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Praying Mantis in the Desert. The Najdi Poet Ibn Subayyil Consumed with Love for the Bedouin

Des mantes religieuses dans le désert. Ibn Subayyil, poète du Najd, brûlant d'amour pour les femmes bédouines
Paul Marcel Kurpershoek

Résumés

ʿAbdallah b. Subayyil (mort en 1933) est le dernier grand poète de ghazal de l’ère pré-pétrolière dans l’Arabie centrale. Il était le chef de la petite mais très ancienne ville de Nifī. Il est réputé pour ses vivantes descriptions des tribus bédouines qui passaient l’été aux puits d’eau de Nifī, ainsi que des beautés bédouines dont il était tombé amoureux. Il est considéré comme un éminent représentant de la tradition nabaṭī, un langage du désert fait d’un mélange d’arabe vernaculaire et d’arabe classique. L’auteur présente ici quatre poèmes qu’il a enregistrés en 1989 auprès d’un rāwī (conteur) bédouin. Deux d’entre eux faisaient partie de la « correspondance poétique » d’Ibn Subayyil avec Ibn Zirībān, un chef guerrier de la tribu Muṭayr. Les deux autres mettent en scène le délicat sujet de son amour pour les belles de la tribu ʿUtayba — celle-là même qui devait, plus tard, s’installer à Nifī et éclipser le clan auquel appartenait Ibn Subayyil, ainsi que le suggère le titre de l’article.

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  • 1 At the time I was living in Riyadh, where I was posted as a diplomat in 19851989. My fieldwork the (...)
  • 2 ʿAbd al‑Karīm al‑Juhaymān, Al‑amthāl al‑shaʿbiyya fī qalb al‑jazīra al‑ʿarabiyya, 10 vols., Riyadh, (...)

1In June 1989, I visited the small Najdi town of Nifī.1 Nifī is a very old settlement and also the place where the poet ʿAbdallah Ibn Subayyil (d. 1933) was born and where he spent his life. To this day Ibn Subayyil is sill very well known and highly popular in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries for his exquisite poems, especially his love poetry (ghazal) and the striking images taken from Bedouin life. His cultural influence in Saudi Arabia can be gauged from the many lines of poetry quoted in dictionaries of Najdi proverbs.2 The first to publish his poetry, Khālid Ibn Muḥammad al‑Faraj, in Dīwān al‑Nabaṭ also mentions the esteem in which Ibn Subayyil is held because of the simplicity, sweetness and elegance of his language and his flowing verse.

  • 3 Saad Abdullah Sowayan vividly explains and elucidates the importance of Ibn Subayyil in the Najdi N (...)
  • 4 It seems poetry was largely composed during the first half of his life.

2Ibn Subayyil took an active part in the cultural and social life of Nifī and its surrounding area, and his mastery of poetry made him a celebrity and a sought-after personality. He composed his verses in the Najdi tradition that had nurtured him and that he held dear. A man of the town himself, a ḥaḍarī (ḥḏ̣iri), a villager who spent his life in a fixed place, Ibn Subayyil admired and even stood in awe of the desert-roaming Bedouin.3 As will be explained later in this article, the same Bedouin of ʿUtayba (ʿTēbah) who featured in his poetry took over Nifī as part of a settlement scheme for the tribal warriors, the ikhwān, who — led by the late king ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz — conquered the territories that make up present-day Saudi Arabia. Surely, Ibn Subayyil, who was also the headman of Nifī, could not have foreseen this outcome at the time when he composed his work.4 Hence the title of this article: in an ironic twist of history he and his family lost their pre-eminent position to the very tribe whose beauty had enthralled him — just as, presumably, the male praying mantis does not expect to be eaten alive by the female during sexual intercourse.

3Ibn Subayyil’s depiction of the Bedouin is couched in his ghazal, as the women who caught his fancy were mostly Bedouin and interaction between villagers such as him and the Bedouin used to be limitied to high summer when the tribes and their herds would stay by Nifī’s wells. For both the tribes and the village folks these months of residence were an occasion to catch up on friendships and stories over the course of visits and evenings spent reclining on a cushion in social circles. In poetry, this is also the traditional time and setting for exchanging amorous glances and furtive contacts between members of the opposite sex as they push the limits of social and legal tolerance, while staying firmly within the time-honored conventions of Arabic love-poetry. If we are to believe Ibn Subayyil’s descriptions, young Bedouin women, in their tight-fitting dresses and gaudy colors, could be counted on to create a sensation on Nifī’s market street when shopping for camp necessities.

  • 5 For many examples, see Muḥammad b. Nāṣir al‑ʿUbūdī, Muʿjam al‑anwā’ wa al‑fuṣūl, Riyadh, 2011, p. 1 (...)

4Inevitably, this time of merriment and buzzing social life would come to an end in September as the star Canopus, Suhayl (shēl), made its appearance on the horizon. This is why the star has been cursed by all Nabaṭī poets,5 the settled bards as well as the Bedouin ones: clans would take off in different directions, each in search of its own pastures, interrupting — perhaps for good — budding acquaintances between lovers generally too shy to declare their love. Similarly, Ibn Subayyil is left behind as he watches the camels and their precious cargo disappear over the crest line of hills in the distance while he, as he recalls, is plunged into the depths of despair and sorrow of being cut off, possibly forever, from the manifestation of the object of desire. This conforms to the classical elegiac opening scene, the nasīb, with the loved one´s departure or the poet stumbling upon the remains of a deserted camp where the lovers had once got engaged in secret. In the case of Ibn Subayyil, however, it is certain that such a scene was part of the poet´s real life experiences.

5If in classical poetry a distinction is made between the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, thirteen hundred years later something similar might be said about the culture of pre-oil Arabia and the new era marked by the country’s modern transformation. From this perspective Ibn Subayyil could be classified as a mukhaḍram poet — a poet whose life and work falls partly in the pre-Islamic and partly in the Islamic age — as he too was a poet between two eras. Born in 1860, Ibn Subayyil passed away in 1933 and therefore witnessed the very beginnings of the new age. He mostly lived in the rather austere conditions of pre-modern Najd and his poetry clearly dates back to before the establishment of Saudi Arabia by king ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz (1932).

  • 6 Khālid b. Muḥammad, al‑Dawsarī, Al‑Faraj, Dīwān al‑Nabaṭ, majmūʿah min al‑shiʿr al‑ʿāmmi fi Najd. v (...)
  • 7 ʿAbdallah al‑Khālid al‑Ḥātam, Min al‑shiʿr al‑Najdī, dīwān al‑shāʿir ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil(...)

6For these reasons Khālid al‑Faraj, the editor of an early annotated collection of Nabaṭī poetry, praises Ibn Subayyil as “the seal of the great poets who became famous during his life and whose words were carried far and wide by travellers on camel back.” He also adds that ‘‘his poetry is of excellent quality, well-composed and full of vivid descriptions, apposite phrases and a sweetness that surpasses the work of many earlier and later poets, to the delight of his audience of both townsfolk and Bedouin.”6 Another early editor of Nabaṭī poetry, al‑Ḥātam, concurs: “One of the great names in poetry (min fuḥūl al‑shuʿarā’, lit. ‘a stud poet’), Ibn Subayyil is among the foremost of the later Najdi poets.”7

  • 8 See the article on Nifi in the geographical dictionary for the High Najd by Saʿd b. ʿAbdallah b. Ju (...)

7As already observed by al‑Faraj, what sets Ibn Subayyil apart is also his physical and artistic position at the intersection of two worlds that for centuries have intermingled and existed jointly in economic, cultural and social symbiosis, while also developing into opposites in terms of civilizational identity: the ḥaḏ̣ar, the population settled in fixed dwellings, and the baduw, the Bedouin who migrate and mostly live in tents. Every year the Bedouin, in particular those of the ʿUtayba tribe on whose traditional dīrah (tribal ranges) the townlet of Nifī was situated, used to spend the hot season of summer (al‑gēḏ̣, CA qayẓ) at the wells of Nifī. There, they watered their herds, while pasture was found in the surroundings of Nifī, a place known for its pasture lands and the healthy air of the High Najd.8

Ibn Subayyil’s fascination with the Bedouin

  • 9 See verse 38 of poem II below: “As for myself, I seek no further news about her: / A villager am I; (...)
  • 10 Saad al‑Bazei in the Riyadh Daily of 24 September 1994 wrote: “Ibn Sebaiel wrote some of the most l (...)

8Ibn Subayyil, a distinguished member and the headman of the settled population of Nifī, was fascinated by the Bedouin and all they stood for, including the idealization of Bedouin life and traditions that is characteristic of Bedouin poets themselves. Yet his soft and playful tone, and emotional sensibilities, are undeniably those of a non-Bedouin poet. Ibn Subayyil himself acknowledges that as a settled person, ḥḏ̣iri (ḥaḍarî), he is in a different class and well aware that he should not aspire to things that are the exclusive preserve of those with the prestige and power that come with belonging to certain Bedouin lineages.9 This modesty, coupled with his glowing descriptions of Bedouin life, may be one of the reasons why Ibn Subayyil has always been in vogue with a broad spectrum of Arabian society.10

9In his verse this admiration for things Bedouin is inextricably linked with love poetry that tells of the bard’s secret — and at the same time not so secret — passion for the young ladies who, in his view, are the most colorful and exciting part of the hustle and bustle created by the Bedouin during the summer months in the otherwise boring and uneventful lives of the settled folks, as Ibn Subayyil presents it.

  • 11 Al‑Faraj, p. 166.

10The great majority of Ibn Subayyil’s work belongs to the category of ghazal,11 love poetry of the chaste (ʿudhrī, as al‑Faraj calls it) and anonymous variety. In Nabaṭī poetry ghazal is both ubiquitous and highly stereotyped. This in many cases makes it fit for innocuous entertainment, a touch of frivolity to create a somewhat light atmosphere, something frowned upon by religious conservatives yet without overstepping the boundaries of what is tolerated, almost expected from younger revellers at their social gatherings — much less so as a paper on Nabaṭī poetry as an artistic vehicle for social content.

11But Ibn Subayyil’s ghazal is in a class of its own. In virtually all the poems his mastery shines through in the highly conventional, giving flavour to what otherwise might have remained mere platitudes. In a number of his poems the ghazal seems almost a pretext for wonderful tableaux vivants with scenes from Bedouin life and their customs, as exemplified by the poems below. Some of these are in the form of poetic exchanges (murāsalāt shiʿriyya) with friends — poets who are members of the tribal aristocracy yet clearly value Ibn Subayyil as a great poet, but also as the headman of Nifī which is an important port of call for their tribes. The tones of these poems is not only tinged with the traditional melancholy over the departure or aloofness of the beloved one, as well as with serious realism, and wisdom, they are also remarkable for their jocularity and surprising light-heartedness.

  • 12 Sowayan places Ibn Subayyil in the context of “a specific school of poetry that as some have sugges (...)

12All of this raises intriguing questions about the relationship between Ibn Subayyil’s life in Nifī, his art, as well as his attitude towards his subject — for they are inevitably bound up with our reading of his verse. From a literary perspective, one might study the interplay between the conventional inventory and the original elements in the poet’s treatment of the various themes.12 Beyond that, Ibn Subayyil’s work is of great interest for the understanding of the contrasting yet symbiotic relationship of the age-old pair of settled (ḥaḏ̣ar, traditionally equated with civilization, ḥaḍāra) and badū (al‑bādiya, traditionally associated with uncouthness and lack of refinement and civilization).

Ibn Subayyil and his heritage in Nifī: a lover fallen victim to the praying mantis?

13Nifī is situated in the tribal area of ar‑Rūqa of the ʿUtayba tribe (the other branch of the ʿUtayba, Barqa, led by the Ibn Ḥumayd, is located more to the south) whose foremost lineage of sheikhs are the Ibn Rubayʿān (Ibn Rbēʿān). The Bedouin at the wells of Nifī portrayed by Ibn Subayyil are from the tribe of ʿUtayba, including some belonging to the Ibn Rubayʿān clan. From his poetry, it appears that Ibn Subayyil was on good terms with them. His warmest praise, however, is for a sheikh from another powerful tribe to the east of Nifī, Fayḥān b. Qāʿid b. Zirībān of the Muṭayr (Mṭēr). The high-spirited exchanges with Ibn Zirībān give the impression of a warm friendship between equal partners and fellow-poets.

  • 13 ʿAbdallah b. Rubayʿān and other informants in Riyadh. Mandīl b. Muḥammad b. Mandīl al‑Fuhayd, Min ā (...)

14The tone Ibn Subayyil adopts towards ʿUtayba, among whom the sheikh and poet Dhaʿār b. Rubayʿān is addressed by name, seems more circumspect by comparison. That may have been for good reason. The proximity of ʿUtayba to Nifī inevitably implied issues of power and pre-eminence, no matter how cordial actual relationships might have been. When the traditional situation changed as a result of the establishment of the Saudi state, centralized government and the resources at its disposal with the emergence of the oil-economy, the Bedouin tribes settled down. In the case of the Ibn Rubayʿān this meant that they installed themselves in Nifī and largely pushed aside the old settled population led by the Ibn Subayyil clan.13

  • 14 Marcel Kurpershoek, Arabia of the Bedouins, London 2001, p. 27 and Oral Poetry & Narratives from Ce (...)

15This development was not unique to Nifī. Throughout Saudi Arabia tribes that prided themselves on their Bedouin heritage, and mutually recognized one another as a kind of nobility based on prestige (ḥasab wa‑nasab, prestige and lineage), settled in towns and villages, while remaining attached to their traditional tribal ranges. Though the Saudi state established itself as the supreme and final arbiter, in practice the tribal chiefs had easy access to high-ranking officials and princes of the Saud family. Accordingly state officials in the provinces de facto also recognized local social hierarchies, with the main Bedouin lineage often in pre-eminent positions, acting as intermediaries for fellow tribesmen of lesser standing.14

  • 15 Arabia of the Bedouins, p. 194-196.

16The old settled population, though lacking in tribal spirit, yet also more naturally predisposed to harmoniously work as part of and under the authority of the state and its religious foundations, also benefited in its own way. Many did well and certainly better than the lesser tribesmen who lagged behind in education and the acquisition of new skills in demand as the economy developed. The term for a member of the old settled communities, ḥḏ̣iri (ḥaḍari), came to denote those sections of the townspeople that could not boast a lineage with some measure of recognized prestige.15

  • 16 Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia 4: A Saudi Tribal History, Honour and Faith in the Tra (...)

17Whereas in Wādi ad‑Dawāsir in southern Najd, for instance, the tribe of ad‑Dawāsir traditionally comprised sections of Bedouin and oasis-dwellers, with various combinations and intermediate forms,16 this was not the case in Nifī. Like the old and famous tribe of Tamīm, the tribe of Ibn Subayyil, Bāhila (pl. Bawāhil), has led a settled existence for many hundreds of years. But by itself, there is no guarantee that such a prestigious and ancient pedigree can prevail over a more recent formation such as that of ʿUtayba and its sheikhs. As with the other major tribes, the warlike past of ʿUtayba, its participation in the campaigns of the ikhwān that paved the way for the Saudi state, and its influence over a large swath of territory ensured that in a contest of wills they would easily push aside a small, local group with no particularly strong connections among the country’s leading circles. This is what happened in the end to the clan of Ibn Subayyil.

Fieldwork in Nifī

18I met the poet’s grandson, Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdallah Subayyil, in Riyadh. He had published a collection, Dīwān Ibn Subayyil (Riyadh 1988), including most poems of Khālid al‑Faraj’s collection, and a number of additional ones. His brother, Saʿd b. ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz, accompanied me on part of my visit to Nifī. According to Muḥammad some of the new additions were found in manuscripts in the family's possession, while others were recorded from transmitters. The notable exception as compared to the collection of al‑Faraj is a poem of fifty-one lines in praise of Muḥammad b. Rashīd, the towering prince of the northern capital Ḥā’il who ruled supreme in Najd until his death in 1897. Apparently, including this poem was seen as inappropriate at the time of the new collection’s publication: readers might have wondered why the dīwān featured such a lengthy ode to Ibn Rashīd, without an even greater eulogy for the House of Saud.

  • 17 There is nothing in the verses that gives any indication of the identity of the young ladies, not e (...)
  • 18 This in spite of the fact that the only poems known to me were a few verses on making coffee and it (...)
  • 19 In the pages devoted to Nifī in the geographical dictionary, ʿĀliyat Najd (High Najd) by Saʿd b. Ju (...)

19Before my departure I was told to be careful in Riyadh, as it might be frowned upon if I suggested that Ibn Subayyil’s ghazal was inspired by damsels belonging to the tribal leader clan, the Ibn Rubayʿān.17 I was also strongly advised to show my interest in poetry composed by members of the Ibn Rubayʿān, so as not to cause jealousy and envy by focusing solely on Ibn Subayyil.18 In fact I was received with kindness and courtesy by the amīr ʿAbdallah b. Rubayʿān. We were joined by Saʿd b. Subayyil, a Qur’ān teacher, and our conversation was pleasant enough. However, when I later showed the amīr a statement to the effect that the Ibn Subayyil had been appointed amīr (here with the meaning of local headman appointed by the government, an appointment that is frequently the subject of much intrigue and animosity —locally and in Riyadh) of the old settled population and the Ibn Rubayʿān as the amīr of the badū (Bedouin), he demurred.19

  • 20 Al‑Faraj, Dīwān, p. 165, mentions that Nifī became a hijrah, settlement of the ikhwān, for the ʿUta (...)
  • 21 In 1929, at the climax of the rebellion of the ikhwān […] ʿUmar threw his full weight behind the c (...)

20According to ʿAbdallah b. Rubayʿān, his father ʿUmar, the paramount sheikh of al‑Rūqah of ʿUtayba and of all ʿUtayba, who died in 1979, had received orders from King ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz to leave the al‑Dahna’ sands in Washm and to settle with his tribes in Nifī.20 Privately held land was acquired and the government-owned land was granted to him. They were given freedom to use the land as they saw fit, either for construction or agricultural purposes. This munificence was in recognition of the services of ʿUmar and his father ʿAbd al‑Raḥmān in the military campaigns of ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz when he laid the foundations for what was to become Saudi Arabia.21

21ʿAbdallah noted that only four families of the Ibn Subayyil remained in Nifī. The others had moved away to al‑Qaṣīm and Riyadh to pursue independent careers. The imāra of the Ibn Subayyil only extended to their own jamāʿa, a much diminished group. Clearly, the Ibn Rubayʿān had been the winners of the unequal contest. The land given by the King had put them into the best possible position to derive maximum benefit from the generous policies of arḍ wa‑qarḍ, land and loans, fuelled by the oil boom of the early eighties.

22Many of the young men of Ibn Rubayʿān whom I met had enlisted as officers in the National Guard, a mainly tribal military force. At ʿAbdallah’s court as a tribal prince I saw an incessant flow of visitors, many of them simple Bedouin from as far away as the suburbs of Mecca, at the western end of ʿUtayba’s vast tribal area. They would kiss him respectfully on the nose and ask his intercession with the authorities in Riyadh or other assistance to solve their problems: financial disputes, issues with the government or the judiciary etc. At the end of my stay the amīr invited me to return and advised me that it would be more useful and profitable for me to devote my studies to his tribe of ʿUtayba.

Old Nifī and Ibn Subayyil

23Old Nifī, about two kilometers away from the new village built by the Ibn Rubayʿān, still showed some remnants of the village described in the poems. It is separated from the gardens of palm-trees planted by ʿUmar b. Rubayʿān by a wide, dry watercourse, the baṭḥa mentioned in verse 11 of poem no. 1 and verse 7 of poem no. 2 below, with clumps of huge tamarisk trees in the middle. At the edge of the village was an open space that used to be the only gate through which one could enter the townlet, the bāb al‑barr, “desert gate.” The gate’s wooden doors were still there, lying on the ground. Inside were the remains of the mosque, mentioned in verse 21 of poem no. 1, and the village well, bīr Ḥlītīt, regarding which I recorded two hitherto unpublished verses from a toothless old nephew of Ibn Subayyil, Muḥammad Ibn ʿAbd al‑Muḥsin (ʿAbdallah’s brother) Ibn Subayyil, who still ran a small grocery store and presided over an equally simple majlis (a social meeting place) for a few friends of his generation on the sandy street in front of the shop.

Ḥlītīt ya‑rāfi khlūl al‑jimāʿah
la gillat al‑khirjah rifāha Ḥlītīt

“O Ḥlītīt, you make up for the clan’s shortcomings,
When provisions run low, Ḥlītīt comes to the rescue.”

24Water from the well flowed into a large water fount with a spout at its bottom that could be opened for people to shower on hot days. Ibn Subayyil’s house was just a few steps from there, a narrow corridor leading to the front door. No sign of grandeur here.

25Towards the end of the evening Saʿd Ibn Subayyil took me to al‑Athla (Tamarisk), several dozen kilometers to the north, a village that had remained unchanged I was told. A few members of the Ibn Subayyil who had stayed on looked at me with suspicion and inquired whether I had come with of the government’s permission. The real purpose of my visit was Nāṣir b. Fahd al‑ʿUwaywīd, son of the famous village headman and poet. I was told that he was about 140 years old and that he had served in the army of the Sharīf of Mecca and taken part in the WWI march to ʿAqaba. Unfortunately, the Methusalem in his wheel-chair refused to even look at me. When pressed by bystanders he put an end to the discussion by pointing out that evening was the time for ʿibāda, praying and other religious activities, and that if I had wished to talk about frivolous matters like poetry I ought to have come after the afternoon prayer, ʿaṣr.

  • 22 His opening remark was: al‑giṣīd bi‑flūs, poems are given in exchange for money. Then, I was told t (...)

26I was more successful in the village of Musāwi. There, in a standard low Bedouin house, I recorded four poems of Ibn Subayyil from ʿAbdallah b. Nāfiʿ b. Numaysh al‑Ghubaiwī al‑ʿUtaybi.22

Four Poems23

  • 23 These four poems are the only ones by Ibn Subayyil to have been recorded in the course of fieldwork (...)

27It is not known when these poems were composed, though it must have been before WWI as the first poem was already recorded and published in The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin by Alois Musil, based on his pre-war travels to northern Arabia. Nor do we know much about the life of ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil.

  • 24 Copies of official correspondence Ibn Subayyil received from Riyadh and included in the collection (...)

