Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
Antar had frequent opportunities of seeing Abla, one of his duties being to serve the women of his father's and uncles’ families with the camel's milk which, previously cooled in the wind, it was the custom of Arab women to drink every morning and evening. Coming into his uncle Malik's tent one day while Abla's long flowing hair was being dressed by her mother, Antar's soul was filled with the image of her beauty, and when he retired he thus expressed his feelings:
That fair maid lets down her ringlets, and she is completely hid in her hair, which appears like the dark shades of night.
It is as if she were the brilliant day, and as if the night had enveloped her in obscurity.
It is as if the full moon was shining in its splendour, and all the stars were concealed by its lustre.
Her charms bewitch all around her, and all are anxious to offer their services:
They live in her beauties and loveliness; and they are imbued with sweetness from her perfections, and receive new spirit from her graces.
Revile me not for my love of her, for I am distracted for her, and live but as the victim of my love.
I will conceal my affection in my soul, till I can see that I am sufficiently fortunate one day to serve her.
And on another occasion, seeing Abla playing and singing among other maidens at a feast, Antar addressed her in eloquent verses:
The lovely virgin has struck my heart with the arrow of a glance, for which there is no cure.
Sometimes she wishes for a feast in the sand-hills, like a fawn whose eyes are full of magic.
My disease preys on me; it is in my entrails: I conceal it; but its very concealment discloses it.
She moves: I should say it was the branch of the tamarisk, that waves its branches to the southern breeze.
She approaches: I should say it was the frightened fawn, when a calamity alarms it in the waste.
She walks away: I should say her face was truly the sun when its lustre dazzles the beholders.
She gazes: I should say it was the full moon of the night when Orion girds it with its stars.
She smiles: and the pearls of her teeth sparkle, in which there is the cure for the sickness of lovers.
She prostrates herself in reverence towards her God; and the greatest of men bow down to her beauties.
O Abla! when I most despair, love for thee and all its weaknesses are my only hope!
Should fortune or my father assist me, I will requite myself for its vicissitudes by my fearless spirit.
Love had now become the master-passion of the hero's soul; for all his subsequent exploits as a warrior were undertaken and performed mainly with the view of raising himself above the circumstance of his birth, and of becoming worthy of his cousin. But already Antar had many bitter enemies among his own people, who sought every means of depriving him of the favour and protection of King Zoheir, and of his son Prince Malik. Wandering one day far from the tents of his tribe, and brooding over his forlorn condition and his love for Abla, he composed the following verses:
Abla’s spirit appeared to me in my sleep, and thrice I kissed her within her veil.
It bade me adieu, but it deposited in me a flame that I feel burning through my bones.
Were I not left in solitude, and could I not quench the fire of my passion with tears, my heart would melt.
But I do not complain; though all my fears are on thy account, O thou perfect full moon!
O daughter of Malik! how can I be consoled, since my love for thee originated from the time I was weaned?
But how can I ever hope to approach thee, whilst the lions of the forest guard thy tent?
By the truth of my love for thee, my heart can never be cured but by patience.
O thou noble maid! till I exalt myself to the heights of glory with the thrusts of my spear, and the blows of my sword, I will expose myself to every peril wherever the spears clash in the battle-dust—then shall I be either tossed upon the spear-heads, or be numbered among the noble.