of armor.

55.     They aided us
          against Aryà†’s troops
        by the stabbing
          and piercing of throats.

56.     I find myself after that
          fully in love
        with the nobles altogether
          from every race and origin.

In the opening, the ode presents the persona’s lament over his past
misfortune, a traditional theme of the nasìb. The misfortune was
largely caused by his past patron, Caliph al-Muntaßir (r. 861–62), as
we learn in line 9 from the word “my cousin” which refers to the
caliph’s ancestral tribe, the Banù 'Adnàn, who are “cousins” to the
poet’s ancestral tribe, the Banù Qa˙†àn.25 He blames the caliph for
having treated him harshly and for not having offered him even
sufficient money to live (l. 3). In fact, al-Bu˙turì was deserted by al-
Muntaßir. The caliph is like one who enjoys his second drink of
water every day, while the persona is like one who drinks it only
once every fourth day (l. 4), a metaphor from bedouin life that
alludes to the caliph’s avarice toward his kinsman. Since generosity
is considered one of the crucial elements of nobility in Arabo-Islamic
culture, the mentioning of the caliph’s stinginess expresses the per-
sona’s profound resentment of the caliph. He regrets that he came
to Baghdad, having left al-Shàm (Damascus) (l. 6). His entreaty to
al-Muntaßir not to test him any more underscores his misery. His
melancholic lament over his past misfortune shows a parallel with
the traditional nasìb theme, weeping over the desolate ruins.


  25
       Arberry, Arabic Poetry, 74.
                                                   109

   After the nasìb section, filled as it is with his grief and complaint,
the ra˙ìl section—again, in keeping with its diminished 'Abbàsid
role—consists in explicit terms of one line only, line 11. It never-
theless functions with great poetic force and concision. The poet car-
ries his grief over to a decayed abode of the House of Sàsàn. Usually,
when a panegyric poet departs to his destination, he carries himmah
(aspiration) for his mamdù˙ (patron), and not the humùm (cares) that
attend the persona’s mount in his ra˙ìl. Although the two words are
derived from the same root, hmm, the meanings are quite dissimilar.
These cares forewarn the reader that the speaker’s journey may devi-
ate from the conventional teleological ra˙ìl. And indeed, we soon
realize that, to assuage the cares that accompany his mount, he turns
not toward a mamdù˙, but to the white palace of al-Madà"in, the
ruined palace of the Sàsànian king Khusraw. Where the structural
connections of the qaßìdah would lead us to expect a madì˙ (pane-
gyric) to a contemporary mamdù˙ (patron), the poet places instead
an extended ekphrasis, thus ironically generating hijà" (satire, invec-
tive), which I will discuss later.
   After a brief ra˙ìl, al-Bu˙turì begins to describe the ruins of al-
Madà"in. Although the a†làl is a nasìb convention, the depiction of
the ruins is structurally situated here in the ra˙ìl. In the nasìb, he
expresses his sorrow and grief, while in the ra˙ìl he thinks of the
age of Sàsànian splendor as evoked by its a†làl. However, the poet
appears to desire to present the a†làl motif, in spite of its location
in the ra˙ìl, for the sake of his upcoming “madì˙” for the Sàsànian
king. In addition, his sorrow for his misfortune caused by his for-
mer patron resonates in his grief over the ruined abode of the
Sàsànians; both the poet and the Sàsànians were crowned with glory
in the past, while their present is sadly desolate.
   The delineation of the wall painting (ll. 22–27) can be regarded
as panegyric for the Sàsànians in light of both theme and structure.
That is, what begins as part of a journey through a wasteland (ra˙ìl )
becomes gradually the poet’s goal and the subject of his madì˙ (praise).
The wall painting presents the scene of the Battle of Antioch, which
occurred in 540 between the Sàsànians and the Byzantines. The
nasìb and ra˙ìl precede the ekphrasis of the battle scene. The battle
scene, where the valor and might of the Sàsànian ruler, Khusraw
or Kisrà Anùshirwàn, are dynamically presented, signifies eulogy for
the king, like Abù Nuwàs’s use of ekphrasis, but with a different
motif.
110                         

   In the beginning of the depiction of the wall painting, al-Bu˙turì
invites the reader to behold it (l. 22). The commentary of al-Íìrafì
informs that al-Bu˙turì visited al-Madà"in and actually saw the wall
painting before his composition of the poem in 271 A.H./884–85
C.E. The poet shows how realistic the picture is, to the extent that
the reader would be fearful to behold it. Then the poet moves to
the description of the pictorial objects—Anùshirwàn, his colored
outfit, and his enemies. Al-Bu˙turì first focuses on the king’s dash-
ing figure and then on the Byzantine soldiers’ actions. After the
ekphrasis, the persona’s son pours wine for him. The persona drinks
wine and immerses himself further in the world of reverie. If we
consider the description of the painting as the beginning of the madì˙,
the rest of the poem should also be the madì˙. However, nasìb ele-
ments, such as the wine and a†làl motifs, occur as well, so that the
poet achieves an unusual hybrid of the martial and heroic motifs of
the madì˙ with the nostalgic and melancholic mood of the nasìb. The
speaker fancies that he is Anùshirwàn and his son is Kisrà Aparwìz,
Anùshirwàn’s son (l. 33). Then the melancholy of the deserted Ìwàn
is presented by personifying it as a man who is compelled to divorce
his bride (l. 37).
   The melancholic tone of the nasìb, in which the persona com-
plains about his previous patron, recurs once more in this “madì˙”
section. “Melancholy” in line 36 shows that the speaker has not over-
come his sorrow even in the madì˙, after coming through the nasìb
and ra˙ìl. Usually, the poet presents boasting, reunion, or something
invigorating in the madì˙. Even the power of wine is helpless to stim-
ulate him. This return to the nasìb tone confirms the meaning of
humùm (cares), signifying reiteration and aimlessness, as was discussed
earlier. The poet still wanders around. The psychological focus of
the persona remains on his misfortune and ill luck. In order to for-
get the sorrow and turn away from it, “al-Bu˙turì” appears to
immerse himself in the marvelous and magnificent environment of
the Sàsànian era which exists in his world of reverie through his
intoxication and the image of the painting.
   At the same time, by mixing his melancholy with the description
of the buildings and their desolate state, the persona identifies his
demoralized and solitary situation with the deserted ruins which used
to be prosperous (ll. 35–38). Yet al-Bu˙turì gradually deepens the
tone of panegyric, although he keeps neither too close nor too far
                                                                   111

away from the tone of eulogy, being constantly involved in nasìb ele-
ments. In other words, he goes back and forth repeatedly between
the nasìb and the madì˙, and because of the mixture it is very hard
to say which prevails. For example, in line 35, the persona cele-
brates the amazing workmanship of the Ìwàn, and immediately there-
after he mentions his melancholy. The Ìwàn meant, for the 'Abbàsid
audience, the marvellous hall on the ground floor, opening through
a high arched entrance, onto a courtyard in Kisrà’s palace, that is,
a symbol of the glory of the Sàsànids. Hence, the poem features a
vacillation representing the persona’s psychological state.
   As the speaker’s intoxication heightens, the poem securely approaches
true madì˙. The phrase, “when I reached the limit of my percep-
tion,” suggests that he sees hallucinations of the ranks of the Sàsànian
people, singing girls, and the compartments, as his intoxication attains
its peak (ll. 45–47). We can say that the power of the wine helps
to take the speaker to madì˙ proper. That is, the persona has recourse
to the intoxicating effect of wine to find his goal because he is lost.
Al-Bu˙turì started his ode with the persona’s complaint over his
defeat by his former patron and then aimed at the glory of the
Sàsànians instead of that of a new patron. Through the deviation
from the traditional qaßìdah, both in form and in theme, he presents
an indirect hijà" (satire, invective) against the 'Abbàsid Dynasty,26 for
which he is supposed to be a panegyrist. At the same time, he pro-
jects his guilt over both his deviation from the poetic tradition and
not composing panegyrics for the 'Abbàsid Dynasty. This guilt makes
the persona vacillate and wander around without having a goal until
he seeks a recourse in wine.
   Finally, after all the vacillations, wandering about, and hallucina-
tions, “al-Bu˙turì” reaches the rightful madì˙, starting at line 52. The
ultimate expression of the proper madì˙ is al-Bu˙turì’s proclamation
that “my ode is the Arabic qaßìdah.”27 He displays his individuality


   26
      See Richard Serrano, “Al-Bu˙turì’s Poetics of Persian Abodes,” Journal of Arabic
Literature 28, no. 1 (1997): 68–87. Serrano also argues, “al-Bu˙turì transforms the
trope of the abandoned encampment into a vehicle for harsh criticism of the Arab
culture of his own day.” He goes on to say, “the traces of the encampment become
a reconstructed imperial Persian city which both precedes and nearly precludes the
abandoned encampment as a source for an 'Abbàsid poetics,” 69.
   27
      Gian Biagio Conte, The Rhetoric of Imitation: Genre and Poetic Memory in Virgil and
Other Latin Poets, trans. ed. Charles Segal (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
112                                

rather than his traditionality in this ode, which accounts for his great
deviation from the traditional form and theme. The presentation of
the proper madì˙ in the end is his manifestation of the desire to
prove his victory and to certify himself as a poet of the qaßìdah.
Nonetheless, eulogizing the past glory of the Sàsànians instead of the
currently ruling 'Abbàsids implies the decline of the latter. He does
not want to admit his defeat, which triggered the first deviation in
the ode, nor explicitly acknowledge the decline of the 'Abbàsids.
That is why he chose an indirect way to defame them. His persona
does not wish to face the severe reality in terms of both his per-
sonal (misfortune) and public reality (the decay of the 'Abbàsids). His
goal is a past glory that no longer exists. This ode cannot completely
escape from the concept of the qaßìdah of the losers that shows struc-
tural nonteleology with disjunction and digression.28 The closing line
attempts to synthesize contemporary 'Abbàsid decline with past
Sàsànian glory by going beyond distinctions of race and chronology
to express his admiration of nobility from any age or race.


        Reality and Reverie—Condensation and Stimulus of Ekphrasis

Both waßfs of the visual motifs of Abù Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì achieve
enargeia, that is, they transform the reader into a viewer. Though
Abù Nuwàs’s ekphrasis is composed of brief denotation, it is still
forceful enough for the reader to elicit the image of the Sàsànian
nobility and bravery through the depiction of the hunting scene in
which Kisrà and his horsemen hunt an oryx with bows. The indi-
cation of the material of the goblet, gold, helps the reader to visualize


1986), 70. Conte maintains that if a poem exhibits the traditional poetic opening
of its cultural tradition, it means that the poetry asserts “This is Poetry.” Although
here al-Bu˙turì’s ode does not suggest that “my ode is the Arabic qaßìdah” by using
the opening line, it suggests so more by its structure.
   28
      David Quint, Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form from Virgil to Milton
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), part 1, chapt. 4. Analyzing epics
of Lucan (65 C.E.), Ercilla, and d’Aubigné, Quint argues that the epics of the
defeated are nonteleological and exhibit narrative disjunction and episodic digres-
sion, in contrast to the epics of the victors, which are informed by teleology. Although
Quint’s study is based on classical Western epics, the qaßìdah is likewise character-
ized by a coherent thematic-structural development directed at a goal, showing the
teleology. I am aware that the Arabic qaßìdah is not narrative, but in terms of its
tripartite structure, al-Bu˙turì’s poem shows disjunction and digression.
                                                      113

the referent. The impact of the image is increased by the presenta-
tion of the spatial arrangement of the figures inside the vessel: On
the bottom is Kisrà, and on its sides are horsemen. For the origi-
nal reader, the single word “Kisrà” embodied the Sàsànian might
and glory, as discussed above. The ending line is sophisticated: as
the wine is filled up to the horsemen’s collars and then the water
up to their caps. The described figures gradually vanish, and the
world of the persona or reality and the world evoked by the ekphra-
sis merge and integrate.
   Al-Bu˙turì’s ekphrasis is more extensive and elaborate than that
of Abù Nuwàs. On the occasion that the persona says, “when you
see the picture of Antioch,” by mentioning “see,” the speaker already
signals to the readers that this message appeals to the eyes, not the
ears. Empathy is elicited in the reader when the describer shows his
fearful response to the fierce fighting between the Byzantines and
Persians, that is, his response to the referent. The indication of col-
ors in Kisrà’s robe, green and yellow, specifically a yellow color of
turmeric, reveals visible features, which increases the quality of enargeia.
With the soldiers’ “silence,” the poem reinforces the silence of the
painting which is by nature silent. The description of the figures’
movement and their arms (spears and shields) also emphasizes the
depiction (l. 26).29 Line 27 states, “The eye describes them [the
figures] as really alive.” This narrating “eye” stresses the visual qual-
ity of the painting: the figures in the painting are “alive” (l. 27)
because they communicate, but since painted figures cannot talk,
they communicate by gesture. The ode reaffirms their “dumbness.”
Meanwhile, the painting itself offers speech as represented through
gesture, a detail of visual representation that makes its verbal representa-
tion not only clear and distinct, but also more lively and convincing.
   Some theories of rhetorical enargeia associate its realization with a
state of “illusion” that the describer aims to produce in the reader’s
mind. According to Becker, the Greek handbooks of rhetoric also
suggest that the two distinct features of ekphrasis, clarity and vivid-
ness, are aimed at achieving unmediated access to visible phenom-
ena; the illusion can be generated by a “transparency of language”
that leaves a hearer unconscious of the verbal means.30


  29
       See Becker, 33.
  30
       Ibid., 25, 27.
114                         

    Abù Nuwàs’s ekphrasis hardly makes the reader feel the existence
of the speaker—he is restrained. In other words, its description is
objective and scarcely shows the describer’s response to the object.
Becker, using Aelius Theon (a Greek rhetorician, maintained that
the absence of explicit interpretation in ekphrasis contributes to
achieving the desired transparency of language), claims that in rhetor-
ical ekphrasis, “the describer encourages the audience to accept the
illusion and, in so doing, diminishes attention to the medium or lan-
guage and the mediator’s experience.”31 Although explicit interpre-
tation is almost absent in Abù Nuwàs’s ekphrasis—we sense the
description, but not the world described—the description does not
seem to create the illusion. This can be in part accounted for by its
concision. However, it is possible that a contemporary audience would
supply much information that a modern reader does not possess, so
that the description may have appeared to them much more com-
plete and thus may possibly have come closer to achieving an illu-
sion. They would have known such visual representations on other
goblets, and the compressing power of the waßf with its intertextual
implications will have evoked the memory of the glorious Sàsànians.
    Unlike the description in Abù Nuwàs’s poem, al-Bu˙turì’s depic-
tion of the wall painting is subjective, and the reader can sense the
existence of the describer. Nevertheless, his ekphrasis comes closer
to creating an illusion for the reader than that of the earlier poem.
Contrary to what Aelius Theon argued, other rhetorical handbooks
implied that an ekphrasis is not only to be a clear and distinct rep-
resentation of visible phenomena but should also draw the audience’s
attention to the response of the describer, which lies between the
audience and the world described.32 It is possible to say that al-
Bu˙turì’s description calls attention to the world depicted and to the
manner of visual depiction rather than to the description itself, by
presenting the persona’s interpretation of the wall painting. By hear-
ing the describer’s interpretation, the reader may come close to expe-
riencing the illusion of mentally seeing, if not the world depicted,
then the depiction itself. Again, it is to be assumed that the audi-
ence would supply many details from other accounts or paintings of
the event they have seen; but with the explicit description provided


  31
       Ibid., 27.
  32
       Ibid., 29.
                                                     115

by the speaker, it can be assumed that al-Bu˙turì’s description relies
somewhat less on intertextual references than Abù Nuwàs’s.
   We become aware of another aspect by a comparison of the two
ekphrastic descriptions. Abù Nuwàs’s manipulation of the design pro-
duces a different effect, in his poem, from al-Bu˙turì’s. That is to
say, al-Bu˙turì utilizes the painting motif as the introduction to the
imaginative world. In al-Bu˙turì’s poem, the painting constitutes the
condensation of reverie because it stimulates one’s imagination and
draws one into the magnified imaginative world of the painting. In
order to excite the imagination, it is necessary for al-Bu˙turì to
describe the painting, because it constitutes the foundation of the
world of fancy. The foundation should be real, certain, and mani-
fest. The picture is the condensation of the imaginative poetic which
extends towards the reverie of the rest of the poetic discourse.
Furthermore, al-Bu˙turì takes advantage of these effects of the pic-
torial motif and employs it as a medium or pivotal point between
the world of reality and the world of reverie. As the readers view
the picture through the poetic presentation, they cross the bound-
ary between the two worlds. Thus, al-Bu˙turì’s approach moves from
actuality to reverie, whereas Abù Nuwàs’s approach is from reverie
to reality.
   If the visual motif constitutes the overture to the imaginative sphere,
the wine motif possesses full-scale power to pull the reader into the
heart of that sphere. Just after the pictorial description, al-Bu˙turì
introduces the wine motif in line 29. However, the use of “qad ” and
the mà∂ì (perfect) in line 29 suggests that the persona started to drink
wine before the ekphrastic description. That is, wine and ekphrasis
mutually increase the power to induce the state of reverie for him.
By drinking wine, the persona becomes engrossed in the imagina-
tive world in which he even hallucinates. Likewise, in Abù Nuwàs’s
qaßìdah, wine plays an important role. The persona and his com-
panions pass wine around among themselves, while they become
absorbed in reflecting on the different times that left their traces in
the ruins.
   Becker calls “attention to the medium” a “defamiliarization” that
awakens the reader from the illusion. Both Abù Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì
bring the effect of “defamiliarization” or “breaking the illusion” into
full play at the end of their ekphrastic descriptions.33 Abù Nuwàs

  33
       Becker, 85.
116                          

draws the reader back to the world of reality in the end of his poem,
with line 8: “The wine, [pour it] up to where the collars are but-
toned; The water, [pour it] up to their caps!” In other words, the
point of contact between the wine cup and the liquid represents the
point of contact between reverie and reality, art and life.
    As for al-Bu˙turì, he recites, “My curiosity concerning them in-
creases until I explore and touch them” (l. 28). Starting with line
22, the poem invites the reader into the world of visual art, the rep-
resentation of the Battle of Antioch, through ekphrastic technique.
Al-Bu˙turì produces the illusion of visual representation. Despite the
poet’s achievement in producing the illusion, he himself informs the
reader of the existence of the medium, and so breaks the illusion.
He is going to touch the picture, which makes the reader realize
that what he is viewing is mere illusion, and not real. That is, al-
Bu˙turì spontaneously breaks the illusion that has intoxicated the
reader. Al-Bu˙turì succeeds in turning art into life. Nevertheless, he
wants to say that “the lifelike image is still a replica,” thereby fore-
grounding his poetic technique.34
    Becker explicates this phenomenon by saying that “identity between
depiction and depicted is not the goal—we are explicitly directed
not to forget the mediating presence of art.” He also asserts that,
by doing so, “the discourse increases the admiration of the audience
for the mimetic capabilities of the work of art.” Both al-Bu˙turì and
Abù Nuwàs seek to make the reader realize the strength of their
verbal power and the mimetic power of the visual art, because the
reader is not aware of the world of illusion until the poets signify it
by making the objects in the world of reality appear. Becker’s con-
clusion of the discussion of defamiliarization is that the “celebration
of the process, of what art can do, rather than a need for illusion
or a struggle for mimetic primacy, characterizes the mode of mime-
sis in the Iliad and specifically the Shield of Achilles.”35 Abù Nuwàs
and al-Bu˙turì too, I argue, desire to confirm their verbal, i.e., poetic
power.
    Al-Bu˙turì’s “defamiliarizing effect” or “the effect of breaking the
illusion” appears subtle because the poet is still in the world of reverie
after line 28, though it has a strong impact in traversing reality and


  34
       Ibid., 84.
  35
       Ibid., 84–85.
                                                     117

reverie in the concluding section’s structure. Line 29, which follows
the defamiliarizing part, introduces the wine motif. As I said before,
although wine appears in line 29 after the ekphrasis, the persona
and his son, Abù al-Ghawth, began drinking wine before the ekphra-
sis, as indicated by the use of the perfect tense (l. 29). I believe that
al-Bu˙turì places the wine motif after the ekphrasis, despite the fact
that he demonstrates clearly that the two were already drunk when
wine first appears in the poem, because he still wants the speaker
to be in the state of reverie. Like Abù Nuwàs, al-Bu˙turì positions
the pictorial motif structurally as the madì˙. Lines 1–10 make up the
nasìb, and lines 11–21 can be considered to be the ra˙ìl, followed
directly by the ekphrastic description. In brief, al-Bu˙turì rigorously
follows the conventional tripartite qaßìdah structure, although after
the ekphrasis the poem deviates from the conventional form. The
pictorial motif of the Battle of Antioch, representing the valor and
bravery of Anùshirwàn and his soldiers, is employed as madì˙, pan-
egyric. This employment of ekphrasis as panegyric likewise explains
why al-Bu˙turì places the wine motif after the ekphrasis with the
use of perfect tense, despite the seemingly inappropriate sequence of
the motifs. Furthermore, line 28 is ambiguous, for we do not know
if the poet actually touched the picture or not. The tense of the
verb, tataqarrà (to explore) after ˙attà (until) is imperfect, not past.
Therefore, the poet is still absorbed in the illusion, helped by the
power of wine.


                             Structural Intent

The concept of reality and reverie within the investigation of the tri-
partite structure of the qaßìdahs is intimately associated with the polit-
ical intent of the poets, particularly for al-Bu˙turì. The structure of
the classical Arabic qaßìdah is generally grounded on the real politi-
cal situation of the poet. A poet stands in the a†làl recalling his mem-
ory of the lost love in the nasìb, endures the difficult journey in the
ra˙ìl aiming toward his patron, and finally reaches his destination in
the madì˙ praising his mamdù˙. Generally speaking, this sequence is
predicated on the poet’s political relationship to his mamdù˙, while
the qaßìdah is the expression of an ideal Islamic polity. If the con-
struction follows the regular, conventional sequence, the poet’s polit-
ical relationship to his patron should be soundly established. By
118                               

contrast, if we find the structure irregular or vacillating, the poet’s
relationship to his patron should likewise be unstable. Moreover,
according to convention the patron is supposed to be alive in order
to be praised in the madì˙; otherwise it is regarded as a rithà" (elegy).
    In both Abù Nuwàs’s and al-Bu˙turì’s poems, praise for bygone
Sàsànian glory takes the structural position that the qaßìdah genre
normally reserves for praise of the patron. In al-Bu˙turì’s poem such
a substitution amounts to a veiled hijà" or invective against the
'Abbàsids, and in Abù Nuwàs’s too, to a hijà" against the 'Abbàsids.
In both qaßìdahs the mood of the madì˙ for the Sàsànians is that of
the nasìb—melancholy for the lost past. The Sàsànians were a great
people who achieved renown and glory, which, however, is now lost.
This presentation is closely linked to the Shu'ùbiyyah movement
which flourished especially in the eighth and ninth centuries C.E. In
that movement, a group of authors and scholars demanded the equal-
ity of non-Arabs with Arabs and promoted their own teachings in
the literary field.36 Moreover, they celebrated the imperial and civ-
ilized Persian cultures over the primitive tribalism of Arabs.37 Hence,
the “madì˙” for the bygone Sàsànian—instead of the 'Abbàsid—
regime in the poems of Abù Nuwàs, who was of half-Persian descent,
and of al-Bu˙turì appears to reflect the Shu'ùbiyyah movement. The
sentiment of the Shu'ùbiyyah movement was flourishing in the age
of these two poets, and admiration for the Persian civilization is
clearly expressed in their poems.
    Al-Bu˙turì’s individual grief caused by his hardship and misfor-
tune, i.e., his maltreatment by al-Muntaßir, constitutes a predomi-
nant theme in his ode. In light of David Quint’s contention that the
“loser’s epic” shows nonnarratable repetition and a nonteleological
and aimless structure,38 we can begin to interpret the deviant struc-
ture of al-Bu˙turì’s qaßìdah. The poet here is a “loser,” which leads
him to compose the loser’s qaßìdah, exhibiting reiteration and aim-
lessness. It is not the poet who has failed, however; rather, he implies



   36
      Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies, ed. S. M. Stern. Trans. C. R. Barber and
S. M. Stern., 2 vols. (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1967),
137.
   37
      See S. Enderwitz, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v. “shu'ùbiyyah.”
   38
      Quint, 120. Quint mentions “nonnarratable” in the sense of epic because an
epic is a narrative. However, in our case of the Arabic qaßìdah, which is lyrical, it
is difficult to say that it is a narrative.
                                                               119

that the state of political decline among the 'Abbàsids/Arabs forces
him to seek a worthy subject for his encomium in the bygone glory
of the Sàsànians. The poet’s looking to a lost past, rather than to a
heroic present or future, creates the predominant nasìb atmosphere
throughout the qaßìdah.
   Jaroslav Stetkevych points out that a poet utilizes the description
of the beloved to “turn memory into reverie” as “a flight from the
reality of melancholy into the irreality of reverie” in the nasìb. The
poet tends to escape from the mood of the nasìb, the melancholy
caused by reality, into the sphere of reverie.39 Then, in the madì˙,
the poet has his feet on the ground and comes to reality after the
sobering journey of the ra˙ìl. In light of this idea, Abù Nuwàs’s qaßì-
dah begins with reverie, for the poet himself does not know about
the Sàsànian kings and people first-hand but only imagines them.
Abù Nuwàs’s ode is presented in a fairly straightforward manner
according to the poetic convention—from reverie to reality. As for
al-Bu˙turì’s ode, it opens with his actual reality, grief and complaint
concerning his past patron—his unfortunate political state. His poem
diametrically contradicts the regular qaßìdah construction, because it
starts with reality and ends with reverie. Although al-Bu˙turì arrives
at praise of the Sàsànians in the end, this panegyric is ultimately
ironic, for the Sàsànians’ glory existed only in the past.
   Furthermore, the “lyric ‘I’,” which is “a fallacious and predictable
‘I’“ burdened by the Arabic poetic tradition,40 is not found in al-
Bu˙turì’s nasìb (first nasìb). His ode’s nasìb is subjective and personal,
and its lyric “I” is not a false, but a real “I.” Continuing, Jaroslav
Stetkevych maintains, “the naive conception of reality and the unequiv-
ocally simple cognitive optic of the pre-Islamic poet’s public, wipe
out the limits between the subjective perception of the poet and the
objective ‘collateral’ framework of his public.”41 If 'Abbàsid poetics
also follows the Jàhilì tradition, the 'Abbàsid panegyric poems are
disposed to maintain the fallacious lyrical “I.” Nevertheless, al-Bu˙turì
does not conceal his real “I,” as we can find a number of “I”s
between lines 1 and 13. By contrast, this real “I” does not seem to


  39
     Jaroslav Stetkevych, Zephyrs, 21.
  40
     Jaroslav Stetkevych, “The Arabic Lyrical Phenomenon in Context,” Journal of
Arabic Literature 6 (1975): 72–73. He argues that the lyrical “I” in the Arabic qaßì-
dah tradition does not bare the lyrical “persona.”
  41
     Ibid., 73–74.
120                          

appear in the second half of the nasìb (ll. 14–21). The only “I” is
found in line 17, and the entire mood of the nasìb is very conven-
tional and collective rather than personal. As for Abù Nuwàs’s poem,
unlike al-Bu˙turì’s, the only “I” we find is the collective. The con-
trast—a real “I” and a fallacious “I”—corresponds to subjective ver-
sus social.
   Each of the topoi of the conventional tripartite form indicates not
only individuality and subjectivity, but also the publicness of society,
memory, emotion, and feelings, i.e., collective memory. For instance,
the traditional nasìb shows description of the ruined abode and lost
mistress, which can be taken both as an individual memory and as
a public/social memory that evolved in the entire tradition and cul-
ture. In Abù Nuwàs’s ode, the antithesis can be seen: the subjec-
tivity of the poet and socialness of his society. The a†làl of Ìwàn
Kisrà joins both the memory of the poet as individual, and of the
society as public, in recollecting the age of the Sàsànians. Furthermore,
when the poet says that there are recent and old traces from them
[boon companions] in line 1, he suggests “old traces” as the traces
of his ancestors. Here the poet alludes to the traditional nasìb motif,
a†làl. He establishes the authenticity of his poem, not only by employ-
ing the motif of the ruined abode, but also by mentioning antiquity
and novelty. That is to say, he integrates “old” and “new” elements
by mentioning the ancient traces and recent traces, and fusing them
in his mind when he recollects the memories of the two (l. 3). By
this operation, the opposites, “old” and “new,” no longer contradict.
The poet succeeds in the assimilation of his innovation to the antiq-
uity of tradition.
   Moreover, the ekphrasis in the two qaßìdahs constitutes a metaphor-
ical madì˙. A metaphor generally has two different kinds of mean-
ing at once: a literal and a figurative meaning. These two would be
defined by Conte as the letter (the literal meaning of the sign) and
the sense (the meaning).42 If we regard the ekphrastic motif of “A†làl
Óànah” as a metaphor or trope of the classical rhetoric of the madì˙
motif in the Arabic qaßìdah, we can say that the visual motif is the
letter, and a concept of the madì˙ is the sense. In short, the two
poets’ use of the ekphrastic motif is a type of metaphor. For example,
Abù Nuwàs employs the incision of the goblet as a description of


  42
       Conte, 38.
                                                  121

the Sàsànians and as an allusion to a panegyric upon them at once.43
The design literally means the figures of Kisrà and his horsemen
who are hunting and does not mean anything other than this.
However, in “the sense,” the design presents a panegyric on Kisrà
and the pomp of the Sàsànians. “Like metaphor,” Conte says, “allu-
sion permits the substitution of denotation by connotation.”44 Hence,
Abù Nuwàs’s employment of allusion allows the transformation of
denotation, “the letter,” to connotation, “the sense.”
   The foregoing analysis has demonstrated that the ekphrastic pas-
sages in Abù Nuwàs’s “A†làl Óànah” and al-Bu˙turì’s “Ìwàn Kisrà”
function not only to describe the poetic objects, but also indirectly
to fulfill an encomiastic structural expectation. Moreover, the inves-
tigation of the ekphrastic description with the use of Western ekphra-
sis theories has served to clarify the poets’ manipulations of their
poetic materials. In order to apprehend the qaßìdah rightly, a knowl-
edge of the structural and thematic conventions of the classical Arabic
poetic tradition is indispensable. Otherwise, we can only grasp “the
letter,” not “the sense,” of the cultural tradition of the qaßìdah.