28According to Saʿd b. Junaydil, the poet ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Saʿd b. Subayyil al‑Bāhilī and his family moved from al‑Midhnib to al‑Athla, along with his fellow-kinsmen from both the ʿUwaywīd and Rashīd families. From there Ibn Subayyil went to Nifī, where he started growing crops. His poems show the influence of the hardships of a peasant’s life, such as the difficulty of repaying your debts when the crops fall short of expectation, the stoic acceptance of misfortune, as well as his knowledge of the Qur’ān and of Islamic traditions that he learned at the local mosque. Whether he was literate or not is unknown. According to Ibn Junaydil he was illiterate, but Saʿd b. Subayyil told me his grandfather could read and write. 24

29Ibn Subayyil’s neighbor was also a poet of renown, better known as “Mṭawwaʿ Nifī”, a name derived from his reputation as a muṭawwaʿ, someone who voluntarily devoted himself to the service of religion, without necessarily having undergone formal training at an institute of Islamic learning — well before the term became a synonym for the Saudi religious police. The Muṭawwaʿ of Nifī may have performed the tasks of an imam at prayer, for instance. That the Mṭawwaʿ of Nifī had none of the harshness for which the religious police is now notorious shows in his poetry, such as the ghazal, flirtation in verse, he had composed for Ibn Subayyil’s daughter Sāra, just to tease his neighbor.

30At the time of my visit Sāra was still alive. I was told that as a little girl she used to listen from behind the door to Ibn Subayyil’s poems, because he did not want to let her attend his sessions. However, when he noticed her talent and her capacity to commit poems to memory, he started teaching her his poems himself. Thus she became an authority on his work and in case of doubt she had a decisive voice in the edition of the collection published by the grandson Muḥammad.

  • 25 These are the lines published by al‑Kamālī in al‑Azhār:
    The Muṭawwaʿ said:
    hayyaḍ ʿaliyy jwēdilin ma (...)

31Take for instance his poetic exchange with Fayḥān b. Zirībān, a tribal chieftain of Mṭēr, the published exchange of verses between him and his neighbor the Muṭawwaʿ suggest a freewheeling culture in which these friends made fun of each other in public and displayed a fine if somewhat quirky sense of humor.25

  • 26 Al‑Faraj, p. 166.

32Finally, Ibn Subayyil’s attitude towards Muḥammad Ibn Rashīd, the ruler and undisputed master of Najd in the second half of the 19th century, remains somewhat of a mystery. It is claimed by al‑Faraj that Ibn Subayyil composed a eulogy of Ibn Rashīd under duress, which would explain why some may find the poem rather stilted.26

33How this ode ranks among the work of Ibn Subayyil is a matter of discussion, but my impression is that as eulogies on rulers go this one is a true masterpiece, certainly when compared to the great majority of similar outpourings in more recent times. The circumstances surrounding its composition remain unknown, however.

  • 27 Muḥammad b. Abd al‑ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdallah al‑Subayyil, the editor of the later dīwān, told me that Ibn (...)

34Ibn Junaydil writes in his introduction to the collection by Ibn Subayyil’s grandson that one of Ibn Rashīd’s men stabbed Ibn Subayyil with a spear in his arm and shoulder, as a result of which he was permanently partially paralyzed in one hand.27 He is also said to have paid his respects to ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz, the late king, in 1903 in the city of ʿUnayza. It is asserted that in truth Ibn Subayyil had always been a supporter of the Saʿūds. What is certain, however, is that he was appointed village headman of the settled families of Nifī. That he was forced to compose his ode on Ibn Rashīd seems hard to substantiate, and in any case does not detract from its artistic merits. That it was not included in the later dīwān clearly is a decision based on political expediency rather than on a falling off in literary quality compared to the other poems in the collection.

Transmission and the text of the poems

  • 28 Sowayan, Nabaṭi Poetry, mentions that his grandfather Muḥammad as‑Sulaymān al‑Ṣuwayyān knew five po (...)

35The four poems recorded thanks to Ibn Nāfiʿ are about the Bedouin and the poet’s fascination with their customs and life-style — an admiration epitomized by his pining for the tantalizing presence of the Bedouin belles. When reciting these poems the transmitter, rāwī, did not hesitate for one second, in spite of their length and relative complexity. My assumption at the time of recording was that he had memorized these poems from earlier transmitters who might have known Ibn Subayyil himself. Unfortunately, at the time I was so convinced of this that it did not occur to me to ask. It was only decades later, seeing the resemblance almost word for word to the wording in the published dīwān of Ibn Faraj, and the more recent one by Ibn Subayyil’s grandson, that the question arose of whether perhaps Ibn Nāfiʿ had memorized the poems from the published version. He himself seemed illiterate, but he might have memorized the text with the help of a literate person, or of another transmitter who was both literate and an oral performer, et cetera. The possible crossovers between text, memory, and oral performance are too many to be enumerated.28

36The fact is that the recorded version based on oral performance is almost an exact copy of the published versions known to me, with one very important exception: the version published by Alois Musil in his Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, which happens to be far older than the ones of al‑Faraj and the Ibn Subayyil family.

37One would expect the older version to be the more authentic one of the two, but in this case things are not quite so simple. Certain differences in the order of the lines do not seem to make sense in Musil’s version, which is also signifīcantly shorter. Other differences can be explained by the fact that Musil may have misunderstood certain words, as he had to rely on explanations by the transmitters without the benefit of having a written version at his disposal.

38Nevertheless, Musil’s rendering of the poem is quite recognizable, regardless of whether it is the more authentic one. That the later editions seem more accurate can easily be explained by the fact that Ibn Subayyil died long after Musil recorded the poem and that written versions could have been kept by the family and others. These may have become the basis for the later published versions, alongside continued oral transmission, and are more likely to be correct than the versions circulating up north in Arabia such as the one recorded by Musil.

39An interesting aspect of Musil’s version is that it is accompanied by eight verses from a poem by Fayḥān bin Zirībān, to which Ibn Subayyil’s poem is a reply, composed in the same rhyme and metre, as customary. It has been included below, together with versions by Ibn Mandīl and al‑Luwayḥān.

Analysis of the poems

40Though I did not select the poems and left the choice to the transmitter, it so happens that the four poems are equally divided between two Bedouin tribes, and the two most powerful ones of Central Najd at that: Muṭayr and ʿUtayba. Nifī is situated in the general tribal homeland of ʿUtayba, or to be more precise its northern and foremost part belongs to al‑Rūqa led by Ibn Rubayʿān.

  • 29 Musil, Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, p. 182, says that Nifī “is tributary to the Dūshān (...)
  • 30 In this Musil probably followed the comments of the three transmitters, whom he mentions by name, i (...)

41The first two poems, though, are addressed to Ibn Subayyil’s friend Fayḥān b. Qāʿid b. Zirībān, a desert knight of al‑Dūshān (clan), sheikhs of the Muṭayr (Mṭēr) tribe.29 According to Alois Musil, Ibn Subayyil was a ‘purveyor’ to the Dūshān and provided them with everything they needed. But it seems this is solely based on the poem where an elaborate, witty metaphor — a large party of camel-riders being equipped by the poet to go in pursuit of a Bedouin belle for whom Ibn Zirībān is searching — is taken at face value as something that actually took place.30

42The two poems featuring Muṭayr are quite different from the two related to ʿUtayba. One main difference is that the first two poems culminate in madīḥ, effusive praise for the Dūshān sheikhs of the ʿIlwa branch of Muṭayr, in particular for Ibn Subayyil’s poetic correspondent, Ibn Zirībān. One of the other two poems begins with an address to Dhaʿār b. Mishāri, a chief of the Ibn Rubayʿān branch and a poet, but there is no mention of tribal belonging. Besides the mention of Dhaʿār, the ʿUtayba background to the scenes and descriptions can only be inferred from other elements in these poems. Of course, the reason could well be the quality of the personal bond between Ibn Subayyil and Ibn Zirībān. Yet there is also the possibility that Ibn Subayyil had to be more circumspect or had less reason to be so expressive of his feelings towards the Rubayʿān of ʿUtayba — as if he had had intimations then of what the future held for the Ibn Subayyil clan in Nifī.

  • 31 yā‑rāćib, as it is pronounced by the transmitter with affrication of the k‑ for yā‑rākib, a common (...)

43The poems to Ibn Zirībān are framed in a similar way. They both start with the vocative address yā‑rāćib,31 “O rider of” (a camel of such-and-such quality), followed by a description of the mounts in the party, the road they are going to travel, some of the events along the way, the personalities and the dwellings where they alight and, on to their destination, the person for whom the message is intended. Both poems culminate in fulsome praise and end with words of advice and gnomic wisdom, in the austere Najdi spirit, on how to deal with life’s vicissitudes. The message itself is the poet’s account of his efforts, as part of their own romantic pursuit, to track down a Bedouin beauty who had struck Ibn Zirībān’s fancy. The poem ends with the poet’s educated guess, based on extensive research, as to her whereabouts. It hardly comes as a surprise that after gathering intelligence far and wide, it turns out that she is most likely to be found in very close proximity to the addressee, which in its turn provides an opportunity to expand on the addressee’s chivalrous qualities, as well as on his tribal nobility. In these poems Ibn Subayyil has achieved the remarkable feat of combining passages with a tongue-in-cheek tone which poke fun at conventional motifs, with the kind of glowing praise for his partner’s lineage that to be effective should not include any hint of irony.

44In the other two poems Ibn Subayyil strikes a familiar chord as he pours out his broken heart because of the departure of his beloved. In one of these, he addresses Dhaʿār, while in the other he asks his own eye where those dear to him have gone after breaking up camp. The elegiac introduction, in which the heart is compared to a stream after a long drought and the arrival of the beloved to the advent of spring, quickly gives way to colorful scenes of Bedouin life and admiring descriptions of their nomadic lifestyle. The area where they go to pasture after leaving (Nifī, it must be assumed) is identified as an‑Nīr, a well known mountain in the area of ʿUtayba. These expressions of praise and admiration must therefore be understood to reflect on Ibn Subayyil’s tribal neighbors.

45In a few masterly strokes the poet creates a sense of excitement over an opportunity to raid enemy herds, describing how the sheikh jumps in the saddle, shouting to his sons, and speeds off to round them up. The vocabulary and details of the scenes testify to Ibn Subayyil’s deep knowledge of Bedouin culture, but its crystal clear and enticing images may have been inspired by the poet’s awareness of distance while he was observing them and following them at such close quarters with longing.

Poem I

46This is Ibn Subayyil’s longest poem, fifty-four lines in the version I recorded, and fifty-five in the dīwān collected by Khālid al‑Faraj. In the first two lines the poet ingeniously uses the metre and the first hemistich’s rhyme to insert two words, Ṣayʿariyyāt and Sharārāt, (the camels of) two different tribes, to tell the listener that the messenger he addresses is about to set out with a party of the very best riding camels in all of Arabia. Ṣayʿar is a tribe at the edge of the Empty Quarter towards Yemen and al‑Sharārāt, a tribe in the north of Arabia in the al‑Jawf region. These are not foremost tribes in the traditional hierarchy — the Sharārāt are reckoned among the Hutaym, lower status tribes — but famous for breeding riding camels that are Arabia’s best along with the Omani camels.

47The poet contrives to convey in two lines that these riding camels are of the purest and most ancient breeds: the daughters of purebreds, sired by studs of the Sharārāt, they are the envy of all Bedouin in Arabia. These two lines with their quasi-casual mention of the mounts — as if only to give a few attributes to an otherwise unknown rider-messenger — also provide early warning that much of what follows is going to be a fanciful exaggeration of things which in real life are appreciated at a somewhat lesser level of perfection.

  • 32 Musil combines the first hemistich of the first verse with the second hemistich of the second verse (...)

48Ibn Subayyil shows how in the next stage of their preparation as desert vehicles, the camels are sent for years to graze the best pastures of Najd, all the while being spared from work or procreation. At this point the poet’s use of Bedouin lore includes the well-developed idiom of stars and seasons. As explained by al‑Faraj, it is as if the late spring pasture (miṣyāf) is brought on by the first star of the winter season, when rain is most likely (grān ḥādi, “when the moon and the first of the stars of winter, the Pleiades, appear together”). In the next verse “the seventh star,” the last star of Ursa Major, makes its appearance in the fall season, as a sign that these camels’ pampered existence is over and that the moment has come to put their accumulated strength to some good human use: “Now is our right’s turn and their rights are no more.”32

49The following sections bring out the poem’s structure: an address to the messenger and a description of his party’s camel mounts (ll. 1‑5); a description of their pastures, with a line vaunting the might of these pastures’ tribal masters (ll. 6‑10); a description of the first stage of the journey and praise for all the generous hosts on the way (ll. 11‑18); second stage of the journey and eulogies for the addressee of the poem (ll. 19‑25); delivering the message and a description of the fast camels sent by the addressee to the poet which are then outfitted by the poet (ll. 26‑33); searching for the addressee’s heartthrob by telegraph and on camel-back (ll. 34‑39); some lines of advice to look for her among his own kin and their awesome power and ruthlessness (ll. 40‑48); moral advice on how to deal with life’s difficulties and expressions of gnomic wisdom (ll. 49‑54). Certain lines can be considered a transition from one section to the next (ll. 10, 25); instructions to the messenger to start the message to the addressee by praising the eloquence of the poem (l. 33); repeating l. 10 about the riding camels’ readiness (l. 39).

50One way to interpret these descriptions of groups of exceptional and richly caparisoned riding camels exchanged between the poet and Ibn Zirībān — his fellow-poet, correspondent and at the same time the object of the eulogy — would be to consider them a metaphor for the verses themselves. In reality it is not camels but rather the verses about them that go back and forth: lines of rare quality like the camels, expertly crafted, and then sent out into the world. The purported objective of the joint hunt is a young Bedouin lady who holds the two men in thrall; even though, by right of lineage and birth, she belongs to the addressee rather than to the poet. As is customary in this type of poetry, the woman is referred to by the male pronoun. Again, this could be a metaphor for their common passion for poetry. This would make the poem essentially self-referring: a poem about the delight of poetry and of exchanging verses among friends.

  • 33 See my Bedouin Poets of the Dawāsir Tribe, Between Nomadism and Settlement in Southern Najd (vol. I (...)

51As discussed more in detail,33 this organization of speech framed as messages in the form of verse, each one fitting into the other like Chinese boxes, is part of the Nabaṭī tradition. Here the words spoken by the poet to the messenger underline from the outset the oral nature of the verses and the device that the verses have been spoken extempore by the poet while addressing a messenger on his camel ready to speed off in order to deliver his precious load of poetry stored in his memory.

52As the poem is a whole, with a beginning and an end, it aspires to be both a set of instructions to the messenger including the message itself; and a message including the instructions for delivery. This is made clear by the line separating the instructions from the content of the message. In l. 25 the messenger is told, “Give him news of me at once, before any greetings, thoughtful verses, unlike so much doggerel.” In Musil’s version the verse at the beginning of the message itself starts with the imperative gil, “Say!” — a marker outside the metric scheme that is often added to signal the transition by exhorting the messenger on arrival at his destination to speak these exact words. At this point there is a second form of address, and thus begins the message within the message: “O protector of those defeated in battle”, etc.

53This is due to the fact that the poem, as it is recited to an audience, for the sake of vivid representation, seeking to transport the audience to an imagined reality, is constructed as a series of direct verbal instructions.

54This is comparable to using direct speech in prose writings, but here the oral nature of the convention makes the assertion more explicit and perhaps closer to reality. After all, it is quite possible that the addressee, Ibn Zirībān, first heard the poem when it was recited to him at his place of residence by a messenger on camel back sent by the poet from Nifī. Of course, we simply do not know and this could be played out in many different ways, such as the poet himself reciting the message to the addressee — in which case the use of a messenger is purely fictional. The point is, however, that the audience would have been aware of this convention and also would have accepted that in many cases it conformed to reality. The company listening to the oral performance would have enjoyed the description of the message being delivered along with the message itself, probably as much as the original addressee would have enjoyed it.

Some remarks on the different versions

  • 34 Fayḥān b. Zirībān was a famous desert-knight of the al‑Rakhamān section of the Muṭayr (Mṭēr) tribe (...)

55Alois Musil’s work includes eight verses composed by Ibn Zirībān and mentions that they were sent to his friend Ibn Subayyil in Nifī.34 However, he does not give any indication that Ibn Subayyil’s poem might have been in answer to these verses. Yet the Saudi anthologies of al‑Luwayḥān and Ibn Mandīl include versions of Ibn Zirībān’s poem followed by the poem Ibn Subayyil sent in reply. Ibn Zirībān’s poem starts with a similarly fantastical and exaggerated description of mounted camels, and as is customary in such poetic exchanges, both poems use the same rhyme, and meter. The same pattern is followed in the second poem below, which was also composed in reply to verses by Ibn Zirībān.

56In al‑Luwayḥān’s version, Ibn Zirībān’s poem contains eight lines, and eighteen in Ibn Mandīl’s version. The verses in al‑Luwayḥān’s version match those recorded by Ibn Mandīl, but with many differences in wording and order (as shown in the notes). As is usual, the greatest overlap in the three versions is in the first and last lines, as well as certain verses that have become famous because of the image or idea they convey. In Ibn Zirībān’s poem, this is the case of the verse instructing the messenger to “lighten” his sweetheart’s grave by picking up a pebble from it and aiming it at the three stones upon which rested the deceased’s kettles on the kitchen hearth. Another example is the line (the last one except in Musil’s collection) in which the poet explains that he pretends to be raving mad in order to mislead rumor-mongers and throw them off the scent of his romance. The first line is identical in the three versions and is similar in the extravagance of its camel description to the opening of Ibn Subayyil’s reply.

  • 35 Sowayan, Nabaṭi Poetry, p. 179‑182. “The genre of poetic correspondence […] was accepted by literat (...)

57Whereas Ibn Subayyil’s camel-mounted messenger goes eastward, Ibn Zirībān looks in the direction of Mecca, to the West, in accordance with the poets’ actual location. In many verses Ibn Subayyil echoes wording and images that occur in Ibn Zirībān’s poem, as will be pointed out in the notes. Together they offer a fine example of poetic correspondence as a genre (al‑murāsalāt al‑shiʿriyya).35

58Ibn Subayyil’s poem contains forty-seven lines in Musil’s version, including ten ll. that are not found in the text in this paper, and which contains fifty-four ll. Six of these are at the end: a loose collection of wise sayings that, by their nature, are easily interchangeable with similar lines from other poems. In general, the order of the lines in Musil’s version is less convincing. The ode on Ibn Zirībān’s clan, the poem’s core, loses its point in Musil, who concludes that the chiefs of the Dūshān clan must be at war with the ʿIlwa branch, to which they belong — a most unlikely scenario in a poem meant to highlight their achievements.

  • 36 In Riyadh prior to my visit to Nifī several experts gave me their views and interpretations of word (...)

59Relevant differences between both texts are detailed in the notes. 36

Poem I

60The order is as follows: first the poem sent by Ibn Zirībān to Ibn Subayyil according to the version of Ibn Mandīl, with al‑Luwayḥān’s version given in the notes, then the poem according to Musil; and finally Ibn Subayyil’s poem in reply. The text is given in Arabic, in translation and in transliteration (as the poetic idiom of these poems is closer to the vernacular and differs considerably from Classical Arabic, this is the only way to get a more precise idea about the structure and pronunciation of these texts). Musil’s text is given in transliteration and translation, as is the case in Musil’s work.

61Al‑Luwayḥān’s eight lines correspond to Ibn Mandīl’s ll.: 1, 9, 3, 4, 11/7, 15, 13, 18.

62Musil’s eight lines correspond to Ibn Mandīl’s ll.: 1=1, 2=2, 3=3, 4=12, 5, 6, 7, 8=13.

63The poem by Ibn Zirībān:

  • 37 This line corresponds closely to Ibn Subayyil’s l. 3, who substitutes the seventh star of Ursa Majo (...)
  • 38 zibūn al‑mʿannāt “protector, host of worn-out riding camels.” rīf in Nabaṭi poetry does not mean “r (...)
  • 39 In Nabaṭi poetry the third person feminine often refers to she-camels: jannik “they (the female rid (...)
  • 40 This line and the preceding ones exactly correspond to Ibn Subayyil’s ll. 27‑32. Line 5 is almost i (...)
  • 41 The same meaning is expressed in Ibn Subayyil’s ll. 10 and 33: the she-camels are fully rested and (...)
  • 42 The camels set out from Ibn Zirībān’s, who set up camp in the eastern sands of the peninsula, towar (...)
  • 43 lamm al‑aġāwāt “throng of Aga’s” refers to the Ottoman Turks in the Ḥijāz.
  • 44 mārtiyyāt probably refers to a rifle of the Martini type, see note 88 on the corresponding verse in (...)
  • 45 Bedouin and townfolk in Najd, i.e. all its inhabitants.
  • 46 See note 53.
  • 47 One raises a white flag for his benefactor. On the contrary sawwid allah wajhik “may God blacken yo (...)
  • 48 mxaḏ̣ḏ̣bīn al‑hanādi “Indian blades dyed, smeared with red,” i.e. “swords dripping with the enemy’s (...)
  • 49 ṭāri al‑giḏ̣a “the idea, thought of judging you, retaliating against you.” ḥīlih pl. ḥīl, ḥyāl “tri (...)
  • 50 ḥirwih “what is expected, place where s.o. expects s.o. to be found” (CA taḥarrā “to pause in expec (...)

تسعين مع تسعين بالفٍ تزادِ

1. يا راكبٍ من عندنا تِسْع مايات

عِروات لين سهيل شِفناه بادي37

2. فوق المَخارم قَيْظها مستِريحات

ابن سبيّل ريف هِجْنٍ ردادِ38

3. يلْفنّ من عندي زِبون المعَنّات

و معك خَبَر مضمونها والعدادِ39

4. جَنّك رِكايبنا عَراوي معَروات

و حديد و عيالٍ خَفاف التنادي

5. يبِن خشَيْب و صوف و جْلود و الاتِ

و عَقِّل عراقيب النضا و العضادِ

6. عِدّ القـــــوايم جملة العِقَل والمات

و احْذَر عن الشايب و ولد الردادِ40

7. عَجِّل رواكيبٍ و لاشغالهم هات

و اركَب على هِجْنٍ تفوت الريادي41

8. خَذَنّ في دارك ليالٍ مقيمات

من ديرة الشَنْبل لدار ابن هادي42

9. ثم اِبْر مكّة و الديار البعيدات

لاخوان سارة مقْحمين الطرادِ43

10. ديرة حَسين الدار لمّ الاغاوات

وقّف على السِلْطان و اهل الجهادِ44

11. وقِّف على اللي يشْغل المارتيّات

البدْو و اللي ساكنٍ في البلادِ45

12. و جميع من في نَجْد يبْنون الابيات

خَفِّف عليه القَبْر و ارْمِ الهوادي46

13. ان ما لقيته حَيّ تلْقاه قد مات

عَجِّل ضنين الروح دَرْع الفوادِ

14. ان كان جيته يا فِتى الجود ما مات

اقول ما يلحق عليك السوادِ47

15. و ان كان لي جِبْت الخَبَر ما بعد مات

كنّي طِريح مْخَضّبين الهنادِ48

16. و الا تراني مَيّتٍ كان هو مات

الا ولا طاري القضا بك مرادي49

17. تراي ما قلْته مدَوّر حيالات

اخاف من خَطْو الكذوب الربادي50

18. غير ابْعِد الحِرْوة و ارَمّي بالاصوات

Translation

  1. “O rider who sets out from here with nine hundred mounts,
    Ninety and ninety more and add another thousand!

