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Medieval Sourcebook:
The Poets of Arabia, Selections

[Horne Introduction]

Arabic poetry is based largely on harmonies of sound and striking turns of phrasing. Hence most of the poems are brief; and a poet's fame depended upon a few brilliant couplets rather than on any sustained melody or long-continued flight of noble thought. One distinguished philosophical poem of some length is the well-known "Lament of the Vizier Abu Ismael." This we give in full at the conclusion of this section; but mainly we must illustrate the finest flowering of Arabic verse by selecting specimens of characteristic brevity. Many of the Arab caliphs inclined to the gaieties of life rather than to their religious duties, and kept many poets around them. Indeed some of the caliphs themselves were poets: The Caliph Walid composed music as well as verse; and was hailed by his immediate companions as a great artist. His neglect of religion, however, was so reckless as to rouse the resentment of his people, and he lost his throne and life.
Most noted of all the Arab poets was Mutanabbi (905-965). His fantastic imagery and extravagant refinements of language were held by his admirers to be the very perfection of literature. More than forty commentaries were written to explain the subtleties of his verse. Such, indeed, was the intensity of Mutanabbi's poetic ecstasy that he fancied himself a prophet and began to preach a new religion, until a term in prison persuaded him to cling to the accepted form of Mohammedanism. In one well-known passage ridiculed by the great French critic, Huart, Mutanabbi says of an advancing army that it was so vast "The warriors marched hidden in their dust, They saw only with their ears."
The commentators explain, perhaps unnecessarily, that this means that the warriors' senses were confused by all the tumult, so that while they thought they saw, in reality they only heard the clamor of the marchers around them. In translation, Mutanabbi's verses lose all value. Deprived of their Arabic melody they seem mere bombast and absurdity. This, in fact, is the general charge which must be made against the later Arabic poetry. It too often degenerated into empty sound.

The Song of Maisuna

The russet suit of camel's hair,
With spirits light, and eye serene,
Is dearer to my bosom far
Than all the trappings of a queen.

The humble tent and murmuring breeze
That whistles thro' its fluttering wall,
My unaspiring fancy please
Better than towers and splendid halls.

Th' attendant colts that bounding fly
And frolic by the litter's side,
Are dearer in Maisuna's eye
Than gorgeous mules in all their pride.

The watch-dog's voice that bays whene'er
A stranger seeks his master's cot,
Sounds sweeter in Maisuna's ear
Than yonder trumpet's long-drawn note.

The rustic youth unspoilt by art,
Son of my kindred, poor but free,
Will ever to Maisuna's heart
Be dearer, pamper'd fool, than thee.

---Maisuna, Wife to the Caliph Mowiah


To My Father

Must then my failings from the shaft
Of anger ne'er escape?
And dost thou storm because I've quaff'd
The water of the grape?

That I can thus from wine be driv'n
Thou surely ne'er canst think---
Another reason thou hast giv'n
Why I resolve to drink.

'Twas sweet the flowing cup to seize,
'Tis sweet thy rage to see;
And first I drink myself to please;
And next---to anger thee.

---The Caliph Yazid

On Fatalism

Not always wealth, not always force
A splendid destiny commands;
The lordly vulture gnaws the corpse
That rots upon yon barren sands.

Nor want, nor weakness still conspires
To bind us to a sordid state;
The fly that with a touch expires
Sips honey from the royal plate.

---The Holy Imam Shafay

To the Caliph Haroun Al-Rashid

Religion's gems can ne'er adorn
The flimsy robe by pleasure worn;
Its feeble texture soon would tear,
And give those jewels to the air.

Thrice happy they who seek th' abode
Of peace and pleasure in their God!
Who spurn the world, its joys despise,
And grasp at bliss beyond the skies.

---Prince Ibrahim Ben Adham

Lines to Haroun and Yahia

Th' affrighted sun ere while he fled,
And hid his radiant face in night;
A cheerless gloom the world o'erspread---
But Haroun came and all was bright.

Again the sun shoots forth his rays,
Nature is decked in beauty's robe---
For mighty Haroun's scepter sways,
And Yahia's arm sustains the globe.

---Isaac Al Mouseli

The Ruin of the Barmecides

No, Barmec! Time hath never shown
So sad a change of wayward fate;
Nor sorrowing mortals ever known
A grief so true, a loss so great.

Spouse of the world! Thy soothing breast
Did balm to every woe afford;
And now no more by thee caressed,
The widowed world bewails her lord. 