  43
       Ibid., 59.
  44
       Ibid., 55.
                                CHAPTER FOUR

                SENSIBILITY AND SYNAESTHESIA:
              IBN AL-RÙMÌ’S SINGING SLAVE-GIRL*


Another scene of ekphrasis is again from the same period, the
'Abbàsid, but this time of a different sort of art, that is, music, entic-
ing us to the sensuous world of a female singer. This chapter deals
with the relation between verbal art and musical art. I explore the
musical art of gesture and singing in a medieval Arabic qaßìdah or
ode from the ninth century C.E., which describes a singing slave-
girl. Re-examining why and how the ode has entranced the listener
or the reader, I make use of modern Western modes of interarts
studies, while not neglecting conventional Arabic literary components
and the medieval Arabic social, artistic milieu of singing-girls. As
theoretical tools, I use the concept of the “gestural” developed by
Lawrence Kramer.1 For social ambience, an essay on singing slave-
girls by al-Jà˙iΩ (776–869), one of the most prominent classical Arab
littérateurs, will be our source. I also rely on George Sawa’s study
of the theory and practice of musical performance in the classical
Middle East.2
    Waßf (description) occupies a central role in the Arabic qaßìdah tra-
dition and is commonly held to be characteristic of the genre.3


   * An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the annual meeting of the
Middle East Studies Association of North America, Washington D.C., November,
1999, and appeared as Akiko Motoyoshi, “Sensibility and Synaesthesia: Ibn al-
Rùmì’s Singing Slave-Girl,” Journal of Arabic Literature 32, no. 1 (2002): 1–29.
   1
     Lawrence Kramer, Music and Poetry: The Nineteenth Century and After (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1984).
   2
     George Dimitri Sawa, Music Performance Practice in the Early 'Abbàsid Era 132–320
AH/750–932 A.D. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1989). He
deals with historical Middle Eastern musicology and performance practice with ref-
erence to court musicians of the early 'Abbàsid era, in combination with the analy-
sis of classical Arabic theoretical works on music by al-Fàràbì (circa 872/3–950),
including Kitàb al-Mùsìqà al-Kabìr (Grand Book of Music), Kitàb al-Ìqà'àt (Book of
Rhythms), and Kitàb I˙ßà" al-Ìqà'àt (Book for the Basic Comprehension of Rhythms).
   3
     The poem I will investigate is often introduced as an excellent model of waßf
in works on Ibn al-Rùmì and other poetry studies. For instance, in the preface of
                                                     123

Description is one of the literary strategies used by the poet to reflect
an aspect of “reality,” either actual or fictional. As discussed in the
Introduction, the qaßìdah was evaluated negatively by many tradi-
tional Orientalists for what was thought to be its objective descrip-
tiveness; they thought it lacked the expression of emotion, as Gustave
von Grunebaum claims. His conception of the objective descriptive-
ness of Arabic poetry sees the poet’s faithful, minute description as
based on mimesis (imitation), which is intended to portray a visual/
pictorial image.4 Rejecting this view, I argue in this chapter that Ibn
al-Rùmì (836–96)’s poem presents the singing-girl not only in a visual
dimension, but also in auditory, synaesthetic, sensuous, and intuitive
dimensions by means of description. By using the singing of the
slave-girl Wa˙ìd as his poetic object, the poet, I argue, has suc-
ceeded in fully expressing emotion and affections within the perfor-
mance context of the ode. He produces not the pictorial image of
the singing slave-girl, but the image of her body revealed by all the
senses. Most intriguing for us is to see how the poet verbally expresses
the female slave’s voice and singing. Ibn al-Rùmì challenged him-
self to represent the beauty of Wa˙ìd and her singing by evoking
emotions appealing to the senses, not pictorial images, through the
use of synaesthetic and synergical effects. Also implied by the notion
of challenge is the idea that his poetic enterprise constitutes a com-
petition between verbal art and musical performance, which will ulti-
mately lead to a rivalry between the beauty of the singing-girl and
that of the poet’s pen—his portrait of her.
   To achieve his goal, Ibn al-Rùmì selects description by indirec-
tion as one of his strategic devices; he describes Wa˙ìd’s singing in
terms of its effects on the listener as well as on the viewer. The
main force of the song seems to lie not only in the aspiration of the
singer, but also in its generation of affections in the listener, this
being grounded in the concept of †arab5 (“strong emotion of joy or



Dìwàn of Ibn al-Rùmì, the editor A˙mad Óasan Basaj introduces the poem under
the categorization of waßf. Dìwàn of Ibn al-Rùmì, ed. with notes, A˙mad Óasan Basaj,
3 vols. (Beirut: Dàr al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 1994), 1: 12–13.
   4
     See p. 4 in the Introduction for a quotation of Grunebaum’s idea.
   5
     ˇarab derives from †arraba, to sing, in Arabic. This argument is predicated on
the original meaning of mu†rib, “singer” in Arabic. For further etymological discus-
sion, see p. 147.
124                               

grief ”) in the Arab tradition. In order for a musician to win a reward,
transportation of the audience into a state of †arab was considered
an indispensable condition, in fact, the most important.6 From this
perspective, Ibn al-Rùmì’s strategy, which involves the choice of
singing as his poetic object and the expression of the beauty of the
singing by means of representing the reactions of the audience, is
efficacious. In a way, the device releases the poet from the tram-
mels of the poetic conventions by which the lyricist is doomed to
be bound. As I show through a close reading of the text, this tech-
nique of using the effects of the song on the audience increases the
poet’s power of expression and his ability to summon up affective
responses, i.e., emotions. This employment of causality is recognized
as a literary trope among Arab critics.
   What is usually overlooked in this kind of study is that the poem
under investigation was not perused on the page, but was intended
to be presented to an audience—most likely as a song, either by a
singer-musician like Wa˙ìd or by the poet himself. This performance
context is examined as far as is possible, for it is vital to approach
the poem as it was originally performed or as it was intended for
performance, and not merely as a work to be read in a poetry
anthology. In this light, when we deal with the qaßìdah or any clas-
sical literary genre, it is invariably important to consider what kind
of methodology we adopt in order to bridge the gap between the
original viewers’ horizons of expectation and those of a present
reader.7 The term “horizon of expectation” was proposed by the
theorist of reception, Hans Robert Jauss. In his view, a text cannot
have an objective meaning, but it can have various objectively describ-
able attributes that are derived from the responses of the general
reading public over the course of time.8 The difference in these con-
cepts of meaning suggests the source of the “otherness” or the unique
distance of the text for the contemporary reader.9 Similarly, Nelson
Goodman presses us to seek and specify “the frame of reference” of
an artistic work, because systems of representation differ according
to culture, person, and time. He states,

  6
    See Sawa, 195.
  7
    See M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th ed., s.v. “Reception-Theory”
(Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1993), 272–73.
  8
    Ibid.
  9
    For the discussion of horizons of reading, see Hans Robert Jauss, chap. 5 of
Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).
                                                   125

       For a Fifth-Dynasty Egyptian the straightforward way of representing
       something is not the same as for an eighteenth-century Japanese; and
       neither way is the same as for an early twentieth-century Englishman.
       Each would to some extent have to learn how to read a picture in
       either of the other styles.10
Hence, recognizing the importance of recovering the original setting
of a text in all of its philological, aesthetic, socio-historical, and cul-
tural aspects, I will attempt to re-construct/re-produce the meaning
that the qaßìdah held for its audiences and the effect it had on them,
for the original audience would receive much more than what is in
the text. Our target ode is a well-known work by the 'Abbàsid poet
Ibn al-Rùmì. He devotes the entire poem, consisting of fifty-eight
lines, to the depiction of the singing slave-girl’s beauty, including her
fascinating voice and gestures. The poet’s representation of the singing
girl focuses on her performance as well as on the quality of her
voice, but not on her music itself.


                                 Poet and Poem

The ode I am dealing with is Ode 593 in the Dìwàn Ibn al-Rùmì,
entitled “Wa˙ìd, the Singing Slave-Girl of 'Amhamah,” composed
by the 'Abbàsid poet Abù al-Óasan 'Alì ibn al-'Abbàs ibn Jurayj,
known as Ibn al-Rùmì, born in Baghdad in 836 C.E. and died in
896 C.E. His father, al-'Abbàs, was a Byzantine freedman and a
client of 'Ubayd Allàh ibn 'Ìsà b. Ja'far. Al-'Abbàs was perhaps the
first member of the family to be a Muslim. His mother, Óasanah,
was the daughter of 'Abd Allàh al-Sijzì who was of Persian origin.
It is said that the poet studied with Mu˙ammad ibn Óabìb, a friend
of his father. Although he made his name as a poet at the age of
twenty, he was unable to gain the favor of the court till the end of
his life because of his ardent Shì'ism and his Mu'tazilism. In spite
of his being a Muslim, his Byzantine and Christian origin, and his
aggressiveness and arrogance also helped to repel possible patrons.
As a result of his long opposition to the party in power, Ibn al-
Rùmì had to seek rich patrons outside the court. According to
S. Boustany, Ibn al-Rùmì was a society poet, compared to his

  10
     Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols, 2nd ed.
(Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1976), 37.
126                                

contemporaries, showing his ability to make impromptu rhymes on
command as well as his attachment to wit and originality.11


       “Wa˙ìd, the Singing Slave-Girl of 'Amhamah” by Ibn al-Rùmì12

1.    O my two friends,
          Wa˙ìd has enslaved me,
      till my heart is tormented
          and broken by love.

2.    She was a tender woman,
         adorned by the graceful stature
      of a pliant bough
         and the neck and eyes of a gazelle.

3.    Her hair was radiant
        in blackness,13
      and her two cheeks,
        in redness.

4.    Beauty kindled its fire
        in Wa˙ìd
      over a cheek
        unblemished by leanness.

5.    So she is coolness and peace
        in her cheek,

   11
      Information on Ibn al-Rùmì in this paragraph is largely taken from S. Boustany,
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s. v. “Ibn al-Rùmì.” There is an extensive study
on Ibn al-Rùmì’s poetry by Robert McKinney, “The Case of Rhyme v. Reason:
Ibn al-Rùmì and His Poetics in Context” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1998).
   12
      The meter of this ode is khafìf. Though I rely mainly on Fàrùq Aslìm’s edi-
tion, I use four published versions of the Arabic text. Ibn al-Rùmì, Ode 593, Diwàn
Ibn al-Rùmì, ed. with notes, Fàrùq Aslìm, 6 vols. (Beirut: Dàr al-Jìl, 1998), 2: 576–83.
Abù al-Óasan 'Alì ibn al-'Abbàs ibn Jurayj Ibn al-Rùmì, Ode 593, Diwàn Ibn al-
Rùmì, ed. with notes, Óusayn Naßßàr, 6 vols. (Cairo: Ma†ba'at Dàr al-Kutub, 1974),
2: 762–65. Bu†rus al-Bustànì, ed., Muntaqayàt Udabà" al-'Arab fì al-A'ßur al-'Abbàsiyyah
(Beirut: Maktabat Íàdir, 1948), 252–55 (This version presents only 33 lines out of
58.). A˙mad al-ˇabbàl, Ibn al-Rùmì, Diràsat Nußùß wa Khaßà"iß 'Àmmah (Tripoli,
Lebanon: Dàr al-Shamàl lil-ˇibà'ah wa al-Nashr wa al-Tawzì', 1986), “Al-Waßf wa
al-Ghazal: Wa˙ìd al-Mughanniyyah,” 10–19. See the Appendix for the Arabic text.
   13
      “Zahà” (to be radiant, shine) can also be “to pride oneself in.”
                             127

      while for her lovers
        she is effort and strain.

 6.   She has never marred her face,
        like limpid water,
      though she has melted hearts
        as hard as iron.

 7.   The passions that
        her two cheeks have kindled
      cannot be cooled except
        by sipping her sweet kisses [lit., saliva].

 8.   Such kisses would have extinguished
        this passion of mine,
      except for her refusal
        to let me drink.

 9.   Many a man beguiled by her beauty has said:
         Describe her!
      I said: that is easy and difficult,
         all at once.

10.   It’s easy to say that she’s the most beautiful
         of creatures, without exception,
      but it is difficult
         to define her beauty.

11.   She is the sunshine of a cloudy day;
        the sun and moon,
      both draw their luminosity
        from hers.

12.   When she reveals herself
        to those who gaze at her
      some are tormented by her beauty,
        while others delight in it.

13.   She is a gazelle that dwells
        in men’s hearts,
128                          

      grazing on them,
        and she is a singing canary.

14.   She sings
         so effortlessly,
      it seems she’s not singing,
         and she sings beautifully.

15.   You do not see
        her eyes bulging
      or her neck-veins
        bursting from strain.

16.   Because of the calm of her voice,
        which is unbroken,
      and its stirring passion,
        which is unflagging,

17.   When she sings,
         her breath always reaches the end of the phrase;
      it is long,
         like the sighs of her lovers.

18.   Her coquetry and flirtation make
        her voice even more delicate,
      and passion thins it further,
        till it almost dies.

19.   So her voice seems to be
        now dying,
      now coming to life,
        delightful whether soft or raised.

20.   In it are embroidery,
         and jewelry fashioned
      from the melody,
         which the poem wears with pride.

21.   Her mouth, and her voice
       vibrating in it are sweet;
                                                   129

       everything of hers
         bears witness to this.

22.    Like cool limpid water,
         her kisses quench thirst,
       and a song from her lips
         evokes lost happiness.

23.    Whoever hears her sing
         asks her to sing again;
       whoever tastes her kisses
         asks for more.

24.    From passion for one like her,
          the forbearing men
       lose their composure;
          the righteous are seduced.

25.    She does not shoot at hearts
         with her love,
       without hitting her prey
         wherever she wants.

26.    A lute-string in her hands
         is like the bow-string of
       an army in which
         a sharp arrow is set.

27.    When she draws it,
         aiming at the drinkers,
       the people are sure that
         she will hit her mark.

28.    When she sings,
         it’s as if Ma'bad and
       Ibn Surayj were singing,
         as if Zalzal and 'Aqìd were playing.14


 14
      According to the shar˙ of Aslìm, Ma'bad and Ibn Surayj were renowned singers
130                              

29.   She is blamed
        because when she sings,
      the freeborn become
        enslaved by her.

30.   With her spells
        she increases the love for her in their hearts,
      though their hearts are
        already too full.

31.   Beautiful women offered
        themselves to me, but I said:
      you will not distract
        me from Wa˙ìd.

32.   The beauty in her eyes
        is without equal;
      the love for her
        in men’s hearts is unique.

33.   Many a sincere advisor,
        lacking sound judgment,
      has rebuked me
        for loving her.

34.   Yet if one of those who rebuke me
        were to see her,
      he would be the one
        to tarry and ask for more.

35.   She has misled the soul
        that inclines toward her
      as she despised his life
        and ensnared him.


in the Umayyad era, whereas Zalzal and 'Aqìd were slave-girls famous for their
excellence in playing instruments and producing beautiful rhythm. Sawa records
their high-quality performance based on the Kitàb al-Aghànì. The poet’s aim of men-
tioning their names here seems to be to show that Wa˙ìd’s singing is as excellent
as theirs.
                          131

36.   She bewitched him with her eyes,
        until for him
      her blameworthy traits
        became praiseworthy.

37.   She was created to tempt
         the hearts of men;
      in song and beauty
         she is entirely without rival.

38.   She is a delight
        that causes grown men to sway
      and a disaster that turns
        the hair of newborns white.

39.   Wherever I leave her
        I find a companion in passion for her,
      wherever she alights,
        there is a guardian over her.

40.   To my right,
         to my left,
      in front of me and behind,
         how can I get around him?

41.   The devil of her love
        blocked every access,
      the devil of her love
        is refractory.

42.   I wish I knew
        when someone looks at her
      a long time,
        once, and then again,

43.   Does the eye
        not tire of her,
      or does it always
        discover something new?
132                         

44.   Nay, more: she is life;
         however much you looked at it
      it still provides more marvels
         for your delight, and benefits.

45.   She is to be gazed at, heard,
        and relished like sweet water;
      she’s always ready to provide
        the entertainment that we love.

46.   No boredom with her
        ever creeps into the heart,
      nor does the firm knot of
        her enchantment loosen.

47.   Her beauty in the eyes of her beholders
        is new beauty every time,
      so there is new love
        for her in their hearts.

48.   O Wa˙ìd,
         may God take from you,
      for my heart,
         what the avenging victor takes!

49.   Others’ eyes are cooled
        by a union with you,
      while my eyes weep
        because of your rejection.

 50. But I divert myself
       with your sweet promises,
     even though among them
       lurks a threat.

51.   I still find that one glance
         from you is lethal to me,
      while another one
         makes me immortal.
                                     133

52.   When we meet,
        one glance from you is
      a promise of union,
        while another is intimidating.

53.   You leave healthy men love-sick,
        shaking and emaciated,
      though you are as graceful as
        a swaying bough.

54.   In love, a man is
         at times weak and defeated,
      at others,
         steadfast and strong.

55.   Your unfamiliar love
        alighted in my heart,
      and banished
        my genial sleep.

56.   It amazes me that
         the stranger abides in my heart,
      while the familiar one
         is expelled.

57.   We are weary of the veil
         that conceals the lovely object
      of our desire,
         will it ever be stripped away?

58.   It dwells in the heart,
         and yet is further than the Pleiades;
      It is at once
         both near and far.


                  Social Milieu and Performance Context

Since the poet devotes the entire ode to the delineation of Wa˙ìd’s
beauty, including her singing, this ode could be termed a ghazal or
134                                

erotic lyric, rather than a qaßìdah, which is polythematic.15 The
'Abbàsid qaßìdah shows, in general, a bipartite structure: nasìb (ama-
tory prelude) and madì˙ (praise). The persona traditionally speaks
about the remembrance of his beloved in the first section, and pre-
sents praise of, and admiration for, his mamdù˙ (patron) in the final
section. Thematically speaking, the despair over his unrequited love
in the nasìb should be consoled and compensated for by the gen-
erosity and excellence of the mamdù˙ in the madì˙ (praise). Thus, the
qaßìdah genre is highly conventional, regulated by rules and stipula-
tions not only in form, but also in content. Our poem by Ibn al-
Rùmì, in this context, does not observe the traditional form, because
it ends with the nasìb, not reaching its presumed goal, the mamdù˙,
in the finale. However, because of its length, which is that of a full
qaßìdah as opposed to a short ghazal, we must view the poem in light
of the full qaßìdah form, and ask why the poem did not develop
toward a terminal subject, madì˙ (more below).
   “Kitàb al-Qiyàn” (Book of Singing-Girls), by Abù 'Uthmàn 'Amr
ibn Ba˙r al-Jà˙iΩ (776–869), one of the great masters of classical
Arabic prose, offers us some brilliant insights concerning certain cir-
cumstances of singing slave-girls in the 'Abbàsid era.16 In his detailed
accounts of them, al-Jà˙iΩ suggests that in those days female singers
would actually sing poems in front of guests.17 Moreover, this con-

   15
      The term qaßìdah is generally defined according to its length—that is from
fifteen to eighty lines. In this broad sense the poem under exploration is a qaßìdah,
while in a narrow structural-thematic sense it is a ghazal, an erotic lyric that con-
stitutes an entire (usually short) poem rather than serving as a prelude to further
thematic sections.
   16
      For information about singing-girls, see al-Jà˙iΩ 'Amr ibn Ba˙r, “Kitàb al-
Qiyàn,” Rasà"il al-Jà˙iΩ, ed. with commentary, 'Abd Muhannà, 2 vols. (Beirut: Dàr
al-Óadàthah, 1987–88), 94–117, and al-Jà˙iΩ, The Epistle on Singing-Girls of Jà˙iΩ, ed.
with translation and commentary, A. F. L. Beeston (Warminster, Wilts, U.K.: Aris
& Phillips, 1980), and 'Abd al-Karìm al-'Allàf, Qiyàn Baghdàd fì al-'Aßr al-'Abbàsì wa
al-'Uthmànì al-Akhìr (Baghdad: Ma†ba'at Dàr al-Ta∂àmun, 1969). All quotations in
the text relating to al-Jà˙iΩ’s book are from Beeston’s translation.
   17
      Al-Jà˙iΩ relates some episodes proving that poems were sung in pages 104–6
of 'Abd Muhannà’s edition. Relating to this, Owen Wright maintains that the rela-
tionship between music and verse in the early Islamic period cannot be confirmed
with precision because discussions on the subject do not exist; the study of music
is inclined either toward the theoretical or the performer and his environment.
Owen Wright, “Music and Verse,” in Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period,
ed. A. F. L. Beeston et al., The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature (Cambridge,
U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 433–59. However, Sawa gives a com-
prehensive study by combining the music theory and practice of musical perfor-
mance in his book.
                                                            135

temporary of Ibn al-Rùmì indicates that there was a social institu-
tion of qiyàn or singing-girls who had muqayyinùn (merchants of singing
slave-girls) as their owner-dealers.18 A. F. L. Beeston thinks of the
geisha of Japan as being similar to the Arab institution of qiyàn.19
Wealthy clients would seek out excellent songstresses to entertain
their guests at parties and for other purposes. In order to elevate
their commercial value, to say nothing of their beauty, the female
singers were supposed to be endowed with highly trained perfor-
mance and social skills, resulting from advanced musical education
and association with intellectual culture under the supervision of the
muqayyin.20 According to al-Jà˙iΩ, a successful singing-girl had a reper-
toire of as many as four thousand songs comprising ten thousand
verses,21 which, of course, she knew by heart, besides her erudition
in the traditional sciences and the Qur"àn. These are the probable
social surroundings of Wa˙ìd, the singing girl.
   It is assumed that this poem was sung in a courtly setting to enter-
tain rulers and their guests. Even if the poem was not sung, we can
determine from the Kitàb al-Aghànì (Book of Songs) composed by
Abù al-Faraj al-Ißbahànì (897–967),22 and its description of poetry
put to music and sung at court, that the poet must have considered
this possibility when he composed it. In his book, al-Ißbahànì adds
to poems the name of the tonal mode (aßba' ) and rhythmic mode
(∂arb) in which they were sung, along with the names of the singers
and the composers of the melodies.23 Sawa, investigating the Kitàb
al-Aghànì thoroughly, documents numerous instances in which poems
were actually sung by jàriyahs (slave-girls) in formal and informal
settings of musical majlis, “a place where persons sat together and


   18
      According to C. Pellat, the first female slave-singers among the Arabs appeared
as early as the Jàhiliyyah period. See for more details C. Pellat, The Encyclopaedia
of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “˚ayna.”
   19
      Beeston, 2.
   20
      For more information on singing slave-girls’ education, see Pellat, The Encyclopaedia
of Islam, s. v. “˚ayna.”
   21
      Al-Jà˙iΩ, “Kitàb al-Qiyàn,” ed. 'Abd Muhannà, 116.
   22
      Abù al-Faraj al-Ißbahànì, Kitàb al-Aghànì, ed. Ibràhìm al-Abyàrì, 31 vols. (Cairo:
Dàr al-Sha'b, 1969–79). This is one of the most important compilations composed
under the 'Abbàsid Caliphate, comprising poetry, poets’ biographical information,
and the melody of poems.
   23
      A notation or tablature of a song cannot be found in Arabic books on music
until the time of Íafì al-Îìn 'Abd al-Mu"min (d. 1294). Henry Farmer, The Encyclopaedia
of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “ghinà".”
136                                  

conversed, and by extension, an assembly of people sitting together.”24
Ibn al-Rùmì wrote many nasìbs whose objects were qiyàn (songstresses),
for he loved them extraordinarily.25 The poet composed many poems
for singers including the male singer Bunàn whom he served for ten
years around 873 C.E.26 He would constantly spend time together
with young male and female singers who came to perfect their art
under the great master, Bunàn. These circumstances helped him to
learn the rules and theories of music as well as to cultivate himself
as a connoisseur of the singing art.27
   The assumption that Ibn al-Rùmì’s own ode is conveyed by singing
makes it a frame through which we experience another song and its
performance. The very performance of the ode as a song that evokes
the effects that Wa˙ìd’s singing has on her audience, who is charmed
by her, is likely to affect and move the listeners of the frame song/
poem, perhaps in a manner similar to that evoked in the ode. In
this manner, Wa˙ìd’s song is repeatedly framed into another larger
setting of representation, accompanied by the multiplied effects of
each singer on his/her audience. This process allows the ode to pro-
duce a profound and dynamic impact with its calculated literary
intention.
   The idea of a frame song/poem provides a good starting point
for reconstructing “the frame of reference” of the ode. First let us
speculate concerning what kind of song Wa˙ìd was singing. The
poem does not tell us anything about this except for saying “a song
from her lips evokes lost happiness” (l. 22). “Lost happiness,” evok-
ing the notion of nostalgia, is generally a theme of the nasìb: the
remembrance of the poet’s beloved and his unrequited love for her.