  2. On pristine grounds they rested in the hot season,
    Unburdened until Canopus winked from over the horizon.

  3. Ride these mounts to a host who cares for tired animals,
    Ibn Subayyil, where worn out camels recover their strength.

  4. Our riders came to you on animals bare of any trappings:
    You know the story and how much they need.

  5. We talk: wooden saddle frames, wool, leather, gear,
    Equipment made of metal and high-spirited youths.

  6. Calculate and make sure you have enough rope to tie them!
    Then hobble the hamstrings and limbs of the hardy camels,

  7. Lose no time in hurrying the camel drivers on their way,
    Beware of including greybeards and good-for-nothings!

  8. Enough nights they spent getting ready at your place:
    Now ride the speedy racers into the endless wastes.

  9. Have them run towards Mecca, to far-flung lands,
    From ash‑Shanbal’s home to where Ibn Hādī holds sway,

  10. Fine and renowned places of residence for Turkish lords,
    To the brothers of Sāra who love the chase.

  11. Stop off at your friend’s known for his rifles,
    Stay awhile with al‑Sulṭān and his tireless warriors,

  12. And all those who raise their tents in Najd:
    Bedouin and noble lineages that have settled down.

    • 51 See note 53.

    If you find she is no more and has passed away,
    Lighten her grave and strew sand over her cooking stones.
    51

  13. If you find, my worthy fellow, that she hasn’t died,
    Quickly deliver my mind’s treasure and heart’s delight!

  14. If you bring me the news that she is among the living,
    I state loudly that you are without any stain.

  15. Truly, if she has died you may count me dead as well,
    Like a corpse on the battlefield struck down by Indian swords.

  16. Mark my words, I am not just playing games,
    Though it is not my intention to punish you.

  17. Just to keep them off the scent I keep chattering away,
    Lest some rumormonger ferret out my secret.”

  1. ya‑rāćbin min ʿindina tisʿ māyāt
    tisʿīn maʿ tisʿīn b‑alfin tizādi

  2. fōg al‑maxārim gēḏ̣ha mistirīḥāt
    ʿirwāt lēn shēl šifnāh bādi

  3. yilfinn min ʿindi zibūn al‑mʿannāt
    Ibin Subayyil rīf hijnin rdādi

  4. jannik rikāyibnaʿarāwi mʿarwāt
    wi‑mʿik xabar maḏ̣mūniha wa‑l‑ʿadādi

  5. yibin xšēb w‑ṣūf wi‑jlūd w‑ālāt
    wi‑ḥdīd wi‑ʿyāl xafāf at‑tanādi

  6. ʿidd al‑guwāyim jimlit al‑ʿigl wālmāt
    w‑ʿaggil ʿarāǵīb an‑nḏ̣a wa‑l‑ʿaḏ̣ādi

  7. ʿajjil ruwākībin wi‑l‑ašġālhum hāt
    w‑iḥḏar ʿan as‑šāyib w‑wild ar‑rdādi

  8. xaḏann fi dārik liyālin mǵīmāt
    w‑irkab ʿala hijnin tifūt ar‑ryādi

  9. ṯum ibr Makkah wi‑d‑dyār al‑biʿīdāt
    min dīrit aš‑Šanbal li dār Ibn Hādi

  10. dīrit ḥasīn ad‑dār lamm al‑aġāwāt
    l‑ixwān Sārah migḥimīn aṭ‑ṭrādi

  11. waggif ʿala lli yašġil al‑mārtiyyāt
    waggif ʿala s‑Silṭān w‑ahl al‑jhādi

  12. wi‑jimīʿ min fi Najd yabnūn al‑abyāt
    al‑badw w‑illi sākinin fi l‑blādi

  13. in ma ligētih ḥayy talgāh ǵid māt
    xaffif ʿalēh al‑gabr w‑irm al‑huwādi

  14. in ćān jītih ya‑fita al‑jūd ma māt
    ʿajjil ḏ̣inīn ar‑rūḥ ḏarʿ al‑fwādi

  15. w‑in ćān li jibt al‑xabar ma baʿad māt
    agūl ma yalḥag ʿalēk as‑sawādi

  16. walla tarāni mayyitin ćān hu māt
    ćanni ṭirīḥ mxaḏ̣ḏ̣bīn al‑hanādi

  17. tarāy ma giltih mdawwir ḥyālāt
    alla wla ṭāri l‑giḏ̣a bik mrādi

  18. ġēr abʿid al‑ḥirwih w‑arammi bi‑l‑aṣwāt
    axāf min xaṭw al‑kiḏūb ar‑rbādi

  • 52 Musil, Alois, The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, p. 181‑82.

The version provided by Alois Musil is as follows:52

  1. “O rider setting out from here with nine hundred,
    Another ninety and one thousand camels more,

  2. Fed on spring pastures, left quiet in the hot summer,
    Upcountry at the wells of Mrēṭbah and al‑Thanādi:

  3. They will head for Ibn Subayyil famous for his amazing feats,
    Who alone of all the Bedouin is working towards our aim.

  4. Let him search for my sweetheart without heeding danger,
    Among the Bedouin and among the settled folk.

  5. Tell her: ‘Since you left I have been in throes of despair,
    A ghost of my former self, racked with torment.

  6. While others sleep, my cursed nights are spent awake,
    As my eyes are loath to join the common man in slumber.

  7. Not the lover’s fault that I have lived such ordeals,
    For the devil is always hard at work tempting him.

    • 53 Musil explains that in many tribes “it is customary to pick up a pebble from the grave of a friend (...)

    If you find her not among the living, but dead,
    Make light her grave and throw sand on her kettle-stones.’”
    53

    • 54 I have made some minor changes in Musil’s text, based on my best guess as to what would fit the met (...)

    ya‑raćbin min ʿindina tisʿ māyāt
    w‑tisʿīn w‑alfin tizādi
    54

    • 55 Musil: mrabbaʿāt.

    mrabbaʿātin gēḏ̣hin mistirīḥāt55
    w‑in sāndin li‑Mrēṭbah w‑aṯ‑Ṯanādi

  1. yilfin ubu Subayyil ʿadīm al‑mʿijzāt
    yagḏ̣i ġaraḏ̣na min jimīʿ al‑buwādi

    • 56 Musil: ydawwir ˁind al‑badw hamm ydawwir ˁind al‑blādi.

    bāġi yidūr ṣwēḥbi bi‑l‑mahāfāt
    ʿind al‑buwādi hamm ʿind al‑blādi56

    • 57 Musil: gil ya‑bint.

    ya‑bint ana min ʿigbikum šift lōʿāt
    ḥāli naḥat ya‑bint wa‑l‑hamm zādi
    57

    • 58 Musil: al‑xalg tibāt.

    xalgin tibāt bi‑l‑lēl bi‑l‑ʿōn ma abāt
    wa‑l‑ʿēn ʿan nōm al‑mala ma twādi
    58

  2. ma alūm ana rāʿ al‑hawa kiṯr ma fāt
    w‑iblīs maʿ rāʿ al‑hawa b‑ijtihādi

  3. in ma ligētih ḥayy tilgāh ǵid māt
    xaffat ʿalēh al‑gabr w‑irm al‑huwādi

64This is the poem by Ibn Subayyil in reply to Ibn Zirībān:

  • 59 Ṣayʿar, a tribe in southern Arabia on the Yemeni side of the Empty Quarter, famous for its camels. (...)
  • 60 KF: bi‑l‑ʿēš taʿni lih. As KF explains it: Because of its (the stud camel’s) noble pedigree its ow (...)
  • 61 M l. 4: šīb al‑ġawārib wi‑l‑maḥāǵib mšībāt / min al‑gufl ma zayyan lihin at‑tuwādi (M translates gu (...)
  • 62 M l. 3: bitr al‑fxūḏ wrūkhin mistigillāt / xiḏ̣ʿ ar‑rǵāb mfattilāt al‑ʿḏ̣ādi (“thighs as if cut awa (...)
  • 63 M: bi‑šadd waṯnāt […] /ġaff al‑misāmiʿ (“carry their ears high”). wany, “calm, meek” (CA wanā). ṭaf (...)
  • 64 This verse is not found in M. mašhāt, “to one’s heart’s desire, at wish” (CA shahā). istinād, “movi (...)
  • 65 M: w‑in hāḏ̣ min bēn al‑niḥīfēn hēḏ̣āt: M’s text and translation of this hemistich seem implausible (...)
  • 66 M l. 6 combines elements of ll. 8 and 9 of this version and KF‘s version: mirbāʿhin Kabšān […] / li (...)
  • 67 gēḏ̣, “the hot season, middle of the summer” (CA qayẓ). KF: as‑swēbiʿ, “the seventh, i.e. the last (...)
  • 68 M l. 8: gaṭʿ al‑xarāyim wa‑d‑dyār al‑bʿādi. fiyāfi, “deserts (CA fayfā’ pl. fayāfin).
  • 69 KF: wi‑ṣ‑ṣibḥ min rāʿi Nifī mistlijjāt (KF: “at departure from Nifī’s headman running their best”). (...)
  • 70 M l.10:ʿayrāt ḏayyarhin simār al‑blādi. mwēǵāt, pl. f. “looking, stealing a glance”, from wāg, yiwī (...)
  • 71 M l. 11: […] li‑l‑maʿāni sidādi.
  • 72 dakkah, “place, a platform outside, next to the house where the host and his guests are seated.”
  • 73 ʿagādah expl. as “rooms with a domed ceiling.”
  • 74 xḏ̣āb, “dye, dyestuff (henna and the like).” xūndah pl. xwandāt, “beautiful girl.” yibrāh from bara(...)
  • 75 tigil, “like, resembling, you’d say” (tigūl). ijtilād, “vigor, energy, ambition, speed.”
  • 76 ḏ̣āmir pl. ḏ̣ummar, ḏ̣āmrāt, “lean, skinny, lank in the belly.” ḥaniyyah pl. ḥanāya, ḥiniy, “bent l (...)
  • 77 M l. 15: mišaw w‑xallōhin ʿala l‑wajh zāfāt.
  • 78 M l. 16: […] mišrifīnin ʿala byāt / […] w‑gibbin tgādi. gabba pl. gibb “barrel-chested horse, big-c (...)
  • 79 M ll. 18–19 correspond to ll. 48 and 47 unconvincingly explained as ʿIlwa being the enemies of thei (...)
  • 80 M l. 20: w‑illa ʿan alli bi‑l‑gisa yaḏbaḥ aš‑šāt / Fēḥān ibin Ǵāʿid ḥarīb al‑buwādi (the enemy of t (...)
  • 81 miṯal pl. miṯāyil, timāṯīl, “verses, poem, poetry; uplifting, instructive verses, wisdom poetry.” d (...)
  • 82 hal ad‑dōbliyyāt, “men who have been routed.” dibīlah pl. dibāyil, “calamity, misfortune; war” (CA (...)
  • 83 M l. 21: (gil) dazzēt li jēšin. kazz has the same meaning as dazz, “to hit; to send, hand to.” ʿarā (...)
  • 84 KF: yibin nijīr w‑ṣūf […] M l. 24: yibin xašab w‑ṣūf […] / wi‑ʿyāl ḏ̣arfīnin […] ālāt, “tools” acco (...)
  • 85 gāfin w‑ṣād i.e. giṣa, “poverty, hardship.”
  • 86 M l. 22: ʿat lifanna ṣār bi‑ṣ‑ṣadr farḥāt.
  • 87 nijāyir, “wooden parts” i.e. ašiddah, “the camel saddles.” xarz, “bags made of leather, like girbah(...)
  • 88 IS: wi‑slāḥhum b‑aymānhum mārtīnāt. šiġl an‑niṣāra, “product of the Christians,” i.e. rifles, guns. (...)
  • 89 This is KF l. 35 as KF has an additional line 34 (and IS l. 35): allah ywaffigna s‑saʿad wi‑s‑salām (...)
  • 90 L. 36 combines two hemistichs of M ll. 26 and 27: xabbart rāʿ at‑tēl dagg al‑mikīnāt / ṭaggah šimāl (...)
  • 91 M l. 28: […] ḥafāya w‑raḏyāt. riḏi, f. riḏiyyah, pl. riḏāya, raḏyāt, “weak camel” (CA radhiy pl. ra (...)
  • 92 M l. 29: w‑sannidat li Najd šīxān wi‑rʿāti / w‑min šāfni bha l‑ḥāl gāl ar‑rikādi, “If anyone had se (...)
  • 93 KF: bēn al‑xalāyiǵ (among the people). miyādah, “laughing stock, object of ridicule.”
  • 94 M l. 32: madmūḥ ćiḏbik ya‑mʿazzi salāmāt / w‑magbūl ṣidǵik ya‑mḏ̣annat fwādi. madmūḥ, pardoned, fo (...)
  • 95 M l. 35: ʿ al‑hawa ćaḏḏāb w‑iblīs ma māt.
  • 96 hagwah, “assumption, guess, surmise; expectation.” mrāḥ, “place near the tent where the camels rest (...)
  • 97 M l. 38: bi‑l‑hija mistićinnāt.
  • 98 ʿiṭīt pass. “you were given.” mann, “favour, act of kindness; promise.”
  • 99 laḥayiǵ, “mediators, middlemen, useful contact” (CA laḥiqa). izbin, “seek support, protection!” zib (...)
  • 100 See the last paragraph before the section Poem I above. jamhāt, “skulls, heads.” ǵida pl. ǵuwādi, “ (...)
  • 101 ʿawādi = sillah, “the attacking men, cavalrymen” (CA ʿādiyah pl.ʿawādī, “the first of the charging (...)
  • 102 M l. 40: w‑ilya baġētih saww li‑r‑rijl mirgāt, “step, stairs; steps in the stone casing of a well t (...)
  • 103 xaraṣ, “to guess, estimate, surmise.” ṣimīl, “skin for water or milk, leather sack for sour milk.”
  • 104 KF: mašˁūf, “torn away, pained, tortured.” hayhāt, “exclamation to express the opinion that somethi (...)
  • 105 xaḏ̣īḏ̣, “moving, shaking, stirring.” xaḏ̣ḏ̣, “to move, stir, shake” (CA khaḍḍa).

من ساس عيْراتٍ عرابٍ تلادِ59

1. يا راكبٍ من عنْدنا صيْعريات

باالشِدّ تعْني له جِميع البوادي60

2. بَنات حِرٍّ فحّلوه الشرارات

للتلْو ما سوّوا لهن التُوادي61

3. بِيض المحاقب و الغوارب مْشِيبات

خِضْع الرقاب مْفتّلات العْضادِ62

4. فِجّ النحور وروكهن مستِقلّات

غِزّ المسامع و النواظر حْدادِ63

5. في الشَدّ ونْياتٍ و بالمشْي طَفْقات

من حدّ الإنْجِل للْنِجَج باسْتنادِ64

6. عاميْن يرْعن في حيا نَجْد مَشْهات

يَرْعَن زَهَر ما لاق في كلّ وادي65

7. و الى حَصل بين الحَفيفيْن غيْظات

لكنّ مِزْن الصَيْف بقران حادي66

8. مِصْيافهن كَبْشان للبدْو مَشْهاة

لاما بِدَى نَجْم السويْبِع وِكادِ67

9. مْعَفّياتٍ قيْظهن مِسْتِرِيحات

قَطْع الفيافي و الحزوم البعادِ68

10. جا حَقّنا فيهن و هِن حَقّهِن فات

يَشْدِن نعامٍ جافلٍ مع حمادِ69

11. و الصِبْح من بطْحا نفي مِسْتِقِلّات

خَفاف يجفلهن سِمار البلادِ70

12. و العصْر في دار ابن عسْكر مْويْقات

ذولا مَراويحٍ و ذولا غَوادي

13. حُطّوا على اللي للمراكيب مَشْهاة

عبد الله اللي للمعاني نفادِ71

14. ابن حَسن راعي طروقٍ مْخلّات

و نارٍ سَناها طول ليله ينادي72

15. له دَكّةٍ فيها دلالٍ مْراكات

و نِجْرٍ يجلْجِل راسيات العَقادِ73

16. و مِحْماسةٍ دايم على النار مِحْماة

يَبراه مِختاره ليال الجْدادِ74

17. و مْبَهّرٍ كنّه خْضاب الخْوَنْدات

يِرْما بهِنّ اذناب حِيلٍ و زادِ

18. و مناسفٍ فيها صحونٍ مملّاة

من حايط الديرة لهِنّ اجْتلادِ75

19. و الصِبْح دَنّوهِنّ تقِل مِسْتِذيرات

مِثْل الحَنايا لا حَناها ستادِ76

20. غِبّ المِسير مْعَزّلات و ضَمْرات

مِسراحكم طاروق و ارضٍ حَمادِ77

21. سِيروا و خَلّوهِنّ مع الجامع افوات

مالٍ كِما الحَرّة و قِبٍ جيادِ78

22. قِدْم المعَشّى مِقْبِلينٍ على ابيات

وساع النَحايا سِقْم عيْن المعادِ79

23. عِلوى مَعاويدٍ على الحَرْب و عْصات

فيْحان ابن قاعد حَريب الرِقادِ80

24. ثُم انْصوا اللي بالقِسا يذْبَح الشاة

مِثايلٍ ما هيب بَعْض الدُوادي81

25. عَطوه رَدّ العِلم قَبْل التَحيّات

الى رَهَبهم حِسّ راعي جُوادِ82

26. يا زَبْن بالرَدّة هل الدوْبليات

عِنْدك خَبَر محْسوبهِن و العَدادِ83

27. كَزّيت لي جَيْشٍ عَراوٍ معَرّاة

و حَديد و عيالٍ خَفاف التَنادِ84

28. ما بين نِجر و صوف و جلود و آلات

تحُطّْني ما بين قافٍ و صادِ85

29. تَبي تعْجِزْني على كلّ مَشْهاة

ليلٍ علينا مِثْل ليل العَيادِ86

30. و نَهار جَنّي صار بالصَدْر فَرْحات

الخَرْز تَرْز و راعي الصوف ساديِ87

31. من يوم جَنّي و النَجاير مسَوّات

هلهِن على رِجْلين ما من قَعادِ88

32. شِغْل النِصارا و الزَهَب مِسْتعِدّات

غَرَضْك كنّي قاضبه بالايادِ

33. يوم اسْتَعَدّينا و هِن مِسْتِعدّات

و ارفاض و ديارٍ وَراهم بعادي89

34. وَجّهْت بالامصار و ارضٍ بِعيدات

و طَقّه شِمال و غَرْب و رْجَع وغادِ90

35. عَطيت راع التَيْل عِدّة ريالات

و كلٍ حَلَف لي عنْه دِينٍ وكادِ

36. و نِشَد هل البحْرين و اهل البضاعات

و النِصْف الآخَر جا لهِنّ ارْتعادِ91

37. خَلّيت نِصْف الجَيْش رَذْيا و حَفْيات

من شافني قال انت وين انت غادي92

38. ثُم انْقَلبْت لنَجْد شِيخان و رعات

عَذّبتْني و ارْذَيتْني باجتهادِ93

39. خَلّيتني بين القبايل مِياداة

مَدْموح كِذْبك يا مظَنّة فُوادي94

40. مَدْموح كِذْبك يا معَزّي سَلامات

دَوّر عَشيرك من فِريقك و غادي95

41. راعي الهَوى كَذّاب و ابْليس ما مات

من المْراح الى الذَرى و الهَوادي96

42. الهَقْوة انّك تنْظِره بالحَبيبات

و الهَقْوة انّه يسْمعك لو تنادي97

43. ولّا مع اللي بالحَجْر مِسْتكِنّات

الّا حَياتك و السَلامة مرادي

44. حَيّ و لا بي من حَلالك مجازاة

خِذْها انت قَبْلٍ من سَنا الصِبْح بادي98

45. ان ما عِطِيت اياه و المَنّ فَوّات

ازْبِن على اللي ما مِشَوا بالقصادِ99

46. فان ما كان عندك لَحايق و حَشْمات

على القِدى ولّا على غَيْر قادي100

47. دُوشان عَلْف سيوفهم كلّ جِمْهات

ما بينهم غير اصْتفاق العَوادي101

48. ولّا على اللي هم و عِلْوى حَرابات

من خَوْف يَدْري بك خَطاة الربادي102

49. و الى عَزَمْت فحِطّ لك في الرِجْل مِرْقاة

يقْطَعك من نَقْل الصِميل البَرادِ103

50. ولا تاخِذ الدِنْيا خراصٍ و هَقْوات

ولا واديٍ سَيْله يفَيّض بوادي

51. لك شَوْفةٍ وَحْدة و للناس شَوْفات

من عَصْر نُوح و جاي ما له حدادِ

52. الحِبّ كلّ شايفٍ مِنْه لَوْعات

ما نيب مِثْلك يا رِدي الجلادِ104

53. مَشْعوف قَلْبي قِدْم قَلبك و هَيْهات

ولا يَسْقي الظامي خَضيض الورادِ105

54. ولا يَنْفع المَحْرور كِثْر التِنِحّات

  • 106 KF 173‑178; IS 99‑106; Musil, 292 – 300. Compared to this text (54 ll.), the order of ll. in M (47 (...)

65Translation106

  1. “O rider who sets out from here on a Ṣayʿar camel mount,
    Fast and hardy, the offspring of the purest breed,

  2. Noble she-camels, daughters sired by Sharārāt studs,
    Racers for desert treks coveted by all Bedouin.

    • 107 Because of the continuous rubbing on long trips. “The shoulder blades rub against the cushion on wh (...)
    • 108 i.e. they have never given birth and therefore have more strength. The teats of camels with calves (...)

    White below the belts, grey on their shoulder blades,107
    No need to protect their udders from suckling calves.
    108

  3. Their chests are broad, their haunches move freely,
    They run with necks kept low and muscles twisted.

    • 109 Musil, 298, comments: “A good camel will utter no sound when being saddled; this is very important (...)

