HOW many singers before me! Are there yet songs unsung?
by Antarah (Antar) Ibn Shaddad
Dost thou, my sad soul, remember where was her dwelling place?
Tents in Jiwá, the fair wadi, speak ye to me of her.
Fair house of 'Abla my true love, blessing and joy to thee!
Doubting I paused in the pastures, seeking her camel-tracks,
high on my swift-trotting nága tall as a citadel,
Weaving a dream of the past days, days when she dwelt in them,
'Abla, my true love, in Házzen, Sammán, Mutathéllemi.
There on the sand lay the hearth-stones, black in their emptiness,
desolate more for the loved ones fled with Om Héythami,
Fled to the land of the lions, roarers importunate.
Daily my quest of thee darkens, daughter of Mákhrami.
Truly at first sight I loved her, I who had slain her kin.
ay, by the life of thy father, not in inconstancy.
Love, thou hast taken possession. Deem it not otherwise.
Thou in my heart art the first one, first in nobility.
How shall I win to her people? Far in Anéyzateyn
feed they their flocks in the Spring-time, we in the Gháïlem.
Yet it was thou, my beloved, willed we should sunder thus,
bridled thyself the swift striders, black night encompassing.
Fear in my heart lay a captive, seeing their camel-herds
herded as waiting a burden, close to the tents of them,
Browsing on berries of khímkhim, forty-two milch-camels,
black as the underwing feathers set in the raven's wing.
Then was it 'Abla enslaved thee showing her tenderness,
white teeth with lips for the kissing. Sweet was the taste of them,
Sweet as the vials of odours sold by the musk sellers,
fragrant the white teeth she showed thee, fragrant the mouth of her.
So is a garden new planted fresh in its greenery,
watered by soft-falling raindrops, treadless, untenanted.
Lo, on it rain-clouds have lighted, soft showers, no hail in them,
leaving each furrow a lakelet bright as a silverling.
Pattering, plashing they fell there, rains at the sunsetting,
wide-spreading runlets of water, streams of fertility,
Mixed with the humming of bees' wings droning the daylight long,
never a pause in their chaunting, gay drinking-choruses.
Blithe iteration of bees' wings, wings struck in harmony, bees'
sharply as steel on the flint-stone, light handed smithy strokes.
Sweet, thou shalt rest till the morning all the night lightly there,
while I my red horse bestriding ride with the forayers.
Resting-place more than the saddle none have I, none than he
war-horse of might in the rib-bones–deep is the girth of him.
Say, shall a swift Shadaníeh bear me to her I love,
one under ban for the drinker, weaned of the foal of her
One with the tail carried archwise, long though the march hath been
one with the firm foot atrample, threading the labyrinths?
Lo, how she spurneth the sand-dunes, like to the ear-less one
him with the feet set together; round him young ostriches
Troop like the cohorts of Yémen, herded by 'Ajemis,
she-camel cohorts of Yémen, herded by stammerers.
Watching a beacon they follow, led by the crown of him
carried aloft as a howdah, howdah where damsels sit,
Him the small-headed, returning, fur-furnished Ethiop,
black slave, to Thu-el-Ashíra;–there lie his eggs in it.
Lo, how my nága hath drunken deeply in Dóhradeyn;
how hath she shrunk back in Déylam, pools of the enemy,
Shrunk from its perilous cisterns, scared by the hunting one,
great-headed shrieker of evening, clutched to the flank of her.
Still to her off-side she shrinketh, deemeth the led-cat there
Clawing the more that she turneth;–thus is her fear of them.
Lo, she hath knelt in Ridá-a, pleased there and murmuring
soft as the sweet-fluting rushes crushed by the weight of her.
Thickly as pitch from the boiling oozeth the sweat of her,
pitch from the cauldron new-lighted, fire at the sides of it,
Oozeth in drops from the ear-roots. Wrathful and bold is she,
proud in her gait as a stallion hearing the battle-cry.
Though thou thy fair face concealest still in thy veil from me,
yet am I he that the captured horse-riders how many!
Give me the praise of my fair deeds. Lady, thou knowest it,
kindly am I and forbearing, save when wrong presseth me.
Only when evil assaileth, deal I with bitterness;
then am I cruel in vengeance, bitter as colocynth.
