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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: I was in Baghdad in a famine year, 4 and so I approached a company, united  5 like the Pleiades, in order to ask something of them. Now there was among them a youth with a lisp in his tongue and a space between his front teeth. He asked: 'What is thy affair?' 6 I replied: 'Two conditions in which a man prospers not: that of a beggar harassed by hunger, and that of an exile to whom return is impossible.' The boy then said: 'Which of the two breaches dost thou wish stopped first?' I answered: 'Hunger, for it has become extreme with me.' He said: 'What sayest thou to a white cake on a clean table, picked herbs with very sour vinegar, fine date-wine with pungent mustard, roast meat ranged on a skewer with a little salt, placed now before thee by one who will not put thee off with a promise nor torture thee with delay, and who will afterwards follow it up 7 with golden goblets of the juice of the grape? Is that preferable to thee, or a large company, full cups, variety of dessert, spread carpets, brilliant lights, and a skilful minstrel with the eye and neck of a gazelle?

p. 104

[paragraph continues] 'If thou desirest neither this nor that, what is thy verdict regarding fresh meat, river fish, fried brinjal, 1 the wine of Quṭrubbul 2 picked apples, 3 a soft bed on a lofty place, opposite a rapid river, a gushing fountain, and a garden with streams in it?' ‘Ísá ibn Hishám related: So I said: 'I am the slave of all three.' The boy said: 'And so am I their servant, if they were only present.' I then said: 'May God not bless thee! Thou hast revived desires which despair had destroyed, and now thou hast gripped their palate. 4 From which ruins dost thou hail?' He said:--

'I am of the citizens of Alexandria, 5
Of sound and pure stock among them.
The age and the people thereof are stupid,
Therefore I made my stupidity my steed!'



103:4 A famine year: Probably A.H. 382 when famine prices prevailed in Baghdad and bread was 40 dirhems a pound (Ibn Al-Athír, ix, 66). A.H. 373, 376 and 377 were also years of severe drought in ‘Iráq, Ibn Al-Athír, ix.

103:5 United: Literally, bound together with the string of the Pleiades.

103:6 What is thy affair? Cf. Qur’án, xx, 96.

103:7 Follow up with: Literally, give thee to drink a second time,

104:1 Brinjal: Arabicized from the Persian Sanskrit Banganah, English Brinjal; the Solanum melongena, mad-apple; or egg-plant.

104:2 Qutrubbul: A village situated between Baghdad and ‘Okbara noted for the excellence of its wine. It was much frequented by the people of the former city in their parties of pleasure and debauch.

104:3 Pickled apples: Cf. Qur’án, xx, 25.

104:4 Thou hast gripped their palate: Deprived them of realization.

104:5 I am of the citizens of Alexandria: Metre, kámil.

Next: XXVI. The Maqáma of the Exhortation