“…I have some nearer kin than you: swift wolf,
smooth-coated leopard, jackal with long hair.
With them, entrusted secrets are not told;
Thieves are not shunned, whatever they may dare.
They are all proud and brave, but when we see
The day’s first quarry, I am braver then…”
(AL-SHANFARA AL-AZDI, 5TH CENTURY )
I read this, when I was in Jordan – out in the desert of Wadi Rum. My favourites are the pagan poetry, the court culture and widening horizon texts. The Pagan poetry almost feels like the beat generation in their rhythm and the rest very Sturm-und-Drang in their passion! The stories are full of brave and proud men wandering the sand dunes dreaming of brown-eyed beauties willing to risk it all for love, and they are not afraid to cry.
“Run down by fate’s spite
my body hangs on a broom;
With wealth enough to ease all pain
I turn each night from back to belly
side after side after side
Who put pebbles on my couch when my sons died?
I tried but could not shield
them well enough from fate
turns amulet to toy.”
(ABU DHU’AYB DIED CA. 649)
Penguin Classics collected the best of classical Arabic poetry in “The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature”. The poetry in book spans over a large period of time – from the 15th to the 16th century and also covers a large geographical area from Afghanistan to Spain. Of course you also have to read “Thousand and One Night”, but a few of the earliest fragments is included in this book and you can also get better acquainted with the Qur’an, the court culture of the famous.
What do you read on the road?