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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 returning from trading with Armenia, 3 the desert guided us to its children and we stumbled on them upon the outskirts thereof. They made our camels kneel down in that land of the ostrich, while they cleared our provision bags, and eased our camels of their burdens, and we remained all day 4 in the hands of the band. The thong held us bound in groups and our horses were forcibly tied up, until night followed up with its darkness 5 and the Pleiades extended its rays. 6

Then they went in the direction of the hinder part of the desert and we betook ourselves to the front thereof, and thus we continued till the beauty of the dawn arose from behind the veil of modesty, and the sword of the morning was drawn from the sheath of darkness. But the sun arose upon nought except hair and skin. We ceased not to be in perils, averting their

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hindrances, and in the wastes traversing their surface, 1 till we arrived at Merágha. 2 And each one of us attached himself to a companion and took a road. 3 There clave unto me a youth with wretchedness apparent upon him and an old worn-out garment over him, surnamed Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí. We went in search of the Father of Strengthening, 4 and we found him appearing from a flame fed with the ghada wood. So al-Iskanderí went to a man, begged a handful of salt, and said to the baker: 'Allow me to use the top of the oven, 5 for I am smitten with the cold.' Now, when he had ascended its hump, he began to relate to the people his condition, to inform them of his loss, and to scatter about the oven salt from beneath his skirts, making the people think he had vermin in his clothes. So the baker said: 'What aileth thee? Perish thy father! Gather up thy skirts, for thou hast spoiled our bread.' And he proceeded to take the loaves and to throw them away. And al-Iskanderí began to pick them up and to put them under his arm. Now his cunning in what he did amused me. He next said: 'Wait for me till I scheme to get something to eat with it, 6 for there is no device with destitution.' And he went to a man, who had arranged in rows clean vessels, in which were different kinds of milk, so he enquired the price and asked permission to taste it. The man said: 'Do so.' Then he moved his fingers about in the vessel as though he were seeking something he had lost, and said: 'I have not the price of it with me, but hast thou a desire for a shave?' The man exclaimed: 'God disfigure thee! Art thou a barber?' 7 He replied: 'Yes.' Then he made for his ancestry to revile it,

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and the vessel to empty it. So al-Iskanderí said: 'Prefer me to Satan.' He said: 'Take it, and mayest thou not be blessed through it.' So he took it and we went to a secluded spot and consumed it all at once. Then we journeyed on till we came to a village, and we begged food of its inhabitants. So a young man from among the people hastened to his house and brought us a large bowl whose utmost capacity milk had filled. 1 We sipped it until we finished it. Then we asked them for bread, but they refused it except on payment of the price. Al-Iskanderí asked: 'What aileth ye that ye are generous with the milk but refuse the bread except on payment?' The boy answered: 'This milk was in a large vessel and a mouse fell into it. Therefore we give it as alms to travellers.' Al-Iskanderí exclaimed: 'Good God!' 2 and he seized the bowl and smashed it. Then the boy shouted: 'Alas the loss! Alas my spoilation!' Then did our flesh creep, our stomachs were turned and we got rid of what we had eaten. And I said: 'This is the reward for what we did yesterday.' And Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí indited saying:

'O soul be not squeamish, 3 for the hardy hath no qualms,
He who associates with Time eats, the while, fat and lean.
Therefore wear for one season the new, and put on for another the old.'



142:3 Armenia: The modern name of a district south of the Caucasus and the Black Sea which formed part of the ancient kingdom of Armenia which, according to Yaqút, comprised 118 provinces.

142:4 All day: Literally, the whiteness of the day, i.e. daylight, and hence the whole day as long as it is light.

142:5 Its darkness: Literally, its tails; the dense darkness is compared to the thickness of a horse's tail.

142:6 Its rays: Literally, its ropes; the similarity is obvious.

143:1 Traversing their surface: Literally, stripping their bark, figuratively for traversing the surface.

143:2 Merágha: A town in Azerbaijan the north-west province of Persia.

143:3 Took a road: That is, each took a different way.

143:4 Abú Jábir: The Father of Strengthening: Bread. Ḥarírí calls haríseh 'ummu Jábir', The Mother of Strengthening. Ḥarírí, p. 224.

143:5 Allow me to use the top of the oven: Literally, lend me the head of the oven.

143:6 something to eat with it: From he mixed the bread with seasoning.

143:7 Art thou a barber? An allusion to the contempt in which the calling of a barber was held. According to Jáḥiz the barber was taken as typical of the lowest class of society. Ḥaywán, iii, 46. Cf. Ḥarírí, p, 629.

144:1 Whose capacity milk had filled: Literally, the milk had stopped its breath.

144:2 Good God! The full formula is, 'verily we belong to God', so that He may do with us what He pleaseth 'and verily to Him do we return', in the ultimate state of existence. Said on an occasion of an affliction or calamity.

144:3 O soul be not squeamish: Metre, mujtath.

Next: XXXVII. The Maqama of the Nájim