    Calm when being loaded, sprightly on the run,
    Alert, with ears pricked up and sharp eyes.
    109

  4. Two years they pastured in Najd to their heart’s delight
    From al‑Injil’s edge towards an‑Nijaj’s highlands,

  5. No matter if enemy tribes clash and fight with fury:
    Undisturbed they graze the lush green as they wish,

  6. Early summer’s Kabshān pastures, a Bedouin’s dream
    As if rain-fed by clouds not of summer but of the winter star.

  7. Free from duty, they spent hot summer in relaxation
    Until Ursa Major’s seventh little star twinkled brightly:

  8. Then came our turn, as their right to idleness ended,
    To drive them across the wastes and desolate stony hills!

  9. In the morning they set forth from Nifī’s sandy wadi,
    Running hard like ostriches fleeing across an empty plain.

    • 110 ʿAbdallah b. Ḥasan b. ʿAskar, a man in the little town of Ḥarmah, near Majmaʿah, well known for his (...)

    The afternoon they looked sideways at Ibn ʿAskar’s place,
    Frisky and light they shied from the oasis’ dark shapes.
    110

  10. Head for the travelers’ favorite entertainment spot,
    Mounted parties arriving, passing others as they leave:

  11. No wonder, it is Ibn Ḥasan, the unrivalled,
    ʿAbdallah who has been to the bottom of every virtue.

  12. In the outdoor reception area, decked out with coffee-pots,
    A fire burns all night, its flames beckoning all and sundry,

  13. A roasting pan for the coffee beans is always on the fire,
    A mortar pounding that shakes the house’s solid domes,

  14. Mixed with spices, the color of henna-dyed beauties,
    Coffee is served with a selection of freshly harvested dates,

  15. Then huge platters chock full, heaped with roasted meat,
    Topped off with sheep’s fat lap-tails on rice.

  16. In the morning come the mounts, as if racked by fear,
    Then at a firm pace set off from the town’s gate.

  17. The journey’s rigors leaving nothing but their skin and bones,
    Like litter poles bent into a bow by an artisan.

  18. Go! Steer them single file past the mosque and out,
    Travelling on well-trodden tracks through the plain.

  19. Before supper time you approach an encampment,
    Herds like lava stones and noble steeds.

  20. ʿIlwa! Battle-hardened and indomitable tribesmen,
    Roaming far and wide, ever their enemy’s plague.

  21. Head for the butcher of sheep in times of dearth,
    Fayḥān ibn Qāʿid, who fights off sleep like a fiend.

  22. Give him my response before even greeting him,
    Instructive verse, no trace of claptrap here.

  23. Protector of horsemen swept up like flotsam
    In defeat, cowering at the charging knight’s cries:

  24. You dispatched a troop of bare-backed camels
    Their exact numbers and details you know best:

  25. What they need for wooden parts, wool, leather, and tools,
    Metalwork with eager youngsters pitching in to help!

  26. I am no fool, I know well you are out to confound me:
    At my wit’s end as I look for a solution to my plight.

  27. As they approached, my heart leapt with joy,
    That night our mood was festive as if on Eid’s day.

  28. As soon as they arrived wooden frames were made,
    Leather bags were stitched and wool for sack was spun,

  29. Firearms made by the Christians and ammunition readied
    By men who rushed about as they worked without rest.

  30. Once we were all set and they had been fitted out,
    I felt as if the purpose of your chase was in my grasp.

  31. My attention I turned to distant towns and lands,
    To the followers of the Shiʿa rites and far beyond:

    • 111 The Ottoman telegraph line reached Basra from Baghdad in 1865.

    After paying riyals to the operator of the telegraph,
    He tapped away, north and east and back again;
    111

  32. He inquired with folks in Bahrain and merchants
    But all swore by God Almighty they had no idea.

  33. Pushed hard, half the camels were worn out, soles bleeding,
    While the other half was trembling with exhaustion,

  34. Then I turned inside to Najd, proud chiefs and commoners;
    But those who saw me asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

  35. See, you turned me into a laughing stock among the tribes,
    Causing me pain and making me gaunt from toil.

  36. Forgiven are your lies, my dear, my salutations to you,
    Forgiven are your lies, for I treasure you in my heart:

  37. The ardent lover must delude himself, seduction’s devil hasn’t died.
    Look for your sweetheart among your kin and thereabout!

    • 112 Bedouin women take care of the sheep and goats and milk them. They cook behind a partition which pr (...)

    Very likely you will spot her among lovely friends,
    Moving from resting herds to tent flap and cooking stones.
    112

  38. If she stays hidden from view in the ladies’ section,
    She will probably hear you if you call her name.

  39. Alive she is, but I do not expect any recompense:
    It suffices me to wish you long life and good health.

  40. If you are not given her hand — for promise makes debt —
    Then grab her and elope before the break of dawn!

  41. 46.Without connections and worthies to plead for you,
    Seek succor from those who get things done by hook or crook:

  42. Dūshān, whose swords are drenched with their enemy’s blood,
    Either in the proper way or through brutish means.

  43. If all fails, then seek out their implacable tribal foes,
    Whose only encounters are rows of fighters as they clash in battle.

  44. Your mind made up, brace yourself with care and stealth,
    For fear that some waffling fool gets in your way.

  45. Do not set about based on surmise and wishful thinking:
    A cool spell is no reason to travel without a water-skin.

  46. If you hold a view, know that other people have theirs:
    Like floods racing down valleys, each follows its own course.

  47. As for love, from its pangs no one has been spared,
    From the time of Noah until today, heeding no bounds.

  48. My heart has put up with its torment way before yours;
    In these trials you are no match for my perseverance.

  49. A man ill with fever, is not cured by his groans,
    Nor does dangling the rope in the well slake one’s thirst.’”

  1. ya‑rāćbin min ʿindna Ṣayʿariyyāt
    min sās ʿayrātin ʿrābin tilādi

  2. banāt ḥirrin faḥḥalōh aš‑Šarārāt
    bi‑š‑šidd taʿni lih jimīʿ al‑buwādi

  3. bīḏ̣ al‑maḥāgib wi‑l‑ġawārib mšībāt
    li‑t‑taluw ma sawwaw l‑hinn at‑tuwādi

  4. fijj an‑nḥūr wrūkhin mistigillāt
    xiḏ̣ʿ ar‑rgāb mfattilāt al‑ʿḏ̣ādi

  5. fi š‑šadd wanyātin w‑bi‑l‑mašiy ṭafǵāt
    ġizz al‑masāmiʿ wa‑n‑nawāḏ̣ir ḥdādi

  6. ʿāmēn yarʿan fi ḥaya Najd mašhāt
    min ḥadd l‑Injil li‑n‑Nijaj b‑istinādi

  7. w‑ila ḥaṣal bēn al‑ḥafīfēn ġēḏ̣āt
    yarʿan zahar ma lāg fi kill wādi

  8. miṣyāfhin Kabšān li‑l‑baduw mašhāt
    lakinn mizn aṣ‑ṣēf bi‑grān ḥādi

  9. mʿaffayātin gēḏ̣hin mistirīḥāt
    lya ma bida najm as‑swēbiʿ wikādi

  10. ja ḥaggna fīhin w‑hin ḥagghin fāt
    gaṭʿ al‑fiyāfi wi‑l‑ḥzūm al‑bʿādi

  11. wi‑ṣ‑ṣibḥ min baṭḥa Nifī mistigillāt
    yašdin naʿāmin jāfilin maʿ ḥamādi

  12. wi‑l‑ʿaṣr fi dār Ibn ʿAskar mwēǵāt
    xafāf yijfilhin simār al‑blādi

  13. ḥuṭṭu ʿala lli li‑l‑marākīb mašhāt
    ḏōla marāwīḥin w‑ḏōla ġawādi

  14. Ibin Ḥasan rāʿi ṭrūgin mxallāt
    ʿAbdallah illi li‑l‑maʿāni nifādi

  15. lih dakkitin fīha dlālin mrākāt
    w‑nārin sanāha ṭūl lēlih ynādi

  16. w‑miḥmāstin dāyim ʿala n‑nār miḥmāt
    w‑nijrin yjaljil rāsyāt al‑ʿagādi

  17. wi‑mbahharin kannih xḏ̣āb al‑xwandāt
    yabrāh mixtārih liyāl al‑jdādi

  18. wi‑mnāsfin fīha ṣḥūnin mmillāt
    yirma b‑hinn aḏnāb ḥīlin w‑zādi

  19. wi‑ṣ‑ṣibḥ dannūhin tigil mistiḏīrāt
    min ḥāyiṭ ad‑dīrah lihinn ijtilādi

  20. ġibb al‑misīr mʿazzlāt w‑ḏ̣amrāt
    miṯl al‑ḥanāya la ḥanāha stādi

  21. sīru w‑xallūhin maʿ al‑jāmiʿ afwāt
    misrāḥkum ṭārūg w‑arḏ̣in ḥamādi

  22. gidm al‑mʿašša miǵbilīnin ʿala abyāt
    w‑mālin kima al‑ḥarrah w‑gibbin jyādi

  23. ʿIlwa maʿāwīdin ʿala al‑ḥarb wi‑ʿṣāt
    wsāʿ an‑naḥāya sigm ʿēn al‑mʿādi

  24. ṯum inṣaw illi bi‑l‑gisa yaḏbaḥ aš‑šāt
    Fayḥān ibin Gāʿid ḥarīb ar‑rigādi

  25. ʿaṭōh radd al‑ʿilm gabl at‑tiḥiyyāt
    miṯāyilin ma hīb baʿḏ̣ ad‑dawādi

  26. ya‑zabn bi‑r‑raddah hal ad‑dōbiliyyāt
    ila rahabhum ḥiss rāʿi juwādi

  27. kazzēt li jēšin ʿarāwin mʿarrāt
    ʿindik xabar maḥsūbhin wi‑l‑ʿadādi

  28. ma bēn nijr w‑ṣūf wi‑jlūd w‑ālāt
    wi‑ḥadīd wi‑ʿyālin xafāf at‑tanādi

  29. tabiy taʿjizni ʿala kill mašhāt
    tḥuṭṭni ma bēn gāfin w‑ṣādi

  30. w‑nahār janni ṣār bi‑ṣ‑ṣadr farḥāt
    lēlin ʿalēna miṯl lēl al‑ʿayādi

  31. min yōm janni wi‑n‑nijāyir msawwāt
    al‑xarz tarz w‑rāʿi aṣ‑ṣūf sādi

  32. šiġl an‑niṣāra wi‑z‑zahab mistiʿiddāt
    halhin ʿala r‑rijlēn ma min gaʿādi

  33. yōm istaʿaddāna w‑hin mistiʿiddāt
    ġaraḏ̣k kanni gāḏ̣bih bi‑l‑iyādi

  34. wajjaht lil‑l‑amṣār w‑arḏ̣in biʿīdāt
    w‑arfāḏ̣ wi‑dyārin warāhim bʿādi

  35. ʿaṭēt rāʿi t‑tēl ʿiddat riyālāt
    w‑ṭaggih šimāl w‑šarg wi‑rjaʿ w‑ʿādi

  36. w‑nišad hal al‑Baḥrēn w‑ahl al‑bḏ̣āʿāt
    w‑killin ḥalaf li ʿanh dīnin wikādi

  37. xallēt niṣf al‑jēš raḏya w‑ḥafyāt
    wi‑n‑niṣf al‑āxar ja lhinn irtiʿādi

  38. ṯum ingalabt l‑Najd šīxān w‑rʿāt
    min šāfni gāl ant wēn ant ġādi

  39. xallētni bēn al‑gibāyil miyādāt
    ʿaḏḏabtni w‑arḏētni bi‑jtihādi

  40. madmūḥ kiḏbik ya‑mʿazzi salāmāt
    madmūḥ kiḏbik ya‑mḏ̣annat fwādi

  41. rāʿi l‑hawa kaḏḏāb w‑iblīs ma māt
    dawwar ʿašīrik min firīǵik w‑ġādi

  42. al‑hagwah innik tanḏ̣irih bi‑l‑ḥabībāt
    min al‑mrāḥ ila ḏ‑ḏara wi‑l‑hawādi

  43. walla maʿ illi bi‑l‑ḥajr mistikinnāt
    wi‑l‑hagwah innih yasmaʿik law tnādi

  44. ḥayya w‑la bi min ḥalālik mjāzāt
    alla ḥayātik wi‑s‑salāmah mrādi

  45. in ma ʿiṭīt iyyāh wi‑l‑mann fawwāt
    xiḏha ant gablin min sana aṣ‑ṣibḥ bādi

  46. f‑in ćān ma ʿindik laḥāyiǵ w‑ḥašmāt
    izbin ʿala lli ma mišaw bi‑l‑giṣādi

  47. Dūšān ʿalf syūfhum kill jimhāt
    ʿala l‑gida walla ʿala ġēr gādi

  48. walla ʿala lli hum w‑ʿIlwa ḥarābāt
    ma bēnhum ġēr iṣṭifāǵ l‑ʿawādi

  49. w‑ila ʿazamt f‑ḥiṭṭ lik fi r‑rijl mirgāt
    min xōf yadri bik xaṭāt ar‑rbādi

  50. wla tāxiḏ ad‑dinya xrāṣ w‑hagwāt
    yagṭaʿk min nagl aṣ‑ṣimīl al‑barādi

  51. lik šōftin waḥdah w‑li‑n‑nās šōfāt
    wla wādiyin sēlih yfayyiḏ̣ bi‑wādi

  52. al‑ḥibb killin šāyfin minh lawʿāt
    min ʿaṣr Nūḥ w‑jāy ma lih ḥdādi

  53. mašʿūf galbi gidm galbik w‑hayhāt
    ma nīb miṯlik ya‑ridiy al‑jlādi

  54. wla yanfaʿ al‑maḥrūr kiṯr at‑tinihhāt
    wla yasgiy ḏ̣‑ḏ̣āmi xaḏ̣īḏ̣ al‑wrādi

Poem II

  • 113 KF 170‑73; IS 47‑52.

66This second poem was composed in the style of the first.113 It is also addressed to Fayḥān b. Zirībān, the chief of Muṭayr. Besides some obvious similarities, it very much has a character of its own. This time the common search for the Bedouin beauty is framed as the hunt for a stray young white she-camel, as is customary. It features a relatively long and detailed description of the food and coffee served on arrival at Ibn Zirībān’s home.

67The Chinese box structure of the message within the message is also similar to the first poem. This time a new component is added inside the messenger’s report to the addressee with a passage of direct speech between the messenger and the people whom he asks for information about the lost she-camel’s whereabouts. At first glance it is not clear whether the final lines are part of the report by this informant or, based on the poem’s structure, if they are uttered by the poet himself. The second person suffix –(i)k could either refer to the messenger as he is addressed by the informant or it is addressed to the audience for the sake of exposition, by the poet. It could well be an artful combination of the two as this passage is a general ode to Ibn Zirībān and his lineage. The final say goes to the poet, however, who bows out with the remark that as a simple villager he can no longer search for her among Bedouin who are above him.

68The sequence of sections in this poem is as follows: addressing the messenger and describing the camel mounts, once again bred by the Sharārāt tribe but this time so precious that they are coveted by the ruler (most likely the prince of Ḥā’il, Ibn Rashīd, is implied) ll. 1‑6; a description of the journey from Nifī to the tribal area of Muṭayr ll. 7‑10; instructions to the messenger to convey the poet’s greetings to Ibn Zirībān, this time by reading his message from a sheet of paper, and praising his boundless hospitality through an elaborate description of sheeps slaughtered and coffee brewed for all and sundry ll. 11‑21; direct address to Ibn Zirībān, “O protector of exhausted horses,” to tell him the news about his run-away she-camel and the poet’s tireless efforts to track her down among various tribes, such as the formidable Dhuwi ʿAṭiyya of ʿUtayba who often clashed with Muṭayr ll. 22‑30; a report within the report with an exchange of views between the poet and one of his informants ll. 31‑33 (or 37); an envoi by the poet as he bows out.

69Verses by Ibn Zirībān:

70Translation

  1. “O rider of ten purebred and hardy camels,
    Animals of noble race sired by pedigreed Ḍabyān,

  2. Hurtling along like wild cows when startled;
    When lying down, on their callous lower knees.

  3. Set out for Ibn Subayyil, and let him know, dearest friend,
    My heart has forsaken me for the black-eyed beauty.

  4. Moaning, my soul all but departed because of her:
    I cannot lie down to rest before the sun rises .

  5. I can almost feel the hidden wounds in my entrails.
    Oh my, pity one who must suffer in secret.”

  1. ya‑rāćbin fōg ʿašrin nḏ̣iwāti
    ḥarāyirin tantib ʿala sas ḏ̣abyān

  2. miṯl al‑maha w‑in dabbirin miǵfiyāti
    ma yabrikinn alla ʿala kūʿ w‑aṯfān

    • 114 šifāh, “desire”.

    l‑Ibn Subayyil xabbirih ya‑šifāti114
    galbi ġada b‑asnāʿ madʿūj al‑aʿyān

  3. ya‑wanniti minha ḏ̣nūnin ḥayāti
    wla amraḥ alla miǵdim aš‑šams ǵid bān

  4. ōjis jrūḥ al‑ḥaša xāfyāti
    wa‑ʿazzi li‑min jarḥih xafiyyin wla bān.

71Ibn Subayyil’s poem in reply to the verses sent by Ibn Zirībān:

  • 115 liǵi, liǵiyyih, “a camel in its third year” (CA nāqah liqwah). sidas, sidīs, “a camel in its sevent (...)
  • 116 šamlah, šmālah pl. šimāyil, “bag-netting, a thick net made of camel wool, placed on the udders and (...)
  • 117 hāmil, mihmilah pl. hamal, mihmilāt, “camels left to roam the pasture ground at will, unattended” ( (...)
  • 118 janāh, “offence, crime, treacherous action.”
  • 119 KF: ḏ̣ārib ad‑darb. mištān, expl. as “used to travelling; out of sorts, upset.”
  • 120 wāni, “weak, faint.” winiyyah, “mare, either exhausted or wounded.” ḥagrān pl. ḥaǵāri, “disrespect, (...)
  • 121 KF: ṭuwārif w‑ʿirbān. ṭaraf pl. ṭuwārif, “extremity, edge, fringe, limit; group, detachment; tents (...)
  • 122 niṭaḥ, yanṭaḥ, “to meet, encounter; to go to meet; to face, confront.” xaṭar, “to come as a guest.” (...)
  • 123 kāġid, “paper” (Turkish kâğıt, “paper, piece of paper”). dwāh, “inkwell” (CA dawāh).
  • 124 gisa, “hardship; times of want and hunger; difficult circumstances” (CA qasā). ṣalfān, “tired, exha (...)
  • 125 KF: madhal hal al‑mūjfāt. rabʿah pl. rbāʿ, “men’s compartment of the tent.” madhal, midhāl pl. midā (...)
  • 126 KF: ṣḥūnin li‑l‑fiḏ̣āyil mwāti, “platters brought to worthy guests.” ḏ̣ān, “sheep” (CA ḍa’n). ḥāyil (...)
  • 127 sabḥah pl. sbiḥāt, “wave, in waves, group after group.” fahag, “to move, push aside; move over”; in (...)
  • 128 rāwyah pl. rwiyy, ruwāya, “water-skin, large receptacle made of camel skin used to hold and carry w (...)
  • 129 niṯīlah pl. niṯāyil, “heap of ashes from the fireplace; the larger the heap, the more hospitable th (...)
  • 130 marka dlāl, “the place in the fireplace where the coffeepots rest.” nijir, “mortar in which roasted (...)
  • 131 ṣifag, “to strike, slap, hit, push.” ġarzah, “a handful.” nisaf, “to throw, toss; to push aside (C (...)
  • 132 nāziḥ, “distant, far away.” šafgān, “anxious, fearful; desirous, longing for.”
  • 133 farraʿ, “to loosen.” īgān, “certainty, steadfastness of faith” (CA yaqīn).
  • 134 ṭimūḥ see note 159. šifāh, “desire, wish, longing, ambition.”
  • 135 jāḏi, “falling short, faltering, limping”; zabn al‑jāḏyāt, “protector of horses that falter and lag (...)
  • 136 šanāḥ, “tall, shapely, stately.” gāṭin, gaṭṭān, “one who camps near the well for a considerable len (...)
  • 137 firīǵ, “a group, part; a camp of 5‑10 tents; household of close kin wandering together.” yigaʿ, “pe (...)
  • 138 wiṣāh, “bequest; message” (CA waṣāh). lōn pl. alwān, “color; sort, way, manner, something, anything (...)
  • 139 ṭaraš, “to travel without tent and women, e.g. for some business”; ṭarraš, “to send s.o. on busines (...)
  • 140 aṯr, “particle introducing directly the subject of a sentence; then; following, in the wake of.” (...)
  • 141 wikdān, “sure, for sure” (CA akada).
  • 142 bšārah pl. bišāyir, “the reward given to the bringer of good news” (CA bishārah). la šakk, “but, ho (...)
  • 143 KF: awṣif. iḥtaraf, “to swing, turn about; to turn, pay attention to.”
  • 144 ṭāyil, “proud, feeling superior.” ṭāylah, “proud act, feats of war” (ṭawl, “excellence, power, supe (...)
  • 145 rikaḏ̣, “to run, charge, attack”; mirkāḏ̣, “galloping of the attacking horse riders; attack” (CA ra (...)
  • 146 bidd, “a tribal section, clan, a group of people.” salaf pl. silfān, aslāf, “advance party of a mig (...)
  • 147 mšāymah, “by consent, to mutual satisfaction.” ǵāriḥ pl. girraḥ, “animals in their fifth year, at t (...)
  • 148 miṯāwīr, “assistance by others to go in pursuit, to redress a wrong”; istiṯār, “to call for revenge (...)
  • 149 KF: ʿiyyān for ʿawwān. ʿayya, to refuse, to be obstinate (in the defence of). wārdah, right, hav (...)

