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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: Trade in cotton stuffs took me to Balkh 4 and I arrived there when I was in the first flush 5 of youth, with a mind free from care and a body decked with the ornaments of affluence. My only aim was to subdue to my use the unbroken colt of the mind, or to capture a few stray

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sayings 1. But, during my entire stay, nought more eloquent than my own words sought admission to my ear. Now when separation bent, or was about to bend, its bow at us, there came into my presence a youth in an attractive  2 dress with a beard that extended so far as to pierce the two arteries attached to the jugular vein, and with eyes which had absorbed the waters 3 of the two rivers 4. He met me with such benefaction that I proportionately increased my praise of it. Then he asked me: 'Dost thou intend to go on a journey?' I replied: 'Yes, indeed.' He said, 'May thy scout find good pasture and thy guide not lose his way! When dost thou intend to start?' I answered, 'Early to-morrow morning.' Then he indited the following:--

'May it be a morn divine and not a morn of departure,
The bird auguring union, 5
'And not the bird of separation.' 6

Whither art thou going? I replied: 'To my own country.' He said, 'Mayest thou reach thy native land and accomplish thy business; but when dost thou return? I answered, 'Next year.' 7 He then said: 'Mayest thou fold the robes and roll up the thread? 8 Where art thou in regard to generosity?' I answered, 'Where thou desirest.' He said, 'If God bring thee back in safety

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from this road, bring with thee for me an enemy in the guise of a friend, in golden vein that invites to infidelity, spins on the finger, round as the disc of the sun, that lightens the burden of debt and plays the rôle of the two-faced.' 1 Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: 'Then I knew it was a dinar that he demanded. So I said to him, Thou canst have one down and the promise of another one like it.' He then recited and said:--

'Thy plan is better than what I asked for, 2
Mayest thou continue to be the worthy doer of generous deeds, 3
Thy branches overspreading and thy root be healthy.
I cannot endure the burden of gifts,
Nor bear the weight of mendicity.
My imagination fell short of the extent of thy generosity
And thy doing has exceeded my fancy.
O prop of fortune and greatness
May time never be bereft of thee!'

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: Then I gave him the dinar and said to him: Where is the native soil of this excellence? He answered: I was reared by the Quraish, and in its oases nobility was prepared for me. One of those present asked: Art thou not Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí and did I not see thee in ‘Iráq going about the streets begging 4 with letters? 5 Then he recited, saying:--

'Verily, God has servants 6
Who have adopted a manifold 7 existence,

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In the evening they are Arabs,
In the morning Nabateans.' 1



32:4 Balkh: The ancient Bactria or Zariaspa, and formerly called Alexandria, was once a great city, but is now, for the most part, a mass of ruins which occupy a space of about twenty miles in circuit. It was at one time--the granary of Khurásán. Captured by the Arabs in the Khalífate of ‘Uthmán (A.D. 644-56). Yaqút, i, 713.

32:5 First flush: Literally, virginity.

33:1 Stray sayings: from applied to a runaway and refractory camel, hence strange and unfamiliar words.

33:2 Attractive: Literally, full of eye.

33:3 Had absorbed the waters: They were so liquid and limpid.

33:4 The two rivers: an appellation applied to the Euphrates and the Tigris. From a giver or tributary, e.g. a river that has two other rivers flowing into it.

33:5 The bird of union: The hoopoo being suggestive of he guided him. See Meidání, i, (Bulak-edition) and also Professor Margoliouth's 'Letters of Abú’l ‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí,' p. 42.

33:6 The bird of separation: The raven which is called the raven of separation and whose appearance or croak is ominous of separation . See Meidání, i, 337 (Bulak edition.) Metre, wafir.

33:7 Next year: Literally, the coming (year).

33:8 Mayest thou fold the robes and roll up the thread. A figure used by the author to express the idea of traversing safely the intervening stages to one's destination. Cf. p. 230 of the Text.

34:1 The two-faced: Cf. De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i, 36.

34:2 Thy plan is better than what I asked for: Metre, basít.

34:3 Mayest thou continue to be: Literally, May thy wood be sound and thy generosity enduring: figure for strength of character.

34:4 Begging: from to beg. De Sacy says the word is arabicized from the Persian a beggar and beggary. (Chrestomathie Arabe, iii, 250.) The fact that both Badí‘ al-Zamán and Ḥarírí regarded the profession of begging as one of Persian origin--see note on the Sons of Sásán, (Text p. 89)--supports this derivation. For an earlier use of the word beggary, see Dieterici's edition of Philosophie der Araber, Thier and Mensch, p. 32, lines 10 seq.

34:5 With letters: Cf. De Sacy, Ḥarírí, p. 76.

34:6 Verily God has servants: Metre, ramal.

34:7 Manifold: Literally, mixed or mingled, e.g. sweet milk mixed with sour,

35:1 Nabateans: A well-known Arabian people. In the time of Josephus their settlements gave the name Nabatene to the borderland between Syria and Arabia from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. Before their appearance in history, about 312 B.C., they had already some tinge of civilization. Though true Arabs they came under the influence of Aramean culture, and Syriac was the language of their coins and inscriptions when the tribe grew into a kingdom and profited by the decay of the Selucids to extend itself over the country east of the Jordan. As allies of the Romans they continued to flourish throughout the first Christian century. About A.D. 105, Trajan most unwisely broke up the Nabatean nationality. Encl. Bib., iii, 3254-5.

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