Sacred Texts  Islam  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, [1881], at


THIS is a lithographed reproduction, in facsimile (but only in black and white), of a page of a beautifully written and splendidly illuminated Arabic manuscript volume, in the possession of Mr. E. J. W. Gibb, whose translation of Mesīhī's Ode on Spring enriches the Appendix to the present work. The page contains the eleven first couplets of El-Būsīrī's celebrated Qasīda (Poem, or rather, Hymn) in praise of Muhammad, of which an English translation, by Mr. J. W. Redhouse, will be found in pages 319-341. It is hardly necessary to state, what almost every English reader must already know, that Arabic, like most Oriental languages, is written from right to left; but it may be explained that the space in the centre of the page separates the first and second hemistichs of each verse. For example: the first couplet is contained in the first line, at the top of each column; the second couplet, in the second line of each column; and so on, reading across the central division. Mr. Redhouse has favoured me with a transliteration of this page (not every Arabist can correctly read any Arabic manuscript), and a translation of the titles and the customary invocation. The titles of the poem and of the first section, at the top of the page, are:

qasīdatun burdatun faslun fi ta‘dīli ’n-nafsi

A Poem; a Mantle. A Section on the Justification of the Carnal Man.

Then follows the invocation which is invariably placed at the beginning of every Muslim composition, whether secular or religious:

bi ’smi ’llāhi ’r-rahmānī ’r-rahīmi

In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

Our old European authors in like manner always headed their

p. viii

writings with the sign of the cross, +. Thus, in the King's Quair, by James I., of Scotland:

And forthwithal my pen in hand I took,
And made a +, and thus began my book.

Modern Christians do not so literally follow the scriptural injunction: "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." But with Muslims it is no empty form.

The English reader will be interested in observing, in the following four first couplets of El-Būsīrī's Poem, in italic characters, the movement of the qasīda rhyme:

1 e min tezekkuri jīrāmin bi dhī-selemi
  mezejta dem‘an jerà min muqletin bi demi

2 em hebeti ’r-rīhu min tilqā’i katzimetin
  wa ewmadza ’l-barqu fī ’tz-tzalmā’i min idzami

3 fa mà li ‘ayney-ke in qulta ’kfufà hemetà
  wa mà li qalbi-ke in qulta ’stefiq yehimi

4 e yahsibu ’s-sabbu enna ’l-hubba munketimun
  mà beyna munsejimin min-hu wa mudztarimi

The two halves of the first distich, as above, rhyme; and the final syllable (mi) of the second half of every succeeding distich, to the end of the poem, is the same as those of the hemistichs of the opening verse.

W. A. C.    

decorative page footer

Next: Contents