ما وَقّفوهِن بالمِبايع للاثمان

1. يا راكبٍ عَشْرٍ من الهارباتِ

اسداس ما شافوا لهم طَلْع نيبان115

2. اسنان من خامس زمان لقِواتي

رِمْل التُوابع ما تَلاهن حِيران116

3. عن الجِمل اشمال و مْعَفَّياتِ

لين ارتِكب نَيّ الشَحَم فوْق الامتان117

4. عامّيْن يَرعَن بالحما مِهْمِلاتِ

طَلّبْهِن الحاكم و جَنّه بكرْهان118

5. هلهِن شَرارات عليهن جَناةِ

شِيلوا عليهِن ضارب الدَرْب مِشْتان119

6. ها يوم رَبّي جابهِن يا عَزاتي

زَهاب اهَلهِن فوقهن تَمْر و دهان

7. الصِبْح من بَطْحا نِفي سارحاتِ

خَلّوا سدير يِمين بغير حَقْران120

8. لا عندكم خِيفة ولا وانياتِ

تَلْقى لعِلْوى به طُوارِف عِربان121

9. و العَصْر بالصُمّان عَدل المِشاةِ

قولوا نخَطّرْهِن على بن زِريبان122

10. و الى نِطَحْكم واحدٍ للمِباتِ

على ذُوي ناصر و خُصّوا فَيْحان123

11. رِدّوا سلامي بكاغِد من دواةِ

يَفْرَح بهِن اللي من البِعْد صَلْفان124

12. اهل بيوتٍ بالقِسا بَيّناتِ

ولا شَدّن الّا مِسْتِرِدّات و بدان125

13. رباعهن مَدْهَلٍ هَل المُوجفاتِ

يِرْما بهِن اذْناب حِيلٍ من الضان126

14. اهْل صحونٍ بالفِضا مالياتِ

ولا يَفْهَق الّا مِحْتِري السُور شَبْعان127

15. نَدْوة باثِر نَدْوة يجون سبِحاتِ

و البيت ياكِف مَقْدِمه دَثْر الايمان128

16. الراوية تِدْهن من الفارغاتِ

و نارٍ سَناها مِثْل صِبْحٍ لا بان129

17. و منارةٍ كنها نِثيلة هباةِ

مِحْماسهِن دايم على النار حَمْيان130

18. مَرْكا دلالٍ نِجْرهِن ما يباتِ

تِنْسَف على المِبْراد و الكيس مَلْيان131

19. من البِنّ يصْفِق به ثلاث غَرْزاتِ

ولا نازِح المَجْلِس عليها بشَفْقان132

20. و ان فَرَّغ الطَبْخة و الا ذيك تاتي

لا فَرَّعنّ و طار عنهِن الايقان133

21. ثُم انْشدوا فَيْحان سِتْر البَناتِ

عافت بَعَلها ما تبي منه وِرْعان134

22. شوْق الطِموح اللي عليها شِفاةِ

عمّا جَرى لك بالمِوَدّة و من شان135

23. جاني خَبَر يا حامي الجَاذياتِ

اللي غَدت لك بين راحل و قَطّان136

24. البَكْرة العَفرا الشَناح الفِتاةِ

تَعّبْتني من بين حَضْرٍ و بِدْوان

25. دَوّرت لك بمقَوّمين الصَلاةِ

ولا يقع شِيفت مع وِرْد كِرْزان137

26. و قالوا تَراها مع فِريق عطِواتِ

قالوا لها مع نَزْلة الهَيْضل الوان138

27. ها ثُم جاني من رِفيقٍ وصاةِ

والّا فانا ما لي مع البَدْو غِرْضان139

28. طَرّشْت ابا العِقلان قَبْل الفَواتِ

الله لا يَجْزي بَعَضهم بالاحسان140

29. اثْر الطروِش علومهم بايهاتِ

و رَدّيت عِلْمٍ و جاني العِلْم وِكْدان141

30. ها ثُم جاني رِدّ عِلْمٍ ثِباتِ

لا شَكّ ما شَيّ ٍ على غير بِرْهان142

31. قال البِشاير قِلْت له حاصلاتِ

قال احْتِرِف ما جيت بعلوم سَفْهان143

32. وَصّف لي البَكْرة عن الواهياتِ

رَبْعٍ ليا رَكْبوا على الخَيْل فِرْسان144

33. يَرْعَونها عِلوى هَل الطايلاتِ

الشاهد الله يوم زَوْغات الاذهان145

34. مِرْكاضهم تَشْبَع به الحايماتِ

و عندك خَبَر عِلوى بِدايد و سَلْفان146

35. بانت و راعيها بن قاعد زَناتي

فالخَيْل قِرّح و اجْرَد الخَدّ المَيْدان147

36. امّا عَطوك ايّاه بمْشايماتِ

ما هو بمِحْتاجٍ مِثاوير و اخوان148

37. ياخِذ ورا حَقّه على كلّ عاتي

حَضْري و هم بَدْوٍ على الحَقّ عوّان149

38. ولا عاد لي فيها من الوارداتِ

72Translation

  1. “O camel-rider with ten mounts chosen for their speed,
    Priceless racers, never displayed at a market for sale:

    • 150 At this age, when it has grown its teeth called sidāsiyyāt, riding camels are at the peak of their (...)

    Some of them in their sixth year, fertile animals;
    Others in their seventh year, before eye-teeth come through;
    150

  2. Nets on their behinds keep the studs at bay, privileged,
    They are spared pregnancy and caring for calves.

  3. For two years they have roamed at will on protected pastures
    Till the fat of their humps towered over their shoulders,

  4. Bred and raised by Sharārāt who fell afoul of the ruler,
    And willy-nilly ceded them to him at his demand.

  5. They became ours by the grace of the Lord, what joy!
    Sally forth on them and hit the road as is their wont.

  6. At dawn they set out from Nifī’s dry watercourse,
    Loaded with their riders’ provisions of dates and fat.

    • 151 i.e. not stopping off for refreshments and conversation.

    Have no fear and show determination without fail;
    Pass by Sudayr on your right, no harm no foul,
    151

  7. Travelling straight ahead, by noon at aṣ‑Ṣummān
    You will arrive at the first tents of the ʿIlwa tribe.

  8. Expect to be drowned with offers of hospitality;
    Tell them: ‘You will be guests at Ibn Zirībān’s home.’

  9. Give them my greetings, reading from ink on paper,
    To the clan of Dhuwi Nāṣir and especially to Fayḥān!

    • 152 While stingy people hide their tents in a dip in the terrain, the generous who care about their rep (...)

    Theirs are tents in the open, a beacon in hard times,152
    Cheering up weary travelers come from afar.

  10. Their tents’ common area attract riders of swift mounts,
    Rested, their strength recovered as they depart again.

  11. Hosts who carry trays outside filled with food,
    The lap-tails of fattened sheep without lamb thrown in.

  12. Group upon group squat down to be served in turn,
    Even the lesser guests gorge on the leftovers to satiation.

    • 153 This verse is often cited as a nice hyperbolic description of the virtue of hospitality. The big le (...)

    What remains is enough to coat the inside of large water-skins;
    The tent’s front flap drips with the fat from the hands wiped on it.
    153

  13. The heap of ashes is like a mound of dug-up earth,
    For his fire burns, turning night into break of day.

  14. By the row of long-beaked pots, the mortar is never silent;
    The roasting pan is forever being held over the flame;

  15. Three handfuls of coffee-beans are scattered on it;
    When strewn in the pot’s hot water the sack is still full.

  16. As soon as one brew is finished, the next one is made;
    Even those at at the far end of the circle do not long in vain.

    • 154 In the heat of battle, women loosen their hair, bare their breasts, and cry out to embolden their t (...)

    Now, ask Fayḥān who is the protector of his womenfolk
    When they let their hair down and fear that all is lost;154

    • 155 Another stock-character: a woman who has not yet been divorced, but lives separated from her husban (...)

    He is the dream of any married beauty looking for change,
    Who despises her husband and refuses to bear his children:
    155

  17. ‘News reached me, defender of crippled horses,
    About the adversity you have suffered on love’s account:

  18. That creamy white, tall and shapely young she-camel of yours,
    That went missing in the camp’s comings and goings.

    • 156 i.e. the settled inhabitants of the villages, the ḥaḏ̣ar, who are more punctual about religious obl (...)

    I looked for her among those who perform their prayers;156
    Searching frantically among villagers and Bedouin.

    • 157 Dhuwi ʿAṭiyyah: a major section of the ar-Rūqah division of ʿTēba. Al-Kirzān, a subtribe of al-Mqiṭ (...)

    I was told, “She is encamped with a group of Dhuwi ʿAṭiyya,
    Or perhaps with some of Kirzān watering the herds.”
    157

    • 158 Al‑Hēḏ̣al, the chiefs of ad‑Daʿājīn of Barqa of ʿUtayba.

    Then I heard this on good authority from a friend:
    “They said: ‘Someone like her was seen at al‑Hayḏ̣al’s camp.’”
    158

  19. I sent for her, wishing to hobble her before she ran away again,
    Otherwise I have no business mingling with Bedouin.

  20. But no luck as wayfarers’ tales proved inaccurate,
    May God withhold his rewards from those miscreants!

  21. Then the one and only true piece of news came in;
    I returned a query and lo and behold, it was confirmed.

  22. “For a price,” the bearer of tidings insisted. “It is a deal,” I said,
    “But something for something, nothing without proof:

  23. Describe to me the tender she-camel beyond all doubt!”
    He replied: “Now pay close attention, this is no empty talk.

  24. She is being pastured by ʿIlwa, men of famous feats;
    Who mount their steeds to perform chivalrous deeds.

  25. In the wake of their onslaught, vultures eat their fill,
    Be God my witness, as minds go beserk amidst horror.

    • 159 Lit. : Zanāti, i.e. the courageous hero of the Bani Hilāl epic.

    So, clearly, she is with Ibn Qāʿid of legendary fame,159
    You know ʿIlwa well, their lineages and ancestors:

  26. They might offer her to you in an agreeable manner,
    Or war horses may thunder on flat, hard terrain.

  27. When they claim their rights, the arrogant are swept aside,
    No need for reinforcements from friends and brothers.”

  28. As for myself, I seek no further news about her:
    A villager am I; those Bedouin fend for themselves.’”

73yigūl:

  1. ya‑rāćbin ʿašrin min al‑hārbāti
    ma waggafōhin bi‑l‑mibāyiʿ li‑l‑aṯmān

  2. asnān min xāmis zimān lgiwāti
    asdās ma šāfaw lhin ṭalʿ nībān

  3. ʿan al‑jmāl ašmāl wi‑mʿaffyāti
    riml at‑tuwābiʿ ma talāhin ḥīrān

  4. ʿāmēn yarʿan bi‑l‑ḥma mihmilāti
    lēn irtikab nayy aš‑šaḥam fōg l‑amtān

  5. halhin Šarārāt ʿalēhin janāti
    ṭallabhin al‑ḥākim w‑jannih b‑kirhān

  6. ha yōm rabbi jābhin ya‑ʿazāti
    šīlu ʿalēhin w‑iḏ̣rib ad‑darb mištān

  7. aṣ‑ṣibḥ min baṭḥa Nifī sārḥāti
    zahāb ahalhin fōghin tamr wi‑dhān

  8. la ʿindkum xīfah wla wānyāti
    xallu Sdēr yimīn min ġēr ḥagrān

  9. wi‑l‑ʿaṣr bi‑ṣ‑Ṣummān ʿadl al‑mišāti
    talga li‑ʿIlwa bih ṭuwārīf ʿirbān

  10. w‑ila niṭaḥkum wāḥidin li‑l‑mibāti
    gūlu nxaṭṭirhin ʿala bin Zirībān

  11. riddu salāmi bi‑kāġid min dwāti
    ʿala Ḏuwi Nāṣir w‑xuṣṣūh Fayḥān

  12. ahal byūtin bi‑l‑gisa bayynāti
    yafraḥ bhin illi min al‑biʿd ṣalfān

  13. rbāʿhim madhalin li‑l‑mūjfāti
    wla šaddan illa mistiriddāt wi‑bdān

  14. ahal ṣḥūnin bi‑l‑fiḏ̣a mālyāti
    yirma bhinn aḏnāb ḥīlin min aḏ̣‑ḏ̣ān

  15. nadwah b‑iṯir nadwah yijūn sbiḥāti
    wla yafhag illa miḥtiri s‑sūr šabʿān

  16. ar‑rāwyah tidhan mn al‑fārġāti
    wi‑l‑bēt yākif magdimih daṯr l‑aymān

  17. wi‑mnārtin kanha niṯīlat hbāti
    w‑nārin sanāha miṯl sibḥin ila bān

  18. marka dlālin nijrhin ma yibāt
    miḥmāshin dāyim ʿala n‑nār ḥamyān

  19. min al‑binn yiṣfiǵ bih ṯalāṯ ġrizāti
    tinsaf ʿala l‑mibrād wi‑l‑kīs malyān

  20. w‑in farraġ aṭ‑ṭabxah w‑ila ḏīk tāti
    wla nāziḥ al‑majlis ʿalēha bi‑šafgān

  21. ṯum inšidu Fayḥān sitr al‑banāti
    la farraʿann w‑ṭār ʿanhin l‑aygān

  22. šōg aṭ‑ṭimūḥ illi ʿalēha šifāti
    ʿāfat baʿalha ma tibi minh wirʿān

  23. jāni xabar ya‑ḥāmi al‑jāḏyāti
    ʿamma jara lik bi‑l‑miwaddah w‑min šān

  24. al‑bakrat al‑ʿafra šanāḥ al‑fitāti
    illi ġadat lik bēn rāḥil w‑gaṭṭān

  25. dawwart lik bi‑mgawwmīn aṣ‑ṣalāti
    taʿʿabtni min bēn ḥaḏ̣rin w‑bidwān

  26. w‑gālaw tarāha maʿ firīg ʿṬiwāti
    walla yigaʿ šīfat maʿa wird Kirzān

    • 160 al‑Hāḏ̣al for al‑Hēḏ̣al in the informant’s ʿUtayba dialect, see my Oral Poetry & Narratives from Ce (...)

    ha ṯumm jāni min rifīgin wṣāti
    gālaw lha maʿ nazlat al‑Hāḏ̣al alwān
    160

  27. ṭarrašt aba l‑ʿiglān gabl al‑fawāti
    walla f‑ana ma li maʿa l‑badw ġirḏ̣ān

  28. aṯr aṭ‑ṭrūš ʿlūmhim bāyhāti
    allāh la yajzi baʿaḏ̣hum bi‑l‑iḥsān

  29. ha ṯumm jāni ridd ʿilmin ṯibāti
    w‑raddēt ʿilm w‑jāniy al‑ʿilm wikdān

  30. gāl al‑bišāyir gilt lih ḥāṣlāti
    la šakk ma šayyin ʿala ġēr birhān

  31. waṣṣif li al‑bakrah ʿan al‑wāhyāti
    gāl iḥtirif ma jīt bi‑ʿlūm safhān

  32. yarʿawnha ʿIlwa hal aṭ‑ṭāylāti
    rabʿin lya rakbaw ʿala l‑xēl firsān

  33. mirkāḏ̣him tašbaʿ bih al‑ḥāymāti
    aš‑šāhid allah yōm zawġāt l‑aḏhān

  34. bānat w‑rāʿīha bn Gāʿid zanāti
    w‑ʿindik xabar ʿIlwa bidāyid w‑salfān

  35. imma ʿaṭōk iyyāh bi‑mšāymāti
    fa‑l‑xēl girraḥ w‑ajrad al‑xadd mēdān

  36. yāxiḏ wara ḥaggih ʿala kill ʿāti
    ma huw bi‑miḥtājin miṯāwīr w‑ixwān

  37. wla ʿād li fīha min al‑wārdāti
    ḥaḏ̣ri w‑hum badwin ʿala l‑ḥagg ʿawwān

Poem III

74This poem and the next one are from a different mold. It starts with a classical nasīb, an elegiac prelude in which the poet pours out his heart’s spleen at his beloved’s departure. The verses are addressed to the ʿUtayba chief Dhaʿār b. Mishāri b. Sulṭān b. Rubayʿān. Then the poem quickly turns into a series of scenes from Bedouin life. Pictures of the Bedouin ladies’ visits to the village shops are followed by the breaking of camp at the first reports of verdant pastures, and a scene with the horsemen scrambling when they raid a herd of their tribal enemies in a sequence of Bedouin excitement that is typical of Ibn Subayyil.

  • 161 tigāfa, “to follow in the steps of another one; come, go one after the other” (CA qafā). maḥal pl. (...)
  • 162 FK: tgērab al‑migṭān.
  • 163 ḏ̣ōl, “multitude, great mass of people packed together.”
  • 164 la xānat al‑migṭān fi kill jōlih. xānah, “use, benefit.” migṭān pl. migāṭīn, “place where the Bedou (...)
  • 165 ʿasūs, “scout, s.o. who reconnoiters the land ahead for good pastures and places of rainfall.”
  • 166 KF: ḥgalō lih for rḥalō lih. samḥīn al‑wjīh, “(a company of) noble faces, chivalrous men”; sāmiḥ, (...)
  • 167 KF: fārigih for rafʿatih. zōl, “indistinct outline, silhouette, form of a figure observed from afar (...)
  • 168 ṣakk, “to lock, press from all sides.” nigaʿ, “large pool of water.”
  • 169 sayyar ʿala, “to pay a visit (without being invited).” tāʿa, “to call a horse.” arwaʿa, “to pay att (...)
  • 170 FK: gīl for gāl. gahar, “to curb, check; to stop, halt, rein in”; ighar giʿūdak, “stop your camel.”
  • 171 FK: w‑bāġin for abġa. waggaf al‑ʿilm ṭūlih, “when reports reached their apogee, things came to a he (...)
  • 172 KF: nayyah for nawwah, syn. of nabbah, “to call (for assistance).” namran, “a group of courageous w (...)
  • 173 ḥill pl. ḥlūl, “time; right time; period.” darham, “to trot (said of a camel).” ištāl, “to carry, l (...)
  • 174 ʿēlah, “transgression; acts breaching the peace; daring attacks.”
  • 175 KF: raddaw b‑awwilih for b‑al‑ḥawa. ḥawa, yḥawi, “to collect; to take into one’s possession one’s s (...)
  • 176 māg, “to look from the corner of one’s eye; to be arrogant, tyrannical.” KF has an additional verse (...)
  • 177 KF: yamšūn mašy illi ṯgālin. al‑wazmah, “the period in the fall when the Bedouin head for the towns (...)
  • 178 KF: sarāh for as‑sēr. ġibb, “after, following”; ġibb as‑sara, “after yesterday’s march.” šāx is šēx (...)

لليوم ينْقِص ما بِقى الّا قِليله

1. يا ذعار قَلْبي من العام حَوْله

مِسْنٍ جَنابه يابسٍ حَنْظِليله161

2. مِثْل الشِعِيب الى تِقافَت محُوله

و ان قَرّب المِقْطان واحَبّني له162

3. رِبيع قَلْبي جَيّة البَدْو حَوْله

مِثْل النِظِيم المِخْتِلِف عَن مِثيله163

4. السوق يَعْجِبْني ليا شِفْت زَوْله

يلْهون راعي الواردة عن قِبيله

5. ذولا لهم حاجة و ذولا بذولا

حَزّ الرِبيع الى تِزايد نِزيله164

6. وِش خانة المِقْطان في كلّ حَوْله

عِشْبٍ جِديد ولا بَعَد جَفّ سَيْله165

7. رِبيعهم قول العسوس رْحَلو له

عَطا السَلَف و اسْتَجْنِبوا كلّ اصيله166

8. و الصِبْح سَمْحين الوجيه رْحَلوا له

و نَوّخ خَفيف الزَمْل و اقبَل ثِقيله

9. و كلٍّ لهل بيته ينَوّخ ذِلوله

لا بَدّ شَرّاب الحَشايش يجي له167

10. و البيت يَبْني برَفْعَته كِبر زَوْله

و النقْع قِدْم البيت ما ينْعني له168

11. في رَوْضةٍ صَكّت عليه نزوله

و الخَيْل من تاعي له تَرْعَوي له169

12. تَلْوَة نَهار و كلّهم سَيّروا له

باطَرته النِعْمة مديمٍ صِهيله170

13. ما قال يا راعي الحصان اقْهروا له

تِنافِضت بين العَميل و عَميله171

14. و باغٍ الى ما وِقَف العِلْم طوله

نِمْرا تِصَهْرَج مِثْل نَوّ الرِفيله172

15. نَوّه على اطْراف العَرَب و جْمَعوا له

و دَرْهَم عليه الشَيْخ و اشْتال شِيله173

16. و السَبْر راح و رَدّها في حلوله

صَفْرا تكَفّ الخَيْل عن كلّ عَيْله174

17. و شافوا عياله يوم قَرّبوا له

تَعايَلت قِدّام يُومي شِليله

18. قالوا مطالع قال الآخَر يقوله

من دَنّة الغارة تِزايد جِفيله

19. فاضوا على طَرْشٍ وساعٍ خلوله

ما عنده الّا من يحَلّب صِميله175

20. حَوّوا و رَدّوا بالحَوى و قْهَروا له

مِتْغِيّته الدنْيا يحَسْبه طِويلة176

21. كم مايقٍ برماحهم سَبّقوا له

زَمْلٍ من الوَزْمة رِخِيّ ٍ مكيله177

22. يَمْشون مِثْل اللي ثِقيلٍ حموله

يِسْري و غِبّ السَيْر ما ينْدِري له178

23. يَتْلون شَيْخٍ ماضياتٍ فعوله

  • 179 KF, 178‑181; IS, 75‑78

75Translation179

76This, sir, is a poem addressed to Dhaʿār ibn Mishāri ibn Rubayʿān, composed by Ibn Subayyil who says:

  1. “Dhaʿār, it has been a full year now that my heart
    Until today has almost wasted away,

  2. Like a watercourse after a long period of drought,
    Growth on its banks desiccated, bitter apples dry.

  3. My heart’s spring time is when the Bedouin gather;
    What excitement at the approach of their summer camp!

  4. I watch with delight the crowd in the market street,
    Colorful like the many threads woven into woolen cloth.

  5. These have some business here, those with others:
    Hard to keep your eye from straying as you’re having a chat.

  6. Alas, their sojourn at the wells is only too short‑lived,
    For in spring their camps mushroom and spread out.

  7. Their spring is when the scout says: ‘Pack up and leave:
    Grass aplenty and the ponds haven’t dried up yet!’

    • 180 The tribe’s men ride ahead on their camel mounts, while their mares trot along at their side. The m (...)

    As morning came the noble visitors had made off,
    The warlike men riding ahead, leading their mares by rope.
    180

  8. Everyone kneels his riding camel for their folks,
    Then the light pack camels, and then the heavy ones.

  9. The black tent is put up, conspicuous by its size:
    Surely those looking for a smoke and a cup of coffee will flock.

  10. They have alighted at a lush spot, crammed with campers;
    Water is not far: there is a pond right in front.

  11. At the end of the day visitors start dropping by, all of them;
    The horses pay attention and obey when they are being called.

