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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: We were present one day at the court of Saif al-Daula ibn Ḥamdán, 5 and they brought before him a horse--'when the eye looks up at him 6 it wants to look down again in order to take in all his beauty.' The company looked at it and Saif al-Daula said: 'Whoever of

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you describes it best, I will make him a present of it.' So every one tried his best endeavour and expended what ability he possessed. One of his attendants said: 'May God prosper the Amír! Yesterday I saw a man who put eloquence under his feet 1 and upon whom men's eyes rested. He was soliciting the people and getting nothing. 2 Now, if the Amír would summon him, he would excel them in his repartee.' Said Saif al-Daula: 'Bring him to me as he is.' Then the attendants flew in search of him and they forthwith brought him, but they did not tell him with what object he had been summoned. Then he was taken near and was brought close up. He was wearing a pair of worn-out garments upon which time had long eaten and drunken. 3 When he reached the front rank he kissed the carpet and stood still. Saif al-Daula said: 'The report of thy eloquence has reached us so exhibit it on this horse and its description.' He said: 'May God prosper the Amír! How can it be done before riding him and seeing his jumping, and disclosing his defects and his latent qualities?' He said: 'Mount it.' So he mounted it, made it go and then he said, 'God prosper the Amír! He is long in both ears, scanty of two, spacious in the rectum, soft of three, thick in the shank, depressed of four, strong-winded, fine of five, narrow in the gullet, thin of six, sharp of hearing, thick of seven, fine of tongue, broad of eight, long in the ribs, short of nine, wide of jaw, remote of ten. He grips with his forefeet, kicks out with his hind ones, appears with a bright face and laughs exposing his permanent corner nipper. He cracks 4 the face of the earth with hoofs of iron, 5 he rises like the ocean when it is rough, or the torrent when it

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rages.' Saif al-Daula said: 'Thou art welcome to the horse.' He said: 'Mayest thou cease not to get precious things and to give away horses!' Then he turned away and I followed him and said: 'I will undertake to supply thee with the equipment necessary for this horse, if thou explain what thou hast described.' He answered, 'Ask what thou desirest.' I said: 'What is the meaning of thy saying, Remote of ten?' He replied: 'Remote of sight, of pace, of space between the two eye sockets, and between the two hind quarters, and remote of space between the two extremities of the haunches, between the nostrils, wide in the space between the two hind legs, 1 and between the navel 2 and the operating point. 3 Remote of goal in the race.' I said: 'May thy teeth not be broken! And what is the meaning of thy saying, Short of nine?' 4 He replied: 'Short of hair, short of hair on the pastern, short of tail bone, short in the arms, short in the pasterns, short in the sciatic artery, short in the back, short of shank.' I said: 'How excellent! And what is the meaning of thy saying, Broad of eight?' He answered: 'Broad of brow, broad of haunch, broad of back, broad of scapula, broad of flank, broad of sinew, broad of breast, broad of neck.' I said: 'Well done! And what is the meaning of thy saying, Thick of seven?' He answered: 'Thick in the foreleg, stout of girth, thick in the tail root, thick of skin in the head, thick in the pastern, thick in the thighs, thick in the back.' I said: 'How wonderful! And what is the meaning of thy saying, Thin of six?' He answered: 'Thin of eyelid, thin in the fore-part of the neck, thin in the lip, thin-skinned, thin in the tips of the ears, thin in the sides of the neck.' I said: 'Well done! And what is the meaning of thy saying, Fine of five?' He replied: 'Fine in the uppermost part of the neck, fine in the frog, fine in the forehead, fine in the knee, fine in the foreleg sinew.' I said: 'May God prolong thy life! And what is the meaning of thy saying, Depressed of four?' He answered:

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[paragraph continues] 'Depressed in the top of the shoulders, depressed in the knee joints, depressed in the eyebrows, depressed in the arm-bone.' I said: 'And what is the meaning of thy saying, Soft of three?' He said: 'Soft in the upper parts of the shoulder blades, soft of mane, soft in the mouth.' 1 Then I said: 'And what is the meaning of thy saying, Scanty of two?' He answered: 'Scanty in the flesh of the face, scanty in flesh on both sides of the back.' I asked: 'Whence the origin of this excellence?' He replied: 'From the frontiers of the Umayyads and the city of Alexandria.' Then I said: 'Dost thou with this excellence expose thy self-respect 2 to this extravagance?' Then he recited saying

'Befool thy time well, for time is a fool, 3
Consign honour to oblivion and live in comfort and plenty,
And tell this thy slave to bring us a cake.' 4


119:4 Abdallah ibn Ḥamdán: The name of Saif al-Dan father.

119:5 Saif al-Daula the Hamdánid: A.H. 333-66 (A.D. 916-67), made himself master of Aleppo in 944 and founded an independent kingdom in northern Syria.

He was an accomplished scholar and poet himself, a lover of fine poetry and a renowned patrols of letters. For notices of his life, see Ibn Khallikan, ii, 334 and Tha‘alibí, Yatíma, i, 88.

119:6 When the eye looks up: An allusion to the Qaṣída of Imr al-Qais, p. 25, verse 69, Lyall's edition of the Mu‘allaqát. The text is incorrectly vocalized the ﻕ and ﻫ should be doubled.

I have varied the translation of these lines in accordance with the different meanings suggested by Tabrízí. Hamadhání has already twice quoted this line, but this is the first occasion he has done so appositely.

120:1 Put eloquence under his feet: Literally, tramples upon it, figuratively for having eloquence in subjection.

120:2 Getting nothing: Literally, he made them to drink despair; this is capable of two explanations:--

(a) If we take the verb to mean he was asking the people for something, would signify he made them despair of giving him sufficient.

(b) means he was questioning the people, then signifies he made them despair of answering him. I think the second explanation is more in consonance with the context.

120:3 Eaten and drunken: Arab Proverbs, i, 61. Figure for old and much used.

120:4 He cracks: Another reading he scores.

120:5 Hoofs of iron: Literally, an iron pounder.

121:1 Wide in the space between the two hind legs: Such a horse is called

121:2 Navel: The point on the navel where the farrier operates to extract a yellow fluid.

121:3 The operating point: That is, the thin skin next to the navel which the farrier perforates in order that a yellow fluid may issue forth.

121:4 Short of nine: Only eight are mentioned, one having been omitted on grounds of decency.

122:1 Soft in the mouth: Literally, soft of, i.e. obedient to, the rein.

122:2 Expose thy self-respect: Literally, expose thy face, a common figure for risk of self-respect.

122:3 Befool thy time: Metre, mujtath. Cf. p. 128 of the Text.

122:4 Saif al-Daula died about two years before Hamadhání was born. This maqáma is, therefore, based on an imaginary incident or a popular story. See Ibn Khallikan, ii, 139, where there is a description of a horse presented by this prince. Also cf. p. 124 of the same volume. For an example of riddling with numbers, see Ecclesiastes, xi. 2.

Next: XXX. The Maqama of Ruṣáfa