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The Maqámát of Badí‘ al-Zamán al-Hamadhání, tr. W.J. Prendergast [1915] at

p. 76


SAID ‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM: One day, joined to a small company of friends bound together in friendship, like the Pleiades, 2 I alighted 3 in the cathedral mosque of Bukhára. Now, when the mosque was filled with its congregation, there appeared before us one clad in a pair of worn-out garments. 4 He had slung his empty wallet over his shoulder, and was bringing behind him a naked boy whose endurance was straitened by calamity, while the cold anon gripped him and let 'him go. 5 He possessed no covering but his own skin and had nought that sufficed to protect him from a single shivering. The man stood and said: 'None will regard this child except him to whom God has been gracious, and none will be moved to pity by this misfortune but him who is not secure from the like. O possessors of famous fortunes, embroidered robes, lofty houses, and strongly built castles, ye will not be secure from accident, nor will heirs fail you. Hasten then to do good, while ye can and be bounteous unto the world as long as it is bounteous unto you. For, by Heavens! we have eaten "sikbáj", 6 ridden the fleet-footed camel, donned brocaded silk 7 and slept on stuffed couches in the evenings.

p. 77

Then, before we knew it, came fortune's treacherous blast and the turning of the back of the shield. Then the fleet camel was changed for the slow short-paced steed, the brocade for wool, and so on until I am reduced to the state and garb in which ye see me. Behold we seek sustenance from barren fortune's breast and ride poverty's sombre steed. We gaze not but with the orphan's eye and stretch forth only the debtor's hands. Now is there any generous one who will dispel the blackness 1 of this want and blunt the edge of this misfortune?' Then he sat down leaning upon his elbows, and he said to the boy: 'Attend to thy business.' The boy said: 'What can I say when this thy speech, did it but come in contact with hair, would clip it, or with a rock would cleave it. Verily a heart not rendered tender by what thou hast said is tough indeed. Ye have heard, O people, what ye have never heard before to-day. Let each one of you engage his hand with charity. Let him think of his own future and shield, through me, his own child. Remember me, 2 and I will remember you and give unto me and I will thank you.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám, 'In my loneliness I had nought that solaced me but a ring which I placed upon his little finger. 3 As soon as he got it he recited praising, the ring upon the finger, saying:--

O the encircled with itself, 4
With a necklace like unto the Gemini in beauty!
Like a lover meeting his friend,
And then lovingly and pathetically embraces him.
Selecting one not of his own tribe,
As an ally against fate.
A precious thing whose worth is exalted,
Yet, verily, more exalted is he who gave it.
I swear, if in glory men were words,
Thou wouldst be their meaning.' 5

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: So we gave him what was easy of attainment at once, and then he turned away from us praising us.

p. 78

[paragraph continues] I followed him, until privacy revealed his face and lo! it was our Shaikh Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí, and behold the fawn was his child. I said; 'Abú’l-Fatḥ, thou hast grown old 1 and the boy grown up; 'What of the word of greeting and of converse?'

He answered:--

'A stranger am I 2 when the road doth contain us,
A friend when the tents do enclose us.'

By this I knew he was averse to conversing with me, so I left him and went away.


76:1 Bukhára: The old Sámanid capital and now the chief city of the State of Bukhára. For ages it has been a great centre of learning and religious life. For a description of the literary splendour of this city at the time of the author, see Yatima al-Bahr, iv, 33, and Browne, Literary History of Persia, i, 365. It is still the principal book market of Central Asia. Yaqút, i, 517.

76:2 Like the Pleiades: Literally, on the string of the Pleiades, a frequently used simile for being inseparably bound together. Cf. Job, xxxviii, 31.

76:3 I alighted: Literally a day caused me to alight.

76:4 In a pair of worn-out garments: Literally, the possessor of two worn-out garments.

76:5 Gripped him and let him go: As a cat plays with a mouse.

76:6 Sikbáj: Arabicized from the Persian vinegar and arabicized into food. Fleshmeat cooked with vinegar. It is said that Khusru Perwíz, who is one of the exemplars of magnificence and luxury among the Arabs, was the first for whom Sikbáj was cooked and that none fed on it without his permission. De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i, 224, and Chenery, Translation of Ḥarírí, p. 451.

76:7 Brocaded silk: Probably from the Persian, or The change of the final ﮦ into ﺝ in arabicized words from the Persian is common. A certain kind of cloth or garment made of (i.e. silk or raw silk) particularly a name for that which is variegated or embellished. (Lane, Lexicon, article p. 843).

77:1 Blackness: Plural of darkness, or night: it also means a horse entirely black.

77:2 Remember me: Qur’án, ii, 147.

77:3 His little finger: i.e. the boy's little finger.

77:4 O the encircled with itself: Metre, kámil.

77:5 Thou wouldst be their meaning: Cf. Mutanabbí, (Dierterici), p. 460,

78:1 Abú’l-Fatḥ thou hast grown old: Metre, mutaqárib.

78:2 A stranger am I: Metre, mutaqárib. A pleasing effect is produced here by the Improvisor replying in the same metre and rhyme.

Next: XVIII. The Maqama of Qazwín