  12. No one asks the owner to rein in his stud horse;
    Bristling with energy and delight, it can’t stop neighing.

  13. It is kept in reserve for a day when grim news comes in,
    When weapons are unsheathed and enemies come face to face.

  14. A call to arms is sounded and those at a remove rejoin
    To form an army thick and dark like thunderous clouds.

  15. The spies left and at the right time brought his report:
    The chief rushed to meet him and get the gist of the news.

  16. His men saw and understood as they led his horse to him,
    A white mare fit to bring an aggressor’s cavalry to heel.

    • 181 It is explained that the chief, mounted on his horse, moves the hem of his shirt as a sign to attac (...)

    They said: ‘I can see it!’ And the other: ‘Right you are!’
    Speeding off, before he waved the hem of his shirt.
    181

  17. They surged towards the herds on the move, spread out wide;
    Alarmed at the din of the raid, the animals panicked.

    • 182 i.e. the herds were not accompanied by armed men, but were only guarded by shepherds.

    Encircled, they were rounded up and brought to halt,
    With the shepherd boys carrying only their milk skin.
    182

  18. Many times they have cut down to size swaggering braggarts,
    Fooled by fate into believing they would last.

    • 183 The implied meaning is that they have no fear of any enemy and are unconcerned about any danger.

    They go at leisure, marching like heavily-laden caravans,
    Pack-camels returning with abundant supplies in the fall.
    183

    • 184 The chief is so powerful and self-assured that no one is bold enough to ask him where they are goin (...)

    They are the followers of a chief famous for his deeds;
    The day after the march no one asks him questions.”
    184

77hāḏa ṭāl ʿumrik giṣīdat Ḏʿār Ibn Mšāri Ibn Rubayʿān, al‑giṣīdah giṣadha Ibn Subayyil l‑Ḏʿār Ibn Mšāri Ibn Rubayʿān, yigūl:

  1. ya‑Ḏʿār ana galbi min al‑ʿām ḥōlih
    l‑al‑yōm yangiṣ ma biga alla gilīlih

  2. miṯl aš‑šiʿīb ila tigāfat mḥūlih
    misnin janābih yābsin ḥanḏ̣ilīlih

  3. ribīʿ galbi jayyat al‑badw ḥōlih
    w‑in garrab al‑migṭān wa‑ḥabbini lih

  4. as‑sūg yaʿjIbni lya šift ḏ̣ōlih
    miṯl an‑niḏ̣īm al‑mixtilif ʿan miṯīlih

  5. ḏōla lhum ḥājah w‑ḏōla bi‑ḏōla
    yilhōn rāʿi al‑wārdah ʿan gibīlih

  6. wiš xānat al‑migṭān fi kill ḥōlih
    ḥazz ar‑ribīʿ ila tizāyad nizīlih

  7. ribīʿhim gāl al‑ʿasūs irḥalō lih
    ʿišbin jidīd wla baʿad jaff sēlih

  8. wa‑ṣ‑ṣibḥ samḥīn al‑wjīh rḥalō lih
    ʿaṭa s‑salaf w‑istajnibaw kill iṣīlih

  9. w‑killin l‑ahal bētih ynawwix ḏilūlih
    w‑nawwax xafīf az‑zaml w‑agbal ṯigīlih

  10. wi‑l‑bēt yabni b‑rafʿatih kibr zōlih
    la badd šarrāb al‑ḥašāyiš yiji lih

  11. fi rōḏ̣tin ṣakkat ʿalāha nzūlih
    wi‑n‑nagʿ gidm al‑bēt ma yinʿani lih

  12. talwat nahār w‑killhim sayyarō lih
    wi‑l‑xēl min tāʿi lih tarʿawi lih

  13. ma gāl ya‑rāʿi l‑ḥṣān igharō lih
    bāṭartih an‑niʿmah mdīmin ṣihīlih

  14. abġa ila ma waggaf al‑ʿilm ṭūlih
    tināfiḏ̣at bēn al‑ʿamīl w‑ʿamīlih

  15. nawwah ʿala aṭrāf al‑ʿarab wi‑jmaʿō lih
    nimran tiṣahrij miṯl naww al‑rifīlih

  16. wi‑s‑sabr rāḥ w‑raddha fi ḥlūlih
    w‑darham ʿalāh aš‑šāx w‑ištāl šīlih

  17. šāfaw ʿiyālih yōm hum garrabō lih
    ṣafran tkiff al‑xēl ʿan kill ʿēlih

  18. gālaw mṭāliʿ gāl al‑āxar yigūlih
    tiʿāyalat giddām yūmi šilīlih

  19. fāḏ̣aw ʿala ṭaršin wsāʿin xlūlih
    min dannat al‑ġārah tizāyad jifīlih

  20. ḥawwaw w‑raddaw ba‑l‑ḥawa wi‑gharō lih
    ma ʿindih alla min yḥallib ṣimīlih

  21. kam māygin bi‑rmāḥhim sabbagō lih
    miṭġiyytih ad‑dinya yḥisbah ṭiwīlih

  22. yamšūn miṯl illi ṯigīlin ḥmūlih
    zamlin min al‑wazmah rixiyyin mkīlih

  23. yatlōn šāxin māḏ̣yātin fʿūlih
    yasri w‑ġibb as‑sēr ma yindiri lih

Poem IV

78In this fourth poem Ibn Subayyil addresses himself: “O my eyes, where have all your sweethearts gone?” As he takes in the desolate scene around the well, where the wind is wiping out traces of its former inhabitants — as in the classical topos of aṭlāl, the remains of a deserted camp — he thinks of the pleasant hustle and bustle there only a short time before.

79ʿAhdi b‑hum, “the last time I enjoyed their company,” the standard expression of nostalgic remembrance, in this case the time in fall when the last two stars of the Ursa Major had not yet appeared. He describes how the Bedouin split up, one group leading pack-camels to urban markets in the northern Gulf and the other upcountry, with the group’s tents and other gear accompanied by the women, children and old or ailing men, towards the autumn pasture in High Najd.

80This provides the poet with an occasion to portray their hospitality and prowess when it comes to defending their herds, illustrated with a battle scene.

  • 185 Pronounced as wān: in the dialect of ʿTēbah sometimes the diphthong –ay instead of –ē becomes –ā, s (...)
  • 186 In KF: waggifaw bih. jaww, “a basin or valley with spring wells having water enough to supply big c (...)
  • 187 miʿṭān pl. maʿāṭīn, “resting-place at the water, place where the camels lie down after being watere (...)
  • 188 For ḥawdar KF has ḥaddar. zamil pl. zmūl, zimāyil, “laden camels, male camels used as pack-camels.” (...)
  • 189 miṣfār, “autumnal camping grounds, at the time of ṣfiri, ninety nights from the beginning of Octobe (...)
  • 190 wasmi, “the rains of Canopus, the Pleiades, and Gemini; rains of autumn, winter, and early spring.” (...)
  • 191 kāyid, “hard, difficult.” wiṭāhum mūjib lit. “they were trodden by something that forced them to ac (...)
  • 192 zād aṣ‑ṣyaf lit. early summer food,” i.e. the milk produced by camels in the hot season. mṭarriǵ, (...)
  • 193 tarayyaḏ̣, “to tarry, wait for, pause, take one’s time.” ʿṣūb s. ʿaṣīb, entrails of a slaughtered (...)
  • 194 taxāšar, “to agree to share (e.g. booty)”; xišīr, “booty to be divided.”
  • 195 fāxat, “to miss, take a wrong turn, go astray from.” ḥwār pl. ḥīrān, “calf during the first ninety (...)
  • 196 KF: rāsha ʿind ṯōbih. mʿaššir, “she-camel in the first forty-five days of pregnancy; eight days aft (...)
  • 197 KF: w‑in gīl. gṭiyy, s. giṭāh, “the hind part of a horse.”
  • 198 KF: gidm mḥabūbih. nūmās, “reputation, fame won through glorious feats.”
  • 199 šinīʿ, “abominable, bad, evil, disgusting.” aćwān, aćāwīn, “wounds.” kōn, “battle, fight.” KF has a (...)
  • 200 ʿazzal, “to put, set aside; to separate; to divide the booty.” ḏōd pl. ḏīdān, “a herd of camels.” s (...)

اللي ليا جَوْ مِنْزِلٍ رَبّعوا به185

1. يا عين وين احبابك اللي تودّين

عِدّ ٍ خَلا ما كنّهم دَوّجوا به186

2. اهْل البيوت اللي على الجَوّ طَوْفين

تَذْري عليه من الذُواري هبوبه187

3. مِنْزالهم تَذْري عليه المَعاطين

قَبْل الشتا و زَلّ القَيْظ مْحَسوبه

4. عَهْدي بهم باقي من السَبْع ثِنْتين

الزَمْل حَوْدر و الظَعَن سَنّدوا به188

5. قَلّت جَهامتهم من الجَوّ قِسْمين

الله لا يَجْزي طروشٍ حَكوا به189

6. يَبْغون مِصْفارٍ من النير و يمين

من تالي الكَنّة تِمَلّت دعوبه190

7. قالوا من الوَسْمي نِباته الى الحين

و الى وِطاهم مُوجبٍ رَحّبوا به191

8. شَيّالة الكايد على العِسْر و اللِين

و ان شافوا الضَيْف المطَرّق عَدوا به192

9. زاد الصِيَف معهم بلايّا مُواعين

من زاد بيت الله يفَرّش عصوبه193

10. و الى تِرَيّض يَذْبَحون الخَرافين

و ان فات منهم شَيّ ما حَسّبوا به

11. و الى عَطوا يَعْطون روس البَعارين

لو الحَصيل حمار تَخاشَروا به194

12. ما هم برَبْعٍ بالمَحاضير قِصيّين

يَشْدي تَراطين الدوَل يوم جَو به195

13. يَزْبون مالٍ فاخَتته الحَوارين

صاروا على بَعْض القِبايل عقوبه

14. و الى تَعَلّوا فَوق مِثْل الشِياهين

مِثْل المعَشّر ذَيْلها عند ثَوْبه196

15. لا تَلّها الراكب غَدى الحَبْل ثِنْوين

فالمِرْمس اللي من قِديمٍ دَعوا به197

16. و ان قال عند قطِيّهم يا اهْل الدَيْن

كلً يبا النوماس عند مْحَبوبه198

17. رَدَّوا عليهم رَدّةٍ تِعْجِب العين

و اللي تَعَدّته السهوم رْجِلوا به199

18. هذا طِريحٍ و ذا شِنيع الاكاوين

لو ما لهم سَبّارهم رَثّعوا به200

19. كم عَزّلوا ذِيدان بَدوٍ عَزيزين

و قالوا لرِعيان الاخيذ ابْشِروا به

20. لَحْقوا بِعيدين المِساريح عَجْلين

بالماقِف اللي بايعوا و اشْتِروا به

21. تَواقِفوا مِثْل المِظاهير مِرْزين

  • 201 KF, 188‑190; IS, 61‑63.

81Translation201

82This is a poem by Ibn Subayyil on the subject of the Bedouin.

  1. “O my eyes , where are the loved ones so dear to you,
    Who set up camp in an abode and stayed for a while?

  2. Tent-dwellers who arrange their camp in two rows
    At the well, on flat ground, now empty after the bustle.

    • 202 The space where the herds rest is covered with their droppings that turn into dry dust raised and s (...)

    The dust on the animals’ resting places is stirred
    By the breeze that blows over their abandoned camp.
    202

    • 203 i.e. early autumn before the last two of the seven stars of Ursa Major make their appearance.

    Two stars of Ursa Major were left when I saw them last,203
    Not yet winter but well after hot summer had passed.

  3. The mass of their camels left the flat basin in two groups:
    The pack animals down East; those loaded with chattels up

    • 204 A mountain in the tribal ranges of ʿUtayba in High Najd.
    • 205 Because the Bedouin, and with them the poet’s beloved one, left for the pastures as soon as they re (...)

    Towards the pastures of early fall to the right of an‑Nīr204
    May God withhold his reward from the bearers of these reports,
    205

    • 206 In other words, the area has hardly been dry that year as the rains of winter were followed by the (...)

    Who said: ‘Still you find green sprouted by winter rains,
    For at the very end of spring the gullies ran full again!’
    206

  4. Tribesmen who do not flinch, hardship or good days,
    Always ready to prove their mettle if occasions arise.

    • 207 The meaning of sustenance from early summer not stored in vessels is fresh milk of she-camels tha (...)

    Summer’s provisions of milk aplenty, without storage;207
    When espying some wayfarer, they hurry to invite him.

    • 208 Lit. food from God’s house, i.e. Mecca, for the rice is imported through the Red Sea harbors.

    If he lingers, they slaughter and roast fat sheep,
    Entrails wound around the meat served with rice.
    208

  5. The presents they give can be counted in camels,
    If something goes missing, they don’t bat an eyelid.

  6. In gatherings they are not exacting and reserved:
    If all they gain is a donkey, they will share it.

    • 209 Either their calves are slaughtered for food, in which case the mother moans incessantly, or becaus (...)

    She-camels in their herds must do without calves,
    When brought in they grumble in gibberish.
    209

  7. When vaulting onto the back of falcon-like steeds,
    They fall upon some tribes like a punitive scourge.

    • 210 The horse’s response to a pull at the reins is so eager that the reins seems to fold in two as the (...)

    At the rider’s pull, the reins go slack as its head goes up,
    Like a pregnant camel’s raised tail, to his shirt.
    210

  8. If it rings out, ‘Onto their haunches, avengers!’
    Almost buried grudges are renewed with vigor.

  9. Their cavalry charged at them brilliantly,
    All of them vying to be a hero in their sweethearts’ eyes.

    • 211 In KF the next verse is: They protect their borders with long spears in hand / On big chested hors (...)

    Bodies scattered, others grievously wounded,
    If not harmed, unsaddled, robbed of their mounts.
    211

  10. Countless Bedouin despoiled of precious herds,
    But for early warning, they’d play havoc with them.

    • 212 If their herds grazing on a distant pasture are under threat of being raided by enemies, they lose (...)

    Swiftly they reach camels grazing distant pastures,
    Telling their shepherds to expect more thanks to booty.
    212

    • 213 Battles are likened to markets where goods are sold and bought. In this case brave warriors do not (...)

    They stand immovable, like heavy camel trains,
    In battle when dear life itself is sold and bought.”
    213

83hāḏi giṣīdat Ibn Subayyil fi l‑baduw

  1. ya‑ʿēn wān aḥbābić illi twiddīn
    illi lya jaw manzilin rabbaʿaw bih

  2. ahl al‑byūt illi ʿala l‑jaww ṭawfēn
    ʿiddin xala ma ćannhum dawwajaw bih

  3. minzālhum taḏri ʿalēh al‑maʿāṭīn
    taḏri ʿalēh mn al‑ḏuwāri hbūbih

  4. ʿahdi bhum bāǵi min as‑sabʿ ṯintēn
    gabl aš‑šta wi‑l‑gēḏ̣ zall mḥasūbih

  5. gallat jahāmathum min al‑jaww gismēn
    az‑zaml ḥawdar wi‑ḏ̣‑ḏ̣aʿan sannidaw bih

  6. yabġōn miṣfārin min an‑Nīr w‑yimīn
    allāh la yajzi ṭrūšin ḥakaw bih

  7. gālaw min al‑wasmi nibātih ila al‑ḥīn
    min tāli al‑kannat timallat dʿūbih

  8. šayyālat al‑kāyid ʿala al‑ʿisr wi‑l‑līn
    w‑ila wiṭāhum mūjbin raḥḥabaw bih

  9. zād aṣ‑ṣiyaf maʿhum bilayya muwāʿīn
    w‑in šāfaw aḏ̣‑ḏ̣ēf al‑mṭarriǵ ʿadaw bih

  10. w‑ila tirayyaḏ̣ yaḏbaḥūn al‑xarāfīn
    min zād bēt allah yfarriš ʿṣūbih

  11. w‑ila ʿaṭaw yaʿṭūn rūs al‑baʿārīn
    w‑in fāt minhum šayy ma ḥassibaw bih

  12. ma hum b‑rabʿin bi‑l‑maḥāḏ̣ir giṣiyyīn
    law al‑ḥaṣīl ḥmār taxāšaraw bih

  13. yazbōn mālin fāxatath al‑ḥawārīn
    yašdi tarāṭīn ad‑dwal yōm jaw bih

  14. w‑ila taʿallaw fōg miṯl aš‑šiyāhīn
    ṣāraw ʿala baʿḏ̣ al‑gibāyil ʿgūbih

  15. la tallha ar‑rākib ġada l‑ḥabl ṯinwēn
    miṯl al‑mʿaššir ḏēlha ʿind ṯōbih

  16. w‑in gāl ʿind gṭiyyhum ya‑ahl ad‑dēn
    fa‑l‑mirmis illi min gidīmin daʿaw bih

  17. raddaw ʿalēhum radditin tiʿjib al‑ʿēn
    killin yiba an‑nūmās ʿind mḥabūbih

  18. haḏa ṭirīḥ w‑ḏa šinīʿ al‑akāwīn
    w‑illi taʿaddath as‑shūm rjilaw bih

  19. kam ʿazzalaw ḏīdān badwin ʿazīzīn
    law ma lhum sabbārhim raṯṯaʿaw bih

  20. laḥǵaw biʿīdīn al‑misārīḥ ʿajlīn
    w‑gālaw li‑riʿyān al‑ixīḏ ibširu bih

  21. tawāgifaw miṯl al‑miḏ̣āhīr mirzīn
    bi‑l‑māgif illi bāyaʿaw w‑ištiraw bih

84Abbreviations

85Luw: Luwayḥān, ʿAbdallah al‑.

86M: Musil.

87Man: Ibn Mandīl.

88KF: Faraj, Khālid al‑.

89IS: Ibn Subayyil, Muḥammad Ibn ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz.

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Bibliographie

Faraj, Khālid al‑, Dīwān al‑nabaṭ, majmūʿa min al‑shiʿr al‑ʿāmmī fī Najd, vol. 1, Damascus, 1952.

Ḥātam, ʿAbdallah al‑Khālid al‑, Min al‑shiʿr al‑Najdī, dīwān al‑shāʿir ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil, Kuweit, 1984.

Ḥātam, ʿAbdallah al‑Khālid al‑, Dīwān al‑shāʿir ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil, Riyadh, 1984.

Ibn Mandīl, Mandīl b. Muḥammad, Āl Fuhayd, Min ādābinā al‑shaʿbiyya fī al‑jazīra al‑ʿarabiyya, qiṣaṣ wa‑ashʿār, 4 vols., Riyadh, 1981–84.

Ibn Subayyil, Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz, Dīwān b. Subayyil, Riyadh, Maṭābiʿ al‑Farazdaq al‑Tijāriyya, 1988.

Junaydil, Saʿd b. ʿAbdallah ibn, al‑Muʿjam al‑jughrāfī li‑l‑bilād al‑ʿarabiyya al‑Suʿūdiyya, ʿĀliyat Najd, 3 vols. Riyadh, 1978.

Junaydil, Saʿd b. ʿAbdallah ibn, Min aʿlām al‑adab al‑shaʿbī, shuʿarā’ al‑ʿāliya, Riyadh, 1981.

Juhaymān, ʿAbd al‑Karīm al‑. Al‑amthāl al‑shaʿbiyya fī qalb al‑jazīra al‑ʿarabiyya, 10 vols., Riyadh 1982.

Kamālī, Shafīq al‑, Al‑shiʿr ʿind al‑badū, Bagdad, 1964.

Kurpershoek, P. Marcel, Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia:

— II, The Story of a Desert Knight, The Legend of Shlē al‑ʿAāwi and Other ʿUtaybah Heroes, 1995.

— III, Bedouin Poets of the Dawāsir Tribe, Between Nomadism and Settlement in Southern Najd, 1999.

— IV, A Saudi Tribal History, Honour and Faith in the Traditions of the Dawāsir, 2002.

— V, Voices from the Desert, Glossary, Indices, and List of Recordings, 2005.

Luwayḥān, ʿAbdallah al‑, Rawā’iʿ min al‑shiʿr al‑nabaṭī , Cairo (n.d.).

Musil, Alois, Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, New York, 1928.

Raddās, ʿAbdallah b. Muḥammad ibn, Shāʿirāt min al‑bādiya, 2 vols. Riyadh, 1984–85.

Sowayan, Saad Abdullah. Nabaṭī Poetry. The Oral Poetry of Arabia, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, 1985.

Sowayan, Saad Abdullah, Al‑ṣaḥrā’ al‑ʿarabiyya, thaqāfatuhā wa‑shiʿruhā ʿabra al‑ʿuṣūr, qirā’a anthrūbūlūjiyya, Beirut, Arab Network for Research and publishing, 2010.

ʿUbūdī, Muḥammad b. Nāṣir al‑, Al‑amthāl al‑ʿāmmiyya fī Najd, 5 vols., Riyadh, 1979.

ʿUbūdī, Muḥammad b. Nāṣir al‑, Muʿjam al‑anwā’ wa al‑fuṣūl, Riyadh, 2011

ʿUbūdī, Muḥammad b. Nāṣir al‑, Muʿjam al‑uṣūl al‑faṣīa li‑l‑alfā al‑dārija, 13 vols., Riyadh, 2008.

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Notes

1 At the time I was living in Riyadh, where I was posted as a diplomat in 19851989. My fieldwork then was in preparation for the five volumes Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia, 1994–2005, Brill Publishers. This part of my fieldwork has remained unpublished. Currently I am preparing an edition and translation of Ibn Subayyil’s dīwān. The transliteration of Arabic is different for the transliterated version of the text of the poems in the Najdi vernacular: for th, x for , for dh, š for sh, ġ for gh, ḏ̣ for the interdental velarized phoneme into whichand have merged in the Najdi dialect. The explanatory notes to the Arabic text are based on the notes in the published collection of Khālid al‑Faraj, experts I have consulted in Riyadh, and mostly the glossary in vol. V of my Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia, which in its turn relies on many other works and glossaries, as well as my own fieldnotes. In the notes, references to published works are by titles or abbreviated titles that are given in full at the end of this article. Nabaṭi is the term generally used to denote an Arabian vernacular tradition of poetry that uses a distinctive idiom with much of its vocabulary, imagery, structure and prosody showing close parallels with the early Classical Arabic poetry from the Arabian interior.

2 ʿAbd al‑Karīm al‑Juhaymān, Al‑amthāl al‑shaʿbiyya fī qalb al‑jazīra al‑ʿarabiyya, 10 vols., Riyadh, 1982, with about ten thousand proverbs; and Muḥammad b. Nāṣir al‑ʿUbūdī, Al‑amthāl al‑ʿāmmiyya fī Najd, 5 vols., Riyadh, 1979, with three thousand proverbs.

