1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abu Nuwas

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Abū Nuwās [Abū ‛Alī Hal-asan ibn Hāni'al-Ḥakamī] (c. 756-810), known as Abū Nuwās, Arabian poet, was born in al-Ahwāz, probably about 756. His mother was a Persian, his father a soldier, a native of Damascus. His studies were made in Baṣra under Abū Zaid and Abū ‛Ubaida (q.v.), and in Kufa under Khalaf al-Aḥmar. He is also said to have spent a year with the Arabs in the desert to gain purity of language. Settling in Bagdad he enjoyed the favour of Harūn al-Rashīd and al-Amīn, and died there probably about 810. The greater part of his life was characterized by great licentiousness and disregard of religion, but in his later days he became ascetic. Abū Nuwās is recognized as the greatest poet of his time. His mastery of language has led to extensive quotation of his verses by Arabian scholars. Genial, cynical, immoral, he drew on all the varied life of his time for the material of his poems. In his wine-songs especially the manners of the upper classes of Bagdad are revealed. He was one of the first to ridicule the set form of the qasīda (elegy) as unnatural, and has satirized this form in several poems. See I. Goldziher, Abhandlungen zur Arabischen Philologie (Leyden, 1896), i. pp. 145 ff. His poems were collected by several Arabian editors. One such collection (the MS. of which is now in Vienna) contains nearly 5000 verses grouped under the ten headings: wine, hunting, praise, satire, love of youths, love of women, obscenities, blame, elegies, renunciation of the world. His collected poems (Diwān) have been published in Cairo (1860) and in Beirūt (1884). The wine-songs were edited by W. Ahlwardt under the title Diwān des Abu Nowas. 1. Die Weinlieder (Greifswald, 1861).

(G. W. T.)