Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
The Poems entitled Almoällakât exhibit an exact picture of their virtues and their vices, their wisdom and their folly; and show what may be constantly expected from men of open hearts and boiling passions, with no law to control, and little religion to restrain ahem.—Six W. JONES: Discourse on The Arabs.
THE Poet, after the manner of his countrymen, supposes himself attended on a journey by a company of friends; and as they pass near a place where his mistress had lately dwelled, but from which her tribe was then removed, he desires them to stop awhile, that he might indulge the painful pleasure of weeping over the deserted remains of her tent. They comply with his request, but exhort him to show more strength of mind, and urge two topics of consolation, namely, that he had before been equally unhappy, and that he had enjoyed his full share of pleasures. Thus, by recollection of his past delight, his imagination is kindled, and his grief suspended.
He then gives his friends a lively account of his juvenile frolics, to one of which they had alluded. It seems he had been in love with a girl named Onaiza, and had in vain sought an occasion to declare his passion. One day, when her tribe
had struck their tents, and were changing their station, the women, as usual, came behind the rest, with the servants and baggage, in carriages fixed on the backs of camels. Amriolkais advanced slowly at a distance, and, when the men were out of sight, had the pleasure of seeing Onaiza retire with a party of damsels to a rivulet or pool, called Daratjuljul, where they undressed themselves, and were bathing, when the lover appeared, dismounted from his camel, and sat upon their clothes, proclaiming aloud that whoever would redeem her dress must present herself naked before him.
They adjured, entreated, expostulated; but, when it grew late, they found themselves obliged to submit, and all of them recovered their clothes except Onaiza, who renewed her adjurations, and continued a long time in the water: at length she also performed the condition, and dressed herself. Some hours had passed, when the girls complained of cold and hunger. Amriolkais therefore instantly killed the young camel on which he had ridden, and having called the female attendants together, made a fire and roasted him. The afternoon was spent in gay conversation, not without a cheerful cup, for he was provided with wine in a leathern bottle. But, when it was time to follow the tribe, the prince (for such was his rank) had neither camel nor horse; and Onaiza, after much importunity, consented to take him on her camel, before the carriage, while the other damsels divided among themselves the less agreeable burden of his arms and the furniture of his beast.
He next relates his courtship of Fatima, and his more dangerous amour with a girl of a tribe at war with his own, whose beauties he very minutely and luxuriantly delineates. From these love-tales he proceeds to the commendation of his own fortitude, when he was passing a desert in the darkest night; and the mention of the morning which succeeded leads him to a long description of his hunter, and of a chase in the forest, followed by a feast on the game which had been pierced by his javelins.
Here his narrative seems to be interrupted by a storm of lightning and violent rain;—he nobly describes the shower, and the torrent which it produced down all the adjacent mountains; and, his companions retiring to avoid the storm, the drama (for the poem has the form of a dramatic pastoral) ends abruptly.
The metre is of the first species, called long verse, and consists of the bacchius or amphibrachys, followed by the first epitrite; or, in the fourth and eighth places of the distich, by the double iambus, the last syllable being considered as a long one: the regular form, taken from the second chapter of "Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry," is this: