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


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I passed a night with a company 4 of clever men of my friends. We discussed chaste speech, and we had not bidden farewell to the conversation when our door was knocked at. So I asked: 'Who is the nocturnal visitor?' He answered: 'The envoy of night and its messenger.

p. 145

[paragraph continues] The defeated of hunger and its outcast, and an exile whose beast is lean and fatigued, whose life is hardship, and between whom and his two chicks are vast deserts. A guest whose shadow is light, 1 and whose stray is a loaf. Is there, therefore, among you a host?' So we hastened to open the door, we made his camel kneel down, concentrated his purpose, and said to him: 'To thine own house hast thou come, and thine own people hast thou reached, and come into the house.' We smiled upon him, welcomed him, and showed him his stray. We helped him till he was sated, and we talked to him until he became friendly, and then we asked: 'Who is this star rising from his orient, the bewitcher with his diction?' He answered, 'None knows the wood like the biter. 2 I am popularly known as the Nájim. 3 I have associated with Time that I might test it. I have extracted its essences, and milked all its teats. 4 I have tried the people that I might know them--and I know the lean and the fat among them--and exile that I might taste it. No country has looked at me whose eye I have not plucked out 5, and there is no gathering together of friends that I have not entered. Therefore I am talked of in the east and I am not repudiated in the west. There is not a king whose carpet I have not trodden upon, no serious situation whose flank 6 I have not penetrated, and no war has ceased in which I have not been an envoy. Time has tried me in its two phases, ease and distress, and it has met me with its two faces, the smiling and the frowning, but I exposed not myself to its hardship save in its own garb. 7

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And if the changing of Time 1 formerly injured me,
And loaded me with its evil-accidents what it loads with,
It verily brought benevolence when it set me down
In a good place from which there is no removal.'

We said: 'May thy teeth not be broken! 2 How excellent art thou and thy father! Silence is not unlawful except to thee, and speech is not lawful save to thee. Whence hast thou risen and where dost thou set? What is that which impels thy desire before thee and drives thy object in front of thee?' He said: 'As for the native land, it is Yemen as regards the need it is the rain, and as for the motive it is distress and the bitter life.' Said we: 'If thou wouldst but stay in this place we would share our life with thee and all else. Thou wouldst get rain with which to cultivate, and heavy downpours from the rain-stars 3 deep enough to drink from, without using hand or vessel.' He said: 'I will not prefer any companions to you, for I have found your court spacious, but your rain is water and water quencheth not the thirsty.' So we asked: 'What rains will satisfy thee?' He answered: 'The rain of Khalaf.' And he indited saying:--

'O fleet camel! To Sijistan! 4
And to the ocean to whose shores desires repair.
If thou visit Arján, 5 thou wilt go to it,

p. 147

Desiring one and wilt return with a hundred complete,
And the superiority of the Amír over Ibn al-‘Amíd 1
Is like that of the Quraish 2 over Báhila!' 3

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: Then he went forth and we bade him farewell. After he had gone we continued a long while wishing for him, while his absence pained us. Now one cloudy day we were seated together like the string of the Pleiades, when suddenly mounts were driven, led horses were brought up, and lo! a man ran in upon us. We asked: 'Who is the intruder?' and behold it was our Shaikh, the Nájim, walking proudly in the guise of realized desires and in the skirts of wealth. We arose, and, embracing him, asked: 'What is behind thee, O ‘Iṣám?' 4 He answered: 'Laden camels, loaded mules and locked bags.' And he indited saying:--

'O my master, 5 what base thing is there that Khalaf doth not disapprove of? 6
And what good thing is there that he doth not attain to?
The seekers of largess hear no word save "Take it",
And he is not answered, save by "Give it".

p. 148

Verily noble deeds disclosed their faces fair,
And he was the mole on their cheeks.
May my father be a ransom for his qualities which manifest greatness,
And for the hand in whose movements thou seest blessings!
Whoever counts them the benefactions of the age, verily I
Am one of those that reckon the age to be one of their benefactions.'

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: We asked God to spare him and to bless us with his company. And the Nájim stayed for days restricting his tongue to expressing gratitude for his 1 kindness, and employing not his speech save in praising his days and talking of his gifts.'


