The Poem of Zohair

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The Poem of Zohair  (1881) 
by Zuhayr, translated by W. A. Clouston
One of seven poems hanged in the Islamic Kaaba, predating the birth of Muhammad. Translated in 1881.

ARE these the only traces of the lovely Ommaufia? Are these the silent ruins of her mansion in the rough plains of Derraage and Mothatallem?

2. Are the remains of her abode, in the two stations of Rakma, become like blue stains renewed with fresh woad on the veins of the wrist?

3. There the wild cows with large eyes, and the milk-white deer, walk in slow succession, while their young rise hastily to follow them from every lair.

4. On this plain I stopped, after an absence of twenty summers, and with difficulty could recollect the mansion of my fair one after long meditation;

5. After surveying the black stones on which her cauldrons used to be raised, and the canal round her tent, like the margin of a fish-pond, which time had not destroyed.

6. Soon as I recollected the dwelling-place of my beloved, I said to the remains of her bower,—"Hail, sweet bower! may thy morning be fair and auspicious!"

7. But, I added, look, my friend! dost thou not discern a company of maidens seated on camels, and advancing over the high ground above the streams of Jortham?

8. They leave on their right the mountains and rocky plains of Kenaan. Oh, how many of my bitter foes, and how many of my firm allies, does Kenaan contain!

9. They are mounted in carriages covered with costly awnings, and with rose-coloured veils, the linings of which have the hue of crimson andem-wood.

10. They now appear by the valley of Subaan, and now they pass through it: the trappings of all their camels are new and large.

11. When they ascend from the bosom of the vale, they sit forward on the saddle-cloths, with every mark of a voluptuous gaiety.

12. The locks of stained wool, that fall from their carriages whenever they alight, resemble the scarlet berries of night-shade not yet crushed.

13. They rose at day-break; they proceeded at early dawn; they are advancing towards the valley of Ras, directly and surely, as the hand to the mouth.

14. Now, when they have reached the brink of yon blue gushing rivulet, they fix the poles of their tents, like the Arab with a settled mansion.

15. Among them the nice gazer on beauty may find delight, and the curious observant eye may be gratified with charming objects.

16. In this place, how nobly did the two descendants of Gaidh, the son of Morra, labour to unite the tribes, which a fatal effusion of blood had long divided!

17. I have sworn by the sacred edifice, round which the sons of Koraish and Jorham, who built it, make devout processions;

18. Yes, I have solemnly sworn, that I would give due praise to that illustrious pair, who have shown their excellence in all affairs, both simple and complicated.

19. Noble chiefs! You reconciled Abs and Dhobyan after their bloody conflicts: after the deadly perfumes of Minsham had long scattered poison among them.

20. You said: "We will secure the public good on a firm basis: whatever profusion of wealth or exertions of virtue it may demand, we will secure it."

21. Thence you raised a strong fabric of peace; from which all partial obstinacy and all criminal supineness were alike removed.

22. Chiefs, exalted in the high ranks of Maad, father of Arabs! may you be led into the paths of felicity! The man who opens for his country a treasure of glory should himself be glorified.

23. They drove to the tents of their appeased foes a herd of young camels, marked for the goodness of their breed, and either inherited from their fathers or the scattered prizes of war.

24. With a hundred camels they closed all wounds: in due season were they given, yet the givers were themselves free from guilt.

25. The atonement was auspiciously offered by one tribe to the other; yet those who offered it had not shed a cupful of blood.

26. Oh, convey this message from me to the sons of Dhobyan, and say to the confederates: Have you not bound yourselves in this treaty by an indissoluble tie?

27. Attempt not to conceal from God the designs which your bosoms contain; for that which you strive to hide God perfectly knows.

28. He sometimes defers the punishment, but registers the crime in a volume, and reserves it for the day of account; sometimes He accelerates the chastisement, and heavily it falls!

29. War is a dire fiend, as you have known by experience; nor is this a new or a doubtful assertion concerning her.

30. When you expelled her from your plains, you expelled her covered with infamy; but when you kindled her flame, she blazed and raged.