3 Saad Abdullah Sowayan vividly explains and elucidates the importance of Ibn Subayyil in the Najdi Nabaṭi tradition, including the translation of one of his poems with a theme that begins with the line
الله لا يسْقي ليالٍ شِفاشيف / ايام راعي السمْن يخَلّص ديونه
“May God strike with drought the bustling final days of summer / When the nomads pry loose the last payment for their butter”
(Khālid al‑Faraj, Dīwān al‑Nabaṭ, p. 184). “The settlers’ romantic and nostalgic view of nomadic life is reflected in the compositions of settled Nabaṭi poets, some of whom dedicated the major share of their poetry to describing the ways of nomads and their patterns of migration. The best representative of this school is ʿAbdallah al‑Ḥamūd Ibn Subayyil,” Nabaṭi Poetry, The Oral Poetry of Arabia, p. 24‑27. Sowayan also notes that his grandfather, an excellent transmitter of poetry (rāwī), knew five poems by Ibn Subayyil by heart, ibid. p. 121. Sowayan points out that the genre of poetic correspondence reached its apogee in the exchange of poems between Ibn Subayyil and Ibn Zirībān (more on this below), ibid. p. 182. On Ibn Subayyil also see, Sowayan, Al‑Ṣaḥrā’ al‑ʿarabiyya, p. 93, 395‑96, 414‑15, 437‑44, with comparisons between his poems and those of Dhū l‑Rumma, al‑Farazdaq, al‑Aʿshā, Ṭarafa, ʿAlqama b. ʿAbda, Qays b. al‑Ḥadādiyya.

4 It seems poetry was largely composed during the first half of his life.

5 For many examples, see Muḥammad b. Nāṣir al‑ʿUbūdī, Muʿjam al‑anwā’ wa al‑fuṣūl, Riyadh, 2011, p. 123‑130, and his Muʿjam al‑uṣūl al‑faṣīḥa li‑l‑alfāẓ al‑dārija, vol. 6, Riyadh, 2008, p. 462‑468.

6 Khālid b. Muḥammad, al‑Dawsarī, Al‑Faraj, Dīwān al‑Nabaṭ, majmūʿah min al‑shiʿr al‑ʿāmmi fi Najd. vol. 1. Damascus, 1953, p. 165‑66.

7 ʿAbdallah al‑Khālid al‑Ḥātam, Min al‑shiʿr al‑Najdī, dīwān al‑shāʿir ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil, p. 5, Kuweit, 1981 (third edition).

8 See the article on Nifi in the geographical dictionary for the High Najd by Saʿd b. ʿAbdallah b. Junaydil, Al‑muʿjam al‑jughrāfi li‑l‑bilād al‑ʿarabiyya al‑Saʿūdiyya, ʿĀliyat Najd, 3 vols., Riyadh, 1980.

9 See verse 38 of poem II below: “As for myself, I seek no further news about her: / A villager am I; those Bedouin fend for themselves.”

10 Saad al‑Bazei in the Riyadh Daily of 24 September 1994 wrote: “Ibn Sebaiel wrote some of the most lyrical poetry in the colloquial Arabic of the Najd region. He is still widely remembered as an exceptionally talented poet […] with thousands of people memorizing his lines and reciting them either to substantiate a wisdom, or simply to express a sentiment. To say that Ibn Sebaiel was the Najdi minstrel par excellence is hardly to exaggerate the point. […] Ibn Sebaiel’s poetry is very much a record of the formation of Saudi Arabia from a cultural, or if you wish, anthropological perspective. The settlement where he lived and later on governed was at the periphery between bedouin and civil life. The poems were sentimentally located at a collateral periphery, irrevocably tied to settled life, but irredeemably longing for the freedom of the bedouins […]. Today many poets express sentiments similar to those of Ibn Sebaiel, indicating perhaps that the periphery is still with us, not only as a geographical or cultural fact, but also as a rich source of poetry.” Some Bedouin consider him “too soft,” however. Khālid Ibn Shulaywīḥ, great-grandson of the famous poet and desert knight Shulaywīḥ al‑ʿAṭāwi, called Ibn Subayyil a kharrāṭ, a mere dabbler in poetry. He claimed to despise him on two accounts: for his fine love poetry and as one of the ḥaḏ̣ar, townfolk, The Story of a Desert Knight, p. 91n and 95.

11 Al‑Faraj, p. 166.

12 Sowayan places Ibn Subayyil in the context of “a specific school of poetry that as some have suggested might be called ‘the romantic school’ (al‑madrasa al‑wijdāniyya). The verses of the poets of this school exude nostalgia for the desert and longing for the Bedouin life. This school took form and flourished artistically through the work of the innovative poet ʿAbdallah Ibn Subayyil. Most of its poets were from the High Najd and the other most well-known names are Muṭawwaʿ Nifī, Fuhayd b. ʿUwaywīd al‑Mijmāj, and among the later poets Suwaylim al‑ʿAlī,” cf. Sowayan, Al‑Ṣaḥrā’ al‑ʿarabiyyah, p. 437.

13 ʿAbdallah b. Rubayʿān and other informants in Riyadh. Mandīl b. Muḥammad b. Mandīl al‑Fuhayd, Min ādābinā al‑shaʿbiyya fī al‑jazīra al‑ʿarabiyya, I, 1978, Riyadh.

14 Marcel Kurpershoek, Arabia of the Bedouins, London 2001, p. 27 and Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia, v, Voices from the Desert, p. 366 for forty-five references to “Bedouins contrasted with settled folk”, in the index of subjects, and similarly p. 388 in the index of tribal names under the heading of al‑Dawāsir, Bedouins and settled folk with twenty-nine references.

15 Arabia of the Bedouins, p. 194-196.

16 Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia 4: A Saudi Tribal History, Honour and Faith in the Traditions of the Dawāsir, 2002, passim and see note 13 above.

17 There is nothing in the verses that gives any indication of the identity of the young ladies, not even if they belonged to the ʿUtayba tribe. Further remarks to the effect that Ibn Subayyil, as a villager (ḥaḍarī) was not kuf’, sufficiently equal in social status to qualify as a partner in marriage for the Ibn Rubayʿān show that these comments are a figment of imagination, more related to ideas about class at that later point of time.

18 This in spite of the fact that the only poems known to me were a few verses on making coffee and its supposed virtues, by Mishāri b. Rubayʿān and his son Dhaʿār. One of the four poems presented here is addressed to Dhaʿār.

19 In the pages devoted to Nifī in the geographical dictionary, ʿĀliyat Najd (High Najd) by Saʿd b. Junaydil.

20 Al‑Faraj, Dīwān, p. 165, mentions that Nifī became a hijrah, settlement of the ikhwān, for the ʿUtayba sections of alḌīṭ and Abu Kushaym, followed by ʿUmar b. Rubayʿān. Faraj adds that the imārah of the ḥaḍar was entrusted to “our poet since the rule of the King and until now has stayed within his family.”

21 In 1929, at the climax of the rebellion of the ikhwān […] ʿUmar threw his full weight behind the cause of the king. […] Having obliged the king at a critical moment in his political career, ʿUmar came to enjoy an unassailable position at the court in Riyadh”, cf. my Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia II, The Story of a Desert Knight, p. 13‑14.

22 His opening remark was: al‑giṣīd bi‑flūs, poems are given in exchange for money. Then, I was told that it was a joke and that as a guest, for me everything was free.

23 These four poems are the only ones by Ibn Subayyil to have been recorded in the course of fieldwork carried out in and around Ibn Subayyil’s town of Nifī from a Bedouin transmitter who may have been one of the last oral performers of his poetry. The recording itself was part of my broader research into the social, political and economic background of Ibn Subayyil’s work, in the area itself and with informants in Riyadh. Therefore the four poems, their recording, and the historical information on conditions at the time of Ibn Subayyil’s flourishing as a poet are interconnected and inseparable. In addition, these poems are also part of a poetic correspondence with the poet Ibn Zirībān, whose poems have been published in various versions and have been included here in order for Ibn Subayyil’s poems to be fully understood. In the Dīwān by al‑Faraj these poems are respectively number 3, 2, 4 and 9.

24 Copies of official correspondence Ibn Subayyil received from Riyadh and included in the collection by Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdallah Subayyil are no proof of literacy. These could have been read to him, for instance by the imam of the mosque.

25 These are the lines published by al‑Kamālī in al‑Azhār:
The Muṭawwaʿ said:
hayyaḍ ʿaliyy jwēdilin ma tġaṭṭa / yalʿab maʿ ṣ‑ṣibyān b‑umm al‑xṭūṭi
ya‑šibh ġarnūgin maˁa farg baṭṭah / tawwih wiḥiš nazl al‑baḥr wi‑š‑šṭūṭi
ćannih ʿala šōk al‑hrās yitwaṭṭa / walla l‑miyābir yōm bi‑r‑rijl yūṭi
“I was roused to speak in verse by a little thing with curly, uncovered hair, / who plays umm al‑khṭūṭ with the boys (a game that involves drawing a rectangle in the sand, which is then divided into parts, A Saudi Tribal History, 235n.)
O long-legged crane among plain ducks / fresh from the nest to the sea and rivers,
Stepping pensively as if on sharp thorns / as if her feet were pierced by needles.”
And Ibn Subayyil’s retort:
Mṭawwaʿ ya‑māl kašf al‑mġaṭṭa / yāxiḏ ʿala ragy al‑minābir šrūṭi
šarhin ʿala wirʿin w‑hu ma taġaṭṭa / yalʿab maʿa ṣ‑ṣibyān b‑umm al‑xṭūṭi
“Muṭawwaʿ, darn you and your meddling! / He asks for money to preach from the minbar;
Just to be nasty to a little, barefaced thing / who plays
umm al‑khṭūṭ with the boys.”
In a similar vein Ibn Subayyil pokes fun at the Mṭawwaʿ’s boasting of his generosity.
The Muṭawwaʿ:
la ḍāg ṣadri gimt aṣawwit li‑Nūrah / hāti ḥaṭab w‑irmīh li‑l‑jār wi‑ḍ‑ḍēf
min gabl wald al‑lāš yabdi bi‑šōrih / ḥamast min ḥabb al‑Yiman ġāyat al‑kēf
“When the urge comes I call for Nūra (the Muṭawwaʿ’s wife) / ‘Fetch firewood for our neighbor and guest!’
Before the good-for-nothing knows what to do / I’ve already roasted Yemeni beans for the choicest brew.”
Inviting thereby Ibn Subayyil’s ridicule:
Mṭawwaʿ y‑akbar hōlih w‑jōrih / mašrāh fi dōr as‑sanah midd w‑nṣēf
wi‑dlālhum dabb al‑liyāli mhajūrih / w‑xiṭṭārhum ma ġēr Abu Zēd wi‑Ḥnēf
“Muṭawwaʿ! You’re all thunder and bluster: / in one year, just a few pounds you buy;
Your coffee pots stand deserted all night, / your only visitors Abu Zayd and Ḥunayf (i.e. guests of little standing).”

26 Al‑Faraj, p. 166.

27 Muḥammad b. Abd al‑ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdallah al‑Subayyil, the editor of the later dīwān, told me that Ibn Rashīd sent one of his henchmen, Ibn ʿAjlān, to Ibn Subayyil to threaten him and force him to compose the ode. When Ibn Subayyil put his hands over his head to ward off a blow, Ibn ʿAjlān’s sword cut into his hands. As a result his fingers were paralyzed and remained curved like claws for the remainder of his life. Other informants in Riyadh were not convinced by this explanation of why the ode on Ibn Rashīd was composed while Ibn Subayyil had remained steadfast in his life-long loyalty to the Saud dynasty.

28 Sowayan, Nabaṭi Poetry, mentions that his grandfather Muḥammad as‑Sulaymān al‑Ṣuwayyān knew five poems by Ibn Subayyil.

29 Musil, Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, p. 182, says that Nifī “is tributary to the Dūshān.” This is not consonant with the fact that Nifī is in the tribal area of ʿTēbah. The poem in reply composed by Ibn Subayyil is found in Musil, p. 292‑300.

30 In this Musil probably followed the comments of the three transmitters, whom he mentions by name, in the explanation of the verses. It used to be quite common for illiterate transmitters to explain the circumstances that gave rise to the poem by reference to the text of the poem itself. In general, a poem was deemed to be credible information about the past, because the text in question was supposed to be impervious to change and alteration, as the number of people who know the poem, the witnesses, is too great to allow room for taking liberties.

31 yā‑rāćib, as it is pronounced by the transmitter with affrication of the k‑ for yā‑rākib, a common feature of the Najdi vernacular.

32 Musil combines the first hemistich of the first verse with the second hemistich of the second verse, and for Ursa Major he substitutes the Aldebaran star, which makes for a great hiatus between a spring pasture (he substitutes mirbāʿ for miṣyāf) and mid-December when Aldebaran appears. By contrast in this text there is a logical progression from late spring pasture to the hot season of middle summer, to the appearance of the fall stars. This is one example of the inconsistencies that lessen the value of Musil’s text when comparing it to texts based on later collections, as well as the one recorded near Nifī and published in this article.

33 See my Bedouin Poets of the Dawāsir Tribe, Between Nomadism and Settlement in Southern Najd (vol. III of Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia), p. 23‑26 and p. 35‑36.

34 Fayḥān b. Zirībān was a famous desert-knight of the al‑Rakhamān section of the Muṭayr (Mṭēr) tribe (Mandīl, 3, 120). Remarkably, Ibn Zirībān once carried out a raid against the ʿUtayba (ʿTēba) tribe led by the al‑Rubayʿān sheikhs on whose tribal territory Ibn Subayyil’s town of Nifī is situated, and who are now the tribal overlords of the place. In the scuffle a few men were killed and Mṭēr got the worst of it. Ibn Zirībān lost his riding camel when he challenged the ʿUtayba champion Ḍīdān al‑ʿĀridī to a duel (see for Ibn Zirībān’s poem on this occasion al‑Luwayḥān, p. 176‑77).

35 Sowayan, Nabaṭi Poetry, p. 179‑182. “The genre of poetic correspondence […] was accepted by literate and illiterate poets alike, and was developed to a brilliance and complexity unparalleled in Arabic literature (see, for examples, the poems sent by Ibn Subayyil to Fēḥān Ibn Zirībān, in al‑Faraj 1952),” Nabaṭi Poetry, p. 182.

36 In Riyadh prior to my visit to Nifī several experts gave me their views and interpretations of words and passages in Ibn Subayyil’s verses that I had not fully understood, among them : ʿAbdallah b. Raddās, the editor of the excellent collection of verse by Bedouin poetesses, Shāʿirāt min al‑bādiya, with many explanatory notes; Saʿd b. Junaydil, the author of many works on poetry and Najdi traditional culture, including other poets in the general area of Nifī; the grandsons of Ibn Subayyil, Muḥammad and Saʿd b. ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdallah al‑Subayyil (the latter is a Qur’ān teacher); and Ḥamūd b. ʿAbd al‑ʿAzīz b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil, a cousin of the poet (and at that time a retired judge living in Riyadh). In some instances I have made small corrections to the transcription of Musil, e.g. Dōshān > Dūshān. Explanatory notes to the text are based on my notes from conversations with the above-mentioned experts, notes on the text by al‑Faraj and Musil, and the glossary of vol. V, Voices from the Desert, of Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia.

37 This line corresponds closely to Ibn Subayyil’s l. 3, who substitutes the seventh star of Ursa Major for Canopus. I have substituted مَخارم for مخامر in the text, an obvious mistake: makhārim are trails through wilderness in mountainous terrain or the sands, also in CA. See also gaṭʿ al‑xarāyim, note 68.

38 zibūn al‑mʿannāt “protector, host of worn-out riding camels.” rīf in Nabaṭi poetry does not mean “rural area” but “lush pasture, a pleasant place of repose and recovery.” rdādi for reasons of meter, is from ridiy “bad, in bad, worn-out condition.”

39 In Nabaṭi poetry the third person feminine often refers to she-camels: jannik “they (the female riding-camels) came to you.” ʿarāwi mʿarwāt “bare, without any trappings” is echoed by Ibn Subayyil in his l. 27. Luw. 4: جَنّك مواجيفي خَفافٍ معَرّت / وَلّم لهن من الاواني عَدادي

40 This line and the preceding ones exactly correspond to Ibn Subayyil’s ll. 27‑32. Line 5 is almost identical to Ibn Subayyil’s l. 28.

41 The same meaning is expressed in Ibn Subayyil’s ll. 10 and 33: the she-camels are fully rested and pampered, so the moment has come to draw on their reserves for gruelling desert marches.

42 The camels set out from Ibn Zirībān’s, who set up camp in the eastern sands of the peninsula, towards the West, in the direction of Mecca. Ibn Hādi may refer to the famous chief of the Qaḥṭān (Gḥaṭān) tribe. Al‑Shanbal was said to be in Jordan. ibr imp. of bara “drive a camel hard, wear it out.” Luw. 2: ينْصنّ مكّة و الديار البعيدات / من ديرة الشَنْبل لدار بن هادي.

43 lamm al‑aġāwāt “throng of Aga’s” refers to the Ottoman Turks in the Ḥijāz.

44 mārtiyyāt probably refers to a rifle of the Martini type, see note 88 on the corresponding verse in IS’s edition of Ibn Subayyil’s poem in reply. In al‑Luwayḥān l. 5 māṭliyyāt was explained to me as “Italian rifle that fires just one big bullet”: و اسلاح اهلْهن كلهن ماطليات / و احْذَر عن الشايب و ولْد الردادي

45 Bedouin and townfolk in Najd, i.e. all its inhabitants.

46 See note 53.

47 One raises a white flag for his benefactor. On the contrary sawwid allah wajhik “may God blacken your face,” said to s.o. who has refused to render assistance. Luw. 6: فالى لقيْت صخيّف الروح لي هات / ابْيَض ولا يقْدر عليك السوادي

48 mxaḏ̣ḏ̣bīn al‑hanādi “Indian blades dyed, smeared with red,” i.e. “swords dripping with the enemy’s blood.”

49 ṭāri al‑giḏ̣a “the idea, thought of judging you, retaliating against you.” ḥīlih pl. ḥīl, ḥyāl “trick, artifice.”

50 ḥirwih “what is expected, place where s.o. expects s.o. to be found” (CA taḥarrā “to pause in expectation, try to decide the most suitable course”).

51 See note 53.

52 Musil, Alois, The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, p. 181‑82.

53 Musil explains that in many tribes “it is customary to pick up a pebble from the grave of a friend and to throw it aside so as to lighten the burden. On the grave of a girl or woman they also lay the three stones, huwādi, that held the kettle in which the deceased cooked in her last days.

54 I have made some minor changes in Musil’s text, based on my best guess as to what would fit the meter. These are pointed out in the notes. Musil: rāćib.

55 Musil: mrabbaʿāt.

56 Musil: ydawwir ˁind al‑badw hamm ydawwir ˁind al‑blādi.

57 Musil: gil ya‑bint.

58 Musil: al‑xalg tibāt.

59 Ṣayʿar, a tribe in southern Arabia on the Yemeni side of the Empty Quarter, famous for its camels. sās, “pedigree, origin, base” (CA asās). ʿayrāt, hardened camels (CA ʿayrān). ʿrāb, “camels pedigree” (CA ibl ʿirāb). tilād, “from one generation to the next” (CA mutawallidah).

60 KF: bi‑l‑ʿēš taʿni lih. As KF explains it: Because of its (the stud camel’s) noble pedigree its owner is paid with a measure of grain for having it cover a she-camel, Dīwān, 173. The correct version is the one given here. M: bi‑l‑jēš yaʿna li‑. The Sharārāt are a tribe in northern Arabia in the area of al‑Jawf, famous for their breeding of fast riding-camels. šidd, “moving camp, leaving on a march.”

61 M l. 4: šīb al‑ġawārib wi‑l‑maḥāǵib mšībāt / min al‑gufl ma zayyan lihin at‑tuwādi (M translates gufl as “dry stalks”). talw, “progeny, offspring” (CA talā “to follow”). tūdah pl. twād, “sharp clamps used to close a she-camel’s teats.”

62 M l. 3: bitr al‑fxūḏ wrūkhin mistigillāt / xiḏ̣ʿ ar‑rǵāb mfattilāt al‑ʿḏ̣ādi (“thighs as if cut away”). mistigillāt, “(moving) independently, freely, unhindered, without friction, i.e. fast moving legs.” xiḏ̣ʿ ar‑rǵāb, “(camels running) with their necks stretched low.”

63 M: bi‑šadd waṯnāt […] /ġaff al‑misāmiʿ (“carry their ears high”). wany, “calm, meek” (CA wanā). ṭafǵāt, f.pl., “hasty, in a rush” (CA ṭafiqa).

64 This verse is not found in M. mašhāt, “to one’s heart’s desire, at wish” (CA shahā). istinād, “moving to higher ground, upcountry” (CA sanada, “to ascend”).

65 M: w‑in hāḏ̣ min bēn al‑niḥīfēn hēḏ̣āt: M’s text and translation of this hemistich seem implausible. Perhaps he misunderstood the fairly clichéd wording as reflected in the other versions. ḥafīf, “enemy. lāg, yilūg, to be suitable; as needed, as fit (CA lāqa, yalīq).

66 M l. 6 combines elements of ll. 8 and 9 of this version and KF‘s version: mirbāʿhin Kabšān […] / lima bida najm at‑twēbiʿ wkādi: “Their spring pasture is Kabshān […] / When the Aldebaran star appears (mid-December, and brings torrential rains) this is for sure.” miṣyāf, “period of pasturing on the green the result of the rains of ṣēf, summer, for the Bedouin from the middle of April to the beginning of June.” grān ḥādi, “when the moon is in conjunction with the first stars of winter, the Pleiades, i.e. the beginning of winter.” “grān ḥādi is the eleventh [al‑ḥādī ʿashar] when the moon is linked to the Pleiades on the eleventh of the Arab month,” al‑ʿUbūdī, Muḥammad b. Nāṣir, Muʿjam al‑anwā’ wa al‑fuṣūl, 229, Riyadh, 2011.

67 gēḏ̣, “the hot season, middle of the summer” (CA qayẓ). KF: as‑swēbiʿ, “the seventh, i.e. the last star of Ursa Major, which appears in the fall season;” also al‑ʿUbūdī, Muʿjam al‑anwā’, 107. This seems the correct version and not at‑twēbiʿ in Musil’s text, see note 32 above. at‑twēbiʿ is Aldebaran, al‑ʿUbūdī, 30.

