Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
THIS Poem appears to have been a little older than that of Zohair; for it must have been composed during the wars of Dahis, which the magnanimity of the two chiefs, extolled by Zohair, "so nobly terminated." Antara, the gallant Absite, distinguished himself very early in the war by his valour in attacking the tribe of Dhobyan, and boasts in this composition that he had slain Demdem, the father of Hosein and of Harem, whom Ward, the son of Habes, afterwards put to death. An old enmity subsisted, it seems, between our poet and those two young men, who, as Antara believed, had calumniated him without provocation; and his chief object in this poem was to blazon his own achievements and exploits, and to denounce implacable resentment against the calumniators, whom his menaces were likely to intimidate. Yet so harsh an argument is tempered by a strain in some parts elegiac and amatory: for even this vengeful impetuous warrior found himself obliged to comply with the custom of the Arabian poets, "who had left," as he complains, "little new imagery for their successors."
He begins with a pathetic address to the bower of his beloved Abla, and to the ruins of her deserted mansion: he bewails her sudden departure, the distance of her new abode, and the unhappy variance between their respective clans: he describes his passion and the beauties of his mistress with great energy: thence he passes to his own laborious course of life, contrasted with the voluptuous indolence of the fair, and gives a forcible description of his camel, whom he compares to a male ostrich hastening to visit the eggs, which the female (whose usual neglect of them is mentioned by naturalists) had left in a remote valley. He next expatiates on his various accomplishments and virtues: his mildness to those who treat him kindly, his fierceness to those who injure him; his disregard of wealth, his gaiety, liberality, and, above all, his military prowess and spirit of enterprise, on which he triumphantly enlarges through the rest of the poem, except four couplets, in which he alludes obscurely to a certain love-adventure; and after many animated descriptions of battles and single combats, he concludes with a wish that he may live to slay the two sons of Demdem, and with a bitter exultation on the death of their father, whom he had left a prey to the wild beasts and the vultures.
The metre is iambic, like that of the poem immediately preceding.