   24
      Sawa states that the musical majlis was not invented in the 'Abbàsid era, but
that it was already common in Umayyad times, during the rule of the Orthodox
Caliphs, and in the pre-Islamic Arab kingdoms, 111–12. For more information on
majlis, which derives from the verb jalasa “to sit,” see Sawa, 111.
   25
      Said Boustany, Ibn al-Rùmì, sa vie et son oeuvre (Beirut: Publications de l’Université
Libanais, 1967), 304–5. The information on Ibn al-Rùmì in the rest of the para-
graph is taken from this source.
   26
      The poet has a number of madì˙ (praise) poems as well as hijà" (ridiculing)
odes for singers, such as Salàmah b. Sa'ìd al-Óàjib, Durayrah, and Ja˙Ωah. Boustany
assumes that it was the poet’s passion that urged him to accept the position, in
spite of the symbolic salary of two dinars per month, 304.
   27
      Boustany mentions that Ibn al-Rùmì’s judgment of singing performance described
in his poems is presented with poetic and literary expressions rather than the tech-
nical terminology of music, 305. These characteristics are likewise seen in the poem
under exploration.
                                                      137

Grief over an unrequited love was one of the common themes in
songs of the early 'Abbàsid era.28 If the song performed by Wa˙ìd
actually dealt with its persona’s hopeless love for his beloved, who
had left him, the structure of the frame-song/poem is of significance,
for Wa˙ìd’s song also becomes framed in Ibn al-Rùmì’s poem in
terms of theme.
   As for the performance context of Wa˙ìd’s song, it is known that
she was a jàriyah (female slave), for the poem is introduced by the
following passage: “He [Ibn al-Rùmì] said regarding Wa˙ìd, 'Am-
hamah’s jàriyah.” 'Amhamah is apparently the slave-girl’s patron, but
we have no information about 'Amhamah beyond this. There were
two kinds of musical majàlis (plural of majlis) in the 'Abbàsid period,
according to Sawa: the formal type, which was held in the presence
of a patron, and the informal type, which was held without him.29
We could speculate that the majlis in which Wa˙ìd sang was formal,
for the introduction of the poem mentions the patron’s name. The
patron would issue orders to musicians, including Wa˙ìd, to come
to a place where the patron wanted the majlis to be convened.30
Wa˙ìd is a singer-player, for she herself also plays an 'ùd while
singing (l. 26). Sawa states that the audience often included nadìms
(boon-companions), ghulàms (young male slaves/servants), khàdims (ser-
vants), khaßiyys (eunuchs), and jàriyahs (female slaves).31 Nadìms were
highly educated people, having a thorough knowledge of numerous
fields, such as music, literature, and poetry.32 Additionally, a nadìm
was expected to be a Ωarìf, that is, he was a gentleman possessed of
adab (good behavior), murù"ah (virtue), and Ωarf (refined, elegant man-
ners, wearing fine clothes). The audience of Wa˙ìd portrayed in the
poem would be nadìms, with the persona among them. Needless to
say, jàriyahs were objects of love as well as of erotic admiration for
the audience of those days.


  28
      See Sawa, 134.
  29
      See Sawa, 112.
   30
      See Sawa, 113. He also states that male and female slave musicians were part
of the patron’s household in general (115); Wa˙ìd would have lived in 'Amhamah’s
house.
   31
      Sawa, 119.
   32
      To be a nadìm, Sawa further enumerates as required knowledge: prosody, gram-
mar, history, narration of anecdotes, Qur"àn, Óadìth, jurisprudence, astrology, med-
icine, and horse-breeding, in addition to being well-versed in all sorts of games and
entertainments, such as backgammon, chess, buffoonery, and magic, 119.
138                               

   Poems, either precomposed or improvised, were produced first and
then set to music by musicians, including singer-composers and poet-
musicians.33 Sometimes singers were asked by the audience to sing
songs/poems that had previously been set to music. Other times,
they were requested to improvise musical settings for precomposed
poems. Therefore, in the case of the performance of precomposed
poems, the odes were written as poems, but, of course, some poets
envisaged their poems being sung; in the case of the improvised per-
formance, the odes were composed for performance. Also, “there
was a strong tradition of double improvisations: the composition of
an impromptu text, followed immediately by an improvised musical
setting for it.”34 Singers were expected to have a large repertoire of
poems, which included not only their own compositions but those
of others, from the Jàhiliyyah to their own time.35 Presumably, such
songs had a great appeal for audiences, as we can conclude from
the ode’s description of the listeners and their feelings.
   Singers could perform the role of messengers between individuals
by their performance.36 It is conceivable that Ibn al-Rùmì’s ode
served to convey a message to the audience or to a particular per-
son on behalf of a third party.37 Assuming that 'Amhamah and
Wa˙ìd were real people and that the patron was in love with his
slave-girl,38 the poet might have been asked by 'Amhamah to com-
pose an ode to regain her love and attention, or the poet might
have composed it spontaneously for that purpose. If Wa˙ìd was
among the audience, she might have been much affected by the
song. In more general and less speculative terms we can assume that,
while the poem possesses the quality of †arab, the aesthetic power to


   33
      Sawa lists such musician-poets as Is˙àq al-Mawßilì and 'Ulayyah bint al-Mahdì,
or such patrons as the caliphs al-Ma"mùn and al-Mu'tazz, 142. He further says
that musicians were male and female slave singers or free singers who could be
Arabs, non-Arabs, or of mixed descent, 114.
   34
      Sawa, 142.
   35
      See Sawa, 169.
   36
      See Sawa, 126.
   37
      Sawa introduces the following anecdote as an example: “'Ulayyah was asked
by Umm Ja'far to help her regain the love and attention of Hàrùn al-Rashìd, who
had left her for a beautiful new jàriyah. 'Ulayyah composed a song, and taught it
to the jàriyahs, who entered and surprised Hàrùn with their performance,” 126–27.
   38
      It was common for a patron to fall in love with a jàriyah; Sawa indicates an
anecdote: “One night, the singer-composer 'Allùyah (d. 850 C.E.) invited the poet
Abù al-Asad (d. 835) and a jàriyah whom 'Allùyah loved,” 117.
                                                        139

move its audience, its effect was increased by the force (†arab) of its
performance.
   Ibn al-Rùmì’s poem is found in Diwàn Ibn al-Rùmì, the collection
of his poems; however, his works, including the poem under inves-
tigation, were not included in the Kitàb al-Aghànì (Book of Songs).
But this does not mean at all that the poem was composed only for
reading.39 We have seen that the poet lived in the company of singers
and composers, and his Dìwàn contains poems about other musi-
cians.40 It is quite likely that he expected the poem to be set to
music and performed, especially as it describes a singer. Songs would
be circulated and preserved in an oral-performance tradition: musi-
cians would learn their repertoire by listening to other musicians.
Therefore, while the poem has come down to us only as a written
text, without a melody, it may well have existed as a song in the
repertoire of performers and may even have been known for some
time as a song by readers of the poem, just as we know melodies
that have been composed for poems found in the collected works of
more modern poets.


                         Strategy: Emotion and Challenge

The poem opens with the persona addressing his friend, “O my two
friends, Wa˙ìd has enslaved me, till my heart is tormented and bro-
ken by love.” The first line reveals that he is greatly infatuated with
the singing-girl. Also, this opening condenses the theme of the ode:
the persona’s passion for his beloved and her beauty. The description
of his beloved and his unrequited love constitute the main skeleton


   39
      Ode 1318 in Naßßàr’s edition has the following introductory remarks: “He [Ibn
al-Rùmì] said congratulating al-Mu'tamid upon the Feasts of al-A∂hà (Immolation)
and al-Mihrijàn. . . . He [Ibn al-Rùmì] used to compose poems for the singer Bunàn,
and the latter incited the former to do so [write a poem for the occasion of the
two feasts for the ruler], and he [Bunàn] conveyed it [the poem] [to al-Mu'tamid],”
2444. This episode supports the fact that Ibn al-Rùmì actually would compose for
singers. Also, it can be a good example of the role of singers in communicating a
message between parties.
   40
      In Naßßàr’s edition, we can find a number of poems about singers and musi-
cians; for instance, the title of Ode 142 is “the praise (mad˙) of Durayrah (the female
slave singer-player) and the invective (hijà") of Nuzhah (the female musician),” 179,
and there are other odes about the singers Shan†af (e.g., Ode 1499, p. 1932) and
Ja˙Ωah (e.g., Ode 739, p. 984).
140                                  

of the nasìb in the qaßìdah tradition. In short, this phenomenon shows
that the poet is bound by the rules and stipulations of the genre-
defining convention of Arabic poetry, like any other qaßìdah poet.
Ibn al-Rùmì also relies on conventional figurative techniques and
motifs: for instance, in line 2 there appear the comparisons of the
beloved to a gazelle and to a pliant branch. The major theme of
this qaßìdah—the persona’s infatuation with Wa˙ìd, including the
expressive devices of conventional motifs—stands firmly on literary
convention. Because of its conventional quality, the poem, accord-
ingly, does not tell if the poet is truly in love with her or not, because
the fictional “I”41 or persona of the poet pervades the poem. Wa˙ìd,
in this light, may even be an invention or conceit and be presented
as a representative of the beloved and beauty.
   In the following lines (3–7), intersensory effects are produced by
synaesthetic fusion. Erika von Erhardt-Siebold describes the effect of
synaesthesia as follows: “Synaesthesia, as correspondences or equiv-
alences of sensations, enables the poet to combine the power of sev-
eral sense-impressions into one collective impression.”42 The New
Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics states, “synaesthesia suggests
not only a greater ‘refinement and complexity of sensuous experi-
ence’ but also a ‘harmony or synthesis of all sensations’ and a kind
of ‘supersensuous unity.’”43 Erhardt-Siebold further claims that synaes-
thesia not only causes the sense actually stimulated to respond but
also compels other senses to vibrate simultaneously.44 Although synaes-
thesia is usually understood as “the phenomenon wherein one sense
modality is felt, perceived, or described in terms of another,” I use
the word “synaesthesia” in this chapter focusing more on its inter-
sensory effects.45 Using this multi-sensory force, Ibn al-Rùmì attempts
to elicit sentiment and sensuality from the audience by stimulating
as well as fusing their sensory organs. Line 3 states, “Her hair was


  41
      For the discussion of the lyrical or the fallacious “I” in Arabic poetry, see
Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Lyrical Phenomenon,” 57–77.
  42
      Erika von Erhardt-Siebold, “Harmony of the Senses in English, German, and
French Romanticism,” PMLA 47 (1932): 584. For more discussion of literary synaes-
thesia, see Nicholas Ruddick, “ ‘Synaesthesia’ in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry,” Poetics
Today 5, no. 1 (1984): 59–78.
  43
     T. V. F. Brogan, New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, s.v. “synaesthesia.”
  44
      Erhardt-Siebold, 580–81. See also Ruddick, 61.
  45
      See for the definition of synaesthesia, Brogan, New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry
and Poetics, s.v. “synaesthesia.”
                                                    141

radiant in blackness, and her two cheeks, in redness.”46 Glowing
black hair and red cheeks merge the optical sense and the bodily
sensation of temperature by stirring up the reader’s/listener’s cor-
poreal sensation; the word “radiant” (zahà) both deepens blackness
and redness and heats up her cheeks as well as the listener’s. Color
is used here not only to stimulate visual perception, i.e., to evoke
mere pictorial description, but also to produce sensuality.
   Furthermore, it is worth noting that al-Jà˙iΩ, who may have had
direct contact with Ibn al-Rùmì,47 indicates some views about the
charm of singing-girls in association with the unification of senses.
     They [Singing-girls] provide a man with a combination of pleasures
     such as nothing else on the face of the earth does. Pleasures all come
     by means of the senses. . . . But when one comes to consider singing-
     girls, three of the senses [smelling, gazing, hearing] are involved all
     together, and [the pleasure of ] the heart makes a fourth. The eye has
     the sight of a beautiful or [otherwise] attractive girl (since cleverness
     and beauty are hardly ever simultaneously possessed by a single object
     of enjoyment and delight); the hearing has from her its meed of that
     which is attended by no inconvenience, that in which the organ of
     hearing finds its sole delight; touching her leads to carnal desire and
     the longing for sexual intercourse. All these senses are as it were scouts
     for the heart, and witnesses testifying before it. When the girl raises
     her voice in song, the gaze is rivetted on her, the hearing is directed
     attentively to her, and the heart surrenders itself to her sovereignty.48
According to al-Jà˙iΩ’s idea, singing slave-girls are the only entity
on the earth supplying a combination of pleasures (ladhdhàt) by means
of the senses. Al-Jà˙iΩ says that when a person receives more than
one sense at one time—for example, the taste of food and the scent
of perfume concurrently—he/she feels disgusted. However, if a com-
bination of sensory perceptions comes with singing-girls, they are
transformed into pleasures.49 People can enjoy them by seeing the
girls’ beauty, hearing their voice, and tasting their kisses. This view


  46
     According to the shar˙ by Óusayn Naßßàr, the line is associated with the
Qur"ànic verse on Ibràhìm, “O fire, be cool and be peace upon Ibràhìm” (Qur"àn
21: 69). In the Óadìth (Prophetic tradition), Ibràhìm had been burned at the stake
by the Assyrian King Nimrud, but was saved by Allàh’s protection.
  47
     Actually, Boustany suggests that the poet may have been a pupil of this promi-
nent intellectual, 117. McKinney, however, claims that there is no evidence in the
sources to support this, 5.
  48
     Al-Jà˙iΩ, ed. trans. Beeston, 30–31.
  49
     Ibid., 31.
142                                

shows that the glamour of Wa˙ìd is recognized not only by the opti-
cal, but also by the olfactory and auditory organs. For instance, line
45 states, “She is to be gazed at, heard, and relished like sweet
water; she’s always ready to provide the entertainment that we love.”
Being fully exposed to the synaesthetic impact, the admirer is cap-
tivated by her through his whole body. Since appealing to vision is
not the sole weapon for Wa˙ìd, Ibn al-Rùmì employs the synaes-
thetic force in order to express the surging passion of her audience.
   Wa˙ìd is ambivalent—she is simultaneously hot and cool (ll. 4–5).
Although her beauty is like fire, it never stains her face, which is
like water, i.e., cool and clear. The power of the fire is so great that
it can melt hearts as hard as iron. Clearly here the visual and the
tactile descriptions, eliciting the imagery of being ablaze in fire (hot)
and smooth in water (cold), serve not merely mimetically to describe
the physical attributes, but affectively to evoke emotional states. Her
sweet kisses (saliva) are the only thing that can cool down the heat
of passion produced by her cheeks (l. 7). At the same time, the poet
suggests a comparison of the magic of Wa˙ìd’s cool fire to the divine
command to the fire to be “cool and peace” to Ibràhìm.50 The cool
saliva of a beloved, which is again one of the classical motifs of the
qaßìdah tradition, can extinguish the fires of passion. The contrast
between heat (her beauty, fire, the enthusiasm of her admirers) and
coolness (her peacefulness, water, her kisses and saliva) is skillfully
shown with a string of correlations among these motifs in the first
part (ll. 1–8). She is unique, as embodied in her tell-tale name Wa˙ìd
(unique, matchless, incomparable), and is a distraction for men who
are frantically in love with her.
   One allured by her beauty challenges Ibn al-Rùmì in line 9:
“Íifhà!” (Describe her!). With the phrase “Íifhà,” the poet calls the
reader’s/listener’s attention to the medium of expression, i.e., his ver-
bal expression, and its power. In other words, the poet tries to
emphasize his poetic skill in fascinating the reader/listener. The inter-
locutor’s imploring the poet to “Describe her” is metapoetic because
the poem itself is “the waßf (description) of Wa˙ìd.” With this phrase,
he asks himself if he is capable of describing her as he intends. There
is an implicit contest between her physical beauty and song and the
poet’s verbal work of art. Can he convey with mere words in poetry


  50
       Qur"àn 21:69. See also Aslìm’s edition, 577.
                                          143

what the five senses convey in the physical world? Can he elicit the
same emotional response? By the same token, Ibn al-Rùmì’s oper-
ation suggests a competition between the verbal art and the musi-
cal vocal art. Through the ekphrastic technique, he challenges himself
to outdo another art (singing) with his own art (poetry) by transforming
an auditory (or multi-sensory) performance into a verbal text.
   In fact, the milieu surrounding the qaßìdah tradition has its roots
deep in the paradigm of contest. Its most salient feature is in the
institution of a poetic majlis—a social and cultural gathering or assem-
bly in the Arab world. The poetic majlis is devoted to poetry recita-
tion and literary discourse, while other majlises are devoted to
jurisprudence ( fiqh) and scholastic theology (kalàm), not to mention
the musical majlis, which is committed to musical performance. The
context of the musical majlis consists of a gathering of the audience
and musicians, the physical setting of performance, and the occa-
sion and purpose of music-making.51 The greatest incentive for the
performer to participate in the majlis is to obtain a reward, either
material or in prestige, from the audience, including its patron-host.
Even when the context is not in the explicit form of a contest, i.e.,
the singer or the musician is the only performer in the arena with-
out other contestants, the context of majlis itself contains the concept
of competition, for in the end, the audience or the other partici-
pants judge the performer by demonstrating their reactions. In the
context of our poem, Wa˙ìd sings before the audience, and it is
obvious that the judge is the poet, whose index is the reaction of
the singer’s audience. On a higher sphere, the poet vies with other
poets, both contemporary and past, trying to show that he is the
best in describing his own poetic object and in convincing his audi-
ence of that fact.
   The poet responds to “Íifhà!” by saying that the beauty of the
singing-girl is indescribable. In reply to the request, the poet does
not describe her physical attributes, but answers that describing her
is both “easy and difficult” (l. 9). Here again the poet suggests the
ambivalence and the mysterious charm of her attributes. He continues
to state, “It’s easy to say that she’s the most beautiful of creatures,
without exception, but it is difficult to define her beauty” (l. 10).
The poet tries to define her beauty, yet he asserts that her beauty


  51
       See Sawa, 111.
144                                 

is indescribable and beyond our ability to delineate. He appears to
touch upon a crucial point, the limitation of verbal power, while he
continues to describe her as if he is challenging that limitation. The
line suggests the untranslatability of the slave-girl’s beauty into words.
The effect of this conceit is to make the poet’s challenge appear
more difficult and hence his accomplishment more valuable. In his
essay “Kitàb al-Qiyàn” (The Book of Singing-Girls), al-Jà˙iΩ says,
“It [the rhythm (of singing)] is impossible to describe satisfactorily
by a verbal definition, but it can be apprehended intuitively just as
much as it can be apprehended by prosodic analysis.”52 Considering
al-Jà˙iΩ’s thought, I believe that Ibn al-Rùmì challenges himself to
describe singing/rhythm, which is supposed to be indescribable,
through a verbal art. By taking up this challenge, the enterprise
becomes a contest between the beauty of singing and that of the
poet’s words.
   Raising an essential issue, “the question of description,” Ibn al-
Rùmì gives us a glimpse at his ideas in his expression: “It’s easy to
say she’s the most beautiful of creatures, without exception, but it
is difficult to define her beauty” (l. 10). This verse can be under-
stood as merely stating that to say “she is beautiful” is easy, but the
problem is how to describe her beauty. The poet implies that when
a poet intends to describe something, it is not sufficient merely to
present adjectives, such as “beautiful.” He searches for a better strat-
egy by way of other literary techniques and devices. That strategy
of delineation should convey some aspects of the “truth” of the poetic
object and should appeal to the poem’s reader/listener; Ibn al-Rùmì
makes use of the reaction of Wa˙ìd’s audience as a device. His ulti-
mate goal is to convince the audience by means of words that he
is the best poet among all the qaßìdah poets.
   One of Ibn al-Rùmì’s techniques is to describe the singing slave-
girl by way of her effect on her viewers. Line 12 states, “When she
reveals herself to those who gaze at her, some are tormented by her
beauty, while others delight in it.” The viewers are wretched because
she is too beautiful to reach, unattainable, while at the same time
they are filled with delight by her impeccable beauty. As she is
ambivalent, so too are the viewers. Similarly, we find another reac-
tion of her listeners/viewers in line 23: “Whoever hears her sing asks


  52
       Al-Jà˙iΩ, ed. trans. Beeston, 24.
                                                         145

her to sing again; whoever tastes her kisses asks for more.” Her
charm and beauty are represented in the description of her listen-
ers/viewers. Verses 12 and 23 are among many lines portraying the
singing-girl’s effect on her audience. Thus, the poet uses the view-
ers as a medium for his artistic expression. In doing so, the poet
does not try to create an objective pictorial image, but rather he
attempts to elicit complete emotions by way of her (male) audience.
   There is another technique of indirection in evidence in Ibn al-
Rùmì’s description of the beloved. If passion or emotion is consid-
ered among the poetic elements most highly dependent on the poet’s
own experience, the Arabic qaßìdah lyricist somehow must prove that
his expressions are sincere, notwithstanding the restraint of the pre-
scribed Arabic lyrical mode on the poet. Ibn al-Rùmì does this by
creating a third party on his theatrical stage within the ode: he
entrusts his personal feelings to Wa˙ìd’s audience. The audience’s
reaction is a mirror of his feelings of infatuation for the singing-girl.
Through the presentation of the viewers’ reaction, the poet is capa-
ble of escaping from the tyranny of the fallacious “I,” for he is
allowed to use “they” for Wa˙ìd’s admirers. At least ostensibly, or
even actually, then, the lyricist is able to attest poetic sincerity with-
out any condition. On the side of the singing-girl’s admirers, on the
other hand, insofar as al-Jà˙iΩ maintains that the passion of love (in
both senses, for singing slave-girls and for the question of love in
general) is a malady that is uncontrollable, Wa˙ìd’s hearers’ strong
feelings for her are authentic and true.53 Yet I believe that the dis-
course on poetic sincerity is itself rather unfruitful in regard to clas-
sical Arabic poetry, because, as Jaroslav Stetkevych argues, the tradition
conforms to the Aristotelian premise of mimesis, which distinguishes
between form and content, or means and object, rather than the
Platonic premise, which intends the unity of form and content.54
Aristotle argues that a poet is not a copier of reality but a creator,
for he/she can envision a deeper and higher order of nature than
an ordinary person can.55 The subject of poetic sincerity that was
often an object of attack with respect to the qaßìdah genre, thus, does


  53
     Ibid., 27.
  54
     Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Arabic Qaßìdah: From Form and Content to Mood and
Meaning,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 3/4 (1979–80): 775–77.
  55
     The thoughts of Plato and Aristotle are concisely presented in T. V. F. Brogan,
The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, s.v. “representation and mimesis.”
146                               

not vitiate the aesthetic quality of the genre. The poem evokes a
sense of true infatuation towards Wa˙ìd by Ibn al-Rùmì and all the
audience. In the fictional realm, their passion is real and sincere.
   If a musician’s goal is to drive the audience to a state of †arab
(acute emotion of grief, joy, or ecstasy), the theatrical setting of the
poem Ibn al-Rùmì prepared is adequate and powerful.56 On the
stage, the slave-girl sings before the audience, and the poet is not
only one of them, but also an observer of the whole drama. The
poet combines the †arab effect of the song and the performance con-
text for the purpose of conveying to us the audience’s affective
response. Although the pure description of Wa˙ìd’s singing com-
prises merely nine out of fifty-eight lines (ll. 14–22 and l. 28), it is
important to note that the rest of the poem speaks about the reac-
tion of her audience toward her singing; that is, all the remaining
portion is the mirror of Wa˙ìd’s singing, including gesture and voice.
In this respect, the poem mentions words like “song” (l. 22) and
“singing” (ll. 28–29) to remind us that the audience’s response remains
directed at her singing. The audience’s reactions are an index for
judging the quality of the performance’s execution, and they con-
tain textual and extra-musical skills, such as facial expressions and
gestures. A beautiful face, elegant clothes, coquetry, and the motion
of the eyes are among the important elements in appraising a musi-
cian’s performance.57 The theatrical setting enables us to analyze the
drama in the context of performance, because the performance is
based on communication between the singer and the audience. In
addition, as the disposition of music is found in the expression of
passion, the representation of Wa˙ìd’s beauty through the expres-
sion of feelings helps achieve the poet’s goal. The synergistic effects
of the power of music, the performance context, and the applica-
tion of conventional motifs combine to produce a poem that touches
and moves the reader’s heart.
   Kramer suggests that music is the expression of feelings and states
that music possesses “the power to embody complex states of mind
as they might arise pre-verbally in consciousness.”58 He also refers