To Taher Ben Hosien

A pair of right hands and a single dim eye
Must form not a man, but a monster, they cry:
Change a hand to an eye, good Taher, if you can,
And a monster perhaps may be chang'd to man. 

To My Mistress
To scorn me thus because I'm poor!
Canst thou a liberal hand upbraid
For dealing round some worthless ore ?
To spare's the wish of little souls,
The great but gather to bestow;
Yon current down the mountain rolls,
And stagnates in the swamp below.

  ---Abu Tammam Habib

To a Female Cup-Bearer

Come, Leila, fill the goblet up,
Reach round the rosy wine,
Think not that we will take the cup
From any hand but thine.

A draught like this 'twere vain to seek,
No grape can such supply;
It steals its tint from Leila's cheek,
Its brightness from her eye.

---Abu Al Salam

On the Monks of Khabbet

Tenants of yon hallowed fane!
Let me your devotions share,
There increasing raptures reign---
None are ever sober there.

Crowded gardens, festive bowers
Ne'er shall claim a thought of mine;
You can give in Khabbet's towers---
Purer joys and brighter wine.

Though your pallid faces prove
How you nightly vigils keep,
'Tis but that you ever love
Flowing goblets more than sleep.

Though your eye-balls dim and sunk
Stream in penitential guise,
'Tis but that the wine you've drunk
Bubbles over from your eyes.


To His Female Companions

Though the peevish tongues upbraid,
Though the brows of wisdom scowl,
Fair ones here on roses laid,
Careless will we quaff the bowl.

Let the cup, with nectar crowned,
Through the grove its beams display,
It can shed a luster round,
Brighter than the torch of day.

Let it pass from hand to hand,
Circling still with ceaseless flight,
Till the streaks of gray expand
O'er the fleeting robe of night.

As night flits, she does but cry,  
"Seize the moments that remain"---
Thus our joys with yours shall vie,
Tenants of .yon hallowed fane!





Maid of sorrow, tell us why
Sad and drooping hangs thy head?
Is it grief that bids thee sigh?
Is it sleep that fles thy bed?


Ah! I mourn no fancied wound,
Pangs too true this heart have wrung,
Since the snakes which curl around
Selim's brows my bosom stung.

Destined now to keener woes,
I must see the youth depart,
He must go, and as he goes
Rend at once my bursting heart.
Slumber may desert my bed,
'Tis not slumber's charms I seek---
'Tis the robe of beauty spread
O'er my Selim's rosy cheek.


To a Lady Weeping

When I beheld thy blue eyes shine
Through the bright drop that pity drew,
I saw beneath those tears of thine
A blue-ey'd violet bathed in dew.

The violet ever scents the gale,
Its hues adorn the fairest wreath,
But sweetest through a dewy veil
Its colors glow, its odors breathe.

And thus thy charms in brightness rise---
When wit and pleasure round thee play,
When mirth sits smiling in thine eyes,
Who but admires their sprightly ray?
But when through pity's flood they gleam,
Who but must love their softened beam?

---Ibn Al Rumi

On A Valetudinarian

So careful is Isa, and anxious to last,
So afraid of himself is he grown,
He swears through two nostrils the breath goes too fast,
And he's trying to breathe through but one.

  --Ibn Al Rumi

On A Miser

"Hang her, a thoughtless, wasteful fool,
She scatters corn where'er she goes"---
Quoth Hassan, angry at his mule,
That dropped a dinner to the crows.

---Ibn Al Rumi

To Cassim Obio Allah

Poor Cassim! thou art doomed to mourn
By destiny's decree;
Whatever happens it must turn
To misery for thee.

Two sons hadst thou, the one thy pride,
The other was thy pest;
Ah, why did cruel death decide
To snatch away the best?

No wonder thou shouldst droop with woe,
Of such a child bereft;
But now thy tears must doubly flow,
For, ah! the other's left.

---Ali Ibn Ahmed

A Friend's Birthday

When born, in tears we saw thee drowned,
While thine assembled friends around,
With smiles their joy confessed;
So live, that at thy parting hour,
They may the flood of sorrow pour,
And thou in smiles be dressed!


To A Cat

Poor puss is gone! 'Tis fate's decree---
Yet I must still her loss deplore,
For dearer than a child was she,
And ne'er shall I behold her more.

With many a sad presaging tear
This morn I saw her steal away,
While she went on without a fear
Except that she should miss her prey.

I saw her to the dove-house climb,
With cautious feet and slow she stept
Resolved to balance loss of time
By eating faster than she crept.

