The Maqámát of Badí‘ al-Zamán al-Hamadhání, tr. W.J. Prendergast  at sacred-texts.com
‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I happened to have made a vow to give a dinar in charity to the greatest mendicant in Baghdad. I enquired for him and I was directed to Abú’l Fatḥ al-Iskanderí. So I went to him to bestow it upon him, and I found him amongst some companions who had gathered in a circle around him. So I said: 'O sons of Sásán, which of you knows his stock-in-trade best and is the sharpest in his art so that I may give him this dinar?' Said al-Iskanderí: 'I am.' Another of the company said: 'Nay, but I am.' Then they wrangled and disputed till I said: 'Let each of you revile his fellow, then whoever gains the mastery carries off the booty, and whoever overcomes takes the spoil.' 2 So al-Iskanderí said: 'O cold of the old woman! 3 O sultriness of Tammuz! 4 O
filth of the goglet! 1 O non-current dirhem! O conversation of the singers! 2 O unfortunate year! O unlucky star! O oppression of the nightmare! 3 O sick headache! O Ummú Ḥubein! 4 O ophthalmia! O morning of separation! O estrangement of friends! O hour of death! O scene of the martyrdom of al-Ḥusain! O burden of debt! O mark of infamy! O ill-starred messenger! O banished for his meanness! O porridge of garlic! O desert of the Zaqqum! 5 O refuser to lend the things of the house! O year of the bubonic plague! O rebellious slave! O damnatory clause! O oft-repeated speech! O worse than (till) in various constructions! O worm of the privy! O furred garment in the summer-quarters! O coughing of the host, when the bread is broken! O belch of the intoxicated! O fetid breath of the hawks! O peg of the tent! 6 O prop 7 of the pot! O non-recurring Wednesday! 8 O avarice of the vanquished at dice! O grumbling of the tongue! O lotium spadonis! O eating of the blind! O intercession of the naked! 9 O Saturday of the children! 10 O letter of condolence! 11 O pool of impurities! O
stinginess of the man of Ahwaz! 1 O garrulousness of the man of Rayy! 2 By Heavens! if thou wert to place one of thy feet on Arwand 3 and the other on Demawand, 4 take in thy hand the rainbow and card the clouds in the garments of the angels, thou wouldst only be a wool-carder!'
Then said the other: 'O trainer of monkeys! O felt of the Jews! O fetid breath of the lions! O non-entity in existence! O dog in strife! O monkey on the carpet! O pumpkin with pulse! 5 O less than nothing! O fumes of naphtha! 6 O stench of the armpit! O decline of power! O halo of death! O viler than one to whom clings the disgrace of divorce and refuses to return the marriage dowry! O mud of the road! O water taken in the state of fasting! 7 O shaker of the bone! 8 O accelerator of digestion! O tartar of the teeth! O filth of the ears! O tougher than the rope of cocoanut fibre! O less than a fals! 9 O more traitorous than a tear! O more rebellious than a needle! O direction of the boot! O landing-place of the palms! O the word 'would that'! O leaking of the house! O such and
such! 1 By Heavens! wert thou to place thy seant on the stars and extend thy feet to the limits of the world, take Sirius as a boot and the Pleiades as a raiment, and wert to make the sky a loom, weave the air into a coat, make its woof with the Flying Vulture and weave it with the revolving sphere, thou wouldest be but a weaver!' 2
Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: 'By Heavens! I did not know which of the two I should prefer, for nought proceeded 'from them save marvellous language, wonderful aptness, and intense enmity. So I left the dinar before them undivided and I know not what Time did with them.'
164:2 … Whoever overcomes takes the spoil: Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 677, Cf. Hebrew בָן spoil.
164:3 Cold of the old woman: That is, the four last days of February and three first days of March, thus called because they are the latter part (…) of winter.
164:4 Tammuz: The Syrian month sacred in ancient times to the god of that name, corresponding to July. This god is mentioned in Ezekiel, viii, 14.
165:1 … Al-Kúz: A water-bottle, a goglet, arabicized from the Persian ….
165:2 Conversation of the singers: Obviously it is the singing of the singers and not their conversation that people want to hear.
165:3 … Oppression of the nightmare: Some think this is not an Arabic word and that the proper word is … (Lane, p. 2588). I see no difficulty, however, in evolving this meaning from the root … he pressed or squeezed.
165:4 Ummu Ḥubein: A species of stinking lizard.
165:5 Zaqqum: A certain kind of tree having small leaves, evil-smelling and bitter, found in Tehameh, also the name of the infernal tree whose fruit is the food of the people of hell. See Baiḍáwí, ii, 172.
165:6 O peg of the tent: Cf. more dishevelled than a tent peg. Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 706.
165:7 … Prop: Literally, the handle of the upper millstone,
165:8 … Non-recurring Wednesday: The unlucky Wednesdays of the month, to which this is an allusion, are those which have the number four, e.g. the fourth or the fourteenth of the month; the fourteenth or twenty-fourth, or the fourth before the end of the month. Mas‘údí, Les Prairies D’or, iii, 422. Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 276 and Meidaní (Bulak edition), i, 139, when it comes at the end of the month.
165:9 O intercession of the naked: That is, one who is so utterly destitute that he needs to ask for himself, not for others. For the opposite sentiment, see Aghání, viii, 182.
165:10 O Saturday of the children: Succeeding the holiday on Friday, Cf. English school slang, Black Monday.
165:11 O letter of condolence! Because it is supposed to be a very difficult thing p. 166 to write if the deceased is not a near relative, or because it is a painful thing for one who is bereaved to read.
166:1 Stinginess of the man of Ahwaz: The people of Ahwaz were notorious for their avarice, stupidity and the vileness of their inclinations. Yaqút, i, 411, 12.
166:2 Garrulousness of the man of Rayy: The word … also means meddlesomeness, or immoderation of any kind, but I have not been able to find any evidence that the people of Rayy were notorious for any of these things.
166:3 Arwand: or Elwand, the Orontes of the ancients, at the foot of which lies the town of Hamadhán.
166:4 Demawand: A mountain north of Teheran. His feet would thus be more than two hundred miles apart!
166:5 … Pulse: Arabicized from the Persian … Sanskrit másha, peas.
166:6 O fumes of naphtha!: Apparently a genuine Arabic word from …. It (water) welled or issued forth, and … what oozes or exudes from a mountain as though it were sweat from the sides of the rock. (Lane's Lexicon art. … p. 2759) Cf. Greek ναφθα which is probably a loan word from Arabic.
166:7 … In a state of fasting: Anything eaten or drunk in a state of fasting. The text is wrongly vocalized, for … read ….
166:8 Shaker of the bone: That is, ague.
166:9 … A fals: A small copper coin, the forty-eighth part of a dirhem, i.e. about half a farthing. A loan word from Aramaic.
167:1 O such and such: Or 'so and so', referring to something too gross to mention. Cf. Ḥarírí, p. 235, line 3., and see Wright's Grammar, i, 268.
167:2 … A weaver: The vocation of the weaver appears to have been regarded by the Arabs as a degrading one. Cf. Letters, p. 273, 'Verily shaving is learnt on the heads of the weavers ', also Yaqút, Geographical Dictionary, iv, 1036. Cf. Ḥarírí, p. 31, on the subject of the dinar, and p. 628 for an example of similar mutual abuse; also see Horace, Satires, Book I, Satire 7.
This maqáma contains no poetry.