  56
      See for the function of †arab, below, p. 147.
  57
      Sawa mentions that the reactions are seen in verbal, physical, emotional, imag-
inational, and economic aspects, 206, 173–74.
   58
      Kramer, 6. Before the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, although the cen-
ter of theoretical issues on music was constantly changing from as early as the time
                                                    147

to Wallace Stevens’s remarks that “music was a communication of
emotion.”59 To reinforce Kramer’s notion, the etymological context
of an Arabic term, “to sing,” †arraba, form II of †-r-b, deriving from
†arab, signifies the original function of singing. Major dictionaries
define form I †ariba, which is †arraba’s reflexive mode, as “to be/become
affected with emotion, a lively emotion, excitement, agitation, or
unsteadiness, moved with joy or grief, to be delighted, be overjoyed,
be transported with joy,” and the verbal noun of form I †arab is
translated as “emotion (of joy or sadness), a lively emotion, delight,
excitement, agitation, unsteadiness.”60 The form IV active participle
of the same root, mu†rib, means “a singer.” ˇarraba has another set
of meanings, namely “to delight, to fill with delight, to enrapture,
to please, to gratify.” Furthermore, “to sing” †arraba is the causative
verb (form II) of †ariba, form I (to be affected with emotion); that
is, †arraba can also be understood as “to stir up or arouse emotion”
or “to excite someone to joy or sadness.” Etymologically deduced,
hence, singing/song in the Arabic perception is the evocation of
emotion and feeling. This view also accords with Sawa’s argument
as to the significance of †arab, which is the first and foremost con-
dition to convince the audience of the excellence of the performer.
   Wa˙ìd’s physical posture is described. “She sings so effortlessly, it
seems she’s not singing” (l. 14) is meant to convey that she sings
naturally, without artificiality or strain. Line 15 again says, “You
don’t see her eyes bulging or her neck-veins bursting from strain.”
Wa˙ìd is able to sing beautifully without moving or perspiring.
Adequate lung power, self-confidence, and proper posture are among
the required conditions to be an excellent singer in the classical
majlis.61 The poet thus begins to describe Wa˙ìd’s way of singing by
appealing to the sense of sight, while the reader/listener of the poem
is capable of imagining her smooth voice despite the fact that the
lines (14–15) do not use auditory-related terms. The auditory and



of Plato, affect theories of music, that is, that music ought to arouse specific emo-
tions in the listeners, remained through the respective discussions of Aristotle,
Descartes, Kircher, and Rameau. See John Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from
Language: Departure from Mimesis in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1986), especially, chap. 3, “Music and the Affects,” 42–59.
   59
      Ibid., 16.
   60
      See †-r-b in Lane and Lisàn al-'Arab.
   61
      See Sawa, 173, 206.
148                               

the optical stimulate and interrelate with each other. It should be
emphasized that this ekphrastic description in the sense of visual pre-
sentation is intended to express the non-pictorial object, that is, her
voice.
   Ibn al-Rùmì uses gesture and voice, which are closely connected,
as the devices of poetic creation to express sensual feelings. While
lines 14–15 depict how she sings mainly in the physical domain,
they are intimately linked to her voice, which is described in lines
16–22, because the physical posture enables her to produce such a
bewitching sound. In order to elucidate the relation of the gesture
and the voice, I shall rely on Kramer’s interpretation of the two and
their relationship. First, regarding the gestural, Kramer uses it as a
key term in understanding a relation between music and poetry in
terms of tempo as follows:
       The term [gestural] reflects the idea that music and poetry, more than
       any of the other arts, define their formal shape as a function of rhyth-
       mically integrated time. A physical gesture—beckoning, waving good-
       by, embracing—is a complex action so integrated that it is perceived
       as simple, its duration can define the virtual present, and in the right
       context it can assume an enormous weight of implication and emo-
       tion. Music and poetry seem to share these qualities, doing over a
       span of time what a gesture does in a moment. Perhaps, through per-
       formance, there is even a direct (but now largely submerged) link
       between the expressive gestures of music and poetry and physical ges-
       tures. Some poems, some compositions, resist and fragment gestural
       continuity, but it is always there to be resisted or fragmented.62
Kramer further argues as to “voice”:
       The contrast between gestural and narrative organization can be fur-
       ther sharpened by reference to what Wolfgang Iser calls consistency-
       building. This is a preconscious process by which, according to Iser,
       the textual segments of a literary work are linked together to ensure
       the feeling of “good continuation.” . . . Instead of integrating actions
       into meaningful sequences, gestural consistency-building evokes the
       quality that is sometimes called “voice”: the feeling of a continuous
       plane—or several interwoven planes—of intentionality. (It does not
       matter whether we accept voice as somehow real or regard it as a
       logocentric illusion; it is the material at hand in either case.) The sense
       of good continuation that belongs to voice is not left half-conscious
       but is projected into the work, where it participates in the rise and


  62
       Kramer, viii.
                                                  149

       fall of tension and manifests itself as a rhythmic/sensuous quality rather
       than as a conceptual one.63
According to Kramer, the gestural consistency-building creates the
“voice” that operates to maintain “good continuation” in poetry or
music as opposed to the narrative sequence. The voice embodies a
rhythmic/sensuous quality rather than a conceptual one. It is worth
mentioning that al-Jà˙iΩ offers some remarks on the rhythm of singing
that are similar to Kramer’s view:
       The rhythm of poetry is of the same category as the rhythm of singing,
       and the domain of prosody is part of the domain of music: it belongs
       to the domain of psychology. It is impossible to describe satisfactorily
       by a verbal definition, but it can be apprehended intuitively just as
       much as it can be apprehended by prosodic analysis.64
What al-Jà˙iΩ argues is that rhythm is inherent in the psychological
sphere, and music is grasped by intuition (al-˙àjis), not by concept,
which can be convincingly (bi-˙add muqni' ) defined by a verbal means.
His view also reveals the importance of tempo and prosody.
   On the basis of Kramer’s theory, I argue that in his description
of the songstress Ibn al-Rùmì effectively employs the attributes of
the gesture and the voice for the purpose of appealing to the sen-
sual faculty of the reader/hearer. With the presentation of the ges-
ture of her singing, lines 14–15 show how her body is steady without
making any special kinetic movement, despite which her singing is
splendid and smooth. After this, the poem insinuates “good contin-
uation” in her singing by means of skills, such as breathing, which
are based on her steady posture, and the voice suggests its “inten-
tionality,” that is, it is directed to the expression and evocation of
emotions.
   The ode states, “Because of the calm of her voice, which is unbro-
ken, and its stirring of passion, which is unflagging” (l. 16). The poet
uses the technique of contrast/antithesis (†ibàq) between huduww (tran-
quility or silence in the night) and shujuww (stirring of passion of joy
or grief ). Huduww or quiescence in her voice is a common attribute
of her gesture. Despite the fact that her voice bears quiescence, it
stirs passion with spirit. Shujuww bears the very conception of †arab
(emotion by reason of joy or grief ). The poet also employs the mode

  63
       Ibid., 11.
  64
       Al-Jà˙iΩ, ed. trans. Beeston, 24.
150                                

of time to present Wa˙ìd’s singing, as Kramer claims. Ibn al-Rùmì
says, in line 16, that the girl’s voice stretches without interruption
and its passion is resolutely strong and, in line 17, that her voice
always reaches the end of the phrase. The length of Wa˙ìd’s voice
is closely connected with passion or emotion both in herself and in
the listener. The poet compares the length of her breathing to the
sighs of the listener with the double use of the tajnìs (paronomasia)
in line 17. In the first hemistich, nafas (a noun meaning “breath”) is
used as the fà'il or subject of madda (a verb meaning “to extend,
stretch”), while in the second hemistich madìd is employed as the
adjective “extended, stretched” of the anfàs (translated here as “sighs”),
the plural of nafas. In combination with these rhetorical techniques,
her lovers’ long sighs, which are as long as her breathing, express
their infatuation with her and her song. Thus, the sense of a con-
tinuous plane of intentionality in Wa˙ìd’s voice, along with the dura-
tion which is immanent in her physical gesture, connotes profound
implication and emotion.
    The poet combines gestures with voice in line 18: “Her coquetry
and flirtation make her voice even more delicate.” Synaesthetic effects
are again utilized. Coquetry and flirtation are ambiguous when cat-
egorized in terms of the operative senses, for they are a mixture of
vision, touch, and hearing. Nevertheless, her coquettishness increases
the quality of her performance. Grammatically speaking, the coquetry
(al-dalàl ) and flirtation (al-ghunju) are of her voice, because hu (it) of
minhu (of it) refers to “her voice.” In the second hemistich the poet
personifies her voice as if it were alive by stating that her voice
almost dies. Passion (al-shajà) thins (barà) her voice to the extent that
it almost kills it. The word, barà, form I of the verb, means “to
sharpen” or “to wear out.”
    Her song is described as adorned with washy (embroidery) and ˙aly
( jewelry) that consist of naghm (melody) (l. 20), which produces synaes-
thetic effects. Literary synaesthesia “may be defined as a writer’s use
of the ‘metaphor of the senses’ or of expressions and concepts related
to it.”65 Jewelry and embroidery are crafts showing a solid pattern,
metaphorically associated with melody, which is linear. From embroi-
dery, the reader/listener can picture the image of a colorful, gorgeous


  65
     Glenn O’Malley, “Literary Synesthesia,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 15
(1957): 391.
                                          151

pattern. On the other hand, jewelry gives an image of glittering,
sparkling stones, that is, brilliance. The melody which she produces
is composed of the image of jewelry and embroidery. Ibn al-Rùmì
attempts to fuse all of these qualities in these two crafts to create a
complex picture of Wa˙ìd’s voice in the listener’s/reader’s mind; this
is his use of metaphor of the senses, or synaesthesia.
   Erhardt-Siebold argues, “synaesthesia enables the poet to translate
one sense-impression into the terms of another sense.”66 Ibn al-Rùmì
makes use of the combination and transfer/translation effects of
synaesthesia. Embroidery stimulates the tactile and optical senses,
jewelry the optical sense, and melody the auditory sense. The poet
makes the reader envisage these images of embroidery and jewelry
and combines them with melody into one harmonious impression.
In other words, the senses of seeing and touching are transferred
into the sense of hearing. Then the poem says that even the lyrics
of Wa˙ìd’s song boast of the beauty of her singing (l. 20). This state-
ment is metapoetic, insofar as lyrics praising her singing are described
in the poem on her singing. The expression “the melody which the
poem wears with pride” appears to stress the excellence of Wa˙ìd’s
singing by stating that even the lyrics of the poem she is singing are
proud of it. The phrase also suggests that the poem and the song/voice
complement each other. We thus have a poem within the poem
which even praises the poem.
   The ode intends to convey its deep, strong emotion to the reader/lis-
tener not only by way of one sense but by way of all possible senses.
This intention is seen in the poet’s use of the synaesthetic technique
of inter-transferring them and synthesizing the sensations for the
reader/hearer. Line 21 states that Wa˙ìd’s whole body testified that
her mouth/voice and its vibration were sweet/pleasant. All parts of
a body can feel the splendor of her voice. In other words, the poet
aims at translating into words what a human being senses, in both
body and mind, through Wa˙ìd’s gesture and voice. Furthermore,
the singing-girl’s power lies in transforming her audience, which is
associated with the function of †arab in music, so that she can shift
the spiritual level of the audience. Line 29 states, “She is blamed
because when she sings, the freeborn become enslaved by her,” while
line 36, “her blameworthy traits became praiseworthy.” Such is her
power that even the nature of a human being is transformed by it.

  66
       Erhardt-Siebold, 584.
152                             

Arts, irrespective of kind, are endowed with an ability to cultivate
aesthetically and enrich the sensibility and sentiments. When they
are unified, as music and poetry are synthesized in the poem, the
outcome will be infinitely augmented.


                           Poetics and Metapoetics

As a qaßìdah poet, Ibn al-Rùmì naturally makes use of the classical
Arabic conventional motifs. “ˇàba fùhan” (her mouth was sweet), for
instance, is the expression for the pleasant kiss of the persona’s
beloved, often seen in Jàhilì poetry. The beloved’s thirst-quenching
cool saliva (l. 22) is likewise one of the conventional motifs of the
qaßìdah tradition. A song emitted from the mouth allows the audi-
ence to regain lost happiness. This feeling reminds us of the remem-
brance of the persona’s beloved in the nasìb, the first section of the
qaßìdah, particularly the a†làl (traces) of her abode where the persona
weeps over his past unrequited or irretrievable love. The poet pro-
vides Wa˙ìd’s song with the power to restore bygone happiness to
the listener and give renewed hope. That is why the listener asks
Wa˙ìd to sing and kiss over and over (l. 23)—to portray the euphoria
that has existed in the past. She evokes the nostalgia that everyone
has in his/her mind.
   The comparison of the singing-girl to a gazelle (Ωaby), alluding to
the qaßìdah tradition, forms a structural framework for the poem.
The first appearance of the motif is in line 2, mentioning that Wa˙ìd’s
neck and eyes are those of a gazelle. The poem further says that
“she is a gazelle that dwells in men’s hearts, grazing on them, and
she is a singing canary” (l. 13). Wa˙ìd shoots at men’s hearts with
her glance (l. 25). The poet adroitly associates the glance with the
string of a lute in her hands, which is likened to an arrow in the
bow of a soldier (l. 26). (That is, the string of a lute is a metaphor
for the arrow.) Moreover, he connects the magic power of the she-
gazelle’s glance in the Arabic qaßìdah convention to the singing-girl’s
bewitching beauty. The topos of the gazelle, snaring the poet with
her murderous eyes, endows the beloved with magical and numinous
attributes.67 As soon as the persona meets the gazelle/beloved, he is

  67
     See J. C. Bürgel, “The Lady Gazelle and Her Murderous Glances,” Journal of
Arabic Literature 20 (1989): 9.
                                                 153

bewitched by her stunning beauty. The gazelle metaphor is derived
from the animal’s gracefulness and the murderous glances that cause
lovesickness and the lover’s death.68 Wa˙ìd demands men’s hearts
with her ruqan (the plural of ruqyah) or magical spells (l. 30). Her
ruqan demonstrate that her singing has the same force as incantations
that enchant the listener. Ibn al-Rùmì recites, “The devil of her love
blocked every access, the devil of her love is refractory” (l. 41). All
the transformations she causes within her audience, such as from
being freeborn to enslaved, from being rational to seduced (l. 24),
and from being blameworthy to praiseworthy (l. 36), are indicative
of the supernatural force of her song. The poet’s frequent mention
of Wa˙ìd’s “glance” towards the end (ll. 51–52) likewise evokes the
image of the beloved as a gazelle, which is considered to have mur-
derous eyes which cause the man to be lovesick, sometimes even
unto death.69
   In terms of structure, the ode demonstrates “arrested develop-
ment,”70 both psychologically and formally. The ode can be seen as
a ghazal, opening with the tashbìb (rhapsody over a beloved woman),
for the entire poem recites the poet’s love for Wa˙ìd. The length
of the ode, however, consisting of fifty-eight lines, is equivalent to a
full qaßìdah. Following the conventional structure, the ode ought to
move on to madì˙ (or another of the classical aghrà∂ ) in the last sec-
tion, in keeping with the traditional bipartite structure consisting of
nasìb (elegiac prelude) and madì˙ (the praise of a mamdù˙ or patron).
The nasìb mood is prolonged to the end, thus expressing through
poetic structure the poet’s inability or unwillingness to move beyond
his infatuation for Wa˙ìd. In formal terms, he is unable to go beyond
the nasìb. In other words, Ibn al-Rùmì prefers remaining in a state
of adolescent passion or a state of aesthetic ecstasy to attaining the
stage of maturity that characterizes the madì˙.
   The closing lines (55–58) appear to operate at both a poetic and
metapoetic level. On the poetic level, they convey the persona’s
strange and unending passion for Wa˙ìd. The persona’s infatuation
has disturbed his usual congenial life and left him insomniac (l. 55).


  68
     See ibid., 6.
  69
     Ibid.
  70
     See Suzanne Stetkevych, chap. 7 of Mute. Stetkevych finds “arrested develop-
ment” in Imrù al-Qays’s Mu'allaqah due to its precocious sexuality and prolonged
adolescence.
154                           

Playing on the antithesis of familiar, or kin, and stranger, the per-
sona expresses his amazement that this “stranger” has settled in his
heart, while one close to him (his peace of mind) is banished (l. 56).
The persona complains of being veiled or cut off from his desires,
that is, his beloved is unattainable, his love unrequited (l. 57). Finally,
he expresses the enigma that his passionate love dwells in his heart,
yet, as his beloved is unattainable, it is as distant as the stars of the
Pleiades: it is at once both near and far.
   The poet’s metapoetic intent is first signaled by his repetition of
the word nasìb (ll. 55 and 56), meaning on the surface level “familiar”
or even “kin,” both times in antithetic word-play with gharìb, “strange”
or “stranger.” The insistence at the closure of the poem on nasìb,
which is also the term for the opening amatory prelude of the clas-
sical qaßìdah, alerts us to the poet’s metapoetic concern. For what is
formally and structurally “strange” about his poem is precisely that
the introductory nasìb themes, chief among them the tashbìb (descrip-
tion of the poet’s beloved), have been extended all the way to the
conclusion of a fifty-eight line qaßìdah, without any modulation into
the praise of the patron (mamdù˙) or any of the other standard con-
cluding themes (aghrà∂ ). That is, at the (poetic) stage at which the
poet should have left the passions of youth, as expressed in the ama-
tory ghazal and tashbìb themes of the nasìb, far behind, he has instead
been waylaid, as it were, by a “strange” infatuation. Thus the repeated
use of the word nasìb serves as the link between the poetic and
metapoetic levels of meaning and allows the poet to express his self-
consciousness regarding the unusual structure of his poem.
   Harking back to lines 9 and 10 concerning the simultaneous ease
and difficulty of describing Wa˙ìd, the two closing lines (57 and 58)
suggest that the unattainable object of the persona’s desire—that
which is both far and near—is the perfect poetic response to the
challenge “Íifhà!” (Describe her!); his frustration is not merely erotic
or sexual, but artistic. The closing line comprises yet another metapo-
etic play. As far back as pre-Islamic poetry, the antithesis of near
and far was employed as a topos of the madì˙ (praise section) to
describe the persona’s feeling of simultaneous attachment to (closeness)
and awe for (distance) the mamdù˙. Phrased at it is in the third per-
son masculine, the closing line reads perfectly as a traditional clos-
ing line of a madì˙. The bivalency of this line, too, then alerts us to
the poet’s sense of the classical form and his ability to play on and
with it.
                                CHAPTER FIVE

                POETRY AND PORTRAITURE:
            A DOUBLE PORTRAIT IN A PANEGYRIC
                     BY IBN ZAMRAK*


While the lingering reverberations of the singing-girl’s voice echo,
we now move on to the waßf of a glorious edifice composed by an
Andalusian court poet of the Naßrid era in the fourteenth century
C.E. This chapter concerns a third aspect of the ekphrastic mode
of interarts, architecture, in association with the concept of portrai-
ture. I examine a particular Arabic panegyric, qaßìdat al-mad˙, in an
unconventional way that is consistent with Western critical concerns,
while heeding the genre’s traditional topics and features. This study’s
key concept is again the concept of ekphrasis, “the verbal represen-
tation of real or fictitious texts composed in a non-verbal sign sys-
tem,” which includes architecture.1 I use the comparative methods
of interarts studies to highlight features of a particular ode, includ-
ing some of the conventions under which it operates that have not
yet attracted critical attention.
   The Arabic panegyric genre potentially contains both a literary
portrait of the patron and a poet’s self-portrait in one and the same
ode: a double portrait. Portraiture is a representation or description
of a human subject, and it can be visual, verbal, or musical. The
art historian Richard Brilliant states with regard to visual represen-
tation that portraits express an intended relationship between the
portrait image and the human original.2 The portraitist plays an
intermediary role between the human subject and his image.3 Although


  * An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the annual meeting of the
Middle East Studies Association of North America, San Francisco, California,
November, 1997, and appeared as Akiko Motoyoshi, “Poetry and Portraiture: A
Double Portrait in an Arabic Panegyric by Ibn Zamrak,” Journal of Arabic Literature
30, no. 3 (1999): 199–239.
  1
    This definition is by Claus Clüver.
  2
    Richard Brilliant, Portraiture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 7.
According to Brilliant, the “intended relationship” is created by the portraitist.
  3
    See ibid., 45.
156                                 

the professed purpose of the Arabic panegyric is to praise a patron—
an Arab poet portrays the praised individual in the madì˙ section
(and portrays himself in the nasìb, the ra˙ìl, and the madì˙ sections)4—
the qaßìdah has never been investigated as a verbal portrait or as a
self-portrait until now. This chapter deals with a panegyrical qaßìdah
dedicated to Sultan Mu˙ammad V by Ibn Zamrak (1333–93? C.E.),
an Andalusian poet of the Naßrid era, which is explored as a dou-
ble portrait of the patron-ruler and the poet himself. I view the por-
trait of the ruler as an “emblematic portrait” (a concept which is
explained below), because he is rendered by means of an ekphras-
tic representation of the famous palace he (re)built, the Alhambra in
Granada, Spain. The palace is presented as a “combination of the
embodiment and characterization of the whole being,” to apply one
of Brilliant’s formulations regarding emblematic portraiture to the
representation of the patron by means of his own creation.5 Although
there is currently no consensus on defining ekphrasis, I am using
Claus Clüver’s definition quoted above in this chapter, for it clearly
covers the verbal representation of the Alhambra as ekphrastic poetry.6
Since the Alhambra is an artistic creation considered as a “text” in
semiotic parlance, the description of the palace in the poem’s madì˙
(panegyric) section (ll. 29–146), including its garden and fountain, is
an ekphrasis.
   The ode demonstrates the conventional bipartite structure (the
nasìb: ll. 1–28 and the madì˙: 29–146) and uses traditional motifs
and tropes, while Ibn Zamrak shows his originality by giving an
“emblematic portrait” of the ruler through architectural ekphrasis.
The ode has been studied, along with Ibn Zamrak’s other poems,
by García Gómez, who approaches it from historical, biographical,
and literary perspectives; James T. Monroe has carefully examined


  4
     Explicit self-portraits by the poet are generally not frequent in the madì˙.
However, the 'Abbàsid poet al-Mutanabbì (915–65) often praises himself in the
madì˙ section. He also uses the first-person “I” in the madì˙, which seldom occurs
there. For instance, in his 'ìd-poem, al-Mutanabbì presents a relationship between
himself and his patron and boasts of his own poetic power (ll. 34–38). See Suzanne
Stetkevych, “'Abbàsid Panegyric.”
  5
    Richard Brilliant, “Portraits: A Recurrent Genre in World Art,” in Likeness and
Beyond: Portraits from Africa and the World, ed. Jean M. Borgatti and Richard Brilliant
(New York: The Center for African Art, 1990), 14.
  6
    I prefer Clüver’s definition, for it is not limited as to the kind of verbal rep-
resentation and makes a convincing case for including architecture. For other
definitions of ekphrasis by Spitzer and Heffernan, see pp. 11–14 in the Introduction.
                                                            157

its themes, techniques and styles in detail, including metaphors and
clichés, as well as the historical and biographical aspects.7 However,
these works do not deal with the function of the ekphrastic descrip-
tion of the Alhambra in light of the whole qaßìdah.
   The investigation of panegyrical odes as verbal portraits as well
as the employment of theories of portraiture derived from the visual
arts are new in the study of Arabic qaßìdahs. Also, there has been
no interpretation of the ekphrastic description of a building as an
emblematic representation of a patron-ruler. This exploration of a
qaßìdah as a portrait enables us to introduce both interarts theory
and the perspectives of portrait theory to the academic research of
classical Arabic poetry. My terms are, therefore, derived from con-
cepts of visual arts based on the studies of Western portraiture. I
hope the examination of ekphrasis in this study will enlarge the per-
spectives of the study of the Arabic qaßìdah, for there are many
ekphrastic moments, such as the description of a building, a garden,
or a fountain, in the Arabic poetic tradition.8
   The qaßìdah played a role corresponding to the function of visual
portraits in the Western court culture inasmuch as both the qaßìdah
and the visual portrait serve to confirm the ruler’s legitimacy and
preserve the social and cultural values represented by the monarchy.9
This function of the qaßìdah is extremely crucial in the Arabo-Islamic
tradition as it helps the ruler maintain the support of the public and
the dignity of legitimate Islamic sovereignty. Additionally, it can be
argued that the aversion to painting or visual representation in Islam
helped the qaßìdah tradition to develop and prosper, because the
political institution required an equivalent of visual portraiture to
maintain the image of the sovereign and spread the claim of his
authority and legitimacy throughout the land. The means has been
the panegyric qaßìdah.

   7
     García Gómez. Ibn Zamrak: El poeta de la Alhambra (Madrid: Maestre, 1975).
James T. Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry: A Student Anthology (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1974). See also R. Blachère, “Le visir-poète Ibn Zumruk et son
oeuvre,” Annales de l’Institut d’Études Orientales 2 (1936): 291–312.
   8
     'Alì Ibn al-Jahm (d. 863 C.E.) and al-Sarì al-Raffà" (d. 976 C.E.) describe foun-
tains and palaces in their full qaßìdahs. In al-Andalus, Ibn Óamdìs (d. 1132 C.E.)
has some poems with the depiction of buildings and fountains. Jaroslav Stetkevych
investigates some garden poems in chap. 5, “In Search of the Garden,” Zephyrs.
For fountain odes, Hideaki Sugita discusses a number of poems describing foun-
tains and animal-shaped fountains in 'Abbàsid and Andalusian poems in his book
Jibutsu no Koe, Kaiga no Shi (The Voice of Things and the Poetry of Painting).
   9
     Suzanne Stetkevych, “Qaßìdah,” 25.
158                               

   After introducing the poet and the Alhambra palace, I first dis-
cuss the poetic text in terms of what it appears to tell us in the
framework of the Arabic qaßìdah tradition both in structure and
theme. I then move on to the main argument of this study, inter-
preting the ode as a portrait of Sultan Mu˙ammad V and as a self-
portrait of Ibn Zamrak. Because Arabic literary conventions have
had a great impact on this ode, without understanding the qaßìdah
within that tradition, it would be quite difficult and confusing to
interpret this long panegyric.