Her subtle foes were on the watch,
And marked her course, with fury fraught,
And while she hoped the birds to catch,
An arrow's point the huntress caught.

In fancy she had got them all,
And drunk their blood and sucked their breath;
Alas! she only got a fall,
And only drank the draught of death.

Why, why was pigeons' flesh so nice,
That thoughtless cats should love it thus?
Hadst thou but lived on rats and mice,
Thou hadst been living still, poor puss.

Curst be the taste, howe'er refined,
That prompts us for such joys to wish,
And curst the dainty where we find
Destruction lurking in the dish.

---Ibn Alalaf Alnaharwany

Fire: A Riddle

The loftiest cedars I can eat,
Yet neither paunch nor mouth have I,
I storm whene'er you give me meat,
Whene'er you give me drink I die.  

To A Lady Blushing

Leila, whene'er I gaze on thee
My altered cheek turns pale,
While upon thine, sweet maid, I see
A deep'ning blush prevail.

Leila, shall I the cause impart
Why such a change takes place?
The crimson stream deserts my heart,
To mantle on thy face.

---The Caliph Radhi Billah

On The Vicissitudes Of Life

Mortal joys, however pure,
Soon their turbid source betray;
Mortal bliss, however sure,
Soon must totter and decay.

Ye who now, with footsteps keen,
Range through hope's delusive field,
Tell us what the smiling scene
To your ardent grasp can yield?

Other youths have oft before
Deemed their joys would never fade,  
Till themselves were seen no more
Swept into oblivion's shade.

Who, with health and pleasure gay,
E'er his fragile state could know,
Were not age and pain to say
Man is but the child of woe?

---The Caliph Radhi Billah

To A Dove

The dove to ease an aching breast,
In piteous murmurs vents her cares;
Like me she sorrows, for opprest,
Like me, a load of grief she bears.

Her plaints are heard in every wood,
While I would fain conceal my woes;
But vain's my wish, the briny flood,
The more I strive, the faster flows.

Sure, gentle bird, my drooping heart
Divides the pangs of love with thine,
And plaintive murm'rings are thy part,
And silent grief and tears are mine.

---Serage Alwarak  


On A Thunderstorm

Bright smiled the morn, 'till o'er its head
The clouds in thicken'd foldings spread
A robe of sable hue;
Then, gathering round day's golden king,
They stretched their wide o'ershadowing wing,
And hid him from our view.

The rain his absent beams deplored,
And, soften'd into weeping, poured
Its tears in many a flood;
The lightning laughed with horrid glare;
The thunder growled, in rage; the air
In silent sorrow stood.

---Ibrahim Ben Khiret Abou Isaac

To My Favorite Mistress

I saw their jealous eyeballs roll,
I saw them mark each glance of mine,
I saw thy terrors, and my soul
Shared ev'ry pang that tortured thine.

In vain to wean my constant heart,
Or quench my glowing flame, they strove;
Each deep-laid scheme, each envious art,
But waked my fears for her I love.

'Twas this compelled the stern decree,
That forced thee to those distant towers,
And left me naught but love for thee,
To cheer my solitary hours.

Yet let not Abla sink deprest,
Nor separation's pangs deplore;
We meet not---'tis to meet more blest;
We parted---'tis to part no more.

---Saif Addaulet, Sultan of Aleppo  

Crucifixion of Ebn Bakiah

Whate'er thy fate, in life and death,
Thou'rt doomed above us still to rise,
Whilst at a distance far beneath
We view thee with admiring eyes.

The gazing crowds still round thee throng,
Still to thy well-known voice repair,
As when erewhile thy hallow'd tongue
Poured in the mosque the solemn prayer.

Still, generous Vizier, we survey
Thine arms extended o'er our head,
As lately, in the festive day,
When they were stretched thy gifts to shed.

Earth's narrow boundaries strove in vain
To limit thy aspiring mind,
And now we see thy dust disdain
Within her breast to be confin'd.

The earth's too small for one so great,
Another mansion thou shalt have---
The clouds shall be thy winding sheet,
The spacious vault of heaven thy grave.

---Abu Hassan Alanbary  


Caprices Of Fortune

Why should I blush that Fortune's frown
Dooms me life's humble paths to tread?
To live unheeded, and unknown?
To sink forgotten to the dead?

'Tis not the good, the wise, the brave,
That surest shine, or highest rise;
The feather sports upon the wave,
The pearl in ocean's cavern lies.

Each lesser star that studs the sphere
Sparkles with undiminish'd light;
Dark and eclipsed alone appear
The lord of day, the queen of night.

