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Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, [1881], at


King Zoheir having summoned Shedad, the father of Antar, with his other warriors, to accompany him on an expedition against a neighbouring tribe, Antar was left behind in charge of the women; and here follows a graphic description of the amusements of Arab women in those days:

"The horsemen being now absent, the children, and women, and slaves, male and female, were left behind. Semeeah, the wife of Shedad, gave a magnificent entertainment at the lake of Zatool Irsad. Sheep were slaughtered, and wine flowed, and the girls carried their instruments. Antar stood amongst the attendants, and was in transports on seeing Abla appear with the other women. She was indeed like an amorous fawn; she was decorated with variegated necklaces; and when Antar was attending her, he was overwhelmed in the ocean of his love, and became the slave of her sable tresses. They sat down to eat, and the wine-cups went merrily round. It was the spring of the year, when the whole land shone in all its glory: the vines hung luxuriantly in the arbours; the flowers shed around ambrosial fragrance; every hillock sparkled in the beauty of its colours; the birds in responsive melody sang sweetly from each bush, and harmony issued from their throats; every ear was enchanted; the ground was covered with flowers and herbs; whilst the nightingales filled the air with their softest notes. Then the damsels beat the cymbals, and recited the following verses:

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The shades have spread their canopy, and the flowers spread their pillows.

The streams roll along their shores of flowers, some white, some red, some yellow, some sweet-scented.

See the waters gliding through the gardens; and the trees and their fruits resemble bracelets and chaplets;

The birds sing melodiously upon them in every variety of note.

The nightingale and the dove pour their plaintive strain, and make every lover weep.

The gentle zephyrs whisper along, and the branches move in softest measure.

The boughs dance in the groves, among the trees, in the graceful movement.

The dew-drops fall, and the flowers and the trees are studded with its pearls.

The season is delightful; let it pass in enjoyment, and misfortunes, begone!

The opportunity is delicious; let us grasp in haste its sweets:

Be merry, and wild with joy, and let not a day pass without amusement.

"Then another set took the musical instruments, and beating the cymbals with their hands, thus sang:—

The gardens sparkle with all they boast of lovely damsels;

Every sportive virgin is possessed of languishing glances, and enchanting movements:

Their beauty is perfection—they are loveliness itself;

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Their elegant shapes glance like the well-proportioned spears;

Their tresses float down their backs, like branches of the grape-vine;

They are slayers and piercers with their arrows and their darts

Archers and strikers—the enchantresses of men.

"They now formed a dance and took off their robes: the damsels danced while the servants sang, and carried round the goblets of wine. Roses were spread over their cheeks, and their bosoms heaved. And Abla joined her associates in the dance, and exhibited her charms, and laughed. Fire shot from their eyes, and the cups of wine were united to the honey of their mouths. The imagination of Antar was inflamed and overpowered in the sea of anxiety; he hesitated whether he should violate the modesty of love by the fingers of passion, when to! on a sudden there appeared a cloud of dust; and a vast clamour arose, and in a moment there came forth a troop of horses and their riders, about seventy in number, armed with cuirasses, and coats of mail, and Aadite helmets, crying out, 'O by Cahtan!' and rushed towards the women. At the instant joy was converted into grief, and smiles into tears: in a moment they seized the women and the virgins, made them prisoners, and placed them on their horses behind them."

Antar, however, was not the man to stand by and allow the enemy thus to ravish his fair charges before his eyes. To rush after and overtake the horseman who had captured Abla, and to hurl him a lifeless and shapeless mass on the ground, and to take possession of his horse and armour, was to Antar mere child's play. Then he overtook the rest of the enemy, and with his single arm performed such wonders, that those who escaped the stroke of his death-dealing sword fled in dismay, leaving the women and the plunder they had taken.

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This was Antar's first warlike exploit; and when King Zoheir returned, and heard of his prowess, he publicly praised him, and presented him with a robe of honour.

Shortly afterwards Antar put to flight a large party of a hostile tribe that had surrounded the King's sons and their attendants; and this was his song of triumph as the hero returned to his tent:

I will not cease to exalt myself by my deeds, till I reach Orion in my ambitious projects.

Here I care not for those who abuse me, fearful of death and separation from life.

But I will reduce my foes and my railers by force, and I will be patient under sufferings and in praise.

I will strive to attain what I desire, till Death snatch me away.

I will arm my mind against worldly lusts, that I may be considered noble-minded and faithful.

Whoever would check me, let him look to himself, where’er he may be concealed.

My complexion is no injury to me, nor the name of Zebeebah, when I exercise my courage amongst the foe.

I will work wonders and marvels; and I will protect myself from the tongues of the wicked.

The King was naturally grateful for the good service which Antar had thus rendered, and at a grand feast held in celebration of the escape of the princes, he caused the hero to sit beside him, and commanded Shedad no longer to employ his son as a keeper of camels, but to allow him to take rank among the warriors of the tribe.

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