                        Ibn Zamrak and the Alhambra

The ode was composed by Abù 'Abd Allàh Mu˙ammad b. Yùsuf
b. Mu˙ammad b. A˙mad b. Mu˙ammad b. Yùsuf al-Íuray˙ì, known
as Ibn Zamrak, an Andalusian poet and statesman of the Naßrid era
(1232–1492). Although Ibn Zamrak was of humble origin, he stud-
ied with excellent masters in poetry such as Ibn al-Kha†ìb (1313–74),
who was a Granadan vizier (before Ibn Zamrak became a private
secretary at Mu˙ammad V’s court), philosopher, and historian, as
well as a poet.10 In 1362 Abù 'Abd Allàh Mu˙ammad V (r. 1354–59,
1362–91)11 appointed him as his private secretary and a court poet
to commemorate recent events. When his master and patron Ibn al-
Kha†ìb was dismissed in 1371, Ibn Zamrak succeeded him as vizier
and hired a group of assassins to kill him in prison after his arrest
in Fez. Ibn Zamrak continued to hold the vizierate until the death
in 1391 of Mu˙ammad V, whose successor, Yùsuf II (r. 1391–92),
dismissed Ibn Zamrak and imprisoned him for nearly two years.
Later the poet was assassinated on orders of Sultan Mu˙ammad VII
(r. 1392–1408) while he was reading the Qur"àn at home, in approx-
imately 1393.12
   The political chaos during the Naßrid period, to which Ibn Zamrak
was an eye-witness, impelled him to use his artistic skills as a poet
and a secretary (kàtib) in order to protect himself. The Naßrid era

  10
     See Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, 64.
  11
     His reign was interrupted by Ismà'ìl II then Mu˙ammad VI. See Fernández-
Puertas, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Naßrids.”
  12
     See F. de la Granja, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. “Ibn Zamrak.”
Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, 64–65. Khayr al-Dìn al-Ziriklì, Al-A'làm, s.v. “Ibn
Zamrak.”
                                                              159

witnessed extensive political instability, amply attested by the fact
that one-third of its sultans were assassinated. In those vicissitudes,
the poet greatly exploited his poetic ability for the purpose of defend-
ing and maintaining himself as both a politician and a court poet
by praising his patron and himself. Poetry offered the excellent means
to exhibit his brilliance and to defend himself.
    Ibn Zamrak served the Naßrid court as a †àlib (apprentice), a kàtib
sirri-hi (personal secretary), a ra"ìs (chief of department), and a vizier
through the eras of the sultans Yùsuf I, Mu˙ammad V, Yùsuf II,
and Mu˙ammad VII. These four positions belonged to a particular
governmental department, the Dìwàn al-Inshà" or the writing office
in charge of handling bureaucratic affairs and official correspon-
dence. In addition, the office had a crucial cultural role in the recon-
struction of the Alhambra and contributed to the architectural design
and the inscription of Qur"ànic verses and poems on the Alhambra
walls. The kàtibs and ra"ìses cooperated with the 'arìfs (architects) and
mu'allims (master craftsmen) in the formation of the architecture and
its decoration. In other words, as a kàtib and a ra"ìs, Ibn Zamrak
took part in creating the art of the Alhambra not only as a poet,
but also as a bureaucrat.13 The poet was a kàtib sirri-hi, a ra"ìs, and
a vizier under Mu˙ammad V. While the other three ra"ìses in the
Naßrid period, including his predecessor and master Ibn al-Kha†ìb,
gained the post of dhù al-wizàratayn (double vizier of the pen and
the sword), Ibn Zamrak was appointed to be vizier of the pen,
but not of the sword.14 Recalling that Ibn Zamrak later carried out
the assassination of Ibn al-Kha†ìb, we can assume that the former
was perhaps discontent with the fact that he was not made a dhù
al-wizàratayn.
    We must refer to the question of who actually built the Alhambra
palace in view of my claim that in the poem the Alhambra is designed
to embody the poet’s patron, Mu˙ammad V. According to Andrew
Peterson, most of the Alhambra palace complex was built by suc-
cessive emirs during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, even
though its oldest part was constructed in the twelfth century.15 The

   13
      See Antonio Fernández-Puertas, The Alhambra, From the Ninth Century to Yùsuf I
(1354), 2 vols. (London: Saqi Books, 1997), 1: 143–45.
   14
      Ibid., 1: 146.
   15
      Andrew Peterson, The Dictionary of Islamic Architecture, s.v. “Alhambra,” 15. All
the information on the Alhambra in this paragraph is taken from this source.
According to Peterson, the Sala de los Reyes consists of a series of rooms opening
160                                 

present form of the largest and best known of the palaces, the Palacio
de Comares, is the result of Mu˙ammad V’s rebuilding in 1365.
The sultan also created the Patio de los Leones which leads to the
Sala de los Reyes which was a center for ceremonials. Ibn Zamrak
chose to describe the Alhambra not only because his patron owned
it, but also because he actually (re)built it.


             Poetic Strategy in Light of the Arabic Poetic Tradition

First, the structural aspects of the qaßìdah are explored in terms of
Arabic qaßìdah conventions. Ibn Zamrak’s ode is distinctive in its con-
cluding praise section. In the panegyric, a poet usually praises his
patron by describing his magnificent character—his valor, leader-
ship, generosity, and intelligence—or his military campaigns. However,
in addition to praising Mu˙ammad V, Ibn Zamrak devotes many
lines to the description of the Alhambra, including its garden (trees
and birds) and the sky above it.16 The poet starts the madì˙ in line
29 after the nasìb (ll. 1–28), shifts to the description of the Alhambra
in line 60, and goes back to praising the patron himself in line 121.
The description of the palace covers sixty out of one hundred forty-
six lines, and the description is situated between two sections of praise
for the patron (ll. 29–59 and ll. 121–46). Considering its location,
the description of the Alhambra should be viewed as a part of the
madì˙. Functionally, however, the description may also be seen as a
sort of ra˙ìl, a notion which I discuss later. I argue that the ekphra-
sis of the Alhambra has three functions for the poet: 1. to praise his
patron by creating an emblematic portrait of him, 2. to cultivate


onto a larger vaulted area, which in turn opens on to the Patio. Although Ibn
Zamrak does not mention the names of the sections of the Alhambra in his poem,
we can assume that the Patio characterized by the fountain in its center as well as
the Tower of Comares are described in his qaßìdah based on the fact that the
description of the materials and forms accord with those of the actual Alhambra.
Therefore, it may be assumed that the portions in the Alhambra complex that are
depicted in Ibn Zamrak’s ode were largely created by Mu˙ammad V. On the
eleventh century Jewish origines of the Alhambra, see Frederick P. Bargebuhr, The
Alhambra: A Cycle of Studies on the Eleventh Century in Moorish Spain (Berlin: Walter de
Gruyter & Co., 1968).
   16
      The description of a building as praise is not, however, entirely without
antecedents. See, for example, the description of the ruins of Ìwàn Kisrà (the res-
idence of the Sàsànian Kings) in the madì˙ of al-Bu˙turì. See chap. 3.
                                                             161

himself through showing the brilliance of the patron, and 3. to cre-
ate a self-portrait that amounts to self-praise.


          Ibn Zamrak’s Qaßìdah in Praise of Mu˙ammad V of Granada17

1.        Ask the horizon that is adorned
             with flowers of stars,
          for I have entrusted it
             to tell you how I am.

2.        I made the languid breeze
            bear my trust,
          through which my hopes
            traversed the age of time.

3.        O you who find
            [men’s] souls weak,
          I have placed burdens on them
            that make mountains seem light.

4.        How many men’s whispered rumors
            were taken seriously,
          while only passion was serious to me,
            so that my upset heart was thought to be mocking [dying].

5.        Whoever obeys the glances
            according to the law of love
          will surely disobey a good advisor
            as well as a reviler.


     17
      The meter of this ode is †awìl. The translation is a cooperative effort by myself
and Suzanne Stetkevych. There are three published versions of the Arabic text: by
al-Nayfar, James T. Monroe, and al-Maqqarì. Unless otherwise noted, we have fol-
lowed Monroe’s version. Ibn Zamrak al-Andalusì, Ode 105, Dìwàn Ibn Zamrak al-
Andalusì, ed. with notes, Mu˙ammad Tawfìq al-Nayfar (Beirut: Dàr al-Gharb al-Islàmì,
1997), 519–26. Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, Ode 40, 346–65. A˙mad ibn Mu˙ammad
al-Maqqarì al-Tilimsànì, Naf˙ al-ˇìb min Ghußn al-Andalus al-Ra†ìb—wa Dhikr Wazìrihà
Lisàn al-Dìn Ibn al-Kha†ìb, ed. Mu˙ammad Mu˙yì al-Dìn 'Abd al-Óamìd, 10 vols.
(Beirut: Dàr al-Kitàb al-'Arabì, 1949), 10: 49–56. See the Appendix for the Arabic
text.
162                          

 6.   I turned my heart from
         the dominion of [love’s] rule
      when it was content with
         the tyrannous glance as its ruler.

 7.   Love is but a glance
        that stirs up passion
      and causes maladies
        no doctor can cure.

 8.   How amazing is the eye
        allowed to roam at will
      that stirs the heart
        to consternation.

 9.   Is there no precious soul,
         striving in God’s path,
      whose dear price love
         does not cheapen?

10.   How many a pact
        with youthful passion did I fulfill,
      and how well I paid
        love-union’s debt!

11.   I was alone with the one
        I loved, unwatched;
      but I was never lacking
        in virtue or modesty.

12.   Many a day I spent
        with shy skittish gazelles/maids
      exerting myself in love-union
        till I was worn out.

13.   I did not sober up
        from the wine of the glance
      with which the bright countenance,
        sunlit, ignites the air.
                               163

14.   It [His glance] unsheathed
         a sharp sword of lightning
      from the sheath of the clouds,
         its blade polished and pure.

15.   He smiled and moved my eyelids
        to abundant weeping
      that filled my cloak
        with the pearls of tears.

16.   He reminded me of a mouth
       at which I wanted to quench my thirst
      —and no, I swear by 'Udhrite love,
       I had not forgotten it.

17.   And it continued in the evening
        with a throbbing like mine
      as if the lightning of the tribal precinct
        were heartsick like me.

18.   And one night when the full moon
        spent the night in my bed
      and the eyes of the shining stars
        spent it gazing at me,

19.   I sipped between the sweet [saliva]
         and flashing [teeth]
      from the drinking place of a mouth
         adorned all night with pearls.

20.   I sucked from it the honey of saliva
         like the best wine
      and kissed dewdrops
         from the delightful chamomile.

21.   O coolness of that mouth,
        you have quenched my burning thirst,
      and O the heat of my sighs,
        you have melted my heart!
164                              

22.    Many a garden of beauty
         and youthful freshness,
       there I saw the branch of a willow tree
         ready for plucking.

23.    I spent a night watering
           the rose of the cheek with my tears,
       till the narcissus of the glance
           became withered on the morn.

24.    The girls with swaying figures
         swayed my heart;
       so what do I care about
         those swaying figures?

25.    May God reward that
          time of affection by renewing it;
       it has been a long time
          since He brought rain on the abode of the gazelles.

26.    Say to the nights
         which I enjoyed in my youth
       and which I spent in intimacy,
         “May you be watered, my nights!”

27.    O my riverbed whose shadows
         were spread over me
       as we passed the cup of companionship:
         may you be ransomed, O my riverbed!

28.    In it the gazelles’ eyes
         shot [their glances] at me,
       but in their passion the only target
         they hit was my heart.18

29.    Had it not been for my seeking
        the protection of Prince Mu˙ammad,

  18
    The second hemstich literally means “the only thing they shot at the targets
was my heart (qalb).”
                           165

      I would never have been saved
        from those lethal glances.

30.   Say to him whose poetry
        is built on beauty,
      “May you ever build
        well upon it.”

31.   How many a complaint of love
        have you allayed
      and alleviated with praise,
        since [praise] followed it.

32.   How many a night I passed awake
         competing with the shining stars
      in order to praise him
         by virtue of the pearls of poetry.

33.   And then the column of dawn
        appeared luminous as his ancestry
      and on it I raised
        the edifice of my praise,

34.   For an imàm whose age has benefited
        from his noble deeds
      and has dwelt with him
        in heights above the stars.

35.   He surpassed the full moon
        in brightness and loftiness
      and was satisfied with
        no friend but perfection.

36.   He is the sun which has spread
        its beneficence over the earth
      and whose light has guided everyone,
        both near and far.

37.   He is the salt sea whose waves
       swell with beneficence,
166                               

       but he is (abundant) sweet water
         to every supplicant.

38.    He is abundant rain that pours forth
         when the clouds withhold their rain,
       quenching whoever is thirsty
         with clouds of generous rain.

39.    He has good qualities;
          if the garden had their beauty,
       its fresh flowers
          would never fade.

40.    O son of the proud kings
         from the family of Khazraj
       possessing a lineage that is powerful19
         and like the dawn exalted.

41.    Are you not the one
           whose favor petitioners seek
       till your gifts embarrass
           the early morning clouds?20

42.    Are you not the one
           whose assault the tyrants fear
       till your augustness frightens off
           hardship’s assault?

43.    Whose guidance, whenever the shooting stars
         stray from their goal,
       they take as their guide
         under the wings of darkness.

44.    Your resolve is more incisive
         than your sword in the din of battle,
       even though the sword’s two edges
         are polished to be sharp.

 19
      Dhà can mean either “possessing” or “this” (hàdhà).
 20
      This line follows al-Nayfar’s vocalization.
                                            167

45.   For how many a defamer of religion,
        denying his Lord,
      did you strike the flint of your anger,
        setting it ablaze!

46.   Nothing alarmed him
        except for a sword and a resolve
      that illuminated the night
        of dark affairs.

47.   Were it not for you,
        O Sun of the Caliphate,
      the path to holy war, which lay concealed,
        would not have come to light.

48.   Were it not for you,
         the sky would not have been darkened by battle-dust,
      in which white spearheads shone
         like shining stars.

49.   Were it not for you,
        the branches of the lances would not have drunk a first
      draught,
      though they were thirsty
        for the watering place of blood.

50.   The spearhead bore
        the fruit of a mighty victory
      and plucked the fruit of conquest,
        fresh and close at hand.

51.   Whenever your blood-shedding sword
         goes forth naked,
      leaving the face of the earth
         clothed with blood,

52.   God decrees from
        above the heavens
      that it slay whoever on earth
        has rejected Islam.
168                         

53.   How many an infidel stronghold
        did you attack at dawn
      with an army that turned
        the dawn back to darkness.

54.   You ascended to it,
        while the swords were drawn,
      and the souls in it had reached
        the point of ascending.

55.   You conquered
        its fortified citadel by force,
      and in it through the night
        monotheism rose to announce [its victory].

56.   Its bell was forced into
         silence that evening,
      while in the morning its pulpit was adorned
         by the invocation [of Allah’s name].

57.   [In it were]
        unimaginable wonders
      and only through your unique aspiration
        did we triumph over them.

58.   Thus it was from you that
         fate acquired every wonder
      for which kings will compete
         till the end of time.

59.   It is about you that
         men relate every marvelous deed
      that is dictated and inscribed
         upon the page of Time.

60.   How beautiful
         your building is,
      for by the decree of good fortune,
         it transcends all others!
                              169

61.   How many joyful comforts
         for the eyes are found in it,
      it rekindles the passions of
         even a sedate man’s soul!

62.   The luminous stars would love
         to be fixed in its vault
      rather than traverse
         the vault of heaven.

63.   Were they to present themselves
        among its first arrivals,
      they would vie with the handmaidens
        to serve your pleasure.

64.   It has a portico of
         surpassing beauty,
      through which the palace vies in beauty
         with the vault of heaven.

65.   With how many fine draperies
        have you adorned it!
      whose colorful embroidery
        makes us forget the Yemeni brocades!

66.   And how many arches rise up
        in its courtyard supported by columns
      which all night long
        are adorned with light,

67.   Till you think them the celestial spheres
        that have revolved in their orbits
      overshadowing the pillars of dawn
        that shone dimly through the night.

68.   The columns have produced
        every rare wonder
      that proverbs carry off
        spreading far and wide.
170                           

69.   In the palace there is burnished marble
        whose luminous sheen
      has revealed what lay hidden
        in the darkness.

70.   When the columns are
        illumined by the sun’s rays,
      you would think them,
        despite their huge size, pearls.

71.   In it is a fountain that
          spurts forth rippling waters,
      till you imagine, when it pours forth,
          it is vying with the [water rippling] breeze.

72.   When the hands of the east wind
        polish its surface,
      they show us coats of mail
        that have won us great power.

73.   Prancing/dancing in the fountain,
        obedient to her rein,
      she responds to
        melodies of the singing girls.

74.   When she rises in the air
         and sinks again,
      scattering loose pearls
         in all directions,

75.   Silver melts
         that has flowed among jewels
      and has become/appeared like her
         in beauty, pure white.

76.   A liquid appeared to the eyes
        like a solid
      so that I cannot discern
        which of them is flowing.
                                                             171

77.    If you want a perfect simile
          that so hits the mark
       that you will be congratulated
          as a marksman,

78.    Then say that the pool
         made her back dance
       as someone playing
         with a baby makes it dance.

79.    She showed     us her generous nature
         while she    was still small,
       she was not    content
         save with    abundant beneficence.

80.    She watered the mouth of the flowers
         in the garden with the sweetness of her cool waters,
       and began to conduct
         a streamlet [that flows] forever.

81.    As if she had seen
         the river of the Milky Way flowing
       and had undertaken
         to make the streams flow into it.

82.    The “daughters of the lofty trees”
         [i.e., saplings planted in the garden]
       pose gracefully,21 some singly,
          others following in pairs.

83.    Sucking at the breast of passion
         they grew and became young [maidens]
       and kindled love
         for them in my heart.

84.    From each of them hangs
         a branch of braided locks,

  21
      In al-Maqqarì’s text, there is a variant of mawà"ilan (that is found in Monroe’s
text): mawàthilan (standing). We adopt mawàthilan.
172                                 

        that is passed around in circles
          by the breeze’s hands.

85.   In it the branch held high
        its slender neck, unadorned,
      then the blossoms formed a necklace
        on its collarbone.

86.   When its shoots were adorned
        by pearls of flowers,
      the wild thyme embellished it
        with fragrance through the night,

87.   The exchange of two currencies
        in her for their likes
      was permitted by the judge
        to beauty to pay her due.22

88.   If she filled the palm of the breeze
         in the bright morning sun
      with dirhams of light,
         it would accept them [for silver dirhams].

89.   Then the enclosure of the garden
        would be filled around their branches
      with dinars of sunshine
        that leave the garden adorned.

90.   The birds visit
        its branches frequently
      whenever the hands of the singing girls
        play their instruments there.

91.   The birds respond to the singing girls in rhyme,
        so that you would think the birds


   22
      In al-Maqqarì’s version, the second hemistich is “Mußàrifatu n-naqdayni fìhà bi-
mithlihà, ajàza bi-hà al-naqdayni min-hà kamà hiyà.” Two currencies are dirham (silver)
and dinar (gold).
                                    173

      by their voices
        were dictating their songs to them.

92.   We did not know of any other garden
       more delightful in freshness,
      more fragrant in all its directions,
       or more pleasant in the picking of its fruits.

93.   Nor have we seen a palace
        loftier in its lookouts,
      more distant in its views,
        or more capacious in its assembly halls.

94.   Good qualities you selected
        from perfection itself,
      and with them you adorned
        the abodes with beauty.

95.   You inaugurated its construction
        on a holiday,
      when you began to spread the felicitations
        both east and west.

96.   When you called on
        the people to build it,
      they responded to your call
        from as far as the Ghawr.

97.   They directed their steps towards it,
        drawing near from the most distant lands,
      and the good fortune from you
        still brings those distant near to you.

98.   You reminded [men] of Judgment Day
        in your munificence and might
      when, seated in judgment,
        you dispensed rewards.

99.   There you rewarded everyone
        according to his due,
174                          

       so that he gathered the fruits of
         whatever his right hand had planted.

100.   [Then you sent them away] on howdahs,
         with high wooden frames
       that reminded the heedless of the day of departure
         [from Mina to Mecca during the Óajj].

101.   In the morning [sun]
          [the palace] gleams like flaring beacons
       for the villages, so it is no wonder
          that you have streams running through it.

102.   And a [tower] rising proudly
         in the air, unreachable,
       so lofty it repels
         and weakens the glance.

103.   Gemini extends to it
         a ready hand,
       and the full moon of the heavens
         draws near to whisper secrets.

104.   It is no wonder that
          it exceeds the stars in height
       and goes beyond
          their furthest limits.

105.   Before your abode [this tower] has risen
          to perform its service;
       for whoever serves the highest
          wins nobility thereby.

106.   The proof of this is that
         I am standing at your door/court,
       and that even the blossoms of the stars
         have envied my position.

107.   The [flowers/stars] suckled
         the breast of the clouds before this
                                             175

       in the precinct of the gardens
          in which they had grown.

108.   And no sooner did they sprout
         from the soil of their roots,
       than they aspired to reach
         the height of the clouds.

109.   They considered meeting the clouds
         a feast and festival,
       so they rose early to delight the morning clouds
         with the sound of the flute.

110.   So [the flowers/stars] made
         the joyous lightning laugh among them
       and all night long [the lightning] offered
         drink to their pearly cups.

111.   They saw themselves
         grown so tall that
       they thought they surpassed their goal,
         though they had hit it.

112.   The fading [flowers/stars]
         rushed to [the clouds]
       as if they were exhausted birds
         after long flight collapsing in their nest.

113.   They resembled bees
         when the honey gatherer
       pokes his stick into their hive,
         rising in a swarm.

114.   Some head straight for their goal
         and reach it,
       while others, unsteady,
         circle wearily in the air.

115.   It is an invincible fortress
          that has been elevated to the height [of the stars],
176                                

        its highest towers
           vanishing in the upper air.

116.    It is as if the towers of the Zodiac
           had fallen to earth
        and had seen the towers of the palaces
           you built rising [to the sky].23

117.    You built a soaring tower,
          gradually descending
        to be a flattering messenger
          among [palaces].

118.    The palace has developed
          in various stages,
        exciting [the jealousy] of beautiful women
          with its varied ornaments.

119.    It has anklets on its feet
           and a sash around its waist,
        and a crown adorns
           its highest parts.

120.    The crown is none other than
          a bird of good omen at its summit,
        which in the early morning
          drives back the gray falcon of dawn.

121.    O my lord,
           pride of kings,
        in whom the religion of God
           attains what it desires!

122.    By the decree of good fortune,
          your sons are five


   23
      We use al-Nayfar’s version, “Ka"anna burùja l-ufqi (See 4 n, 525.) ghàrat wa-qad
ra"at.” In Monroe’s version, “It is as if the flashes of lightning hit the earth and
had revealed the towers of the palaces you built rising [to the sky].”
                                                          177

        and that number grants protection
          from the evil eye.

123.    All night the hand of the Pleiades
          invokes God’s protection for them,
        and at morn the gentlest breezes
          will arise for them.

124.    Names impressed upon them
           for felicity’s sake,
        in which you see might,
           both implicit and explicit.

125.    You put Abù al-Óajjàj
          at the head of their list,
        you through whom conquests
          were successive.

126.    May you be satisfied
           by Sa'd and by Naßr,
        followed by Mu˙ammad al-Ar∂à,
            and you continue to be content.24

127.    In him [Abù al-Óajjàj]
          you established a Tradition based on Religion [Islam],
        and restored the effaced trace
          of the Holy Guidance.

128.    They brought him,
           his comeliness filling [the beholders’] eyes,
        kissing the face of the earth,
           bright and resplendent.25

129.    O censurer, there was
         never anyone as bold as he,


   24
      See al-Nayfar’s edition, 6 n. 525. It says that the patron’s five sons are Abù
al-Óajjàj Yùsuf, Sa'd, Naßr, Mu˙ammad, and 'Alì.
   25
      We use al-Nayfar’s vocalization, “wajha” as the direct object of “yuqabbil.”
178                         

       and one like you will never shed
         the blood of ferocious lions.

130.   Greetings came to you from Egypt
         like precious gifts,
       whose costly goods
         the merchants’ hands could not tear open.

131.   An amulet came to you
         from the land of al-Óijàz
       completing God’s creation,
         may it be unceasingly revealed.

132.   The Sultan of ˇaybah
         called you “the dreadful,”
       O fragrant one, how fitting the name
         that he bestowed on you!

133.   He stood, after
         visiting Mu˙ammad’s tomb,
       praying there
         for your exalted dominion.

134.   Your merciful soul,
          may it be rewarded
       for its endeavor by a God
          who gives all efforts full recompense.

135.   For, by God,
         were it not for the Tradition of the Prophet,
       by which we recognize him [the patron-ruler]
         to be both guided and guide,

136.   And an act of forgiveness
         that was decreed according to Law
       by news that raised
         the spears [led to a truce],

137.   [You would have
         wreaked] a slaughter
                                                         179

         whose horrors would have turned
           the very spearheads hoary,

138.     In this you deserve praise
           for a deed that you reckon,
         then its third in glory
           has exalted a second.

139.     For it Gemini fastens
           the knot of its Orion’s Belt,
         so that it may serve in it
           to win nobility.

140.     You have been congratulated for it
           with poetic praise,
         and by it your existence has come
           to overflow with generosity.

141.     And before you
           there are jewels from the sea of rhetoric,
         which are high-esteemed,
           for they are not sold except at a high price.

142.     I pursued in them
            the description of every wonder,
         for I have outdone all those who will come
            as well as those who have gone before.

143.     O heir to the Anßàr,
           and not based on remote kinship,
         the inheritance of majesty
           makes mountains seem light.

144.     The scripture has brought his praises,
           divided in parts,
         he who recites it will chant it
           invoking [H/his] name.26


 26
      Qur"ànic and Qur"àn-related diction identifies his poem with the Holy Qur"àn.
180                                 

145.    Islam has recognized,
           from what I have conveyed,
        the noble deeds of the Naßrids
           and their power.

146.    The peace of God be upon you,
          so be forever safe,
        renewing holidays
          and destroying the foe.