---Shems Almaali Cabus

On Life

Like sheep, we're doomed to travel o'er
The fated track to all assigned,
These follow those that went before,
And leave the world to those behind.

As the flock seeks the pasturing shade,
Man presses to the future day,
While death, amidst the tufted glade,
Like the dun robber, waits his prey.

Extempore Verses

Lowering as Barkaidy's face
The wintry night came in,
Cold as the music of his bass,
And lengthened as his chin.

Sleep from my aching eyes had fed,
And kept as far apart,
As sense from Ebn Fahdi's head,
Or virtue from his heart.

The dubious paths my footsteps balked,
I slipp'd along the sod,
As if on Jaber's faith I'd walked,
Or on his truth had trod.

At length the rising King of day
Burst on the gloomy wood,
Like Carawash's eye, whose ray
Dispenses every good.

---Ebn Alramacram

On The Death Of A Son

Tyrant of man! Imperious Fate!
I bow before thy dread decree,
Nor hope in this uncertain state
To find a seat secure from thee.

Life is a dark, tumultuous stream,
With many a care and sorrow foul,
Yet thoughtless mortals vainly deem
That it can yield a limpid bowl.

Think not that stream will backward flow,
Or cease its destined course to keep;
As soon the blazing spark shall glow
Beneath the surface of the deep.

Believe not Fate at thy command
Will grant a meed she never gave;
As soon the airy tower shall stand,
That's built upon a passing wave.

Life is a sleep of threescore years,
Death bids us wake and hail the light,
And man, with all his hopes and fears,
Is but a phantom of the night.

---Ali Ben Mohammed Altahmany


On Moderation In Our Pleasures

How oft does passion's grasp destroy
The pleasure that it strives to gain?
How soon the thoughtless course of joy
Is doomed to terminate in pain?

When prudence would thy steps delay,
She but restrains to make thee blest;
Whate'er from joy she lops away,
But heightens and secures the rest.

Wouldst thou a trembling flame expand,
That hastens in the lamp to die?
With careful touch, with sparing hand,
The feeding stream of life supply.

But if thy flask profusely sheds
A rushing torrent o'er the blaze,
Swift round the sinking flame it spreads,
And kills the fire it fain would raise.

---Abu Alcassim Ebn Tabataba

The Vale of Bozaa

The intertwining boughs for thee
Have wove, sweet dell, a verdant vest,
And thou in turn shalt give to me
A verdant couch upon thy breast.

To shield me from day's fervid glare
Thine oaks their fostering arms extend,
As anxious o'er her infant care
I've seen a watchful mother bend.

A brighter cup, a sweeter draught,
I gather from that rill of thine,
Than maddening drunkards ever quaff'd,
Than all the treasures of the vine.

So smooth the pebbles on its shore,
That not a maid can thither stray,
But counts her strings of jewels o'er,
And thinks the pearls have slipped away.

---Ahmed Ben Yusuf Almenazy  

To Adversity

Hail, chastening friend Adversity ! 'Tis thine
The mental ore to temper and refine,
To cast in virtue's mold the yielding heart,
And honor's polish to the mind impart.
Without thy wakening touch, thy plastic aid,
I'd lain the shapeless mass that nature made;
But formed, great artist, by thy magic hand,
I gleam a sword to conquer and command.

  ---Abu Menbaa Carawash  


On The Incompatibility Of Pride And True Glory

Think not, Abdallah, pride and fame
Can ever travel hand in hand;
With breast opposed, and adverse aim,
On the same narrow path they stand.

Thus youth and age together meet,
And life's divided moments share;
This can't advance >till that retreat,
What's here increased is lessened there.

And thus the falling shades of night
Still struggle with the lucid ray,
And e'er they stretch their gloomy flight
Must win the lengthened space from day.

---Abu Alola  

The Death Of Nedham Almolk

Thy virtues famed through every land,
Thy spotless life, in age and youth,
Prove thee a pearl, by nature's hand,
Formed out of purity and truth.

Too long its beams of Orient light
Upon a thankless world were shed;
Allah has now revenged the slight,
And called it to its native bed.

---Shebal Addaulet


To A Lady

No, Abla, no---when Selim tells
Of many an unknown grace that dwells
In Abla's face and mien,
When he describes the sense refined,
That lights thine eye and fills thy mind,
By thee alone unseen.

'Tis not that drunk with love he sees
Ideal charms, which only please
Through passion's partial veil,
'Tis not that flattery's glozing tongue
Hath basely framed an idle song,
But truth that breathed the tale.

