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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 suspected on account of some property I had gotten and so I fled, I knew not whither, until I came to a desert, and my wandering led me to the shade of a tent. I found near the pegs thereof a youth playing in the sand with those of his own age, and reciting a

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poem which was in keeping with his condition but did not accord with his powers of improvisation. 1

And I felt it to be far from him to be able to weave its fabric, so I said: 'Young Arab, dost thou recite or compose this poem?' He said: 'Nay, but I compose it.' Then he recited saying:--

'And verily though I be young 2
And the eye disdain me,
My demon 3 is the chief of the Jinn
And he takes me through all the range of the poetic art,
Until he drives away what occurs of doubt.
Therefore go at thine ease and depart from me.'

I said: 'O young Arab, terror has brought me to thee. Is there, therefore, safety or hospitality with thee?' He replied: 'Thou hast descended in the very house of safety and alighted on the land of hospitality.' He said: 'Then he arose and seized me by the sleeve and I went with him to a tent whose curtains were lowered.' Then he shouted: 'O damsel of the tribe, here is a neighbour whose country has rejected him, and whose ruler has oppressed him. Fame, which he has heard, or a report, which has reached him, has driven him to us, so give him shelter.' The damsel said: 'Stay, O townsman.'

'O townsman, stay and fear no ill, 4
For thou art in the house of al-Aswad ibn Qinání
The mightiest son of woman from Maa‘d and Ya‘rub,
And the most promise-keeping of them in every place.
The best striker with the sword among them in defence of his neighbour,
And the greatest smiter with the spear in protecting him.
It is as though death and bounty were in his hand

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Two clouds connected and combined.
Fair of countenance of noble forehead. And, when he mentions his pedigree,
It goes back to illustrious Yemeni origin.
So go to the house of refuge in which seven have alighted
And thou wilt make them the even number eight.' 1

Then the young man took me by the hand to the house which she had indicated. I beheld and lo! there were seven persons in it. But my eye fastened upon none among them except Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí. So I said to him: 'Sirrah! in what land art thou?' He recited:--

'I have alighted in the house of al-Aswad. 2
I choose the choicest of its fruits.
And I said I am a terrified man,
Fear hath pursued me for her blood-wit--
The device of the likes of me against
The likes of him in this and like conditions--
Until he clothed me, repairing my need,
And removing its manifest signs.
So take from Time and get what is pure, 3
Before thou art transported from its abode.
Beware that thou keep back no desire,
Nor permit any milk to remain in the udders 4 of the camels.'

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Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: I exclaimed: 'Good gracious! What way of mendicity 1 hast thou not trodden?'

Then we lived together in that abode for a season until we were safe from danger, and then he fared eastwards and I westwards.


110:7 Al-Aswad ibn Qinán: A famous Bedawín Shaikh. He belonged to the family of whom an account is given by Ibn Duraid in his Kitáb al-Ishtíqáq, p. 240.

111:1 Did not accord with his powers of improvisation: That is, his powers of improvisation were greater than could be expected of a youth of his age.

111:2 And verily though I be young: Metre, rejez. This poem is quoted by Jáḥiz. See Jáḥiz, Ḥaywán, i, 146, and Letters of Abú’l ‘Ala al-Ma‘arrí, p. 66, line 22.

111:3 My demon: (my muse). The ancient Arabs believed that the poet was in league with spirits (Jinn), or satans and that he derived his inspiration and supernatural powers from them. Cf. Qur’án, xxvi, 224-6 on the poets; also, Letters of Abú’l ‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí, pp. 66, 73-4.

111:4 O townsman, stay: Metre, tawíl.

112:1 Thou wilt make them the even number eight:--

(1) from he made it an even number or pair.

(2) he made it an odd number.


'The people were an odd number and I made them an even number; and they were an even number and I made them an odd number.' Cf. Qur’án, lxxxix, 2. () 'By that which is double and that which is single', and Aghání, iv, 176, line 20.

112:2 I have alighted in the house: Metre, sari.

112:3 So take what is pure: Cf. Text p. 135.

112:4 Nor permit any milk to remain in the udders: A small quantity of milk in the udder. plural of milk remaining in the udder. throwing cold water upon a camel's udder to make her return or increase her milk. Therefore the literal meaning is to wet the camel's udder with what should remain p. 113 therein. A figure for improvidence, or indifference to the needs of the future. There is a tradition of the Prophet: 'Leave in the udder what will induce the milk flow.'

113:1 Mendicity: I have read mendicity being more consistent with the context and the word other editions give preference to, instead of disagreeable.

Next: XXVIII. The Maqama of ‘Iráq