144:4 A company: Literally, a military force, a troop.

145:1 Whose shadow is light: Contrast this with of oppressive shade, i.e. disagreeable, or inconvenient. Cf. Ḥarírí, i. 250.

145:2 The biter: An Arab bites a piece of wood to test its soundness for making an arrow or a lance.

145:3 The Nájim: Literally, the Rising Star.

145:4 I have milked all its teats: Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 346. A figure for having experienced varieties of fortune, its straitness and its ampleness, as compared to one who has milked all the teats of the camel, that which yields plenty and that which does not.

145:5 Plucked out its eye: That is, trod its surface.

145:6 Its flank: Literally, its rank.

145:7 In its garb: Cf. the saying of Baihas. 'Wear for every condition its proper dress,' also, Hamasa (edited by Freytag), p, 510.

146:1 And if the changing of Time: Metre, tawíl.

146:2 May thy teeth (literally mouth) not be broken: The phrase as used by the Prophet, is: May God not break thy mouth.

146:3 The rain-stars: pl. of The literal meaning of is the setting in the early morning of one of the twenty-eight mansions of the moon, or while the opposite constellation, called its or watcher, was rising. The auroral settings of these constellations served among the Arabs to denote the seasons of rain, wind, or heat. Just as among the Greeks and Latins the setting of the Hyads or the rising of Sirius indicated particular states of the weather. As the Arabs in their observations of the seasons thought chiefly of rain, which was to moisten their parched fields, the word became equivalent with rain. Ḥarírí, i, 215. The belief of the Arabs of the Ignorance that the rain was produced by the settings of the stars was discouraged by Muslim teachers; and from an anecdote related of ‘Umar (See Lane, Article ) the Khalífa seems to have considered that the supply of rain was a sign that sins were pardoned, basing his opinion on Qur’án, lxxi, 10. Chenery's Translation of Ḥarírí, i, 443-5.

146:4 O fleet camel! To Sijistan: Metre, mutaqárib.

146:5 Arjan and Arrajan: a large town in Seistan, sixty parasangs from Shiráz, famous for its palm-trees, olive groves and fruits.

147:1 Ibn al-‘Amíd (ob. A.H. 359 or 360).

147:2 Is like that of the Quraish over Báhila. This was praise indeed. Abú’l-Faḍl Muḥammad Ibn al-‘Amíd, Wazír of Rukn Al-Daula, the Buwayhid prince, was one of the great men of the fourth century of the Hijra. He was a versatile and an accomplished scholar and was called a second Jáḥiz. Tha‘álibí says (Yatíma, iii, 3) that epistolary writing began with ‘Abd al-Ḥamid (d. A.H. 133) Kátib, or secretary, to Marwán the last of the Umayyad Khalífas, and ended with Ibn al-'Amíd. Among those who studied the epistolary art under him was the Ṣáḥib Ibn ‘Abbád. As Wazír, his authority and influence were unbounded. (Ibn Khallikan, iii, 256; also Der Islám, iii, 323-5, were a full notice of the Wazír by H. F. Ahmedroz will be found.)

147:3 Báhila: The meanest of the Arab tribes. The Arabs who were members of this tribe had an extreme repugnance to bearing this surname. A poet has said: 'If the words, "thou Bahilite" were addressed to a dog he would howl from the ignominy of such an appellation.' (Ibn Khallikan, ii, 518.) For a further example of this repugnance, see Aghání, vii, 12.

147:4 . What is behind thee, ‘Iṣám: Freytag, Arab Proverbs, ii, 589. Said to have been first used by Ḥárith ibn ‘Amr king of Kindeh and addressed to ‘Iṣám, a clever Kindite woman, whom he had sent to bring a description of the beautiful and gifted daughter of 'Owf ibn Muhallam, Al-Shaibání whom he wished to marry. This proverb is said to have another origin, see Chenery's Translation of Ḥarírí, i, 519.

147:5 O my master: Metre, kámil.

147:6 Doth not disapprove of: Page 195, line 7 of Text, for read .

148:1 His, i.e. Khalaf's, kindness. The part of this Maqáma where the Nájim describes himself has much in common with the fourth Maqáma, pp. 16, 17.

Next: XXXVIII. The Maqáma of Khalaf