Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
THE discordant and inconsistent accounts of the commentators, who seem to have collected without examination every tradition that presented itself, have left us very much in the dark on the subject of the two following poems; but the common opinion, which appears to me the most probable, is that they are, in fact, political and adverse declamations, which were delivered by Amru and Hareth at the head of their respective clans, before Amru the son of Hinda, King of Hira in Mesopotamia, who had assumed the office of mediator between them after a most obstinate war, and had undertaken to hear a discussion of their several claims to pre-eminence, and to decide their cause with perfect impartiality. In some copies, indeed, as in those of Nahas and of Zauzeni, the two poems are separated; and in that of Obaidalla the poem of Hareth is totally omitted.
Were I to draw my opinion solely from the structure and general turn of Amru's composition, I should conceive that the King of Hira, who, like other tyrants, wished "to make all
men just but himself, and to leave all nations free but his own," had attempted to enslave the powerful tribe of Tagleb, and to appoint a prefect over them, but that the warlike possessors of the deserts and forests had openly disclaimed his authority, and employed their principal leader and poet to send him defiance, and magnify their own independent spirit.
Some Arabian writers assert, what there is abundant reason to believe, that the above-mentioned king was killed by the author of the following poem, who composed it, say they, on that occasion; but the king himself is personally addressed by the poet, and warned against precipitation in deciding the contest; and where mention is made of "crowned heads left prostrate on the field," no particular monarch seems to be intended; but the conjunction copulative has the force, as it often has in Arabic, of a frequentative particle.
Let us then, where certainty cannot be obtained, be satisfied with high probability, and suppose, with Tabreizi, that the two tribes of Becr and Tagleb, having exhausted one another in a long war, to which the murder of Coleib the Taglebite had given rise, agreed to terminate their ruinous quarrel, and to make the King of Hīra their umpire; that on the day appointed the tribes met before the palace or royal tent, and that Amru the son of Celthum, prince of the Taglebites, either pronounced his poem, according to the custom of the Arabs, or stated his pretensions in a solemn speech, which he afterwards versified, that it might be more easily remembered by his tribe and their posterity.
The oration, or poem, or whatever it may be called, is arrogant beyond all imagination, and contains hardly a colour of argument. The prince was most probably a vain young man, proud of his accomplishments, and elate with success in his wars; but his production could not fail of becoming extremely popular among his countrymen; and his own family, the descendants of Josham the son of Beer, were so infatuated with it that (as one of their own poets admits) "they could scarce ever desist from
repeating it, and thought they had attained the summit of glory, without any farther exertions of virtue."
He begins with a strain perfectly Anacreontic; the elegiac style of the former poems not being well adapted to his eager exultation and triumph: yet there is some mixture of complaint on the departure of his mistress, whose beauties lie delineates with a boldness and energy highly characteristic of unpolished manners. The rest of his work consists of menaces, vaunts, and exaggerated applause of his own tribe for their generosity and prowess, the goodness of their horses, the beauty of their women, the extent of their possessions, and even the number of their ships;—which boasts were so well founded that, according to some authors, if Mohammed had not been horn, the Taglebites would have appropriated the dominion of all Arabia, and possibly would have erected a mighty state, both civil and maritime.
This poem is composed in copious verse, or metre of the fourth species, according to the following form:
[paragraph continues] But the compound foot amore furens is used at pleasure, instead of the first epitrite; as,