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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 crossing one of those parts where exile had thrown me, when behold I met a man who was asking another, 'By what means hast thou acquired knowledge?' And the latter, answering him, said: 'I sought it and found it to be difficult of access. 2 It is not shot with a shaft, nor allotted by the divining arrows. 3 It is not seen in the dream nor controlled with the bridle. 4 It is neither inherited from paternal uncles, nor borrowed from the generous. Therefore I adopted, as a means of attainment thereto, the making of clods a bed, the taking of a stone for a pillow, repelling weariness, braving danger, prolonging vigils, making a companion of travel, much reading and meditation. And I found it to be a thing suitable only for planting, and it is not planted save in the mind. A quarry that is ensnared but rarely and is not caught, save in the breast. A bird that is deluded only by the snaring of the word, and nought catches it but the net of memory. Therefore I laid it upon my soul and confined it within my eye. I spent

p. 153

my means, but stored my mind. I wrote elegantly by virtue of much reading, and passed on from reading to investigation, and from investigation to composition, and I relied therein on divine guidance.'

Now I heard language such as penetrated the ear, reached the heart, and quickly entered the breast, so I asked: 'O young man! Whence the orient of this sun?' Then he began to say:--

'Alexandria is my home, 1 if but in it my resting-place were fixed.
But my night I pass in Syria, in ‘Iráq my day.'



152:2 Difficult of access: This and the succeeding five sentences will be found in No. 41, p. 165 of the Letters where almost the entire maqáma is reproduced verbatim.

152:3 By the divining arrows: By means of which the Arabs in the time of the Ignorance. (Barbarism), sought to know what was allotted to them. This practice is forbidden in Qur’án, v, 4.

152:4 With a bridle: Literally, with a bit, i.e. the appurtenances of a bridle, by an extension of meaning, applied to this with its straps; arabicized from the Persian Lagám.

153:1 Alexandria is my home: Metre, mujtath.

Cf. the fifteenth maqáma, p. 74. A very interesting disquisition on knowledge and the course to be followed in the acquisition thereof. We have doubtless in this maqáma a statement of the author's own methods of study. An amplification of the idea will be found on pp. 165-8 of the Letters. For a synopsis of both, see end of the Cambridge MS, 1066 (Badí‘ al- Zamán).

Next: XLI. The Maqama of Advice