Richard Brilliant’s term “emblematic portrait” helps us to compre-
hend Ibn Zamrak’s poetic strategy which employs the description of
architecture for the purpose of portraying the sultan.27 In the ekphras-
tic representation of the Alhambra, the poet portrays Mu˙ammad
V not in a descriptive or “iconic” mode that demonstrates “a strong
likeness shared by the image and its referent,”28 but in an emblem-
atic mode. For Brilliant, “emblematic portraits rely on a nonde-
scriptive, but evocative, symbolism to signify the person in a synecdochic
manner.”29 I argue that Ibn Zamrak’s representation of the sover-
eign is metonymic rather than synecdochic, for it is a case where
“one thing is applied to another with which it is closely associated,
because of contiguity in common experience.”30 Although the poet
praises his patron’s inner attributes, he scarcely describes him phys-
ically;31 instead, he depicts the Alhambra as ideal architecture that
signifies the glory of Mu˙ammad V.
   In light of the thematic development in relation to the structure,
since the first (nasìb) part presents the poetic persona’s unhappy love,
the nasìb itself hardly mentions Mu˙ammad V, the object of his


  27
      Brilliant, “Portraits,” 14.
  28
      Ibid., 15. Brilliant further says, “Iconic portraits rely heavily on the represen-
tation of the recognizable face and body as the primary vehicles of the portrait
repertory,” 15. The Arabic qaßìdah usually does not describe the physical features
of a mamdù˙ (one praised), but rather presents his inner attributes in the madì˙ sec-
tion. However, I consider the presentation of a patron’s inner attributes as an
“iconic” portrait, because it is based on “a strong likeness shared by the image and
its referent.” Also, it is much more “realistic”and descriptive than an “emblematic
portrait” which relies on an arbitrary, abstract symbol.
   29
      Ibid., 14.
   30
      M. H. Abrams, Glossary, 68–69.
   31
      The only vague physical description in the ode occurs in line 128: “. . . his
[the sultan’s] comeliness filling [the beholders’] eyes. . . .”
                                                          181

praise. Nevertheless, the relationship between the nasìb and the madì˙
is important for understanding the poet’s entire thematic enterprise.
If we view the ode from the perspective of Stefan Sperl’s dialectical
paradigm, the contrast between barrenness in the nasìb and fertility
in the madì˙ is clearly shown in the panegyric;32 that is, as Monroe
states, “the poem progresses from initial despair to final consolation
found in the glory of the sovereign.”33 In the former the persona is
the protagonist, and his unrequited love is rendered in lines 4–28.
The nasìb part shows conventional concepts of love and scarcely devi-
ates from the convention. 'Udhrite love, an early Islamic revival of
Bedouin lyricism expressing passionate, sentimental, and idolatrous
love, is the central theme of the nasìb.34 The poet employs conven-
tional clichés: he is snared by the beloveds’ glances (l. 5) and com-
pares his mistresses to gazelles (l. 12). Yet, Monroe states that Ibn
Zamrak employs these well-worn clichés in a very fresh and origi-
nal way.35 His unhappy love is then overcome by the integration of
the persona into the sphere of his patron, Mu˙ammad V, in the
madì˙. Starting with line 29, which is the beginning of the madì˙,
the persona turns to the sultan, seeking his protection from the deadly
glances of the seductresses. The feeling of loss in the nasìb is assuaged
by the patron’s generosity. The description of the pool and trees (ll.
78–86) presents the echoes of the nasìb and makes the palace the
ultimate compensation for the persona’s lost loves.
   Ibn Zamrak’s rhetorical strategy is to compare art to nature and
to elevate the arts of poetry and architecture by making them supe-
rior to nature. Monroe rightly observes that this strategy contrasts
with that of the other Andalusian poets, such as Ibn Khafàjah and
al-Rußàfì, who admire and poeticize nature.36 In the first line, Ibn
Zamrak has entrusted the horizon adorned with flowers of stars to
convey a message about himself—the persona casts the horizon and
the stars as his servant. The stars continue to appear throughout the
ode. For instance, line 32 says that when the persona stayed up late



  32
      Sperl, 25. Sperl’s work on the bipartite nasìb-madì˙ qaßìdah of the 'Abbàsid
period shows a coherent thematic development by identifying a dialectical “strophe/
antistrophe” structure and relating this to ancient Near Eastern kingship rituals.
  33
      Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, 365.
  34
      See Jaroslav Stetkevych, Zephyrs, 113.
  35
      Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, 65.
  36
      Ibid.
182                              

eulogizing his sovereign, his pearls of poetry competed with the stars.
The shining stars are capable of exalting the ruler of Granada by
illuminating him, whereas the poet can glorify him through his art,
poetry. The poet not only compares nature to art, but also makes
use of nature to magnify his patron. Although humans normally use
the stars for guidance, line 43 reverses the order and has erring stars
seeking the ruler’s guidance. This concept conveys the message that
since you cannot rely on the stars, you must follow the commands
of Mu˙ammad V, who is the divinely guided sovereign. The poet
returns to this topic in the ekphrastic section, where the wandering
stars want to establish themselves in the ruler’s palace (l. 62). This
line implies that his abode is a permanent abode and, that signifies
the perfect political realm of the Islamic kingdom, in contrast to the
unreliable abode of the stars.37
    Ibn Zamrak devotes so many lines (60–105) to the description of
the Alhambra palace, including its garden, not only to show how
magnificent the building is, but also to make it symbolize the Naßrid
kingdom and at the same time the ideal heavenly polity where every-
one desires to live. The architecture stands as a representation and
a portrait of the sovereign as the artist of its perfection. The poet
opens his description of the Alhambra by presenting a general visual
image of the palace, which is evoked by external, material, and phys-
ical qualities, excellence and beauty, while it is simultaneously metaphor-
ical (see figure 1, between the pages 198 and 199. Lines 61–62
emphasize the internal, spiritual, and metaphysical qualities of solace
and comfort. The poet compares the palace with the vault of the
sky and shows the superiority of the palace by the fact that the stars
will now come to the comfortable palace as guests and even as ser-
vants (l. 63). Drawing a parallel between the heavens and the palace
(l. 67), Ibn Zamrak expresses a parallel between God and his patron.
The elaborately carved capitals of the columns have become prover-
bial for their rare wonders (see figure 2, between the pages 198 and
199). The poet projects the imagery of the illuminating light of pol-
ished marble (ll. 69–70). The description of the fixed abode as a
match for heaven is an original eulogy to create the ideal image of
an Islamic polity and its ruler.
    If the creator of the universe is God, the creator of the recon-
structed palace is Mu˙ammad V, who is not merely its owner but

  37
       See Suzanne Stetkevych, Abù Tammàm, 151.
                                                          183

also its architect, responsible for its design and decoration. On the
metaphorical level, he emerges as the builder of the rightly guided,
eternal Islamic polity and thus deserves to be the leader of the realm.
The comparison of the ruler of Granada to the Creator of the world
constitutes one of the main themes in this panegyric. The poem not
only compares them, but even shows them as rivals. Of course, the
sovereign cannot declare himself a rival of God, who is matchless,
but his power is legitimized by God. Nevertheless, the ode occa-
sionally implies that the sovereign attempts to surpass Him on var-
ious levels, as in the allusive comparison of his garden to the Garden
of Eden which is discussed below.
   A parallel is also implicitly drawn between the artistry of the patron
and of the poet. Ibn Zamrak introduces this parallel by his use of
the verb banà (to build) for composing poetry in line 30. Banà is usu-
ally employed for a building. Therefore, the poet suggests that his
“construction” of the poem is like the patron’s building of the palace.
Both their works are in the sphere of art, i.e., one is a poetic artist,
and the other is an architectural artist. The poetic artist uses poet-
ical means to express another art, architecture. Through the use of
ekphrasis, he fashions the Alhambra marvelously, by rhetorical devices,
to the extent that nobody has ever seen such beauty before.
   Moreover, it is worth noting that some of the verses of the pan-
egyric (lines 60–70, 87–89, 92–93, 103–5, 123) were actually inscribed
on the wall of the Sala de las Dos Hermanas in that palace circa
1350 (see figure 3, between the pages 198 and 199).38 The inscribed
verses are intertwined with the ornamentation of the palace. They
demonstrate complex interreferentiality among the visual art (the
architecture), the verbalized visual art (the ode), and the visualized
verbal art (the inscribed verses). In other words, the architecture was
verbalized, and in turn, the verbalized art was returned to the archi-
tecture; the ekphrasis of the palace has become a part of ornamen-
tation in the architecture and has been assimilated into the building.



   38
      Monroe, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, 346–47 and Desmond Stewart and the Editors
of the Newsweek Book Division, The Alhambra (New York: Newsweek, 1974), 138–45.
According to Stewart, there are three kinds of inscriptions in the Alhambra: verses
from the Qur"àn, traditional religious sayings, and verses from Ibn Zamrak’s odes.
See Stewart, 140. The inscribed verses should have a cumulative aesthetic effect,
for the ekphrasis of the palace or the verbalized architecture has become a part of
ornamentation in the architecture and has been assimilated into the building.
184                                 

The inscribed verses form the inversion of the verbalization of the
visual art, i.e., the visualization of the verbal art. The relation of
image and word or the issue of “visual language” including callig-
raphy requires more theoretical examination and discussion, which
is beyond this study.39 Nevertheless, I here would like to touch on
the interpretive function of the inscribed verses.40 The inscribed verses
should have not only a visual, aesthetic effect but also a verbal, per-
ceptive effect—they may function as a “commentary” to the “text.”
If the beholder is able to read and comprehend the verses, the speech
on the building possesses exegetic power for understanding the sym-
bolic meaning of each section of the palace and its whole.
   The description of the Alhambra moves to the garden and foun-
tain and ultimately comes back to the sky with a different motif. In
his description of the fountain, the poet uses a figurative technique
that is often found in Andalusian poetry, such as Ibn Shuhayd’s
(d. 1035).41 The poem moves from architectural features to the descrip-
tion of a jet of water in a fountain as a “dancing girl” (l. 73). The
dancing girl or ràqißah is suggestive of a maiden or houri in the
Garden of Eden, which is a conventional implication.42 Lines 79 and
80 show the generosity of the fountain as a symbol of fertility,43
because water/rain has been regarded as a blessing in the dry cli-
mates of the Arab world. Feminine qualities in the garden are con-
trasted to masculine qualities in the building. For instance, whereas
line 92 stresses delightfulness, freshness, fragrance, and pleasantness
as qualities of the garden, line 93 concentrates on military strength,
loftiness, and magnificence as qualities of the palace.
   After the description of the fountain and birds in the garden, the
poem reintroduces the motif of the sky in a different fashion in lines
103–6. The palace competes with the sky and stars and surpasses
the celestial bodies. The stars serve the Alhambra just as the persona

  39
      See Mitchell, Iconology (esp., chap. 2) for the discussion of word and image.
  40
      In the future, I hope to work on the subject of the inscribed verses in terms
of their mutual and composite effect, consisting of both visual and verbal arts, i.e.,
as a natural sign and an arbitrary sign, on the beholder and the reader.
   41
      See Ibn Shuhayd, Risàlat al-Tawàbi' wa al-Zawàbi', ed. Bu†rus al-Bustànì (Beirut:
Maktabat Íàdir, 1951). For example, he personifies a wind as a lovely woman in
the first line of p. 130.
   42
      Jaroslav Stetkevych finds the evocation of a maiden from the Garden of Eden
in a poem of Ibn al-Rùmì (d. 896), Zephyrs, 173.
   43
      Sperl says, “Blood and water symbolize the new fertility which the Caliph cre-
ates in the land; they overcome the grief of barrenness expressed in the tears,” 30.
                                                            185

serves the ruler and his palace. The persona has a greater effect and
merit than the stars; that is why the stars envy the position of the
persona who is standing in the marvelous palace (l. 106). Height is
an important criterion for nobility to serve the ruler (l. 105); the
tower rises exceeding even the stars in height (l. 104). In 107–13 the
images of the flowers and the stars are employed ambiguously through
the use of the female third-person form (which is used for nonhu-
man plurals in Arabic) in verb conjugation; the poet plays both in
such a way that “they” can be either the flowers or the stars. The
ambiguity gives the phrases a poetic effect. In lines 108–9, however,
“they” are the flowers which try to ascend to the level of the clouds
(l. 108), i.e., their thirst is quenched as shown in line 107, “The
[flowers] suckled the breast of the clouds before this in the precinct
of the gardens in which they had grown.” The poet skillfully manip-
ulates the conjunction of flowers, clouds, lightning, and stars through
the use of space (the earth and the air), as well as the passing of
time. He is not merely an observer of the garden on the earth, but
also an observer of the garden in the heavens, as if the Alhambra
had two gardens. Now the persona is a stargazer, standing in his
patron’s court.
    Then he reintroduces the building, emphasizing the strength and
loftiness of the fortress (ll. 115–17), as opposed to the imperfection
of the stars and the flowers. This presentation is in keeping with the
contemporary view that an attribute of monumental Islamic archi-
tecture, including palaces, citadels, and fortifications, is “the expres-
sion of power.”44 Oleg Grabar also argues that the Alhambra as a
building complex has three symbolic and ceremonial meanings: as
a fortress it signifies power, its waters fertility, and the mosque the
faith in Islam and allegiance to God and the ruler.45 Lastly, the long
description of the Alhambra ends with the good omen of a bird
perched at the summit of the palace (l. 120).
    Ibn Zamrak does not describe objects as they are; rather, he enno-
bles and idealizes them. He uses similes likening the water emitted
from the jet of the fountain to scattered pearls (l. 74) and rose blos-
soms to a necklace decorating the top of the branch (l. 85). The


  44
      Oleg Grabar, “The Architecture of Power: Palaces, Citadels, and Fortifications,”
Architecture of the Islamic World, ed. George Michell (London: Thames and Hudson,
1995), 65.
  45
      Oleg Grabar, The Alhambra (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), 103–35.
186                                

poet imitates and improves on both nature and architecture, the
palace, in his ode. That is to say, both of them are materials for his
poetry, because he even idealizes the palace that is already a com-
plete architectural work of art. What we experience is not the palace
itself, but the mediated, i.e. verbalized, form ennobled by him.
   The poet wrote for an audience that was supposed to know the
actual Alhambra. Consequently, he did not have to describe it as it
was; it was not necessary for him to resort to enargeia, “pictorial vivid-
ness,” on the descriptive level.46 The poet needed to surpass that
level by appealing to the imagination of the audience and giving
them a fresh and creative image of the palace. Jean Hagstrum, writ-
ing about eighteenth-century English poetry, argues that pictorial
imagery is most efficacious when it is presented metaphorically rather
than as purely descriptive or exactly imitative of visual reality.47
Similarly, Ibn Zamrak turned his ekphrastic description of the Alhambra
into an expression of the sultan’s might and legitimate rule. The
poet’s self-appointed task was to make an audience that is familiar
with the palace realize the beauty and brilliance of the Alhambra
in a way in which it has never been presented before—the ode
should be effective poetry. On the other hand, he gives it a metaphor-
ical significance as the ideal polity. And finally, he uses the ekphras-
tic representation of the building and its metaphorical interpretation
to create an emblematic portrait of the sovereign as part of his praise.
   In line 124 the poem returns to a more conventional level of lit-
erary portraiture depending on “likeness.”48 According to Brilliant,
any portrait is fundamentally denotative, for it refers particularly to
a human being who has a proper name.49 By mentioning Mu˙ammad
V’s sons in lines 126–27, the panegyrist confirms that this ode is
dedicated to the father of the blessed sons, that is, to a specific ruler.
By enumerating the sovereign’s excellent deeds and position, the poet
demonstrates his legitimate sovereignty which is defended and acknowl-
edged by the religion of Islam (l. 127). Towards the end, the poet


   46
      For the word, enargeia, “pictorial vividness,” see Hagstrum, 11. According to
Hagstrum, the Greek word enargeia “was used to describe the power that verbal
visual imagery possessed in setting before the hearer the very object or scene being
described,” 11. For further discussion on enargeia, see pp. 7–10 in the Introduction.
   47
      Hagstrum, xx.
   48
      I understand that “likeness” is not only based on physical attributes but also
on internal ones.
   49
      Brilliant, Portraiture, 46.
                                                   187

subtly (con)fuses, at least verbally, the identities of the mamdù˙ (patron)
and Allàh and of his own qaßìdah with the Qur"àn. The poem shows
its quasi-liturgical, Qur"ànic character by using a Qur"ànic and
Qur"àn-related diction: in line 138 al-˙amd laka (praise be unto you,
usually of Allàh) and in line 144 al-kitàb (composition), yurattil (to
chant), al-dhikr (invocation of Allàh, Mu˙ammad), tàliyà (to recite,
usually the Qur"àn). In line 142 a'jaztu elicits the concept of i'jàz al-
Qur"àn, i.e., that the Qur"àn is miraculously and inimitably beauti-
ful. Also, the poem emphasizes the sovereign’s descent from the
Anßàr (early Medinan supporters of the Prophet Mu˙ammad) as one
of the sources of his legitimacy (l. 143). Thus, the poet implies that
his qaßìdah has an effect and importance similar to the Qur"àn and
that his mamdù˙ possesses the same power as God. The poet empha-
sizes that he has composed his panegyric in such a manner that
whoever recites it will invoke the name of the patron Mu˙ammad
V (rather than the name of God; l. 144).


                         Qaßìdah and Portraiture

The nasìb section of the ode constitutes the beginning of the poet’s
self-portrait. Here, it is mostly controlled by the Arabic panegyric
convention. The persona fashions himself, creating his self-image as
that of a miserable and immature man discarded by his beloved.
That image is intimately connected to the conventional thematic
relationship between the nasìb and the madì˙, as I have discussed
earlier. A persona can hardly be satisfied and happy in the nasìb
because he must be saved by his patron in the madì˙. Poetic con-
vention also influences the madì˙. Ibn Zamrak has to portray the
sultan as an ideal ruler and his palace as the ideal and eternal Islamic
abode for his subject. This tradition, however, also fits the poet’s
poetic enterprise through his real experience and ambition.
    In the madì˙, the panegyrist praises the sovereign and at the same
time prides himself on his poetic skills. A poet’s boasting of himself,
in addition to praising his ruler, became increasingly conventional
after 'Abbàsid poets, such as al-Mutanabbì (915–65), established the
theme. Ibn Zamrak’s poem says that the stars, like the flowers, envy
the position of the persona who is standing in the marvelous palace
(l. 106). He is proud of having been chosen as the court poet of his
patron and of the privilege to be in the glorious palace. What was
188                                

amply prefigured in lines 30–33 is stated unequivocally in line 140:
he has exalted the patron with praises by using the words mad˙
(praise), madì˙ (praise), and amdà˙ (a plural form of mad˙). This
metapoetic way of presentation makes the reader aware of his poetic
skill and stresses his poetic power. Just as he wrote of his “pearls of
poetry” in line 32, he asserts that “jewels from the sea of rhetoric,”
i.e., his poem, cannot be sold except at a high price (l. 141), and
that he has outdone other poets before him and after with his art
(l. 142).50 Although he boasts of his art, he also declares that what
enabled him to create the marvelous ode was the wonderful poetic
subject, the sultan. The poet’s skillful manner of self-magnification
under the original and main pretext, the eulogy of the sultan, is
impressive.
    Furthermore, as I have discussed earlier, the poet attempts to iden-
tify the sultan’s legitimate rule with God’s rule as established by the
Qur"àn. Just as the Qur"àn keeps Islam alive, the poet’s words make
the Naßrìds come alive. He implies a parallel relationship between
God and Mu˙ammad V, and the Qur"àn and his ode.51 The patron
acts, while the poet makes him and his name immortal. The pane-
gyric thus functions to interpret the patron’s essence, to represent it
by poetic power, and to convey a message to the world that the
patron is the consummate Islamic ruler. Without the poet, the ruler’s
name and value could never be spread. Ibn Zamrak elevates his own
poem and his sovereign at the same time. This strategy is associ-
ated with the scheme of his double portrait.
    The description of the Alhambra also functions to praise the poet
himself. Ekphrastic description can be “a form of praise” in epideictic
discourse—praise of gods of men.52 Considering that Ibn Zamrak
himself was a kàtib and a ra"ìs taking part in creating the architectural
art of the Alhambra both as a poet and as a bureaucrat, his depiction


  50
      The poet uses the verb a'jaza that means “to outdo” or “to speak in an inim-
itable way.” The concept of i' jàz (the verbal noun of the verb) is inimitability, the
wondrous nature of the Qur"àn. He implies that his poem is entering the realm of
the religious text.
   51
      Of course, the poet can never equate his ruler with God or his ode with the
Sacred Qur"àn because that would be blasphemy; his manner is skillfully sugges-
tive and allusive.
   52
      See Stephen G. Nichols, “Ekphrasis, Iconoclasm, and Desire,” Rethinking the
Romance of the Rose: Text, Image, Reception, ed. Kevin Brownlee and Sylvia Huot
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 133.
                                                                 189

of the Alhambra amounts to praising not only Mu˙ammad V, but
also himself. By depicting the excellence of the Alhambra, he indi-
rectly boasts of his own aesthetic talent in order to raise the esteem
and appreciation of the intended audience for his art. Moreover, Ibn
Zamrak’s self-praise lays the foundation for his eulogy of his patron.
Simon Goldhill has argued about Pindar’s odes that “the poet’s
glory—his self-glorification—is a constant grounding for the glorification
of the victor. . . . The self-representation of the poet, then, plays a
crucial role in the voices of praise.”53 By self-praise, the poet is able
to glorify his patron, while simultaneously his self-esteem is confirmed
by his patron’s greatness. In other words, self-praise and the praise
of his patron are intimately intertwined and interact positively with
each other.
   Ibn Zamrak’s panegyric is a poem dedicated to the sovereign in
a particular context, which makes it an “occasional” work. However,
beyond the fact that the poet composed a panegyric for his ruler,
the specific occasion is hardly noticeable and cannot be reconstructed.
This “occasionality” is true of every panegyric qaßìdah which is a
result of a particular occasion, i.e., the relationship between a poet
and his patron. The concept of “occasionality” is used by Hans-
Georg Gadamer with regard to such art forms as visual portraits
and poems dedicated to someone. Occasionality means for him that
“meaning and contents are determined by the occasion for which
they are intended, so that they contain more than they would with-
out this occasion.”54 Occasionality and convention can have a close
relationship in art and literature. The second will have a strong
impact on the first in literatures such as Arabic and Japanese which
are substantially controlled by their traditions and where the occa-
sion requires the use of an established conventional genre. The occa-
sion selected by Ibn Zamrak enabled him to employ the entire scheme
of the traditional qaßìdah in order to demonstrate that his ode is a
portrait and a qaßìdat al-mad˙ (panegyric). Using the Alhambra to
portray his patron who built it did not violate convention and meant

   53
      Simon Goldhill, The Poet’s Voice: Essays on Poetics and Greek Literature (Cambridge,
U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 165–66.
   54
      Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2nd revised ed., trans. revised. Joel
Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1995), 144. This
idea indicates that Gadamer also places visual portraits and poems composed for
someone into the same category, which supports my argument that the Arabic pan-
egyric is a verbal portrait.
190                                

to exploit a particular occasion that made the ode effective only for
Mu˙ammad V. Neither occasionality nor conventionality should be
seen as a negative aspect of the tradition. Conventionality, which
governs the occasionality of the qaßìdah genre, could be considered
as a demerit in light of aesthetic value; a century ago, an Orientalist
like Ignaz Goldziher could claim that the preservation of a conven-
tional motif like Ωa'n (departing women) was a sign of “slavish imi-
tation of the old qaßìdah.”55 I have already indicated that a skillful
poet would work variations on conventional motifs; and the use of
panegyrical conventions in creating the portrait of a ruler has to be
understood in terms of its larger functions and not as a blemish on
the poet’s art.
   When they praise an undeserving monarch with extravagant com-
pliments by following rigorous conventional rules, Arabic panegyrists
have been questioned as to their sincerity. This doubt has certainly
impeded the appreciation of the Arabic qaßìdah, as Sperl has pointed
out.56 I believe that sincerity should not be defined as truthfulness
to the ruler as an individual. An Arabic panegyric should still be
understood as a portrait even when the original is very far from the
poetic image. The question of whether a poet’s patron is truly as
wonderful as the poet presents him hardly matters. The portrayal
should be seen as the image of a ruler, not as the image of an indi-
vidual. As Gadamer maintains, “by way of its own pictorial content,
a portrait contains a relation to its original. This does not simply
mean that the picture is like the original, but rather that it is a pic-
ture of the original.”57 The qaßìdah poet does not intend to offer a
likeness of his patron, but rather to present “a picture of the origi-
nal” as a ruler much more than an individual. The qaßìdah was the
major literary genre in Arab culture for a long period because it
functioned to maintain “the basic values and political ideals” of each
age and “to exalt the role of Kingship.”58 Also, the image of a sov-
ereign portrayed in his panegyric can be a model for him; he should
attempt and seek to emulate and achieve the perfect image when

  55
      Goldziher, “Alte und Neue Poesie im Urtheile der arabischen Kritiker,”
Abhandlungen zur arabischen Philologie (Leiden: Buchhandlung und Druckerei vormals
E. J. Brill, 1896–99), part 1, 123–24. See also Jaroslav Stetkevych, “Arabic Poetry,”
120–23.
  56
      Sperl, 34.
  57
      Gadamer, 145.
  58
      Sperl, 33.
                                                               191

he listens to the qaßìdah. I argue that, by evoking the sultan’s ideal
image through the awe-inspiring Alhambra, Ibn Zamrak’s qaßìdah
functioned in society in this manner; the first line after the conclu-
sion of the ekphrastic part reads, “O my lord, pride of kings, in
whom the religion of God attains what it desires” (l. 121).
   It can be assumed that the balance between creativity and con-
vention—and the Arabic qaßìdah tradition required both—was often
a dilemma for a qaßìdah poet. The more conventional the poetic
genre is, the more rules the poet is required to follow, and the more
difficult it is for him to demonstrate his creativity. I believe, however,
that the poet can yet display his originality and creativity without
devaluing the convention, though usually only distinguished poets
are capable of this task. Although the descriptions of a garden, a
fountain, flowers, and stars are typical motifs in medieval Arabic
poetry, Ibn Zamrak has incorporated those motifs into a larger
scheme, the representation of the Alhambra that embodies his patron-
ruler. The presentation of a building is not uncommon;59 however, the
employment of its description as a portrait of a ruler is rarely seen.60
   It should be noted that another important function of the descrip-
tion of the Alhambra palace is to exalt, ennoble, and purify the per-
sona. It appears to me as if the persona were moving through the
palace complex from one room to another and from the tower to