Thine eyes unaided ne'er could trace
Each opening charm, each varied grace,
That round thy person plays;
Some must remain concealed from thee,
For Selim's watchful eye to see,
For Selim's tongue to praise.

One polished mirror can declare
That eye so bright, that face so fair,
That cheek which shames the rose;
But how thy mantle waves behind,
How float thy tresses on the wind,
Another only shows.

An Epigram

Whoever has recourse to thee
Can hope for health no more,
He's launched into perdition's sea,
A sea without a shore.

Where'er admission thou canst gain,
Where'er thy phiz can pierce,
At once the Doctor they retain,
The mourners and the hearse.

On A Little Man With A Very Large Beard

How can thy chin that burden bear?
Is it all gravity to shock?
Is it to make the people stare?
And be thyself a laughing stock?

When I behold thy little feet
After thy beard obsequious run,
I always fancy that I meet
Some father followed by his son.

A man like thee scarce e'er appeared---
A beard like thine---where shall we find it?
Surely thou cherishest thy beard
In hopes to hide thyself behind it.

---Isaac Ben Khalif

The Lament Of The Vizier Abu Ismael

No kind supporting hand I meet,
But Fortitude shall stay my feet;
No borrowed splendors round me shine,
But Virtue's luster all is mine;
A Fame unsullied still I boast,
Obscured, concealed, but never lost---
The same bright orb that led the day
Pours from the West his mellowed ray.

Zaura, farewell! No more I see
Within thy walls, a home for me;
Deserted, spurned, aside I'm tossed,
As an old sword whose scabbard's lost:
Around thy walls I seek in vain
Some bosom that will soothe my pain---
No friend is near to breathe relief,
Or brother to partake my grief.
For many a melancholy day
Through desert vales I've wound my way;
The faithful beast, whose back I press,
In groans laments her lord's distress;
In every quivering of my spear
A sympathetic sigh I hear;
The camel bending with his load,
And struggling through the thorny road,
'Midst the fatigues that bear him down,
In Hassan's woes forgets his own;
Yet cruel friends my wand'rings chide,
My sufferings slight, my toils deride.

Once wealth, I own, engrossed each thought,
There was a moment when I sought
The glitt'ring stores Ambition claims
To feed the wants his fancy frames;
But now 'tis past---the changing day
Has snatched my high-built hopes away,
And bade this wish my labors close---
Give me not riches, but repose.
'Tis he---that mien my friend declares,
That stature, like the lance he bears;
I see that breast which ne'er contained
A thought by fear or folly stained,
Whose powers can every change obey,
In business grave, in trifles gay,
And, formed each varying taste to please,
Can mingle dignity with ease.

What, though with magic influence, sleep,
O'er every closing eyelid creep:
Though drunk with its oblivious wine
Our comrades on their bales recline,
My Selim's trance I sure can break--- S
elim, 'tis I, 'tis I who speak.
Dangers on every side impend,
And sleep'st thou, careless of thy friend
Thou sleep'st while every star on high,
Beholds me with a wakeful eye---
Thou changest, ere the changeful night
Hath streak'd her fleeting robe with white.

'Tis love that hurries me along---
I'm deaf to fear's repressive song---
The rocks of Idham I'll ascend,
Though adverse darts each path defend,
And hostile sabers glitter there,
To guard the tresses of the fair.

Come, Selim, let us pierce the grove,
While night befriends, to seek my love.
The clouds of fragrance as they rise
Shall mark the place where Abla lies.
Around her tent my jealous foes,
Like lions, spread their watchful rows;
Amidst their bands, her bow'r appears
Embosomed in a wood of spears---
A wood still nourished by the dews,
Which smiles, and softest looks diffuse.
Thrice happy youths! who midst yon shades
Sweet converse hold with Idham's maids,
What bliss, to view them gild the hours,
And brighten wit and fancy's powers,
While every foible they disclose
New transport gives, new graces shows.
'Tis theirs to raise with conscious art
The flames of love in every heart;
'Tis yours to raise with festive glee
The flames of hospitality:
Smit by their glances lovers lie,
And helpless sink and hopeless die;
While slain by you the stately steed
To crown the feast, is doomed to bleed,
To crown the feast, where copious flows
The sparkling juice that soothes your woes,
That lulls each care and heals each wound,
As the enliv'ning bowl goes round.
Amidst those vales my eager feet
Shall trace my Abla's dear retreat,
A gale of health may hover there,
To breathe some solace to my care.
I fear not love---I bless the dart
Sent in a glance to pierce the heart:
With willing breast the sword I hail
That wounds me through an half-closed veil:
Though lions howling round the shade,
My footsteps haunt, my walks invade,
No fears shall drive me from the grove,
If Abla listen to my love.

