Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
*** The following Notes are adapted from those appended to Mr. Lyall's translation of this Mo‘allaqah.
v. 2. "Blue stains renewed," &c. The second hemistich of this verse gives concisely a simile for the water-worn traces of the tents which is found in a more expanded form in Lebîd's Mo‘allaqah, vv. 8, 9, q.v. The tattooing over the veins of the inner wrist is said to be renewed, because the torrents have scored deeply certain of the trenches dug round the tents, while others that did not lie in the path of the flood have become only faintly marked, like the veins beneath the tracery.
v. 5. "Canal": round the tent a trench is dug to receive the rain from the roof and prevent the water from flooding the interior.
v. 6. "May thy morning be fair and auspicious!" The morning was the time when raids were made. To wish peace in the morning to a place was therefore an appropriate greeting. [See Antara's Mo‘all., v. 2.]
v. 52. Tassels of scarlet wool decorated the haudaj in which ladies rode.
v. 17. The "Sacred Edifice" is the Ka‘beh. The mention of its building by the Qureysh and the men of Jurhum must not be understood of the same time. Jurhum was the name of two Arab stocks: the first, the ancient race who peopled the lower Hijâz and the Tihâmeh at the time of the legendary settlement of Ishmael among them, with whom he is said to have intermarried; the second (whom M. de Perceval regards as alone having had a historical existence), a tribe who ruled in Mekkeh from about 70 B. C. to 200 a.d. They were expelled from Mekkeh and dispersed so that no memorial of them remained by an
[paragraph continues] Azdite stock from el-Yemen, called the Khuzâ‘ah. (C. de Perceval, Essai, i., 218. Aghânî, xiii, 108-111.) The second Jurhum are said (Agh. id. p. 109) to have rebuilt the Ka‘beh on the foundations laid by Abraham after it had been overthrown by a flood: the architect was one ‘Omar el-Jârûd, whose descendants were known as the Jedarah, or masons. The Qureysh settled in Mekkeh during its occupation by the Khuzâ‘ah, and gained possession of the Ka‘beh in the time of Qusayy, whose mother was of the race of the Jedarah, about 440, a.d. (C. de Perceval.) Qusayy, in the year 450 a.d. or thereabout, caused the building erected by the Jurhum to be demolished, and rebuilt the Ka‘beh on a grander scale. It was rebuilt a third time in the year 605 a.d., very shortly before the Mo‘allaqah was composed. Mohammed, then thirty-five years old, assisted in the work. These three occasions are probably those to which Zuhayr refers.
"Make devout processions": the tawâf, or going round seven times, was one of the most ancient rites of the religion of the Arabs; it was the mode of worship used not only for the Ka‘beh, but also for the other objects of reverence among the pagan Arabs: see Lane, s.v. Duwâr.
v. 19. The literal translation of this verse is
[paragraph continues] The second hemistich is said to refer to a custom which existed among the Arabs of plunging their hands into a bowl of perfume as they took an oath together to fight for a cause until the last of them was slain. Menshim, the commentators say, was a woman in Mekkeh who sold perfume. Such an oath was followed by war to the bitter end; and so "he brayed the perfume of Menshim" became a proverb for entering on deadly strife.
v. 22. Ma‘add was the forefather of all those Arabs (generally called musta‘ribeh, or insititious) who traced their descent from ‘Adnan, whose son he was. [See Genealogical Table prefixed
to the Mo‘allaqāt in this volume.] The name is thus used to denote the Central stocks settled for the most part in Nejd and El-Hijāz, as opposed to the Arabs of El-Yemen or of Yemenic origin by whom they were bordered on the north and south.
v. 29. War, el-Harb, is feminine in Arabic.
v. 31. The comparison of War to a mill and the slain to ground grain is common in the old poetry. [See vv. 31, 32, Poem of Amru, and Note.]
v. 32. ["Deformed as the dun camel of Aad: "see notes on vv. 11 and 22 of the "Lay of the Himyarites," pp. 351-354 of the present volume. Some of the genealogists say that Thailand was a cousin of ‘Ad, and after the destruction of the ancient race of ‘Ad, the people of Thamûd inherited their possessions and were called "the latter ‘Ad," which would account for Zuhayr's saying "camel of ‘Ad" instead of "camel of Thamûd."]
v. 36. This verse appears to refer to the breaking out again of strife which followed the deed of Hoseyn. The camels are the warriors, and the pools the pools of death. The image seems intended to figure the senselessness of the strife and its want of object and aim.
v. 37. The grazing on pernicious and noxious weeds is the brooding over wrong in the intervals of combat. Thus Qeys son of Zuhayr [the Prince Cais of the Romance of Antar] says, of the bitter results of wrong in this same War of Dāhis (Hamâseh p. 210, Aghânî, xvi, 32)
[El-Būsīrī, in v. 27 of his Mantle Poem, employs the same phrase, with reference to impure thoughts: "If Desire find the pasturage sweet to its taste, leave it not to pasture."]
v. 47. Among the Arabs, when two parties of men met, if they meant peace, they turned towards each other the feet of their spears; if they meant war, they turned towards each other the points.
v. 53. The "cistern" (haud) is a man's home and family.
v. 56. Zuhayr was eighty years old when he composed his Mo‘allaqah—608 or 610 a.d., according to M. de Perceval.
v. 57. Mr. Lyall's note on this verse will be better understood if read with his own rendering of the passage—v. 49 of his text:
"Blind beast" (‘ashwâ): literally "a weak-eyed she-camel"—one that sees not well where she is going, and therefore strikes everything with her forefeet, not paying attention to the places where she sets down her feet.—Lane. The word is used proverbially: you say, Rekiba fulânuni-l-‘ashwâ, "such a one rides the weak-eyed she-camel," that is, he prosecutes his affair without due deliberation; and Khabata Khabta-l-‘ashwâ, "he trod with the careless tread of a weak-eyed she-camel"—he acted at random.
vv. 47-64. The different order in which these maxims occur in different recensions of the poem, and the fact that some recensions omit several of them which others supply, make it doubtful, Mr. Lyall thinks, whether they properly belong to the Mo‘allaqah. "No other poem of those by Zuhayr that remain has the same metre and rhyme as his Mo‘allaqah, and it is most likely that fragments of other poems, now lost, in this measure and rhyme, that have survived have been included in it, because there was no other piece into which they could be put."—In Mr. Lyall's text these maxims are placed in a very different order from that in which they stand in Sir William Jones’ translation.