   59
      Grunebaum says that the motif of buildings was accepted as a legitimate inde-
pendent poetic theme in the 'Abbàsid period. Grunebaum, “Response to Nature,”
144. Until then, the description of buildings had been seen as merely the devel-
oped motif of the a†làl (the deserted encampment) in the nasìb. He further states
that in the ninth century C.E., literary modernism in Arabic literature began to be
interested in waßf (description/“pictorial” poetry) including the description of build-
ings. Grunebaum, “Aspects of Arabic Urban Literature mostly in Ninth and Tenth
Centuries,” Islamic Studies 8 (1969), 285–87. He lists Ibn al-Mu'tazz’s (d. 908 C.E.)
ode describing the Palace of the Pleiades that was erected by the Caliph Mu'ta∂i∂
(892–902), and al-Íanawbarì’s (d. 945 C.E.) poem with the description of the cathe-
dral mosque of Aleppo.
   60
      Al-Bu˙turì (821–97), the 'Abbàsid poet, composed an ode dedicated to the
'Abbàsid caliph al-Mutawakkil, describing the Ja'farì castle that was built by the
caliph. The ode consists of ten lines and only describes the castle. Although it does
not show either a traditional bipartite or tripartite form like Ibn Zamrak’s, the entire
ode may be considered as waßf (description) or the madì˙ for the building, i.e., for
the caliph, rather than a full qaßìdah. However, it might be hard to read it as a
portrait because it has no reference to the ruler as an architect. Al-Bu˙turì also
has a poem describing the pond of the Ja'farì castle composed for al-Mutawakkil.
It consists of sixteen lines and only presents the description of the pond, although
there are more varieties of the motifs, such as birds and fish (cf. Badawì, Al-Bu˙turì).
192                           

the garden, when he describes the Alhambra. Clearly, the ekphra-
sis is already part of the praise, the madì˙; however, the travel motif
is representative of the transitional second part. The ra˙ìl of a pan-
egyric qaßìdah usually presents a poet’s journey on a she-camel whose
destination is his patron, and during which he experiences some
hardships. Besides its placement as the second section of the madì˙
part, it might be hard to regard the poet’s description of the Alhambra
as the ra˙ìl of the poem because the description does not mention
any hardships or troubles, but just presents the Alhambra in an
admiring fashion. Nevertheless, if we take the function of the ra˙ìl
to be the transitional or liminal phase within the poetic transfor-
mation, the description may have a similar function to that of the
ra˙ìl. It not only has a therapeutic and self-purifying effect on the
persona’s heart that has been devastated by his mistresses, but also
further cultivates and refines him through the experience of the aes-
thetic of might and beauty. The entire poem expresses the growth
of the persona. Before the ekphrastic description of the palace, the
ode already reaches his patron, Mu˙ammad V, and praises him (l.
29). The persona is already “saved” by the ruler at that point. But
the depiction of the marvelous Alhambra and its gracious garden
and fountain further gives the persona comfort and self-esteem. He
develops himself not through undergoing hardships to reach his
patron, but through experiencing a higher aesthetic value by mov-
ing through the brilliant palace created by his patron.
   After the description with its implicit “ra˙ìl” function, the poet
once again returns to praise his patron directly in a closing passage
that further confirms the legitimate Islamic sovereignty of the sul-
tan. It seems to me that Ibn Zamrak desired to achieve the success
of his panegyric by two modes of praising description: “iconic”
(through the patron’s attributes) and “emblematic” (through the
palace). He places the “emblematic” passage between two “iconic”
passages in order to make it appear as part of the praise, connect-
ing rather than separating. Furthermore, the effect of the beautiful
architecture is identical to that of poetry for those who are part of
that society. When we read a good poem, we are also spiritually
refined, enriched, and cultivated. To create a qaßìdat al-mad˙ (pane-
gyric ode) is not merely to create an idealized portrait of the mamdù˙
(the one praised), but also to make an impact on the reader psy-
chologically, just as the viewer of a visual portrait of a ruler is poten-
tially changed and refined through viewing it.
                                           193

   The use of contemporary Western theories and methods has allowed
us to look at Ibn Zamrak’s ode as a double portrait of ruler-patron
and poet and at the description of the Alhambra as an emblematic
portrait of its builder. Although the ode has apparently never been
discussed in these terms, I do not mean to suggest that it has not
been understood in this manner before. I would not have made most
of my claims had I not believed that they did somehow correspond
to the meaning the poem held for Ibn Zamrak’s original audience.
Central to my study is the exploration of the functions served by
the description of the palace. Such descriptions have often baffled
critics.
terminal histories and arthurian solutions   31
                                                  1. The Alhambra (Chapter Five).
60                  chapter two




     2. The Columns in the Alhambra (Chapter Five).
                                                                                                                terminal histories and arthurian solutions
                                                                                                                31
3. Ibn Zamrak’s verse (line 64) inscribed on the wall of Sala de Dos Hermanas in the Alhambra (Chapter Five).
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                          CONCLUSION


My major contention throughout this book has been that description
in Arabic poetry not only attempts to express pictorial, mimetic
images of objects but also to convey some larger concept in a
metaphorical, emblematic, metonymical, psychological, spiritual, or
symbolic manner. This examination has shown that the physical
description in waßf can be conceptually interpreted through symbolic
connections, as shown in the relationship between the Alhambra
palace and its owner/builder, Mu˙ammad V in Ibn Zamrak’s
encomium, for instance. In this understanding, waßf as a poetic device
does not only seek mimetic representation and should not be con-
sidered merely “description,” but rather should be interpreted as
metaphorical image.
   We have examined several waßfs in classical Arabic poetry from
multifaceted angles both in subject and theory. In the Introduction,
I first attempted to sketch the problems of the classical Arabic qaßì-
dah tradition and their background with regard to waßf, as well as
its significance. Taken mostly at its literal and face value, waßf was
often labeled as second-class poetry with erroneous assumptions, such
as objectivism or atomism, by many traditional Orientalists who had
not examined waßf seriously from a critical literary viewpoint. In pur-
suit of a new perspective, I found ekphrasis to be useful for eluci-
dating the function and the meanings of waßf, for ekphrasis has been
theoretically investigated since the age of Antiquity. Hoping that a
reliance on Western theories of ekphrasis in addition to critical stud-
ies in other disciplines, such as anthropology and ethnomusicology,
would enlighten the interpretation of the waßf, I have introduced the
critical background and the notion of ekphrasis, including enargeia,
ekphrasis in its interarts implication, representation, and word and
“image,” inasmuch as they are helpful for initiating the theoretical
examination of waßf.
   Chapter One dealt with the poetic contest or mu'àra∂ah between
Imru" al-Qays and 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l, whose poems have the same
rhyme and meter. This study is characterized by the use of a khabar
that presents a new understanding of the horse description in the
                                                                 195

poems. The khabar, providing for the two qaßìdahs a suitable milieu
in the framework of a poetic contest, attempts to explain why the
two odes are so alike. With the employment of the concept of “play,”
the poetic or technical trait of a contest implies the idea that there
actually occurred a mu'àra∂ah. The female judge appears to play the
pun of a “stallion” and a “master poet” in the meaning of the fa˙l.
The khabar stresses sexual prowess, which is prominent enough to
make a joke, but what the tradition tries to convey most is murù"ah,
mature manhood, manly perfection or male aggression through the
waßf of the horse. Epithets express not only the physical appearance
of the target, but also its qualities and metaphorical meanings. This
chapter tells us that the physical description can be metaphorically
and emblematically understood.
   Chapter Two aimed to explore the functions and symbolism of
waßf of the bee, honey, and its collectors in two Hudhalì odes, one
by the pre-Islamic poet Sà'idah ibn Ju"ayyah and the other by the
Mukha∂ram poet, Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì. Based on Arabic poetic
conventions and other ancient literary traditions, the bee and honey-
gathering can form symbols of remedy and resolution in both poems;
the bee and honey with the wine motif express healing for the two
poets, while the men’s honey-gathering is presented as a locus for
trial and quest. The waßf of the bee and honey is also a metaphor
for the lost meadow. I have demonstrated that the stylistic and struc-
tural disparities between the two poems reflect a contrast in their
mood and meaning. Those differences also suggest that the full tribal
qaßìdah may have fallen into a period of crisis with changes in terms
of allegiance and leadership that accompanied the coming of Islam.
   The chapter on the two 'Abbàsid poets Abù Nuwàs and al-Bu˙turì
confirms that the employment of the theory of ekphrasis is helpful
in the exploration of waßf, for the visual motifs of the goblet and
the wall painting can be categorized according to a general under-
standing of ekphrasis, the verbal representation of visual art.1 Since
the sister arts (poetry and painting) occupy a central place in the
sphere of the study of ekphrasis and interarts, there are many crit-
ical theories available. I have claimed that the ekphrasis in the two


  1
    This interpretation conceptually accords with both the definitions of Spitzer
and Heffernan. See pp. 11–14 in the Introduction.
196                           

poems is a metaphor for madì˙ or praise, based on the theme of
visual motifs. Both poets use ekphrastic techniques to make the reader
traverse the boundary between reverie and reality. In each ode, the
poet’s touching the visual objects helps to draw the reader back to
the sphere of reality through the effects of “defamilialization.” This
study has proved that the structural vicissitudes of the qaßìdahs are
intimately related to the poets’ political intent, which turns the madì˙
(encomium) into indirect hijà" (lampoon). In this chapter, it has been
demonstrated that the ekphrasis in the two odes functions not only
to describe the poetic objects, but also indirectly to fulfill an enco-
miastic structural expectation.
   In Chapter Four, the waßf of a singing slave-girl in the 'Abbàsid
qaßìdah of Ibn al-Rùmì, composed in the ninth century C.E., was
explored, treating the relation between verbal art and the musical
art of gesture and singing. I have argued that Ibn al-Rùmì’s poem
presents the singing-girl not only in a visual dimension, but also in
auditory, synaesthetic, sensuous, and intuitive dimensions by means
of description. The poet challenged himself to represent the beauty
of Wa˙ìd and her singing by evoking emotions appealing to the
senses, not by pictorial images, through the use of synaesthetic and
synergical effects. Description by indirection is efficacious as a device
for the expression of the beauty of the beloved. Ibn al-Rùmì’s poetic
enterprise establishes a competition between verbal art and musical
performance, which leads to a rivalry between the beauty of the
singing-girl and that of the poet’s pen. In the end, the ode operates
at both a poetic and metapoetic level, showing the poet’s pursuit of
not only erotic/sexual ecstasy, but also artistic ecstasy.
   The last chapter dealt with a panegyrical qaßìdah dedicated to
Sultan Mu˙ammad V by Ibn Zamrak, an Andalusì poet of the
Naßrid era in the fourteenth century C.E., which was explored as a
double portrait of the patron-ruler and the poet himself. The por-
trait of the ruler can be viewed as an “emblematic portrait,” because
he is rendered by means of an ekphrastic representation of the famous
palace he (re)built, the Alhambra in Granada. The investigation of
panegyrical odes as verbal portraits, as well as the employ of theo-
ries of portraiture derived from the visual arts, are innovative in the
study of Arabic qaßìdahs. Also, there has been no interpretation of
the ekphrastic description of a building as an emblematic represen-
tation of a patron-ruler. This exploration of a qaßìdah as a portrait
enables us to introduce both interarts theory and the perspectives of
                                                          197

portrait theory to the academic research of classical Arabic poetry.
   The foregoing five case studies of waßf poems have demonstrated
that the function of waßf has an intimate relationship with the polit-
ical, social, economic, and individual ambiance of each poet, includ-
ing his psychological and emotional states. These circumstances affect
the theme and form of the waßf, particularly the form. The order
of the five types of waßf in this study has been set according to the
chronology of their production. The two poems in the opening chap-
ter, dealing with the poetic contest in horse descriptions, convey an
exemplary picture of the chivalrous hunt, buttressed by the stability
and steadiness of the heroic Jàhiliyyah era. In the second chapter,
the complete tripartite qaßìdah form of Sà'idah shows a stable socio-
cultural situation, while Abù Dhu"ayb’s ode-structure, consisting only
of nasìb, suggests the turmoil of the poet’s circumstances and his age
(straddling the pre-Islamic and Islamic times), which witnessed dras-
tic changes in values, beliefs, and traditions. The contrast between
the odes of al-Bu˙turì and Abù Nuwàs betrays that, though Abù
Nuwàs insinuates encomium in his poem, al-Bu˙turì demonstrates a
nonteleological contour based on the unrest of his situation, both
individually and publicly. Ibn al-Rùmì’s “Wa˙ìd,” remaining a nasìb
to the end, does not ascend to a concluding theme; this is a struc-
ture that expresses his desire to remain in a state of aesthetic ecstasy
on a metapoetic level. The last chapter, by contrast, shapes a magni-
ficent madì˙ by means of the emblematic ekphrasis of the Alhambra
palace. Ibn Zamrak, with the composition of this poem, was at the
zenith of his political and artistic capacity. Though al-Bu˙turì, in
his ode “Ìwàn Kisrà,” shares the same motif, building, with Ibn
Zamrak, the two poets’ qaßìdahs display a sharp contrast—Ibn Zamrak’s
shows an ideal image of the legitimized polity, whereas al-Bu˙turì’s
implies the complexities of a transitional period of the 'Abbàsid
dynasty.
   Since I have examined only two poems of visual arts, two odes
of building, and one poem of musical performance, to further elu-
cidate the waßf, in light of the theories of ekphrasis and interarts
studies, it is necessary, in the future, to examine more qaßìdahs con-
taining ekphrastic moments. I am also interested in the relation
between image and word or the issue of “visual language,” including
inscribed verses or calligraphy, as well as the relation between music
and poetry, which requires more theoretical exploration and discus-
sion. Moreover, because waßf is a broad subject, being found in most
198                           

of Arabic poetry, there still remains much to be studied; particu-
larly, certain types of waßf, such as, gardens, flowers, and various
sorts of architecture. Waßf in different subgenres of the qaßìdah, hijà"
(lampoon) and rithà" (elegy), would also be intriguing to investigate.
   Furthermore, the concept of competition, through the mechanism
of contest or mu'àra∂ah, constitutes a fundamental foundation and
functions powerfully in all the waßfs. By the use of waßf as an artistic
weapon, poets attempt to outdo another poet, either their contemporary
or predecessor. They also aim to demonstrate their verbal force and
to prove artistic accomplishment by fulfilling artistic/poetic desire as
well as individual and social desire. The beautiful ekphrasis allowed
them to gain fame and to immortalize their names as prominent
poets. Waßf was a fitting arena for them to challenge themselves in
creative and original production. Each poet utilized his own strat-
egy and entrusted waßf with a certain role according to his purpose.
   The ekphrastic power can be fully exercised, maintained by the
characteristics of intertextuality and interreferentiality, on which the
classical Arabic poetic tradition firmly stands. The highly conven-
tional framework of the literary tradition does not hinder the tradi-
tion’s growth or innovation; on the contrary, it furthers it. Through
my studies, I have also attempted to reproduce or reconstruct the
original setting of each qaßìdah, seeking “the frame of reference,”
with the help of both modern Western theories and studies of clas-
sical Arabic poetic traditions. Hardly exhausted by the innumerable
uses of many qaßìdah poets in different ages, waßf is endowed with
resilience and malleability. The poet makes the best use of the merit
of waßf—which is not a dead agent, but actively functional.
APPENDIX OF ARABIC TEXTS


                           [1]




                           [2]

                            1

                            2

                           3

                           4

                           5

                           6

                           7

                           8

                            9

                           10
200      

                                 11

                                 12

                                 13

                                 14

                                 15

                                 16

                                 17

                                 18

                                 19

                                 20

                                 21

                                 22

                                 23

                                 24
      201

                           25

                           26

                           27

                           28

                           29

                           30

                           31

                           32

                           33

                           34

                           35

                           36

                           37

                           38
202      

                                 39

                                 40

                                 41

                                 42

                                 43

                                 44

                                 45

                                 46

                                 47

                                 48

                                 49

                                 50

                                 51

                                 52
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212      

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214      

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226      

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                                     INDEX


'Abbàsid, 92, 99–100, 109, 111–12,          al-Amìn (caliph), 95–96
  118–19, 122, 134, 137; 'Abbàsid           al-Andalusian (Muslim Spain) poet,
  poet, 12, 93, 95, 100, 112, 125,             155–58, 181, 196
  134, 187; 'Abbàsid poetry, 95, 98         anecdotal materials (khabar, akhbàr),
Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì (poet):                 195; about Abù Dhu"ayb and the
  biographical information, 62; elegy          Prophet Mu˙ammad, 62; as
  on the death of the sons of, 62              conceptualized knowledge, 58–59;
Abù Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì’s ode, 195,             desire of, 30; double entendre of,
  197; bees and honey-collector,               26, 29–30; historicity of, 41; isnàd
  86–88; departing women (Ωa'n), 85;           (chain of authorities) and matn (the
  difference from Sà'idah’s ode, 63,            narrative itself ), 25; the khabar gives
  89–91; elative extended simile of the        'Alqamah the glory of victory and
  beloved, 88; fumigation used by the          the foundation of heroic honor, 60;
  Khàlidì honey-collector, 86–87; nasìb        poetic contest in horse description,
  (elegiac prelude) elements, 85–88;           20–21, 23, 25; poetic contest
  the persona’s identification with             between Imru" al-Qays and
  bees, 87; translated, 81–85; wine,           'Alqamah al-Fa˙l, 26–29; traditional
  85–86                                        Arabic literary context of, 57;
Abù Nuwàs (poet), 12, 93;                      translated texts of three khabars
  biographical information, 95–96              about the poetic contest, 32
Abù Nuwàs’s ode, 93–94, 97–100,             animal, 44, 56
  195–97; in association with               architecture, 12, 14, 155, 159, 180,
  Shu'ùbiyyah movement, 99–100;                182–83
  a†làl, 98; in comparison with             'arìf (architect), 159
  al-Bu˙turì’s ode, 113–17;                 Aristotle, 9, 76, 145
  defamiliarization, 115–17; design of      'asal (honey), 77–78. See also honey
  Kisrà (Khusraw) and his horsemen          a†làl (ruined abode): in Abù Nuwàs’s
  on a wine goblet as madì˙                    ode, 97–98, 100; in al-Bu˙turì’s ode,
  (panegyric), 98–100; political intent        109–10, 120; in Ibn al-Rùmì’s ode,
  of, 117–19; poured wine and water,           152
  100; reality and reverie, 115;            “A†làl Óànah” (The Ruins of a
  theoretical exploration of ekphrasis,        Tavern). See Abù Nuwàs’s ode
  113–14; translated, 96–97                 audience, 44, 76, 80, 111, 114, 124,
abode, 182, 187. See also a†làl (ruined        136–39, 142–47, 151–52, 186, 189;
  abode)                                       imagination of, 44; in musical majlis
Alhambra palace, 14, 16, 156–59,               (session), 137; original audience, 125,
  180–89, 191–93, 196; Palacio de              193; reaction of, 145–46
  Comares, 160; Patio de los Leones,        authenticity, 93, 120; of pre-Islamic
  160; Sala de las Dos Hermanas,               poems, 23, 31; of ruler, 93; of
  183; Sala de los Reyes, 160                  al-Bu˙turì’s poem, 120
'Alqamah al-Fa˙l (poet), 20–21, 23,
  25–31, 58–60; 'Alqamah al-Khaßì           Battle of Antioch, 109, 113, 116
  and, 28, 30                               bee, 6, 61, 195; humiliation and
'Alqamah al-Fa˙l’s ode, 195: fakhr            sadness of, 87; as models of
  (boast), 56–57; nasìb (elegiac              industry, order, purity, economy,
  prelude), 56; ra˙ìl ( journey section),     courage, prudence, and communal
  56; translated, 49–55                       cooperation, 75; origin and nature
244                                     

   of, 61; the persona’s identification         pervasiveness of, 57; poetic contest,
   with, 87; as sacred, 61; as symbols         21, 25, 57–59, 197; in relation to
   of purity, assiduity, rebirth, and          musical majlis (social gathering), 143;
   spirit, 61; as symbol of soul, 75;          between Sà'idah and Abù Dhu"ayb,
   sweetness and purity of the bee and         63; between the singing-girl’s
   honey compared to the beloved’s             physical beauty, song, and the poet’s
   saliva, 74                                  verbal work of art, 142. See also
beloved: as apparent object of                 mu'àra∂ah (opposition, contest)
   description, 16; cheeks of, 142;          contract, 58–59
   description of, 75; glances of, 152,      Ctesiphon (al-Madà"in), 96–97, 99
   181; hair of, 73, 140–41; the image       cultural codes, 8–10, 74, 79, 90
   of in relation to bees, 63; infatuation
   with, 139; kiss of as sweeter than        decoration, 159, 183
   wine, 79; kisses of, 141–42, 152;         defamiliarization, 115–17
   kisses and nights with, 77; as            departing women motif (Ωa'n), 85, 190
   representative of, 140, saliva of, 73     description, 15–16, 20–21; the
bird: in association with horse, 42; as         Alhambra palace, 160, 182, 191; as
   bad omen, 85; in garden, 184; as             allegorical, metaphorical, symbolic
   good omen, 185                               meanings, 11; bees, honey, and a
blood, 49, 73                                   honey-gatherer, 61–64; different
bragging and scoffing, 57                         functions of description of
Brilliant, Richard, 155–56, 180, 186            honey-collecting in Abù Dhu"ayb’s
al-Bu˙turì (poet), 12, 94; biographical         ode and Sà'idah’s, 89–91; ekphrastic
   information, 100–101                         description, 12, 41, 188; as element
al-Bu˙turì’s ode, 94, 195–97; in                in traditional Orientalists’ negative
   comparison with Abù Nuwàs’s ode,             judgment of the qaßìdah, 3–4; as
   112–17; defamiliarization, 115–17;           expression of murù"ah (virility), 60;
   description of wall painting as madì˙        garden and fountain, 184; horse,
   (panegyric), 109–10; lyric “I” in,           31–32, 45–46, 60, 195; horse’s body
   119–20; between nasìb and madì˙,             parts, 45; iconic and emblematic
   111; political intent of, 117–19; ra˙ìl      descriptions, 192; by indirection,
   ( journey section), 109; reality and         123; Ìwàn Kisrà, 111; journey, 41;
   reverie, 115; theoretical exploration        mimetic description, 90; minute and
   of ekphrasis, 113–14; translated,            thorough description, 4; more than
   101–8; nasìb (elegiac prelude),              mere description, 94–95; objective
   108–11                                       description of Abù Nuwàs, 114;
building, 16, 157, 183–85, 191, 197             objective, dispassionate description of
                                                Sà'idah’s honey-collector, 76, 89; as
calligraphy, 184, 198                           the objective hypothesis, 2, 4, 123;
chivalrous hunt, 19–20, 41–42, 56, 60,          physical description, 56, 90, 194;
   197                                          the question of in Ibn al-Rùmì’s
clear and distinct description, 6, 9, 15,       ode, 142–44; subjective description
   20, 62, 64                                   of al-Bu˙turì, 114; subjective,
concept, 15–16, 20–21, 23, 26, 43,              emotional description of Abù
   45–46, 60, 194                               Dhu"ayb’s honey-collector, 86, 89;
color, 113, 140–41                              travelling cloud, 73; visual
competition: idea of, 58; between               description, 142; wall painting,
   verbal art and musical performance,          109–10; wine goblet, 98–100.
   123                                          See also waßf
contest, 20, 23, 57–60, 144;                 descriptiveness of the qaßìdah, 2–4, 94
   ceremonial contest, 59; etymological      desert, 24, 32, 48
   origin of, 59; between the hunter         dhù al-wizàratayn (double vizier of the
   and the hunted, 56; narrative                pen and the sword), 159
   context of poetic contest, 21;            dìwàn (poetry collection), 5
                                                                            245