Ah, Selim! shall the spells of ease
Thy friendship chain, thine ardor freeze!
Wilt thou enchanted thus, decline
Each gen'rous thought, each bold design?
Then far from men some cell prepare;
Or build a mansion in the air---
But yield to us, ambition's tide,
Who fearless on its waves can ride;
Enough for thee if thou receive
The scattered spray the billows leave.

Contempt and want the wretch await
Who slumbers in an abject state---
'Midst rushing crowds, by toil and pain
The meed of Honor we must gain;
At Honor's call, the camel hastes
Through trackless wilds and dreary wastes,

'Till in the glorious race she find
The fleetest coursers left behind:
By toils like these alone, he cries,
Th' adventurous youths to greatness rise;
If bloated indolence were fame,
And pompous ease our noblest aim,
The orb that regulates the day
Would ne'er from Aries' mansion stray.

I've bent at Fortune's shrine too long---
Too oft she heard my suppliant tongue---
Too oft has mocked my idle prayers,
While fools and knaves engrossed her cares,
Awake for them, asleep to me,
Heedless of worth she scorned each plea.
Ah! had her eyes more just surveyed
The diff'rent claims which each displayed,
Those eyes from partial fondness free
Had slept to them, and waked for me.
But, 'midst my sorrows and my toils,
Hope ever soothed my breast with smiles;
The hand removed each gathering ill,
And oped life's closing prospects still.
Yet spite of all her friendly art
The specious scene ne'er gained my heart;
I loved it not although the day
Met my approach, and cheered my way;
I loath it now the hours retreat,
And fly me with reverted feet.

My soul from every tarnish free
May boldly vaunt her purity,
But ah, how keen, however bright,
The saber glitter to the sight,
Its splendor's lost, its polish vain,  
'Till some bold hand the steel sustain.

Why have my days been stretched by fate,
To see the vile and vicious great---
While I, who led the race so long,
Am last and meanest of the throng?
Ah, why has death so long delayed
To wrap me in his friendly shade,
Left me to wander thus alone,
When all my heart held dear is gone!

But let me check these fretful sighs---
Well may the base above me rise,
When yonder planets as they run
Mount in the sky above the sun.
Resigned I bow to Fate's decree,
Nor hope his laws will change for me;
Each shifting scene, each varying hour,
But proves the ruthless tyrant's power.

But though with ills unnumbered curst,
We owe to faithless man the worst;
For man can smile with specious art,
And plant a dagger in the heart.
He only's fitted for the strife
Which fills the boist'rous paths of life,
Who, as he treads the crowded scenes,
Upon no kindred bosom leans.
Too long my foolish heart had deemed
Mankind as virtuous as they seemed;
The spell is broke, their faults are bare,
And now I see them as they are;
Truth from each tainted breast has flown,
And falsehood marks them all her own.
Incredulous I listen now
To every tongue, and every vow,
For still there yawns a gulf between
Those honeyed words, and what they mean;
With honest pride elate, I see
The sons of falsehood shrink from me,
As from the right line's even way
The biassed curves deflecting stray---
But what avails it to complain?
With souls like theirs reproof is vain;
If honor e'er such bosoms share
The saber's point must fix it there.

But why exhaust life's rapid bowl,
And suck the dregs with sorrow foul,
When long ere this my mouth has drained
Whatever zest the cup contained?
Why should we mount upon the wave,
And ocean's yawning horrows brave,
When we may swallow from the flask
Whate'er the wants of mortals ask?
Contentment's realms no fears invade,
No cares annoy, no sorrows shade,
There placed secure, in peace we rest,
Nor aught demand to make us blest.
While pleasure's gay fantastic bower,
The splendid pageant of an hour,
Like yonder meteor in the skies,
Flits with a breath no more to rise.

As through life's various walks we're led,
May prudence hover o'er our head!
May she our words, our actions guide,
Our faults correct, our secrets hide!
May she, where'er our footsteps stray,
Direct our paths, and clear the way!

"Till, every scene of tumult past,
She bring us to repose at last,
Teach us to love that peaceful shore,
And roam through folly's wilds no more!

 ---Abu Ismael


From: Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 205-234.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, August 1998


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