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

p. 59


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I was at Ahwaz 1 with some friends--'When the beholder's eye ascends 2 to their heads and then descends to their feet, it is unable at once to take in all their beauties'--among us were none but beardless boys with virgin aspirations, 3 or downy-lipped ones with refined manners, the hope of the days and the nights. We discussed fellowship and the rules we should lay down for it, fraternity and how we should strengthen its bonds, happiness and when we should seek it, drinking and when we should vie with one another therein, sociability and how we should mutually contribute towards it, lost chances and how to recover them, liquor and where we should procure it, and the assembly and how we should arrange it. Then said one of our company: 'I will be responsible for the house and entertainment.' 4 Another said: 'I will undertake to supply the wine and the dessert.' 5 Now, when we had determined to proceed, there met us a man wearing two worn-out garments. In his right hand was a staff and on his shoulder a bier. When we saw the bier we augured ill from it, turned our faces away and avoided it. 6 So he shouted at us with a shout at which the earth was almost cloven 7 in sunder and the stars were about to fall, 8 and he said: 'In abasement ye shall surely see it, and perforce and against your will ye shall mount it. What aileth ye that ye augur ill 9 from a mount which your

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ancestors have ridden and your posterity will soon ride? Wherefore do ye shun as unclean a couch, that your fathers have used 1 and your progeny will use? Yet, by Heavens! upon these timbers ye shall surely be carried to those worms, and ye shall be transported by these fleet coursers to those pits. A plague upon ye! Ye augur ill as if ye were free agents, and ye evince loathing as if ye were sanctified. Vile wretches what profiteth this prognostication?'

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: Now he had dissolved what we had compacted, and rendered futile what we had determined, so we inclined to him and said: 'How much are we in need of thy admonition and how greatly are we in love with thy words. Now if thou wished thou wouldst say something more?' He continued: 'Verily there are behind you watering-places which ye, have been travelling towards for twenty years.'--

'And verily a man, 2 who has been journeying to a watering place for twenty years,
Is near his drinking time.'

'And there is one above you who knows your secrets and could, if He would, expose you. In this world He treats you with kindness, and in the next, He will judge you according to knowledge. Therefore call death to mind lest evil come upon you, for if ye make this thought cleave unto you 3 as an innermost garment, ye will not be refractory; 4 and if ye remember it, ye will not be frivolous. But if ye do forget it, it will make you remember, and if he be slothful about it, it will wake you up, 5

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and though ye dislike it, it will visit you.' We said: 'But what is thy need?' He replied: 'Too far-reaching to set bounds to, and too manifold to be reckoned up.' We said: 'But for the present time?' He said: 'The bringing back of the past and protection against the accidents of the future.' We said: 'That is not in our power, but thou mayest have what thou desirest of the goods of this world and its vanities.' 1 He said: 'I have no need of them, but my need henceforth is rather that ye should bolt 2 than ye should remember 3 what I say.'


59:1 Ahwaz: The plural of originally the chief town of Khuzistan, famous for its fair and formerly noted for its sugar. Captured by Abú Músá al-Ash‘arí in A.H. 17.

59:2 When the eye ascends: Adapted from line 69 of the Kaṣída of Imr al-Qais. Already quoted on p. 29 of the text.

59:3 Virgin aspirations: Another reading Virgin actions.

59:4 entertainment: Literally food prepared for a guest.

59:5 Dessert: Dried and other fruits, such as nuts, almonds, raisins, dried figs, dried dates, etc., taken as an accompaniment with wine. is more common than

59:6 We avoided it: Literally, folded up our flank from it. is the flank or the part between the false ribs and the hip. Figure for to turn away from, to avoid contact with, or to withdraw the countenance.

59:7 The earth was almost cloven: An allusion to Qur’án, lxxxii. 1.

59:8 The stars were about to fall: An allusion to Qur’án, lxxxi. 2.

59:9 Augur ill: Cf. Qur’án, xxvii. 48.

60:1 Used it: Literally, trodden it.

60:2 And verily a man: Metre, basít. The commentator attributes these lines to Ibn Aḥmad the Taymite. The original has fifty and not twenty years. This is an example of or perversion, to make the sense accord with the youth of the company he is addressing.

60:3 If ye make it cleave to you: Literally, if ye make it your inner garment, opposed to outer garment. also means to lay to heart. See Ḥarírí, i, 135. Cf. The tradition relating to the Anṣár Ye are the special and close friends and the people in general are less near in friendship.

60:4 Ye will not be refractory: From (a horse) overcame his rider, bolted.

60:5 It will wake you up: As one who seeks blood revenge () or retaliation of the slayer of his kinsman.

61:1 Its vanities: From gold signifies the adorning or embellishing of a thing primarily with gold.

61:2 That ye should bolt: From he went quickly like a camel throwing his legs out like an ostrich. This is an extraordinary use of the verb and the text is probably corrupt, in fact the sentence is omitted from the Constantinople edition which concludes with the words 'I have no need of them'. Besides the remark is neither witty nor clever.

61:3 To ponder: Another reading to promise, which yields a better sense. Another edition has these additional words: 'Then I approached him and lo! it was our Shaikh al-Iskanderí.'

61:4 Baghdad: Was the capital of the Khalífate from 762-1258. It was originally a little Persian village on the west bank of the Tigris. Yaqút calls it 'the mother of the world and the queen of cities'. It was founded by the Khalífa Manṣúr who laid the first brick with his own hands and recited on the occasion the following passage from the Qur’án: 'The earth is God's. He giveth it for an inheritance unto such of his servants as he pleaseth, and the prosperous end shall be unto those who fear Him' (Qur’án, vii, 125) adding, 'Build under the blessing of God'. The cost of building the city is said to have been 18,000,000 dinars. Yaqút, i, 677 See also Le Strange, Baghdad.

Next: XII. The Maqáma of Baghdad