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*** The learned Von Hammer-Purgstall says that Antara's Mo‘allaqah is contained twice in the complete copies of the Romance of Antar: once in fragments, as the hero delivers them extempore on divers occasions in the ardour of the moment, in praise of his darling Abla, of his matchless horse, of his irresistible sword and spear, &c.; and again on the occasion of the poetic contest before the assembly of the tribes at Okātz, when the poet united the hitherto scattered pearls of his genius by a golden thread and suspended them on the Ka‘beh.

vv. 1, 2. Hamilton's rendering of the opening verses of Antara's Mo‘allaqah are given on page 264 of the present volume. This is how Professor E. H. Palmer has turned the same into English verse, in his translation entitled, "An Ancient Arabic Prize Poem":

Have then the Poets left a theme unsung?
Dost thou, then, recognise thy love's abode?
Home of my Abla! dear for her sake!
Would that thy stones, Jewá could speak to me!

According to the Romance of Antar, Abla was in Arabian ’Irāk when, on the hero's return home from the land of Zebeid, he beheld her deserted dwelling, and, leaning sadly upon his spear, gave vent to his feelings in these two couplets.

vv. 13-19. There is a charm in Professor Palmer's graceful metrical rendering of this beautiful passage which is not to be expected in a literal translation:

’Twas then her beauties first enslaved my heart—
Those glittering pearls and ruby lips, whose kiss
Was sweeter far than honey to the taste. p. 393
As when the merchant opes a precious box
Of perfume, such an odour from her breath
Came towards thee, harbinger of her approach;
Or like an untouched meadow, where the rain
Hath fallen freshly on the fragrant herbs
That carpet all its pure untrodden soil:
A meadow where the frequent rain-drops fall
Like coins of silver in the quiet pools,
And irrigate it with perpetual streams;
A meadow where the sportive insects hum,
Like listless topers singing o’er their cups,
And ply their fore-legs, like a man who tries
With maimèd hand to use the flint and steel.

vv. 22-25.

I'll choose a camel of surpassing speed,
Patient of thirst, from Shaden's generous breed:
Proudly she'll bear me to my fair one's home,
Nor stay her vigorous strides though evening come.
Proud as the earless ostrich, and as fleet,
Who strikes the sands with many-sounding feet,
While round her steps the gathering brood rejoice,
Like thirsty camels at their keeper's voice.—Ret. Rev.

v. 27. It seems somewhat odd that the poet should compare an ostrich to a slave dressed in a long fur garment, yet such is the sense of the original, which Mr. Redhouse renders as follows:

"Of a small-headed [male ostrich] that visits his [female's] eggs at Dhū-’l-‘ushayra, like the slave in a long furred garment, whose ears [and nose] are close cut off."

[paragraph continues] Mr. Redhouse remarks that "we can only conjecture why the poet likened the ostrich's feathers to a long fur garment. Slaves were then negroes; and perhaps, being from Africa and sensitive to cold, wore furs (of sheepskin?). The exact length understood by the poet's 'long' would depend on the kind of fur jacket, or robe, worn by slaves in the desert camps. Twenty inches is long where twelve is usual."

p. 394

v. 42. The comparison in the second hemistich is thus rendered by Professor Palmer:

Where’er descending falls my flashing blade,
Low lies the husband of some noble dame,
And like the whistling of a cloven lip,
The life-blood gurgles from his ghastly wound,
And sparkles round him in a crimson shower.

v. 54. "Skilful in casting lots": see Tarafa's Mo‘all., v. 102, and Lebīd's Mo‘all., vv. 73, 74, and Nate.—The arrows used for casting lots were without heads and feathers, like those employed in divination.

"Causing the wine-merchant to strike his flag ": see note on v. 58, Lebīd's Mo‘all.

vv. 60-62. In Professor Palmer's translation the little maiden whom the Poet sends to bring him news of his "sweet lamb" is represented as saying on her return:

I saw the foemen lulled by treacherous ease,
And whoso wills it his that lamb shall be.
Her neck is comelier than the graceful fawn's,
Her form is fairer than the young gazelle's!

[paragraph continues] According to Sir William Jones’ rendering, the girl simply informs Antara that she found "the hostile guards negligent of their watch," and that the lady might therefore be easily visited; and we are to suppose that Antara, on thus learning that "the coast was clear," so to say, at once proceeded to visit the lady, who, on seeing him, "turned towards him with the neck of a young roe."—Mr Redhouse thinks that "the variant positions which these verses occupy in different editions make it almost impossible to judge whether his sweetheart turned to Antara, or to the maiden sent. The words read as though the maid turned to Antara; but that is not the probable sense."—The Bedouin coxcomb Amarah, in the Romance of Antar, sends a female slave on a similar errand—to bring him an account of Abla's personal charms: see page 209 of the present volume.

p. 395

v. 70. "Make the perched birds of the brain fly quickly from every skull." Among the old Arabs the belief was prevalent that of the blood near a dead person's brain was formed a bird, called Hamah (Carlyle calls it Manah, but this was the name of a stone-idol worshipped by the pagan Arabs), that sat upon the grave of the deceased, and uttered doleful cries. This seems alluded to in Job, xxi., 32, which Carlyle thus translates:

He shall be brought to the grave,
And shall watch upon the raised-up heap.

[paragraph continues] Others say that the soul of a man who was murdered or slain in battle animated this bird and continually cried, Oscûni! Oscûni!—"give me to drink," i.e. of the slayer's blood.

vv. 72-77.

"On! Antar, on!" the exulting warriors cry—
’Gainst my black steed a thousand lances fly.
Onward to stem the coming tide I prest,
Till streams of blood o’erflowed my courser's chest;
Silent and sad he turned—his rider eyed,
And though the words of utterance were denied,
Looks of reproach his inward feelings spoke,
While sobs of anguish from his heart-strings broke;
Rallying, again his fiery head he rears,
And proudly charges ’mid his proud compeers,
While, as War's terrors I again defy,
"On! Antar, on!" the exulting warriors cry.—Ret. Rev.

v.v. 79-81.

Damdam was slain by Antara on the Day of El-Mureyqib, one of the earliest battles of the War of Dāhis. Herim, a son of Damdam, was afterwards slain by Ward son of Hābis; and Hoseyn, in retaliation for his brother's death, basely violated the laws of hospitality by killing a kinsman of Ward (whose name is given by El-Meydānī as Tījān) who was his guest: see Argument to the Poem of Zohair.

Oh may I live till justice on the heads
Of Damdam's sons the cup of vengeance sheds! p. 396
To blight my hard-earned fame they basely sought,
Who ne’er in word had wronged them, or in thought:
They sought my blood, who ne’er had wrought them harm,
But I, at least, have known the rapt’rous charm
Of sweet revenge—I've left their father dead,
And ravenous vultures hovering o’er his head.—Ret. Rev.

Next: Notes on the Poem of Amru