31. She ground you, as the mill grinds the corn with its lower stone; like a female camel, she became pregnant: she bore twice in one year; and at her last labour, she was the mother of twins:

32. She brought forth Distress and Ruin, monsters full-grown, each of them deformed as the dun camel of Aad; she then gave them her breast, and they were instantly weaned.

33. Oh, what plenty she produced in your land! The provisions which she supplied were more abundant, no doubt, than those which the cities of Irak dispense to their inhabitants, weighed with large weights, and measured with ample measures!

34. Hail, illustrious tribe! They fix their tents where faithful allies defend their interests, whenever some cloudy night assails them with sudden adversity.

35. Hail, noble race! among whom neither can the revengeful man wreak his vengeance, nor is the penitent offender left to the mercy of his foes.

36. Like camels were they turned loose to pasture between the times of watering; and then were they led to copious pools, horrid with arms and blood:

39. They dragged one another to their several deaths; and then were they brought back, like a herd, to graze on pernicious and noxious weeds.

38. I swore by my life, that I would exalt with praises that excellent tribe, whom Hosein, the son of Demdem, injured, when he refused to concur in the treaty.

39. He bent his whole mind to the accomplishment of his hidden purpose: he revealed it not; he took no precipitate step.

40. He said, "I will accomplish my design; and will secure myself from my foe with a thousand horses well caparisoned."

41. He made a fierce attack, nor feared the number of tents, where Death, the mother of vultures, had fixed her mansion;

42. There the warrior stood armed at all points, fierce as a lion with strong muscles, with a flowing mane, with claws never blunted:

43• A bold lion, who, when he is assailed, speedily chastises the assailant; and, when no one attacks him openly, often becomes the aggressor.

44. Yet I swear by thy life, my friend, that their lances poured not forth the blood of Ibn Neheic, nor of Mothallem, cruelly slain;

45. Their javelins had no share in drinking the blood of Naufel, nor that of Waheb, nor that of Ibn Mojaddem.

46. The deaths of all those chiefs I myself have seen expiated with camels free from blemish, ascending the summits of rocks.

47. He, indeed, who rejects the blunt end of the lance, which is presented as a token of peace, must yield to the sharpness of the point, with which every tall javelin is armed.

48. He who keeps his promise escapes blame; and he who directs his heart to the calm resting-place of integrity will never stammer nor quake in the assemblies of his nation.

49. He who trembles at all possible causes of death falls in their way: even though he desire to mount the skies on a scaling-ladder.

50. He who possesses wealth or talents, and withholds them from his countrymen, alienates their love, and exposes himself to their obloquy.

51. He who continually debases his mind by suffering others to ride over it, and never raises it from so abject a state, will at last repent of his meanness.

52. He who sojourns in foreign countries mistakes his enemy for his friend; and him, who exalts not his own soul, the nation will not exalt.

53. He who drives not invaders from his cistern with strong arms will see it demolished; and he who abstains ever so much from injuring others will often himself be injured.

54. He who conciliates not the hearts of men in a variety of transactions will be bitten by their sharp teeth, and trampled on by their pasterns.

55. He who shields his reputation by generous deeds will augment it; and he who guards not himself from censure will be censured.

56. I am weary of the hard burdens which life imposes; and every man who, like me, has lived fourscore years will assuredly be no less weary.

57. I have seen Death herself stumble like a dim-sighted camel; but he whom she strikes falls; and he whom she misses grows old, even to decrepitude.

58. Whenever a man has a peculiar cast in his nature, although he supposes it concealed, it will soon be known.

59. Experience has taught me the events of this day and yesterday; but as to the events of to-morrow, I confess my blindness.

60. Half of man is his tongue, and the other half is his heart: the rest is only an image composed of blood and flesh.

61. He who confers benefits on persons unworthy of them changes his praise to blame, and his joy to repentance.

62. How many men dost thou see whose abundant merit is admired, when they are silent, but whose failings are discovered, as soon as they open their lips!

63. An old man never grows wise after his folly; but when a youth has acted foolishly he may attain wisdom.

64. We asked, and you gave; we repeated our requests, and your gift also was repeated; but whoever frequently solicits will at length meet with a refusal.