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v. 1. It was as incumbent on the old Arab poets that they should begin their compositions with a lament for the departure of a beloved fair one as it was once the fashion among European poets to affect, in their songs, sonnets, &c., an all-absorbing passion for some real or imaginary lady of beauty. Thus, Petrarch had his Laura; Dante his Beatrice; Surrey his Geraldine; Lovelace his Althea and his Lucasta; Waller his Sacharissa. But among the desert Arabs there was often good reason for such doleful lamentations as those with which their poems usually open. Young men fell in love with damsels of a tribe stationed in the neighbourhood of their own tents; and when at length the two tribes separated, to seek "fresh fields and pastures new," the distress of the forlorn youths at the sight of the camel-litters bearing away their sweethearts frequently found expression in such verses as the following (translated by Mr. Payne), which are quoted in the "Thousand and One Nights":

WHEN they mount their female camels just before the break of day,
And the male ones hurry after with the ardour of desire,
And my eyes perceive my loved one through the crannies of the wall,
I exclaim with streaming eyelids and a heart for love on fire,
"Turn, thou leader of the camels, let me bid my love farewell!"
In her absence and desertion life and hope in me expire.
Never, never have I broken troth and plighted love with her:
O that troth-plight! would I knew that she had kept her faith entire!

vv. 6-8. As a token of their hospitality, the desert Arabs were wont to kindle fires at night on the tops of hills, which

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guided belated travellers to their tents, and assured them of a hearty welcome. A fire of this kind was called "the hospitality-fire," and the larger and more brilliant it was, the greater the honour reflected on him who lighted it. So Hareth, in v. 7, praises Hinda for her hospitable disposition, in kindling such a fire on the hills that it "blazed like the splendour of the sun."—El-Khansā, the celebrated poetess of the tribe of Sulaim (who was one of the early converts to el-Islām, and greatly esteemed by the Prophet), thus praises the hospitality of her brother:

Sakhrā is a beacon to the leaders of caravans,
As were he a mountain crowned with fire.

[paragraph continues] And El-Būsīrī, in v. 88 of his Mantle Poem, says that the miracles performed by the Prophet were "as manifest as is the conspicuousness of the hospitality-fire by night on the mountain-top."

v. 19. "As soon as dawn appeared." The early morning was the time when a hostile tribe were generally attacked and plundered. Prince Malik lost his life in one of these morning raids, when his wedding-party were attacked by Hodifah and his kinsmen: see pp. 289, 290; also Zohair's Mo‘all., v. 6 and Note, and Antara's Mo‘all., v. 2.

vv. 21-26.

Oh thou adorner of a slanderer's tale,
What can thy lies in Amru's court prevail?
Think not thy varnished falsehood can do more
Than envious hosts have vainly tried before.
Still have we flourished, spite of Slander's aim,
While glory crowned our pantings after Fame;
Long have the tribes, through Envy's shades of night,
Seen and been dazzled by our glory's light.
Fate on a lofty rock has fixed our seat,
Where sunshine settles, and whence clouds retreat;
Firm is its base, its summit seeks the skies,
O’erlooks the storm, and all its rage defies.—Ret. Rev.

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vv. 25, 26. The "dark rock" is the glory and great name of the tribe, says Mr Lyall, in a note on the following parallel verses, from the spirited song of ‘Abd-el-Melik, son of ‘Abd-er-Rahīm, of the Benu-d-Dayyān ("Songs from the Hamāseh," &c.):

A mountain we have where dwells he whom we shelter there,
  lofty, before whose height the eye falls back blunted:
Deep-based is its root below ground, and overhead there soars
  its peak to the stars of heaven whereto no man reaches.

[paragraph continues] In the same note Mr Lyall thus renders vv. 23-26:

And we have stood, spite of their hate, and high towers
  and firm-based glory lift us aloft;

Before to-day has it blinded the eyes
  of men in which were wrath and denial.

As though the Fates beating against us met
  a black mountain cleaving the topmost clouds,

Mighty and strong above the changes of things,
  which no shock of the Days can soften or shake.

In the second hemistich of the last verse, as above, we find "Days" employed for "battles" as in v. 26 of Amru's Mo‘all., on which see Note.

v. 30. "Concealing hatred in our bosoms, as the mote is concealed in the closed eyelid"—rankling, though unseen.

v 34. "The sacred month": see note on v. 3, Lebīd.

v. 37. Al Mondar, the son of Amriolkais the son of Numan, and of Maiwiah, the daughter of Aus, a lady of such transcendent beauty that she was called Maissamai, i.e. "water of heaven," governed after his father in Hīra. From his mother he and his posterity were likewise surnamed Al Mondar Ebn Maissamai, which appellation they had in common with the Kings of Ghassan, according to Al Jauharius. For these last princes were so denominated from Abu Amer, of the tribe of Azd, the father of Amru Mazikia, who, by his surprising liberality and beneficence, supplied the want of rain, furnishing his people with corn when an extreme drought had rendered it so dear that they were incapable of buying it. This prince was deposed by

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[paragraph continues] Khosru Kobad, King of Persia.—Ancient Universal History, vol. xviii., p. 432.

v. 38. "The Day of Hayarin": see note on vv. 25, 26.

v. 42. "Contracts written on tablets": see note on v. 8, Lebīd's Mo‘all.

v. 58. "Whose blood has flowed unrevenged"—a bitter taunt: meaning that the Taglebites had not the courage, or the power, to exact blood for that of their slain kinsmen. Vengeful as the old Arabs were, however, it was optional for the next of kin to the man who was foully slain (called the "avenger of blood") to compound with the slayer or his family by accepting ten camels as satisfaction for the blood of his kinsman. The Prophet raised the mulct to one hundred camels.

v. 64. "The sultry vapour of noon increased their magnitude": i.e., the mirage: see note on v. 15, Lebīd's Mo‘all.

v. 77. "A vernal season of beneficence in every barren year": see v. 88, Lebīd's Mo‘all. and Note.

V. 79. Amrio’l Kais was the name of several of the princes of Hīra, who were under the protection of the Kings of Persia, whose lieutenants they were over the Arabs of ’Irāk. It does not appear from Dr. Pocock's list which is the one here referred to. The kingdom of Hira was founded by Malek, a descendant of Cahlan, son of the famous ’Abd-Shems, surnamed Saba, prince of El-Yemen: see note on v. 14 of the "Lay of the Himyarites," p. 352.

v. 80. Mondir, King of Ghassan. The kingdom of Ghassan, like that of Hīra, owed its origin to the inundation of El-Arem see note, v. 14, p. 352. El-Mondar, or Mundhir, was the general name of the princes of this kingdom, also of those of Hira. The Kings of Ghassan were the lieutenants of the Roman Emperors over the Arabs of Syria. Perhaps the 27th of Dr. Pocock's catalogue is the prince here mentioned.

v. 82. The sons of Aus: a tribe descended from Cahlan, son of ’Abd-Shems of Yemen.

Next: Notes on Shorter Poems