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

p. 31


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I was in Baghdad at the time of the azaz date harvest, so I went out to select and buy some of the different kinds of it. I proceeded a short distance to a man who had got a stock of various sorts of fruit which he had arranged in order. He had collected and placed in rows a variety of fresh dates and I took some of the best of everything and picked 1 some of the finest of every species. Now just as I had gathered up my skirts and placed my load in them, my eyes fell upon a man who had modestly covered his face with a veil 2 and was standing still with outstretched hand. He had his little ones by his side and bore his babes on his hip, while he recited in a voice so loud that it weakened his chest and produced feebleness in his spine:--

'Alas! I have neither two handfuls of Sawíq, 3
Nor melted fat mixed with flour,
Nor spacious bowl filled with Khirdíq, 4
To soothe our palate, 5
And to remove us from the path of beggary.
O Giver of plenty after poverty!
Make it easy for some brave and liberal man
Of pedigree and hereditary glory,
To guide to us the feet of fortune
And release my life from the grip of trouble.'

‘Ísá ibn Hishám said: I took from my purse a handful and gave it to him. Then he said:--

O the one who hath bestowed 6 upon me his excellent kindness!
To God do I communicate his glorious secret,
And I pray God to keep him well-guarded,

p. 32

If I have not the ability to thank him,
Then God, my Lord, will surely recompense him.' 1

‘Ísá ibn Hishám said: So I said to him, 'There is something left in the purse, therefore disclose thy hidden condition and I will give thee all.' Then he removed his veil, 2 and to by Heavens! it was our Shaikh, Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskánderí! So I exclaimed: 'Mercy on thee, how astute thou art!' Then he recited:--

'Spend thy life in deceiving 3
Men and throwing dust in their eyes.
I observe the days continue not
In one state and therefore I imitate them.
One day I feel their mischief,
And another they feel mine.'



31:1 I picked: Literally, I bit, or gnawed.

31:2 a veil: a thing with which a woman veils her face, having in it two holes for the eyes, but here used as synonymous with lithám ()

31:3 Alas! I have neither two handfuls: Sawíq is a kind of gruel made mostly of parched barley. Metre, rejez.

31:4 Khirdíq: a kind of broth in which bread is crumbled.

31:5 To soothe our palate: Literally, to check the onslaughts of saliva.

31:6 O the one who hath bestowed: Metre, rejez.

32:1 Then God my Lord will surely recompense: Literally, God my Lord is behind his reward.

32:2 Lithám () a veil: a kind of muffler for covering the lower part of the face. Cf. the term mulaththamun applied to the Berber tribes of the Ṣaḥará.

32:3 Spend thy life in deceiving: in deceiving: Literally, gilding copper or silver to palm it off for gold. The Constantinople edition has these additional lines:--

'O thou who art greedy for gain, lying in ambush for it,
Thou wilt not remain for ever in this world of thine:
Therefore let a little of it suffice thee, or thou wilt be a toiler for a sitter.'

From the saying attributed to al-Nabigah:--

'There is many a toiler for a sitter ', Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 544.

Metre, hezej.

Next: III. The Maqáma of Balkh