The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East/Volume 5/The Poem of Antar
THE POEM OF ANTAR
Have the poets left in the garment a place for a patch to be patched by me; and did you know the abode of your beloved after reflection?
The vestige of the house, which did not speak, confounded thee, until it spoke by means of signs, like one deaf and dumb.
Verily, I kept my she-camel there long grumbling, with a yearning at the blackened stones, keeping and standing firm in their own places.
It is the abode of a friend, languishing in her glance, submissive in the embrace, pleasant of smile.
Oh house of 'Ablah situated at Jiwaa, talk with me about those who resided in you. Good morning to you, O house of 'Ablah, and be safe from ruin.
I halted my she-camel in that place; and it was as though she were a high palace; in order that I might perform the wont of the lingerer.
And 'Ablah takes up her abode at Jiwaa; while our people went to Hazan, then to Mutathallam.
She took up her abode in the land of my enemies; so it became difficult for me to seek you, O daughter of Mahzam.
I was enamored of her unawares, at a time when I was killing her people, desiring her in marriage; but by your father's life I swear, this was not the time for desiring.
And verily you have occupied in my heart the place of the honored loved one, so do not think otherwise than this, that you are my beloved.
And how may be the visiting of her, while her people have taken up their residence in the spring at 'Unaizatain and our people at Ghailam?
I knew that you had intended departing, for, verily, your camels were bridled on a dark night.
Nothing caused me fear of her departure, except that the baggage camels of her people were eating the seeds of the Khimkhim tree throughout the country.
Amongst them were two and forty milk-giving camels, black as the wing-feathers of black crows.
When she captivates you with a mouth possessing sharp and white teeth, sweet as to its place of kissing, delicious of taste.
As if she sees with the two eyes of a young, grown up gazelle from the deer. It was as though the musk bag of a merchant in his case of perfumes preceded her teeth toward you from her mouth.
Or as if it is an old wine-skin, from Azri'at, preserved long, such as the kings of Rome preserve;
Or her mouth is as an ungrazed meadow, whose herbage the rain has guaranteed, in which there is but little dung; and which is not marked with the feet of animals.
The first pure showers of every rain-cloud rained upon it, and left every puddle in it bright and round like a dirham;
Sprinkling and pouring; so that the water flows upon it every evening, and is not cut off from it.
The fly enjoyed yet alone, and so it did not cease humming, as is the act of the singing drunkard;
Humming, while he rubs one foreleg against the other, as the striking on the flint of one, bent on the flint, and cut off as to his palm.
She passes her evenings and her mornings on the surface of a well-stuffed couch, while I pass my nights on the back of a bridled black horse.
And my couch is a saddle upon a horse big-boned in the leg, big in his flanks, great of girth.
Would a Shadanian she-camel cause me to arrive at her abode, who is cursed with an udder scanty of milk and cut off?
After traveling all night, she is lashing her sides with her tail, and is strutting proudly, and she breaks up the mounds of earth she passes over with her foot with its sole, treading hard.
As if I in the evening am breaking the mounds of earth by means of an ostrich, very small as to the distance between its two feet, and earless.
The young ostriches flock toward him, as the herds of Yemenian camels flock to a barbarous, unintelligible speaker.
They follow the crest of his head, as though it was a howdah on a large litter, tented for them.
He is small headed, who returns constantly to look after his eggs at Zil-'Ushairah; he is like a slave, with a long fur cloak and without ears.
She drank of the water of Duhruzain and then turned away, being disgusted, from the pools of stagnant water.
And she swerves away with her right side from the fear of one, whistling in the evening, a big, ugly-headed one;
From the fear of a cat, led at her side, every time she turned toward him in anger, he met her with both claws and mouth.
She knelt down at the edge of the pool of Rada', and groaned as though she had knelt on a reed, broken, and emitting a cracking noise.
And the sweat on the back was as though it were oil or thick pitch, with which fire is lighted round the sides of a retort.
Her places of flexure were wetted with it and she lavishly poured of it, on a spreading forelock, short and well-bred.
The length of the journey left her a strong, well-built body, like a high palace, built with cement, and rising high; and feet like the supports of a firmly pitched tent.
And surely I recollected you, even when the lances were drinking my blood, and bright swords of Indian make were dripping with my blood.
I wished to kiss the swords, for verily they shone as bright as the flash of the foretooth of your smiling mouth.
If you lower your veil over yourself in front of me, of what use will it be? for, verily, I am expert in capturing the mailed horseman.
Praise me for the qualities which you know I possess, for, verily, when I am not ill-treated, I am gentle to associate with.
And if I am ill-treated, then, verily, my tyranny is severe, very bitter is the taste of it, as the taste of the colocynth.
And, verily, I have drunk wine after the midday heats have subsided, buying it with the bright-stamped coin.
From a glass, yellow with the lines of the glass-cutter on it, which was accompanied by a white-stoppered bottle on the lefthand side.
And when I have drunk, verily, I am the squanderer of my property, and my honor is great, and is not sullied.
And when I have become sober, I do not diminish in my generosity, and, as you know, so are my qualities and my liberality.
