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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: When I was in Baghdad, 4 I longed for some of the Azaz date, but I had no cash knotted up. So I went out to the shops seeking an opportunity until my desire put me down at Karkh, 5 when lo!

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[paragraph continues] I chanced upon a rustic 1 urging his ass along his waist-wrapper, tapering on one side with the weight of the money tied up in it. Then I said: 'By Heavens, we have secured a quarry!' and I addressed him with, 'Greeting on thee, Abú Zaid! whence art thou come, and where art thou staying, and when didst thou arrive? Come, let us go to the house.' The rustic said: 'I am not Abú Zaid, but Abú ‘Ubaid.' I exclaimed, 'Of course; God curse the devil 2 and put away forgetfulness; length of time and distance made me forget thee; and how is thy father? Is he as young as he was when I knew him, or has he aged since I left?' He answered: 'The spring pasture 3 has grown over and obliterated the traces 4 of his grave and I hope God may receive him to His paradise.' I exclaimed: 'Verily we are God's and to him do we return! There is neither strength, 5 nor power except in God, the High, the Great'; and my hand flew 6 to my undershirt 7 as if I wished to rend it. But the rustic clasped my waist with his hands and said: 'I adjure thee by God not to rend it.' Then I said: 'Let us go to the house and get some food, or to the market and buy some roast meat, for the market is nearer and the food there nicer.' Thus did I excite in him a fierce craving for meat, and incline him with

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the inclination of gobbling and greed, and he became greedy. But he did not know he had fallen into the trap.

Then we came to a fried-meat seller's whose roasted meats 1 were dripping with fat, and whose cakes were streaming with gravy. I said: 'Put aside for Abú Zaid a portion from this fried meat and then weigh him some of that sweetmeat. Take some of those plates and place upon them some of these wafer-cakes and sprinkle upon them some juice of the Summak 2 berry, in order that Abú Zaid may eat and relish it.' So the fried-meat seller, with his long knife, bent over the choicest productions of his oven, chopped them as small as collyrium grains and pounded them as fine as flour. The rustic sat down and I did likewise. He spoke not neither did I speak 3 till we had eaten all. Then I said to the halwa-seller: Weigh for Abú Zaid two pounds of confection of almonds, for it is the easiest to swallow and the quickest to penetrate through the veins. 4 It should have been made overnight, 5 spread out in the day, crisp, well stuffed, of pearl-like lustre and starry hue, and should dissolve in the mouth like gum, before it is chewed, in order that Abú Zaid may eat and enjoy it. He said: 'And

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he weighed it.' So we got to work 1 and ate till we finished it. Then I said: 'Abú Zaid, how badly we need some iced water to quench this thirst and to allay the heat generated by this meal. Sit down, Abú Zaid, till we fetch thee a water-carrier to bring thee a drink of water.' Then I went out and sat where I could see him but he could not observe me, in order to see what he would do. When the rustic perceived that I delayed, he arose and went towards his ass, but the fried-meat seller clung to his waist-wrapper and said: 'Where is the cost of what thou hast eaten?' Said Abú Zaid: 'I ate it as a guest.' Then the fried-meat seller struck him a blow with his fist and followed it up with a cuff, saying: 'Take that, base-born fellow! When did we invite thee? Pay 2 down twenty dirhems.' The rustic began to weep .and to untie the knots with his teeth saying, 'How often did I tell that contemptible ape, 3 "I am Abú ‘Ubaid"', and he would say:--

'Nay but thou art Abú Zaid'.

Then I indited:--

'To obtain thy livelihood 4 make use of every means;
Do not be satisfied with any condition,
But be equal to any enormity;
For man becomes incapable, 5 there is no doubt about it.'



61:5 Al-Karkh: The business quarter of Baghdad on a site outside the city to which Manṣúr transferred the trades people. Two reasons are assigned for this: (1) A patrician came to Baghdad as an ambassador from the Byzantine court. After he had been taken over the city, Manṣúr asked him what he thought of it. He replied, 'It is a beautiful and well-fortified town, but for the fact that your enemies are within its walls.' Manṣúr asked who they were. The ambassador answered: The merchants who come from all parts as spies, find out all they want to know and go away again and you are none the wiser?' After the departure of the Ambassador, Manṣúr had all the trades-people removed outside the city to Karkh. (2) The Khalífa found that the smoke from the shops was spoiling the walls of the gates, and to get rid of this smoke nuisance he had them transferred to Karkh. Yaqút, i, 677.

62:1 a rustic: From the the district of towns or villages and cultivated lands of al-‘Iráq, or the district between Baṣra and Kúfa so-called because of , which means both greenness and a colour, approaching to blackness, of its trees and seed produce. The Arabs call that which is green, black because it appears to be thus at a distance. The meaning here is evidently 'a greenhorn'.

62:2 God curse the devil and put away forgetfulness: An allusion to Qur’án, xviii. 62.

62:3 The spring pasture: Literally, the spring. Another reading, the pasture.

62:4 traces: Cf. Hebrew ‏דמן‎

62:5 There is no strength: A formula used to express consternation or surprise.

62:6 My hand flew: Literally, I stretched the hasty hand.

62:7 undershirt: Literally, a certain garment with which the head and breast are covered, worn by a woman mourning for her husband, or a small shirt worn next to the body. A proverb says, Every female having a ṣidár is a maternal aunt, whom one is under an obligation to respect, and protect. Arab Proverbs, ii, 310.

63:1 Whose roasted meats: pl. of and the latter formed by transposition, from the Persian a dish of meat, rice, vetches and walnuts in which a condiment of syrup vinegar is poured food dressed under roast meat. It is also called The mother of Joyfulness, because it removes one's anxiety for seasoning or condiment. See De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i, 227, and Mas‘údí, viii, 405.

63:2 Summak: The rhus coriaria of Linnaeus or its berry, a well-known fruit; a certain acid with which one cooks.

63:3 He despaired not, neither did I despair. Another reading to which I have given preference He spoke not, neither did I speak.

63:4 or Confection of almonds: Lozenge and from the Arabic an almond. I think the presumption in favour of the English lozenge being derived from this word is strong. Originally , Spanish losanja in which form it went back to the east. This would explain the termination See Mas‘údí, viii, 240 for a poem by Ibn al-Rúmí (b. A.H. 221-84) in praise of this sweetmeat. The word lauz occurs in Spanish as alloza and in Portuguese as arzolla. See Dozy, Loan words from Arabic, and Letters, p. 307.

63:5 Overnight: Literally, a night old.

64:1 We got to work: Literally, he sat down and I sat down; he bared his arm and so did I.

64:2 Pay: Literally, weigh.

64:3 Contemptible ape. Diminutive of . Another reading is diminutive of an ass. See Cambridge MS.

64:4 To obtain thy livelihood: Metre, kámil.

64:5 Man is incapable there is no doubt about it. Meidání, Arab Proverbs, ii, 221 (Bulak edition. A.H. 1287).

Next: XIII. The Maqáma of Basra