Sometime in wine was my solace. Good wine, I drank of it,
suaging the heat of the evening, paying in white money,
Quaffing in goblets of saffron, pale-streaked with ivory,
hard at my hand their companion, the flask to the left of me.
Truly thus bibbing I squandered half my inheritance;
yet was my honour a wide word. No man had wounded it.
Since that when sober my dew-fall rained no less generous:
thou too, who knowest my nature, thou too be bountiful!
How many loved of the fair ones have I not buffeted
youths overthrown! Ha, the blood-streams shrill from the veins of them.
Swift-stroke two-handed I smote him, thrust through the ribs of him;
forth flowed the stream of his life-blood red as anemone.
Ask of the horsemen of Málek, O thou his progeny,
all they have seen of my high deeds. Then shalt thou learn of them
How that I singly among them, clad in war's panoply, 90
stout on my war-horse the swift one charged at their chivalry.
Lo, how he rusheth, the fierce one, singly in midst of them,
waiting anon for the archers closing in front of us.
They that were nearest in battle, they be my proof to thee
how they have quailed at my war-cry, felt my urbanity.
Many and proud are their heroes, fear-striking warriors,
men who nor flee nor surrender, yielding not easily.
Yet hath my right arm o'erborne them, thrust them aside from me,
laid in their proud backs the long spear,–slender the shaft of it.
See, how it splitteth asunder mail-coat and armouring;
not the most valiant a refuge hath from the point of it.
Slain on the ground have I left him, prey to the lion's brood,
feast of the wrists and the fingers. Ha, for the sacrifice!
Heavy his mail-coat, its sutures, lo, I divided them
piercing the joints of the champion; brave was the badge of him.
Quick-handed he with the arrows, cast in the winter-time,
raider of wine-sellers' sign-boards, blamed as a prodigal.
He, when he saw me down riding, making my point at him,
showed me his white teeth in terror, nay, but not smilingly.
All the day long did we joust it. Then were his finger tips
stained as though dipped in the íthlem, dyed with the dragon's blood,
Till with a spear-thrust I pierced him, once and again with it,
last, with a blade of the Indies, fine steel its tempering,
Smote him, the hero of stature, tall as a tamarisk,
kinglike, in sandals of dun hide, noblest of all of them.
Oh, thou, my lamb, the forbidden! prize of competitors,
why did they bid me not love thee? why art thou veiled from me?
Sent I my hand-maiden spy-like: Go thou, I said to her,
bring me the news of my true love, news in veracity.
Go. And she went, and returning: These in unguardedness
sit, and thy fair lamb among them, waiting thy archery.
Then was it turned she towards me, fawn-necked in gentleness,
noble in bearing, gazelle-like, milk-white the lip of it.
Woe for the baseness of 'Amru, lord of ingratitude!
Verily thanklessness turneth souls from humanity.
Close have I kept to the war-words thy father once spoke to me,
how I should deal in the death-play, when lips part and teeth glitter,
When in the thick of the combat heroes unflinchingly
cry in men's ears their defiance, danger forgot by them.
Close have I kept them and stood forth their shield from the enemy,
calling on all with my war-cries, circling and challenging.
There where the horsemen rode strongest I rode out in front of them,
hurled forth my war-shout and charged them;–no man thought blame of me.
Antar! they cried; and their lances, well-cords in slenderness,
pressed to the breast of my war-horse still as I pressed on them.
Doggedly strove we and rode we. Ha, the brave stallion!
now is his breast dyed with blood-drops, his star-front with fear of them!
Swerved he, as pierced by the spear-points. Then in his beautiful
eyes stood the tears of appealing, words inarticulate.
If he had learned our man's language, then had he called to me:
if he had known our tongue's secret, then had he cried to me
Thus to my soul came consoling; grief passed away from it
hearing the heroes applauding, shouting: Ho, Ántar, ho!
Deep through the sand-drifts the horsemen charged with teeth grimly set,
urging their war-steeds, the strong-limbed, weight bearers all of them.
Swift the delúls too I urged them, spurred by my eagerness
forward to high deeds of daring, deeds of audacity.
Only I feared lest untimely drear death should shorten me
ere on the dark sons of Démdem vengeance was filled for me.
These are the men that reviled me, struck though I struck them not,
vowed me to bloodshed and evil or e'er I troubled them.
Nay, let their hatred o'erbear me! I care not. The sire of them
slain lies for wild beasts and vultures. Ha! for the sacrifice!