And many a husband of a beautiful woman, I have left prostrate on the ground, with his shoulders hissing like the side of the mouth of one with a split lip.
My two hands preceeded him with a hasty blow, striking him before he could strike me; and with the drops of blood from a penetrating stroke, red like the color of Brazil wood.
Why did you not ask the horsemen, O daughter Malik! If you were ignorant, concerning what you did not know about my condition,
At a time when I never ceased to be in the saddle of a long striding, wounded, sturdy horse, against whom the warriors came in succession.
At one time he is detached to charge the enemy with the lance, and at another he joins the large host with their bows tightly strung.
He who was present in the battle will inform you that verily I rush into battle, but I abstain at the time of taking the booty.
I see spoils, which, if I want I would win; but my bashfulness and my magnanimity hold me back from them.
And many a fully-armed one, whom the warriors shunned fighting with, neither a hastener in flight, nor a surrenderer;
My hands were generous to him by a quick point with a straightened spear strong in the joints; Inflicting a wound wide of its two sides, the sound of the flow of blood from it leads at night the prowling wolves, burning with hunger.
I rent his vesture with a rigid spear, for the noble one is not forbidden to the spears.
Then I left him a prey for the wild beasts, who seize him, and gnaw the beauty of his fingers and wrist.
And many a long, closely-woven coat of mail, I have split open the links of it with a sword, off one defending his rights, and renowned for bravery.
Whose hands are ready, with gambling arrows when it is winter, a tearer-down of the signs of the wine-sellers, and one reproached for his extravagance.
When he saw that I had descended from my horse, and was intending killing him, he showed his teeth, but without smiling.
My meeting with him was when the day spread out, and he was as if his fingers and his head were dyed with indigo.
I pierced him with my spear, and then I set upon him with my Indian sword pure of steel, and keen. A warrior, so stately in size as if his clothes were on a high tree: soft leather shoes are worn by him and he is not twinned.
Oh, how wonderful is the beauty of the doe of the hunt, to whom is she lawful? To me she is unlawful; would to God that she was not unlawful.
So, I sent my female slave, and said to her, "Go, find out news of her and inform me."
She said, "I saw carelessness on the part of the enemies, and that the doe is possible to him who is shooting."
And it was as though she looked toward me with the neck of a doe, a fawn of the gazelles, pure and with a white upper lip.
I am informed that 'Amru is unthankful for my kindness while ingratitude is a cause of evil to the soul of the giver.
And, verily, I remember the advice of my uncle, in the battle, when the two lips quiver from off the white teeth of the mouth,
In the thick of the battle, of which the warriors do not complain of the rigors, except with an unintelligible noise.
When my people defended themselves with me against the spears of the enemy, I did not refrain from the spears through cowardice, but the place of my advance had become too strait.
When I heard the cry of Murrah rise, and saw the two sons of Rabi'ah in the thick dust, While the tribe of Muhallam were struggling under their banners, and death was under the banners of the tribe of Mulhallam,
I made sure that at the time of their encounter there would be a blow, which would make the heads fly from the bodies, as the bird flies from off her young ones sitting close.
When I saw the people, while their mass advanced, excite one another to fight, I turned against them without being reproached for any want of bravery.
They were calling 'Antarah, while the spears were as though they were well-ropes in the breast of Adham.
They were calling 'Antarah, while the swords were as though they were the flash of lightnings in a dark cloud.
They were calling 'Antarah, while the arrows were flying, as though they were a flight of locusts, hovering above watering places.
They were calling "O 'Antarah," while the coats of mail shone with close rings, shining as though they were the eyeballs of frogs floating in a wavy pond.
I did not cease charging the enemy, with the prominent part of his throat and breast, until he became covered with a shirt of blood.
Then he turned on account of the falling of the spears on his breast, and complained to me with tears and whinnyings.
If he had known what conversation was, he would have complained with words, and verily he would have, had he known speech, talked with me.
And verily the speech of the horsemen, "Woe to you, 'Antarah, advance, and attack the enemy," cured my soul and removed its sickness.
While the horses sternly frowning were charging over the soft soil, being partly the long-bodied mares, and partly the long-bodied, well-bred horses.
My riding-camels are tractable, they go wherever I wish; while my intellect is my helper, and I drive it forward with a firm order.
Verily, it lay beyond my power that I should visit you; so, know what you have known, and some of what you have not known.
The lances of the tribe of Bagheez intercepted you and the perpetrators of the war set aside those who did not perpetrate it.
And, verily, I turned the horse for the attack, while his neck was bleeding, until the horses began to shun me.
And verily I feared that I should die, while there has not yet been a turn for war against the two sons of Zamzam;
The two revilers of my honor, while I did not revile them, and the threateners of my blood, when I did not see them.
There is no wonder should they do so, for I left their father a prey for the wild beasts and every large old vulture.
- This is the Antar, or Antarah, who became the most noted of Arab heroes of romance.
- That is, have the poets left any deficiency to be supplied? Have the poets of the former days left any poetry unsaid that the poets of the present day may say it?
- When there was war between the two tribes, there was little use his wishing to marry her.