Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
*** The learned Von Hammer-Purgstall says that Antara's Mo‘allaqah is contained twice in the complete copies of the Romance of Antar: once in fragments, as the hero delivers them extempore on divers occasions in the ardour of the moment, in praise of his darling Abla, of his matchless horse, of his irresistible sword and spear, &c.; and again on the occasion of the poetic contest before the assembly of the tribes at Okātz, when the poet united the hitherto scattered pearls of his genius by a golden thread and suspended them on the Ka‘beh.
vv. 1, 2. Hamilton's rendering of the opening verses of Antara's Mo‘allaqah are given on page 264 of the present volume. This is how Professor E. H. Palmer has turned the same into English verse, in his translation entitled, "An Ancient Arabic Prize Poem":
According to the Romance of Antar, Abla was in Arabian ’Irāk when, on the hero's return home from the land of Zebeid, he beheld her deserted dwelling, and, leaning sadly upon his spear, gave vent to his feelings in these two couplets.
vv. 13-19. There is a charm in Professor Palmer's graceful metrical rendering of this beautiful passage which is not to be expected in a literal translation:
v. 27. It seems somewhat odd that the poet should compare an ostrich to a slave dressed in a long fur garment, yet such is the sense of the original, which Mr. Redhouse renders as follows:
[paragraph continues] Mr. Redhouse remarks that "we can only conjecture why the poet likened the ostrich's feathers to a long fur garment. Slaves were then negroes; and perhaps, being from Africa and sensitive to cold, wore furs (of sheepskin?). The exact length understood by the poet's 'long' would depend on the kind of fur jacket, or robe, worn by slaves in the desert camps. Twenty inches is long where twelve is usual."
v. 42. The comparison in the second hemistich is thus rendered by Professor Palmer:
v. 54. "Skilful in casting lots": see Tarafa's Mo‘all., v. 102, and Lebīd's Mo‘all., vv. 73, 74, and Nate.—The arrows used for casting lots were without heads and feathers, like those employed in divination.
"Causing the wine-merchant to strike his flag ": see note on v. 58, Lebīd's Mo‘all.
vv. 60-62. In Professor Palmer's translation the little maiden whom the Poet sends to bring him news of his "sweet lamb" is represented as saying on her return:
[paragraph continues] According to Sir William Jones’ rendering, the girl simply informs Antara that she found "the hostile guards negligent of their watch," and that the lady might therefore be easily visited; and we are to suppose that Antara, on thus learning that "the coast was clear," so to say, at once proceeded to visit the lady, who, on seeing him, "turned towards him with the neck of a young roe."—Mr Redhouse thinks that "the variant positions which these verses occupy in different editions make it almost impossible to judge whether his sweetheart turned to Antara, or to the maiden sent. The words read as though the maid turned to Antara; but that is not the probable sense."—The Bedouin coxcomb Amarah, in the Romance of Antar, sends a female slave on a similar errand—to bring him an account of Abla's personal charms: see page 209 of the present volume.
v. 70. "Make the perched birds of the brain fly quickly from every skull." Among the old Arabs the belief was prevalent that of the blood near a dead person's brain was formed a bird, called Hamah (Carlyle calls it Manah, but this was the name of a stone-idol worshipped by the pagan Arabs), that sat upon the grave of the deceased, and uttered doleful cries. This seems alluded to in Job, xxi., 32, which Carlyle thus translates:
[paragraph continues] Others say that the soul of a man who was murdered or slain in battle animated this bird and continually cried, Oscûni! Oscûni!—"give me to drink," i.e. of the slayer's blood.
Damdam was slain by Antara on the Day of El-Mureyqib, one of the earliest battles of the War of Dāhis. Herim, a son of Damdam, was afterwards slain by Ward son of Hābis; and Hoseyn, in retaliation for his brother's death, basely violated the laws of hospitality by killing a kinsman of Ward (whose name is given by El-Meydānī as Tījān) who was his guest: see Argument to the Poem of Zohair.