Dìwàn al-Inshà" (writing office), 159            in, 60; mufàkharah (boasting contest,
double-entendre, 26, 29–30                     flyting), 58; in Sà'idah’s poem,
drinking, 24, 98, 100, 117                     80–81; Sà'idah’s poem as an
                                               exemplary model of fakhr, 64
ekphrasis, 6–11, 14–15, 20, 192,            fallacious “I,” 119–20, 145
   194–98; the Alhambra, 160, 183; in       fame, 58–60
   association with the notion of reality   feast, 48, 57
   and reverie, 93, 113, 116–17; bees       fertility, 19, 21, 41–43, 48, 57, 181,
   and honey-collecting, 76, 91; bee           184
   description as ekphrasis in its          flower, 181, 185, 191
   original sense, 61; definition of, 6,     flyting, 57–58
   12–13, 155; description of a palace      fountain, 156–57, 191
   as, 156; ekphrasis of bees offers a       frame of reference, 124–25, 136, 198
   visual picture before the hearer’s       frame song/poem, 136–37
   eyes, 63; ekphrastic force, 74;
   etymological context of, 6–7; eyes       Gadamer, Georg, 189–90
   in, 113; as form of praise, 188;         garden, 156–57, 160, 182, 192
   illusion of, 113–14; letter and sense    Garden of Eden, 183–84
   of, 120–21; as madì˙ (panegyric),        Garden of Paradise, 74–75, 79
   98–100, 117; modern conception of,       gazelle, 16, 73, 89, 152, 181
   92–93; response of describer, 114; in    generosity, 60, 108, 160, 181, 184
   the Shield of Achilles in the            gesture, 10, 146, 148, 150, 196;
   Homeric Iliad, 93, 116; silence in,         gestural, 122, 148–49
   113; theoretical discussion on           ghazal (amatory lyric), 5, 133–34, 154
   ekphrasis in Abù Nuwàs’s ode and         ghulàm (young male slave/servant),
   al-Bu˙turì’s, 112–14; transparency of       137
   language, 113–14; wine and water         ghurrah (a white mark in the middle of
   in a wine cup as ekphrastic, 100            the forehead of a horse), 19
emblem, 21; emblematic identification,       glance, 152–53, 181
   30; emblematic meaning, 17, 43;          glory, 19, 41, 60, 99, 111–12, 118,
   emblematic mode, 180; emblematic            180, 189; in opposition to
   passage, 192; emblematic portrait,          humiliation, 59
   156, 160, 180, 186, 192–93, 196          goblet, 93, 98, 100, 112, 114, 121,
embroidery, 150–51                             195
emotion, 122–24, 145–51; emotional          God, 14, 19, 42, 47, 75, 92, 182–83,
   description, 87; emotional                  187–88
   movement, 79; emotional response,        Goodman, Nelson, 124
   143; emotional state, 87, 142
enargeia (pictorial vividness), 7–9,        Óadìth (Prophetic sayings and acts), 13,
   112–13, 186, 194                            62, 74–76
energeia, 9                                 Hagstrum, Jean H., 7, 186
engagement, 58                              hijà" (invective, lampoon), 109, 111,
epithet, 42–45, 73, 195                        118, 196, 198
eroticism, 63, 77–78, 86                    honey: as eroticism and fertility, 77;
eye, 4, 7–8, 11, 113                           honeycomb, 75, 86; medical effect
                                               of, 76–77; sterilizing power of, 61;
fa˙l (stallion or master poet), 20, 24,        symbol of celestial food, eloquence,
   28, 58–60                                   eroticism, and immortality, 61;
fakhr (boast), 1, 19, 58; in 'Alqamah          sweetness and purity of, 74; thawàb
   al-Fa˙l’s ode, 56–57; chivalrous hunt       (water, honey, or reward), 74; used
   in, 21, 23, 32, 41–42, 47; goal of,         as part of libation, 61. See also 'asal
   58; honor and glory in, 46; horse        honey-gathering, 76, 195; in Abù
   as, 60; in Imru" al-Qays’s ode,             Dhu"ayb’s ode, 76; danger and risk
   41–49; purpose of horse description         of, 79, 86–87; fumigation, 86–87;
246                                   

  prehistoric rock paintings of, 78; in       fountain, 184; iconic and
  Sà'idah’s ode, 86                           emblematic descriptions, 192; madì˙
honor, 59–60                                  (panegyric), 181–87; metaphorical
horizon of expectation, 124                   significance of the Alhambra as the
horse, 19–21, 25–26, 28–29, 32,               ideal polity, 186; nasìb (elegiac
  42–46, 59; excellence of, 46; tail of,      prelude), 180–81; occasionality of,
  49; huge body and smooth coat of,           189; parallel between the artistry of
  56; as lord of beasts, 47; symbiotic        patron as architect and of poet, 183;
  relation of poet and, 47. See also          parallel between the heavens and
  description, horse                          the palace and parallel between God
Hudhalì poets, 63. See also Abù               and the poet’s patron, 182–83; the
  Dhu"ayb al-Hudhalì and Sà'idah ibn          patron’s abode as perfect political
  Ju"ayyah                                    realm of Islamic kingdom, 182; the
Hudhalì tribe, 61, 81                         portrait and self-praise of the poet
Huizinga, Johan, 23, 57–58                    himself, 187–88; ra˙ìl-like function of
humùm (cares), 109–10                         description of the Alhambra, 192;
hunt, 21, 29, 32, 41, 47–49, 56–57,           relationship between nasìb (elegiac
  98, 100                                     prelude) and madì˙ (panegyric), 181,
Óusayn, ˇàhà, 31                              187; subtle identities of the patron
                                              and God, and of the poet’s ode
Ibn Khafàjah (poet), 181                      with the Qur"àn, 187–88; translated,
Ibn Kha†ìb (poet), 158–59                     161–80; the use of Qur"àn-related
Ibn ManΩùr (lexicographer), 77                diction, 187
Ibn Qutaybah, 26, 43, 49                   iconic mode, 180, 192
Ibn Rashìq (literary critic), 4–5, 7–8     image, 10, 14, 21, 180, 190; of
Ibn al-Rùmì (poet), 141; biographical         beloved, 63, 73; of flowers and stars,
  information, 125–26                         185; of honey, 62; of horse, 29,
Ibn al-Rùmì’s ode, 196–97; the                44–47, 60; metaphorical image, 194;
  comparison of the singing-girl to a         mimetic image, 19; pictorial image,
  gazelle, 152–53; infatuation with the       79, 123, 194; self-image, 187; ßùrah,
  beloved, 139–40; the poet’s                 15–16; visual image, 182; word and,
  frustration not merely erotic or            14–16, 194
  sexual, but artistic, 154; the poet’s    imagery, 14; of birds and water, 42;
  inability to go beyond the nasìb            integrated multilayered imagery, 17;
  (elegiac prelude), 153; posture of          of Paradise, 76; pictorial imagery,
  Wa˙ìd’s singing, 147–48; the                186
  question of description, 142–44;         imitation, 10, 12, 123; as act of
  sensual feelings through gesture and        homage, 20; emulation and, 20;
  voice, 148–50; social milieu and            literary imitation, 20; mimetic
  performance context of, 133–39;             imitation, 14
  synaesthetic effects of embroidery,       immortality, 19, 29, 63, 75, 78. 86–87,
  jewelry, and melody, 150–51;                90
  synaesthetic, intersensory effects,       improvisation, 138
  140–42; †arab, the expression of         Imru" al-Qays (poet), 20–21, 25–28,
  feelings, 146–47; technique of              30–31, 56–60; biographical
  presenting Wa˙ìd’s charm by way of          information, 23–24; as disgraced and
  her audience, 144–46; translated,           loser, 59–60; as womanizer, 29
  126–33                                   Imru" al-Qays’s ode, 195; abstract
Ibn Shuhayd (poet), 184                       concepts through physical attributes
Ibn Zamrak (poet), 156; biographical          of concrete objects, 46–47;
  information, 158–60                         'Alqamah’s identical verses in,
Ibn Zamrak’s ode, 196–97; comparing           56–57; birds and water, 42;
  nature to art, 181; creativity and          bloodstain on the horse’s chest, 49;
  convention, 191; garden and                 chivalrous hunt as expression of
                                                                              247

    virility, 48–49; in comparison with        kleos (honor, glory, fame), 58–60
    'Alqamah’s poem, 56–57; fakhr              Kramer, Lawrence, 122, 147–49
    (boast), 41–49; feast scene, 48; the       kumayt (red mixed with black), 19, 56
    horse’s tail, 49; the importance of
    quality in epithets, 42–43; nasìb          legitimacy, 157, 187
    (elegiac prelude), 41; poetic creation     letter and sense, 121, 157
    as compensatory for the sexual act,        life-world, 8, 90
    60; presentation of glory, fertility,      likeness, 14, 180, 186, 190; abstract,
    and prowess through the chivalrous             general, spiritual likeness, 15–16,
    hunt scene, 41; ra˙ìl ( journey                73–74; physical likeness, 16, 73
    section), 41; similes of the horse’s       listener, 4, 7–10, 15, 64, 80, 122–23,
    parts, 42–45; symbiotic relationship           136, 138, 141, 144, 145, 147, 150,
    of poet and horse, 47, 60;                     152–53
    translated, 33–41                          loss, 64, 87, 181
inscription of Qur"ànic verses and             lost garden, 62, 75, 79, 86
    poems, 159, 183; as commentary to          lost meadow, 64, 74–75, 77–79,
    the architecture, 184                          89–90
intentionality, 148–50                         love, 91, 145, 152
interarts, 6, 14, 92, 122, 155, 194,           loyalty, 60, 91
    196–97                                     lyric “I,” 119. See also fallacious “I”
interreferentiality, 1, 31, 44, 198
intersensory effects, 140                       madì˙ (panegyric), 1, 160, 196–97; in
intertextuality, 1, 31, 44, 114–15, 198          Abù Nuwàs’s ode, 98–100; in
'itq (beauty and nobility) of a horse’s          al-Bu˙turì’s ode, 109–11; in Ibn
    sharp-pointed ears, 45                       Zamrak’s ode, 181–87
Ìwàn Kisrà (The palace of the                  majlis (session), 135–37; in the
    Sàsànian kings), 94, 98–101, 120–21,         paradigm of contest, 143
    197                                        male, 26, 29–30; male animal, 28
                                               manly virtue (murù"ah). See murù"ah
Jàhiliyyah (Age of Ignorance), 1, 20,          masculinity, 21, 29. See also murù"ah
   26–27, 138, 197                             master poet, 20, 24, 28
al-Jà˙iΩ (littérateur), 20, 134–35, 141,       melody, 135, 139, 150–51
   149                                         metaphor, 21, 64, 151, 186, 196;
jàriyah (slave-girl), 13, 135, 137               sexual metaphor, 30; letter and
Jauss, Hans Robert, 124                          sense of, 120, 157
jewelry, 150–51                                metapoetic, 60, 142, 152–54, 188
joke, 26                                       meter, 20–21, 25, 195
Justinian (the Byzantine emperor), 24          metonymy, 16, 180; metonymic
                                                 relation, 90; metonymic
kàtib (secretary), 158                           representation, 180
kàtib sirri-hi (personal secretary), 159       mimesis, 9–10, 123, 145
khabar (singular form of akhbàr). See          mistress, 41, 73, 90
   anecdotal materials                         Mitchell, W. J. T., 10, 14–15
khaßà (to geld, to castrate), 30; khaßiyy      Mu'allaqàt (The Suspended Poems), 23
   (eunuch), 137. See also 'Alqamah            Mu'allaqah: of Imru" al-Qays, 42, 44,
   al-Fa˙l, and 'Alqamah al-Khaßì                47; of Labìd, 91
khayl (horse), 20                              mu'allim (master craftman), 159
khayr (moral, physical good), 47               mu'àra∂ah (opposition, contest), 20, 25,
Kisrà (Sàsànian King Khusraw),                   60, 195, 198: involved in description
   97–100, 109, 111–13                           of honey-bees and honey collecting,
Kitàb al-Aghànì (Book of Songs), 135,            63; for public recognition, 59
   139                                         Mufa∂∂aliyyàt (anthology), 26–27
Kitàb al-Qiyàn (Book of Singing-Girls),        Mu˙ammad V (sultan), 156, 158–59,
   134, 144                                      180–81, 186–87, 189–92
248                                    

Mu˙ammad VII (sultan), 158–59               patron, 92, 109, 117, 134, 138, 154,
Mukha∂ram (which spans the                     156–57, 187, 191, 193, 196
   pre-Islamic and Islamic periods), 62,    Peirce, Charles Sanders, 10
   91                                       performance, 6, 122–24, 136, 138,
al-Muntaßir (caliph), 101, 108, 118            146, 150, 197
murù"ah (manly virtue, virility), 26,       Persian elements, 94–95, 99, 118, 125.
   60, 195; as the pre-Islamic tribal          See also Sàsànian motifs
   notion, 21; as prerequisite of nadìm     physical appearance, 43, 73
   (boon-companion), 137                    picture, 15, 151, 190, 197; as
music, 14, 92, 122, 125, 146, 148–49,          condensation of reverie, 115
   151                                      plagiarism, 31. See also saraq, sariqah
music and poetry, 148, 198                  play, 25, 58–59, 195; playfulness, 21,
al-Mutanabbì (poet), 187                       59
                                            poems: competing with stars, 182; as
nadìm (boon-companion), 137                    cultural significance of, 57; more
nàqah (she-camel), 43                          authentic than khabar, 25; poem and
nasìb (elegiac prelude), 1, 16, 23,            song/voice complementing each
  32, 41, 47, 62; in 'Alqamah                  other, 151; sincerity of, 145, 190; as
  al-Fa˙l’s ode, 56; aspect of Abù             a written text, 139
  Dhu"ayb’s nasìb (elegiac prelude),        poetic enterprise, 64, 90, 123, 187
  62; in al-Bu˙turì’s ode, 108–11;          poetic strategy, 60; comparing art to
  in Ibn Zamrak’s ode, 180–81;                 nature, 181, representing reactions
  as Ibn Zamrak’s self-portrait, 187;          of audience, 124
  in Imru" al-Qays’s ode, 41;               poetry: composition in a contest
  metapoetic intent in the word nasìb          system, 58; ekphrastic poetry, 156;
  in Ibn al-Rùmì’s ode, 154; nasìb             in pursuit of kleos (fame) through, 60
  (elegiac prelude) elements in Ibn         poetry and painting, 10, 93, 196;
  al-Rùmì’s ode, 134, 152–53; in               paragone (contest) between, 13
  Sà'idah’s ode, 73–80; 'Udhrite love,      poets: poet’s inability to go beyond the
   181                                         nasìb (elegiac prelude), 153; poet’s
Naßrid, 155–56, 158, 182, 188                  poetic ability for defending and
nectar, 63, 74                                 maintaining himself as politician and
non-verbal text, 6, 11–13                      court poet, 159; poet’s poetic
nostalgia, 136, 152                            knowledge of the horse, 45; political
                                               intent of, 117; political situations of,
oath, 59, 73                                   95; symbiotic relationship of horse
occasionality, 189                             and poet, 47
Ong, Walter J., 23, 29, 57–59               portrait, 123, 155, 182, 189, 191;
oral-formulaism, 31                            double portrait, 156, 188, 193, 196;
oral transmission, 21, 25, 32                  emblematic portrait, 156, 160, 180,
originality, 4, 126, 156, 191                  186, 192–93, 196; as an intended
ornamentation, 183                             relationship between portrait image
oryx, 45, 48, 56–57, 89, 98                    and the human original, 155;
overlapping verses in Imru" al-Qays            self-portrait, 156, 158, 160; in
   and 'Alqamah al-Fa˙l, 22                    Western court culture, 157
                                            portraiture, 13, 92, 155; theories of,
painting, 6, 9–10, 92                          157
panegyric. See madì˙ (panegyric); qaßìdat   power, 21, 48–49; as concept behind
  al-mad˙ (panegyric ode)                      appearance, 43; expression of, 185;
Paradise, 74–76, 79                            poetic power, 60
paronomasia, 150                            praise and blame, 59
Parry-Lord theory, 31                       pre-Islamic age, 1, 23, 62, 187;
passion, 29, 73, 87, 141, 146, 149–50,         pre-Islamic poems, 23, 31;
  153                                          pre-Islamic poetry, 31, 73;
                                                                            249

  pre-Islamic poets, 45, 61–62, 195;         ra"ìs (chief of department), 159, 188
  pre-Islamic qaßìdah (ode), 91              ràqißah (dancing girl), 184
pride, 91, 151                               ràwì (reciter, transmitter), 23, 32, 62,
prohibition of painting in Islam, 12,            85
  92                                         reader, 8, 30, 79, 94, 99, 114, 116,
Prophet Mu˙ammad, 42, 49, 76–77,                 122, 141, 144, 147, 149, 151
  91                                         reality and reverie, 93, 95, 116–17,
prowess, 19, 29, 41; poetic prowess,             119
  59–60. See also sexual prowess             remedy, 64, 195
psychological movement, 79;                  representation, 6, 8, 10, 146, 180, 182,
  psychological sphere, 149;                     194; ekphrastic representation of
  psychological state, 93, 111                   palace, 156; emblematic
pun, punning, 28, 59                             representation, 157, 196; graphic,
                                                 pictorial representation, 14; Islamic
qaßìdah (classical Arabic ode): 21, 23;          prohibition of idolatry or
   aesthetic, literary qualities of, 4;          visual/pictorial representation, 12,
   animals in, 44; authenticity of               113–14; mimetic representation, 16,
   pre-Islamic, 31; bipartite structure,         194; symbolic representation, 16;
   63, 156; in comparison with visual            verbal and visual representation, 12;
   portraits, 157; convention, 73, 98,           verbal representation, 13, 92, 195;
   134, 140, 152, 181, 187, 189–91;              visual, verbal, or musical
   creativity and convention, 191;               representation, 155
   descriptive passages of, 94; as           resemblance, 10, 15–16, 21, 45, 74
   expression of an ideal Islamic            resolution, 64, 78–79, 89, 195
   polity, 117; form of, 1; a fragment       reward, 124, 143
   of, 88; as genre, 1; life-world and       rhyme, 20–21, 25, 195
   cultural codes of, 8–9; losers’ qaßìdah   rhythm, 135, 144, 149
   showing nonteleology, 112, 118;           rithà" (elegy), 118, 198
   occasionality of, 189; in poetic          ritual, 58–59
   scheme, 10; as portrait, 197; as          rivers of the Garden of Paradise,
   similar power to the Qur"àn, 187;             74–75
   sincerity of, 145, 190; tripartite        ruqan (magical spells), 153
   structure, 1; waßf of, 16. See also       al-Rusàfì (poet), 181
   specific subjects
qaßìdat al-mad˙ (panegyric ode), 13, 92,     Sà'idah ibn Ju"ayyah (poet);
   155, 189, 192; as verbal portrait of        biographical information, 62
   ruler, 93                                 Sà'idah ibn Ju"ayyah’s ode, 195, 197;
qi†'ah (short poem or fragment), 96            bees and honey as healing and
qiyàn (singing-girls), 135–36                  restraint, 78; bees gathering nectar
quest: for fame, 58; for eroticism and         signifying the lost meadow, 74–76;
   immortality, and the beloved, 78,           bipartite structure, 63; difference
   87, 91                                      from Abù Dhu"ayb’s ode, 63,
Quintilian (Roman rhetorician), 8              89–91; erotic, sexual image of bees
Qur"àn, 12, 32, 62, 74–77, 91, 135,            and honey, 76–78; honey-collecting
   158, 187–88                                 as resolution, 78; fakhr (boast),
                                               80–81; nasìb (elegiac prelude), 63,
ra˙ìl (the poet’s journey section), 1, 23,     73–80; the persona’s separation from
   32, 41, 43, 98, 160                         his beloved, 73; ra˙ìl-like function of
ra˙ìl-like motif: in the Alhambra palace       bees and honey description, 79; the
   description, 160, 192; in the bee           sayings of Qur"àn and Hadìth,
   and honey-collecting description, 62,       74–77; storm cloud scene, 73; a
   64, 88–89                                   string of similes for the beloved,
rain, 42, 184; rain-cloud, 57;                 73–74; translated, 64–73; transition
   rainstorm, 74, 78, 89                       from evening to morning, 80, 90;
250                                     

   the ultimate goal is the lost garden,       196; transfer/translation effects of,
   79                                          151
saraq, sariqah (theft, plagiarism), 31       synecdoche, 16, 180
Sàsànian motifs, 12, 94, 96, 98–100,
   109–12. See also Persian elements         al-ˇabarì (historian), 75
scarcity of pictorial representations in     ta∂mìn (textual contamination), 21
   the Arabo-Islamic tradition, 12           †àlib (apprentice), 159
sense, 140–41, 151; the auditory and         †arab (strong emotion of joy or grief ),
   optical, 147–48; auditory, sensuous,         123, 138–39, 151; etymological
   intuitive dimensions, 123, 196;              context of, 146–47
   optical, olfactory, and auditory          tashbìb (rhapsody over a beloved
   organs, 142; sensation, 140;                 woman), 153–54
   sensibility and sentiments, 152;          tent, 48, 57
   tactile and optical and auditory,         text, 6, 32, 61, 93, 156; original
   151; vision, touch, and hearing, 150         setting of, 125
sexuality, 21, 87                            †ibàq (antithesis), 98, 149
sexual prowess, 25, 29–30, 60                traditional Orientalists, 2–5, 10, 15,
she-camel, 26, 32, 57; sacrificial               21, 94
   she-camel, 73                             transparency of language, 113–14
Al-Shi'r wa al-Shu'arà" (Book of Poetry      trial, 64, 89
   and Poets), 26, 28                        tribal community, 21, 43, 47
Shu'ùbiyyah movement, 99, 118                trope, 11, 156
similarity, 21; in contrast to contiguity,
   16; spiritual similarity, 15              'Udhrite love, 181
simile, 11, 16, 185; for the beloved,        Umm Jundab (Imru" al-Qays’s wife),
   73–74; elative extended simile, 88;          20, 26, 27, 41, 58
   extended similes, 62, 73, 88; in          ut pictura poesis, 12–13
   honey-collecting scene, 76; in horse
   description, 43–46                        verbal art, 123, 143–44; verbal art and
singing, 122–24, 133, 136–38, 143–46,           visual art, 12; verbal art and
   152–53; posture of, 147. See also            musical art, 122
   song                                      verbal duel, 20, 57, 60; in Homeric
singing-girl, 111, 122–23, 125, 134–35,         epics, 58
   141, 152, 196                             verisimilitude, 9–11; mimetic
sky, 160, 182, 184                              verisimilitude, 10
song, 14, 24, 135–39, 144–46, 151; as        viewer, 123–24, 144–45
   messenger, 138                            virility (murù"ah), 21, 30, 59
spear, 48, 81, 113                           vision, 7, 142, 150
speed, 19, 43, 45, 48, 57                    visual art, 13, 92–93, 157, 195; visual
stallion, 20, 24, 27–28, 30                     art, verbalized visual art, and
star, 181, 184–85, 191                          visualized verbal art, 183
stargazer, 185                               visual language, 184, 198
steed, 29, 44, 46–48, 56, 81; sleek,         visual portrait, 92–93, 157
   swift steed (munjarid), 42–43; physical   voice, 123, 125, 141, 146–51
   beauty of, 47
strength, 21, 30, 44                         Wa˙ìd (the singing slave-girl in Ibn
ßùrah (image), 15                              al-Rùmì’s ode), 123, 135–40,
symbol, 21, 99, 195; beyond the                142–47, 150–54, 196
   archetype, 44; of masculinity,            wall painting, 6, 93, 109–10, 195
   reproduction, and immortality, 29;        waßf (description), 194–98; the bee,
   of speed, fertility, 57; symbolism of       honey, and its collectors, 61, 74–79,
   honey and bees, 76, 79; symbolism           86–88; as criterion for evaluation of
   of waßf, 195                                poetry, 5; as flexible and serviceable,
synaesthesia, 123, 140–42, 150–51,             90; in imitation and emulation, 20;
                                                                       251

  important thematic and structural       wild ass, 43–44, 48
  role of, 94–95; as key element of       wind, 19, 46
  the qaßìdah, 4–5, 122; as madì˙         wine, 93–94, 100, 117, 195; in
  (panegyric), 95–100; mission of, 14;      association with honey, 62;
  physical description in, 194; as          compared to the beloved’s saliva,
  profound functions, 10; in relation       73; rivers of, 75; mixed with honey,
  to political, social, economic, and       79; precious, delicious wine, 85
  individual ambiance of each poet,       wine cup, 6, 93, 100. See also goblet
  197; striving for verisimilitude, 10;   wit, 21, 59, 126
  synonym of, 5; taßwìr and tamthìl as    withers (saràt), 43, 45
  synonym of, 15–16; technique of 47.     word, 14, 32, 194
  See also description
water, 42, 74–75, 78, 98, 100, 108,       Yùsuf I (sultan), 159
  113, 184–85                             Yùsuf II (sultan), 158–59
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       BRILL STUDIES IN MIDDLE
        EASTERN LITERATURES
         ( formerly Studies in Arabic Literature)

                    SUPPLEMENTS TO THE
               JOURNAL OF ARABIC LITERATURE

                           ISSN 0169-9903

 1. Khouri, M.A. Poetry and the Making of Modern Egypt (1882-1922).
    1971. ISBN 90 04 02178 7
 2. Somekh, S. The Changing Rhythm. A Study of Naj¬b Ma¥f¢¬’s
    Novels. 1973. ISBN 90 04 03587 7
 3. Semah, D. Four EgyptianLiterary Critics. 1974.
    ISBN 90 04 03841 8
                 .
 4. Cantarino, V Arabic Poetics in the Golden Age. 1975.
    ISBN 90 04 04206 7
 5. Moreh, S. Modern Arabic Poetry, 1800-1970. 1976.
    ISBN 90 04 04795 6
 6. Jayyusi, S.K. Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry. 2 pts.
    1977. ISBN 90 04 04920 7
 7. Kurpershoek, P.M. The Short Stories of Y¢suf Idrºs. A Modern Egyp-
    tian Author. 1981. ISBN 90 04 06283 1
 8. Gelder, G.J.H. van. Beyond the Line. Classical Arabic Literary
    Critics. 1982. ISBN 90 04 06854 6
 9. Ajami, M. The Neckveins of Winter. 1984. ISBN 90 04 07016 8
10. Brugman, J. An Introduction to the History of Modern Arabic Litera-
    ture in Egypt. 1984. ISBN 90 04 07172 5
11. Malti-Douglas, F. Structures of Avarice. The Bukhal¸} in Medieval
    Arabic Literature. 1985. ISBN 90 04 07485 6
12. Abdel-Malek, K. A Study of the Vernacular Poetry of A¥mad Fu}¸d
    Nigm. 1990. ISBN 90 04 08933 0
13. Stetkevych, S.P. Ab¢ Tamm¸m and the Poetics of the {Abb¸sid Age.
    1991. ISBN 90 04 09340 0
14. Hamori, A. The Composition of Mutanabbº’s Panegyrics to Sayf al-
    Dawla. 1992. ISBN 90 04 09366 4
15. Pinault, D. Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights. 1992.
    ISBN 90 04 09530 6
16. al-Nowaihi, M.M. The Poetry of Ibn Khaf¸jah. A Literary Analysis.
    1993. ISBN 90 04 09660 4
17. Kurpershoek, P.M. Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia.
    4 volumes.
    Vol. I. The Poetry of ad-Dind¸n. A Bedouin Bard in Southern Najd. An
    Edition with Translation and Introduction. 1994. ISBN 90 04 09894 1
    Vol. II. The Story of a Desert Knight. The Legend of ³l¹wº¥ al-{A«¸wi
      and Other {Utaybah Heroes. An Edition with Translation and Intro-
      duction. 1995. ISBN 90 04 10102 0
                                         -
      Vol. III. Bedouin Poets of the Dawa sir Tribe. Between Nomadism and
      Settlement in Southern Najd. An Edition with Translation and
      Introduction. 1999. ISBN 90 04 11276 6
              .
      Vol. IV A Saudi Tribal History. Honour and Faith in the Traditions of
      the Daw¸sir. An Edition with Translation and Introduction. 2002.
      ISBN 90 04 12582 5
18.   Bounfour, A. De l’enfant au fils. Essai sur la filiation dans les Mille et
      une nuits. 1995. ISBN 90 04 10166 7
19.   Abdel-Malek, K. Mu¥ammad in the Modern Egyptian Popular Ballad.
      1995. ISBN 90 04 10217 5
20.   Sperl, S. and C. Shackle (eds.), Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and
      Africa. 2 volumes. ISBN (set) 90 04 10452 6
      Vol. I. Classical Traditions and Modern Meanings. 1996.
      ISBN 90 04 10295 7
      Vol. II. Eulogy’s Bounty, Meaning’s Abundance. An Anthology.
      1996. ISBN 90 04 10387 2
21.   Frolov, D. Classical Arabic Verse. History and Theory of {Ar¢¥. 2000.
      ISBN 90 04 10932 3
22.   al-Saraqus«º, Ab¢ l-Þ¸hir Mu¥ammad ibn Y¢suf. Al-Maq¸m¸t Al-
      Luz¢mºyah. Translated, with a Preliminary Study by James T. Monroe.
      2002. ISBN 90 04 12331 8
23.   al-Musawi, M.J. The Postcolonial Arabic Novel. Debating Ambi-
      valence. 2003. ISBN 90 04 12586 8
24.   {Ar¸}is al-Maj¸lis fº Qiªaª al-anbiy¸} or “Lives of the Prophets”. As
      Recounted by Ab¢ Is¥¸q A¥mad ibn Mu¥ammad ibn Ibr¸hºm al-
      Tha{labº. Translated and Annotated by William M. Brinner. 2002.
      ISBN 90 04 12589 2
25.   Motoyoshi Sumi, A. Description in Classical Arabic Poetry. Waªf,
      Ekphrasis, and Interarts Theory. 2004. ISBN 90 04 12922 7.
26.   Yamamoto, K. The Oral Background of Persian Epics. Storytelling
      and Poetry. 2003. ISBN 90 04 12587 6
27.   Seyed-Gohrab, A.A. Laylº and Majn¢n. Love, Madness and Mystic
      Longing in Ni¬¸mº’s Epic Romance. 2003. ISBN 90 04 12942 1

				
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