Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
Accompanied only by his faithful brother Shiboob,—his trusty henchman, who frequently rendered the hero important service by his dexterity as an archer, and whose fleetness of foot had gained him the soubriquet of Son of the Wind,—Antar departed at night from the tents of Abs, and proceeded towards the land of Irak. Traversing the wilds and the deserts by secret paths, well known to Shiboob, one day they came upon a single tent pitched beside a spring, and near it was an aged sheikh, bent with years:
The venerable solitary presented the travellers with a draught of milk, cooled in the wind, and set food before them; and when they had satisfied their hunger, he inquired of Antar whence he came, and on what business he was bound. The hero related his story: how he was betrothed to his fair cousin Abla, and how her father had engaged him to procure a thousand Asafeer camels, for her dowry. The old man earnestly advised him to abandon an enterprise beset with so many perils, but in vain; and having reposed that night in the sheikh's tent, they resumed their journey at daybreak. As they proceeded, the recollection of his beloved Abla, and of all that he had endured for her sake, occurring to Antar's mind, his feelings found expression in these verses:
In the land of Shurebah are defiles and valleys; I have quitted them, and its inhabitants live in my heart:
Fixed are they therein, and in my eyes; and even when they are absent from me they dwell in the black of mine eye;
And when the lightning flashes from their land, I shed tears of blood, and pass the night leagued with sleeplessness.
The breeze of the fragrant plants makes me remember the luscious balmy airs of the Zatool-irsad.
O Abla! let thy visionary phantom appear to me, and infuse soft slumbers over my distracted heart!
O Abla! were it not for my love of thee, I would not be with so few friends and so many enemies!
I am departing, and the back of my horse shall be my resting-place, and my sword and mail my pillow, till I trample down the lands of Irak, and destroy their deserts and their cities.
When the market for the sale of lives is established, and they cry out, and the criers proclaim the goods, and I behold the troops stirring up the war-dust with the thrusts of spears and sharp scimitars
Then will I disperse their horsemen, and the foe shall be cut down, deprived of their hands.
The eyes of the envious shall watch; but the eyes of the pure and the faithful shall sleep.
And I will return with numerous Asafeer camels that my love shall procure, and Shiboob be my guide.
Thus Antar and Shiboob journeyed until they came to the land of Hirah, where they discovered "populous towns, plains abounding in flowing streams, date-trees, warbling birds, and
sweet-smelling flowers; and the country appeared like a blessing to enliven the sorrowing heart; and the camels were grazing and straying about the land." Here was every sign of wealth and power; but, nothing dismayed, Antar despatched his brother to look after the Asafeer camels while he rested Abjer.
Shiboob, disguised as a slave, proceeded to the tents of the slaves who had charge of the camels, and telling them a plausible story of his having run away from his master, and feigning sickness, he spent all the day with them; and when the slaves were all fast asleep, he stole away, and rejoined Antar, to whom he communicated the results of his observations regarding the numbers of the camels and of the slaves who guarded them. Antar stations Shiboob with his bow on the road to Hirah; he then cuts off a thousand of the Asafeer camels, and compels some of the slaves to drive them towards his own country. He is overtaken by King Monzar and his hunting party, and defends himself manfully against them all, until Abjer stumbles and brings him to the ground. Shiboob, seeing his brother fall, and supposing him to be slain, gives his feet to the wind, and speeding homeward through the deserts, thus laments the fate of Antar:
O Knight of the Horse! why, alas! has the steed to mourn thee?—why, alas! has the barb of the spear to announce thy death in wailings?
O that the day had never been, that I saw thee felled to the earth, cut down—stretched out—and the points of the lances aimed at thee!
Could the vicissitudes of fortune accept of any ransom—O, I would have redeemed thee from the calamities of fortune!
Thine uncle has in his wiles and frauds made thee drink of the cup;—but may thy cup-bearer, O son of my mother, ne’er taste of the moisture of dew!
And thy cousin will mourn thee; and she belongs to thy foe, whose slave thou wouldst never consent to be.
O Knight of the Horse! I have no strength of mind—I have not a heart that can ever feel consolation for thee in my sorrows!
And the war-steed among the troopers as he neighs will turn towards thee, mourning for thee, like a childless woman in despair!
Antar, however, was not dead, though taken prisoner, and brought bound into the presence of King Monzar, who demanded to know whence he came. Antar replied that he was of the tribe of noble Abs.
"One of its warriors, or one of its slaves?" inquired the King. "Nobility, my lord," said Antar, "amongst liberal men, is the thrust of the spear, the blow of the sword, and patience beneath the battle-dust. I am the physician of the tribe of Abs when they are in sickness; their protector in disgrace; the defender of their wives when they are in trouble; and their horseman when they are in glory, and their sword when they rush to arms."
He then relates the occasion of his enterprise which had thus miscarried. The King expresses his astonishment that he should have exposed himself to such dangers for the sake of an Arab girl.
"Yes," replied Antar, "it is love that emboldens man to encounter dangers and horrors; and there is no peril to be apprehended but from a look from beneath the corner of a veil"; and thinking of Abla's charms, and his present condition, he continued, in verse:
The eyelashes of the songstress from the corner of the veil are more cutting than the edge of the cleaving scimitars;
And when they wound the brave are humbled, and the corners of their eyes are flooded with tears.
May God cause my uncle to drink of the draught of death at my hand!—may his hand be withered, and his fingers palsied!
For how could he drive one like me to destruction by his arts, and make my hopes depend on the completion of his avaricious projects?
Truly Abla, on the day of departure, bade me adieu, and said I should never return!
O lightnings! waft my salutation to her, and to all the places and pastures where she dwells!
O ye dwellers in the forests of tamarisks! if I die, mourn for me when my eyes are plucked out by the hungry fowls of the air.
O ye steeds! mourn for a knight who could engage the lions of death in the field of battle.
Alas! I am an outcast, and in sorrow;—I am humbled into galling fetters—fetters that cut to my soul!
The King was expressing his surprise at the eloquence and fortitude of the prisoner, when there arose a great commotion among his followers, caused by a savage lion that had rushed from the desert, and was busy mangling the boldest of the king's warriors. Antar offers to slay the lion, if only his hands are set free, leaving his legs still fettered, and he was given a sword and a shield. This feat he performs to the admiration of all; and Monzar sees in the hero one well qualified to aid his ambitious design of rendering himself independent of Nushirvan, the King of Persia.
Monzar had been made the subject of a practical joke, which he little relished, at the court of Persia—by eating dates, stones
and all, at dinner, in imitation of the King and his courtiers, who he supposed were also eating dates, but in reality simply almonds and sugar-plums prepared to resemble dates. On returning to his own country he resolved to revenge this insult, and secretly incited several Arab tribes to plunder Persian towns. Chosroe commanded him to punish these marauders; but Monzar had the hardihood to send back the royal messenger with a letter, stating that, in consequence of the insult that had been offered him at the Persian court, he had now little or no influence with the Arab tribes, and that Chosroe must look after his own kingdom. And Monzar was awaiting the result of his answer to Chosroe when Antar fell into his power.