68 M l. 8: gaṭʿ al‑xarāyim wa‑d‑dyār al‑bʿādi. fiyāfi, “deserts (CA fayfā’ pl. fayāfin).

69 KF: wi‑ṣ‑ṣibḥ min rāʿi Nifī mistlijjāt (KF: “at departure from Nifī’s headman running their best”). M: […] mistaljāt / yašdin rabdin mḏayyarin maʿ ḥamādi. yašda, yišdi, “he resembles, is like.”

70 M l.10:ʿayrāt ḏayyarhin simār al‑blādi. mwēǵāt, pl. f. “looking, stealing a glance”, from wāg, yiwīǵ. xafāf, pl. “light, quick, easily scared” CA akhfāf).”

71 M l. 11: […] li‑l‑maʿāni sidādi.

72 dakkah, “place, a platform outside, next to the house where the host and his guests are seated.”

73 ʿagādah expl. as “rooms with a domed ceiling.”

74 xḏ̣āb, “dye, dyestuff (henna and the like).” xūndah pl. xwandāt, “beautiful girl.” yibrāh from bara, “to walk alongside; accompany, come with.” jdād, “cutting off of the date bunches, date harvest” (CA jadhdha).

75 tigil, “like, resembling, you’d say” (tigūl). ijtilād, “vigor, energy, ambition, speed.”

76 ḏ̣āmir pl. ḏ̣ummar, ḏ̣āmrāt, “lean, skinny, lank in the belly.” ḥaniyyah pl. ḥanāya, ḥiniy, “bent litter pole; a litter with long curved poles.” stād, “craftsman, carpenter” (CA ustādh).

77 M l. 15: mišaw w‑xallōhin ʿala l‑wajh zāfāt.

78 M l. 16: […] mišrifīnin ʿala byāt / […] w‑gibbin tgādi. gabba pl. gibb “barrel-chested horse, big-chested horse, fine horse” (CA qabbā).

79 M ll. 18–19 correspond to ll. 48 and 47 unconvincingly explained as ʿIlwa being the enemies of their own chiefs, the Dūshān: w‑illa ʿan illi hum w‑ʿIlwa ḥrābāt / ma bēnhum kūd iṣṭifāg al‑ʿawādi (“If not there, ask those who fight against ʿIlwa / amongst whom nothing but the clashing of spears resounds”); Dūšān ʿalaf syūfhum kill jimhāt / ʿala l‑ǵida walla ġēr ǵādi: “The clan of ad‑Duwīsh (pl. Dūshān) feasts on skulls / right or wrong, they do not care.” IS l. 23 (M l. 17): xuṣṣu ʿala r‑Rixmān wi‑l‑ʿilm ma fāt / jmāl at‑txūt in gīl ʿilmin wkādi. The Rakhamān are the clan of Ilwa to which Ibn Zirībān belongs, see note 21.

80 M l. 20: w‑illa ʿan alli bi‑l‑gisa yaḏbaḥ aš‑šāt / Fēḥān ibin Ǵāʿid ḥarīb al‑buwādi (the enemy of the Bedouin).

81 miṯal pl. miṯāyil, timāṯīl, “verses, poem, poetry; uplifting, instructive verses, wisdom poetry.” duwādi, “trifles, empty chatter.”

82 hal ad‑dōbliyyāt, “men who have been routed.” dibīlah pl. dibāyil, “calamity, misfortune; war” (CA dabīl).

83 M l. 21: (gil) dazzēt li jēšin. kazz has the same meaning as dazz, “to hit; to send, hand to.” ʿarāwi mʿarrāt, she-camels on which the riders sit only on a piece of cloth fastened between the hump and hips (Musil); stripped, bare (i.e. without saddle and not caparisoned).

84 KF: yibin nijīr w‑ṣūf […] M l. 24: yibin xašab w‑ṣūf […] / wi‑ʿyāl ḏ̣arfīnin […] ālāt, “tools” according to Musil here means “arms, weapons.” tanādi, “calling each other (as they cheerfully work together).”

85 gāfin w‑ṣād i.e. giṣa, “poverty, hardship.”

86 M l. 22: ʿat lifanna ṣār bi‑ṣ‑ṣadr farḥāt.

87 nijāyir, “wooden parts” i.e. ašiddah, “the camel saddles.” xarz, “bags made of leather, like girbah, mīrakah, zahāb.” tarz, darz, “sewing, tailor.”

88 IS: wi‑slāḥhum b‑aymānhum mārtīnāt. šiġl an‑niṣāra, “product of the Christians,” i.e. rifles, guns. zahāb, “supplies; ammunition.” zhabah, “ammunition, bullets.” M l. 25: w‑ʿiṣyān ahalhin killihin xēzrānāt / wgūfin ʿala r‑rijlēn ma min gaʿādi.

89 This is KF l. 35 as KF has an additional line 34 (and IS l. 35): allah ywaffigna s‑saʿad wi‑s‑salāmah / wi‑ysahhil al‑maʿbūd rabb al‑ʿbādi, which doesn’t sound like Ibn Subayyil and is out of place in this sequence of verse. From this point on the numbering of verses in this version and the one of KF differ by one. arfāḏ̣, people belonging to the Shia sect.

90 L. 36 combines two hemistichs of M ll. 26 and 27: xabbart rāʿ at‑tēl dagg al‑mikīnāt / ṭaggah šimāl w‑šarg w‑ajnab w‑ʿādi, ʿaṭēt rāʿ at‑tēl ḥasbat ryālāt / ʿadm al‑xabar ʿannih jimīʿ al‑blādi. tēl, telegraph.”

91 M l. 28: […] ḥafāya w‑raḏyāt. riḏi, f. riḏiyyah, pl. riḏāya, raḏyāt, “weak camel” (CA radhiy pl. radhāyā). ḥafyāt, “she-camels with bruised soles which bleed at every step; such camels cannot, therefore, be used on long marches.”

92 M l. 29: w‑sannidat li Najd šīxān wi‑rʿāti / w‑min šāfni bha l‑ḥāl gāl ar‑rikādi, “If anyone had seen me in that state they would have said: ‘Stay!’”

93 KF: bēn al‑xalāyiǵ (among the people). miyādah, “laughing stock, object of ridicule.”

94 M l. 32: madmūḥ ćiḏbik ya‑mʿazzi salāmāt / w‑magbūl ṣidǵik ya‑mḏ̣annat fwādi. madmūḥ, pardoned, forgiven(CA madmūḥ). mḏ̣annah, one’s personal friend, someone dear.

95 M l. 35: ʿ al‑hawa ćaḏḏāb w‑iblīs ma māt.

96 hagwah, “assumption, guess, surmise; expectation.” mrāḥ, “place near the tent where the camels rest at night” (CA murāḥ). ḏara, “shelter, protection; tent wall, tent side, wall hung up to protect the people from the cold and the fireplace from the wind.” hawādi, “three stones that hold the kettle.”

97 M l. 38: bi‑l‑hija mistićinnāt.

98 ʿiṭīt pass. “you were given.” mann, “favour, act of kindness; promise.”

99 laḥayiǵ, “mediators, middlemen, useful contact” (CA laḥiqa). izbin, “seek support, protection!” ziban ʿala, “to seek refuge, safety.”

100 See the last paragraph before the section Poem I above. jamhāt, “skulls, heads.” ǵida pl. ǵuwādi, “right direction, course; sensibleness, reasonableness; peacefully, not by coercion.” ǵādi, “going in the right direction.”

101 ʿawādi = sillah, “the attacking men, cavalrymen” (CA ʿādiyah pl.ʿawādī, “the first of the charging horsemen”).

102 M l. 40: w‑ilya baġētih saww li‑r‑rijl mirgāt, “step, stairs; steps in the stone casing of a well to assist in climbing up and down to and from the bottom; a firm grip under the feet, means to assist one in reaching one’s objective.” xaṭw, “some of, a certain one.” xṭāṭ, “many a one, someone, anyone.” rbādi, “lazy, second‑rate person.”

103 xaraṣ, “to guess, estimate, surmise.” ṣimīl, “skin for water or milk, leather sack for sour milk.”

104 KF: mašˁūf, “torn away, pained, tortured.” hayhāt, “exclamation to express the opinion that something is far removed, unlikely, much more than” (CA hayhātu, “far from the mark, wrong, how preposterous”).

105 xaḏ̣īḏ̣, “moving, shaking, stirring.” xaḏ̣ḏ̣, “to move, stir, shake” (CA khaḍḍa).

106 KF 173‑178; IS 99‑106; Musil, 292 – 300. Compared to this text (54 ll.), the order of ll. in M (47 ll) is : 1=1, 2=2, 3=4, 4=3, 5=5, 6=8/9, 7=7, 8=10, 9=11, 10=12, 11=14, 12=18, 13=19, 14=20, 15=21, 16=22, 17, 18=48, 19=47, 20=24, 21=27, 22=30, 23=31, 24=28, 25, 26/27=35, 28=37, 29=38, 30, 31=29, 32=40, 33=53, 34=54, 35=41, 36, 37=42, 38=43, 39=51, 40=49, 41=50, 42‑47. The order of ll. in KF (55 ll.) and IS (56 ll.) is the same but KF has an additional l. 34, and IS has two additional ll.: 23 and 35.

107 Because of the continuous rubbing on long trips. “The shoulder blades rub against the cushion on which the rider rests one foot while the other foot touches the spot covered by the breast girth, which holds the saddle behind the forelegs on the breastbone,” Musil, 298

108 i.e. they have never given birth and therefore have more strength. The teats of camels with calves are closed with sharp clamps in order to prevent their young from suckling at will.

109 Musil, 298, comments: “A good camel will utter no sound when being saddled; this is very important at night or in a dangerous territory. On a forced march a camel is expected to listen well and to observe the country in all directions so that she can, by quick breathing, arching her spine, or by a motion of the neck, call the rider’s attention to any possible danger.”

110 ʿAbdallah b. Ḥasan b. ʿAskar, a man in the little town of Ḥarmah, near Majmaʿah, well known for his hospitality. As Musil, 299, explains, Bedouin she-camels are easily scared by the shade and the rustling of palm groves, as well as by the high walls enclosing them.

111 The Ottoman telegraph line reached Basra from Baghdad in 1865.

112 Bedouin women take care of the sheep and goats and milk them. They cook behind a partition which protects the hearth from the wind, with three stones to hold the kettle over the fire.

113 KF 170‑73; IS 47‑52.

114 šifāh, “desire”.

115 liǵi, liǵiyyih, “a camel in its third year” (CA nāqah liqwah). sidas, sidīs, “a camel in its seventh year when its teeth have grown is called sidāsiyyāt, an age at which riding camels are at the peak of their strength” (CA sadas, sadīs). nāb pl. nīb, nībān, “eyeteeth; camels at an age when the eyeteeth break through, i.e. in their eight year.”

116 šamlah, šmālah pl. šimāyil, “bag-netting, a thick net made of camel wool, placed on the udders and tied across the hip and under the tail to prevent the calf from sucking it.” tala, “to follow, come after, trail.” ḥwār pl. ḥīrān, “a calf during the first ninety days after its birth when it feeds on milk only” (CA ḥuwār).

117 hāmil, mihmilah pl. hamal, mihmilāt, “camels left to roam the pasture ground at will, unattended” (CA ibl muhmalah). ḥma, “protected pasture ground, pasture ground reserved by a tribe for its exclusive use.”

118 janāh, “offence, crime, treacherous action.”

119 KF: ḏ̣ārib ad‑darb. mištān, expl. as “used to travelling; out of sorts, upset.”

120 wāni, “weak, faint.” winiyyah, “mare, either exhausted or wounded.” ḥagrān pl. ḥaǵāri, “disrespect, humiliation” (CA ḥaqārah).

121 KF: ṭuwārif w‑ʿirbān. ṭaraf pl. ṭuwārif, “extremity, edge, fringe, limit; group, detachment; tents pitched at the edge of a camp and thus more exposed to danger.”

122 niṭaḥ, yanṭaḥ, “to meet, encounter; to go to meet; to face, confront.” xaṭar, “to come as a guest.” xaṭṭar, “to make s.o. go as a guest, bring as a guest.”

123 kāġid, “paper” (Turkish kâğıt, “paper, piece of paper”). dwāh, “inkwell” (CA dawāh).

124 gisa, “hardship; times of want and hunger; difficult circumstances” (CA qasā). ṣalfān, “tired, exhausted”. aṣlaf, “to tire, wear out” (CA aṣlafa).

125 KF: madhal hal al‑mūjfāt. rabʿah pl. rbāʿ, “men’s compartment of the tent.” madhal, midhāl pl. midāhīl, “place one keeps returning to; a haunt, a favorite place.” hal = ahl. mūjif, pl. muwājīf, mūjfāt, “swift, fast she-camels” (CA wajf, “speed”). mistiridd, “having recovered.” radd, yiridd ʿala, “to return, to pay back; to bring back to its original healthy state.”

126 KF: ṣḥūnin li‑l‑fiḏ̣āyil mwāti, “platters brought to worthy guests.” ḏ̣ān, “sheep” (CA ḍa’n). ḥāyil pl. ḥīl, “sterile, not impregnated and hence fat and strong animals.”

127 sabḥah pl. sbiḥāt, “wave, in waves, group after group.” fahag, “to move, push aside; move over”; infihag, “to get up and sit down somewhere else.” taḥarra, “to expect”; miḥtiri, “expecting (to find s.th. or s.o.)” (CA taḥarra).

128 rāwyah pl. rwiyy, ruwāya, “water-skin, large receptacle made of camel skin used to hold and carry water on a camel’s back.”

129 niṯīlah pl. niṯāyil, “heap of ashes from the fireplace; the larger the heap, the more hospitable the owner of the tent” (CA nathīlah). hbāh, “a wide hole dug.”

130 marka dlāl, “the place in the fireplace where the coffeepots rest.” nijir, “mortar in which roasted coffee-beans are pounded.” miḥmās, “shallow iron pan with a long handle upon which the coffee is roasted”; ḥammāsat al‑binn, “men who are forever roasting coffee; hospitable, generous entertainers of guests.”

131 ṣifag, “to strike, slap, hit, push.” ġarzah, “a handful.” nisaf, “to throw, toss; to push aside (CA nasafa, “to scatter”). mibrād, mabrad, “pot in which the ground cofee is boiled with water.”

132 nāziḥ, “distant, far away.” šafgān, “anxious, fearful; desirous, longing for.”

133 farraʿ, “to loosen.” īgān, “certainty, steadfastness of faith” (CA yaqīn).

134 ṭimūḥ see note 159. šifāh, “desire, wish, longing, ambition.”

135 jāḏi, “falling short, faltering, limping”; zabn al‑jāḏyāt, “protector of horses that falter and lag behind.” šān = šēn, “bad, something bad.”

136 šanāḥ, “tall, shapely, stately.” gāṭin, gaṭṭān, “one who camps near the well for a considerable length of time” (CA qaṭana).

137 firīǵ, “a group, part; a camp of 5‑10 tents; household of close kin wandering together.” yigaʿ, “perhaps, possibly”; walla yigaʿ šīfat, “or possibly she was seen with” (CA waqaʿa). wird, “watering party; animals or people hurrying to the well.”

138 wiṣāh, “bequest; message” (CA waṣāh). lōn pl. alwān, “color; sort, way, manner, something, anything.”

139 ṭaraš, “to travel without tent and women, e.g. for some business”; ṭarraš, “to send s.o. on business.” ʿagal, “to tether, hobble”; ʿiglān, “hobbling” (CA ʿaqala).

140 aṯr, “particle introducing directly the subject of a sentence; then; following, in the wake of.” bāyih, “weak, confused; a man without a heart”; bāh, yibūh, “to be confused, perplexed; to be weak, without substance.”

141 wikdān, “sure, for sure” (CA akada).

142 bšārah pl. bišāyir, “the reward given to the bringer of good news” (CA bishārah). la šakk, “but, however.”

143 KF: awṣif. iḥtaraf, “to swing, turn about; to turn, pay attention to.”

144 ṭāyil, “proud, feeling superior.” ṭāylah, “proud act, feats of war” (ṭawl, “excellence, power, superiority”). rabʿ pl. rbūʿ, “fellow tribesmen, company of men, fellow raiders.” lya, la, ila = idhā, “when, if.”

145 rikaḏ̣, “to run, charge, attack”; mirkāḏ̣, “galloping of the attacking horse riders; attack” (CA rakaḍa). ḥām, yiḥūm, “to circle, hover, glide”; ḥāymāt, “circling birds of prey, vultures.” zāġ, “to swerve; to be confused, perplexed”; zōġāt al‑aḏhān, “terrors of battle, war; scenes at which men become perplexed, beside themselves with fear” (CA zāġa, “to swerve, turn aside”).

146 bidd, “a tribal section, clan, a group of people.” salaf pl. silfān, aslāf, “advance party of a migrating tribe, the armed troops at the head of the migrating clans”; here is meant “groups, tribal sections” (CA salaf, “what has gone before; a company of men”).

147 mšāymah, “by consent, to mutual satisfaction.” ǵāriḥ pl. girraḥ, “animals in their fifth year, at the peak of their strength.” xadd, “earth, firm ground” (i.e. fit for warfare on horseback).

148 miṯāwīr, “assistance by others to go in pursuit, to redress a wrong”; istiṯār, “to call for revenge, urge s.o. to redress a wrong” (CA tha’r).

149 KF: ʿiyyān for ʿawwān. ʿayya, to refuse, to be obstinate (in the defence of). wārdah, right, having a say in, having anything to do with.

150 At this age, when it has grown its teeth called sidāsiyyāt, riding camels are at the peak of their strength.

151 i.e. not stopping off for refreshments and conversation.

152 While stingy people hide their tents in a dip in the terrain, the generous who care about their reputation put them up on high ground where they are conspicuous in order to attract guests, even in times of want, spending without heed.

153 This verse is often cited as a nice hyperbolic description of the virtue of hospitality. The big leather bags in which water is carried on camel-back from the well to the camp are smeared with fat on the inside for protection. When guests get up from their places around the tray and leave, they wipe the fat off their hands on the tent’s front lap. As a result the woolen tent-cloth becomes shiny with grease. This is taken as a sign of their owners’ hospitality. Similarly, guests used to daub their riding camels’ necks with the blood of the animals slaughtered in their honor, as a tell-tale signal on their onward journey as they would be asked about the identity of the hosts who had entertained them so generously.

154 In the heat of battle, women loosen their hair, bare their breasts, and cry out to embolden their tribe’s fighters.

155 Another stock-character: a woman who has not yet been divorced, but lives separated from her husband; a married woman dissatisfied with her husband and longing for a better and braver man.

156 i.e. the settled inhabitants of the villages, the ḥaḏ̣ar, who are more punctual about religious obligations than the Bedouin.

157 Dhuwi ʿAṭiyyah: a major section of the ar-Rūqah division of ʿTēba. Al-Kirzān, a subtribe of al-Mqiṭa of the Barqa division of ʿUtayba.

158 Al‑Hēḏ̣al, the chiefs of ad‑Daʿājīn of Barqa of ʿUtayba.

159 Lit. : Zanāti, i.e. the courageous hero of the Bani Hilāl epic.

160 al‑Hāḏ̣al for al‑Hēḏ̣al in the informant’s ʿUtayba dialect, see my Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia II, The Story of a Desert Knight, The Legend of Shlēwīḥ al‑ʿAṭāwi and Other ʿUtaybah Heroes, the section ‘Reflexes of Diphthongs’, p. 115‑116.

161 tigāfa, “to follow in the steps of another one; come, go one after the other” (CA qafā). maḥal pl. mḥūl, “lack of pasture, drought.” misniy, “affected by severe drought” (CA sanah, “drought”).

162 FK: tgērab al‑migṭān.

163 ḏ̣ōl, “multitude, great mass of people packed together.”

164 la xānat al‑migṭān fi kill jōlih. xānah, “use, benefit.” migṭān pl. migāṭīn, “place where the Bedouin make a prolonged stay in the summer” (CA qaṭana, “to stay, sojourn in a place”). ḥazz, “time”; ḥazzat al‑ʿaṣir, “about the middle of the afternoon.”

165 ʿasūs, “scout, s.o. who reconnoiters the land ahead for good pastures and places of rainfall.”

166 KF: ḥgalō lih for rḥalō lih. samḥīn al‑wjīh, “(a company of) noble faces, chivalrous men”; sāmiḥ, “easy, cheerful, kind.” salaf, “armed troop at the head of the migrating clans; the warriors ride on camels, but saddled mares are tied to the camels or are ridden by boys; hearing of the enemy the warriors jump from the camels on to the mares.”

167 KF: fārigih for rafʿatih. zōl, “indistinct outline, silhouette, form of a figure observed from afar” (CA zawl).

168 ṣakk, “to lock, press from all sides.” nigaʿ, “large pool of water.”

169 sayyar ʿala, “to pay a visit (without being invited).” tāʿa, “to call a horse.” arwaʿa, “to pay attention, to heed” (CA irʿawā).

170 FK: gīl for gāl. gahar, “to curb, check; to stop, halt, rein in”; ighar giʿūdak, “stop your camel.”

171 FK: w‑bāġin for abġa. waggaf al‑ʿilm ṭūlih, “when reports reached their apogee, things came to a head.” ʿamīl, “s.o. with whom one deals, business partner, counterpart, opponent.”

172 KF: nayyah for nawwah, syn. of nabbah, “to call (for assistance).” namran, “a group of courageous warriors, a strong army.” naww, “rain clouds; rains that come with the appearance of certain stars.”

173 ḥill pl. ḥlūl, “time; right time; period.” darham, “to trot (said of a camel).” ištāl, “to carry, load on.”

174 ʿēlah, “transgression; acts breaching the peace; daring attacks.”

175 KF: raddaw b‑awwilih for b‑al‑ḥawa. ḥawa, yḥawi, “to collect; to take into one’s possession one’s share of the booty by touching it with one’s spear.” ṣimīl, “skin for water or milk, leather sack for sour milk.”

176 māg, “to look from the corner of one’s eye; to be arrogant, tyrannical.” KF has an additional verse after this: hawwad w‑ʿawwad kāṯrātin ʿḏūlih / killin b‑galbih wāhijin min ġalīlih.

177 KF: yamšūn mašy illi ṯgālin. al‑wazmah, “the period in the fall when the Bedouin head for the towns in order to stock up on supplies.”

178 KF: sarāh for as‑sēr. ġibb, “after, following”; ġibb as‑sara, “after yesterday’s march.” šāx is šēx in the dialect of ʿUtayba.

179 KF, 178‑181; IS, 75‑78

180 The tribe’s men ride ahead on their camel mounts, while their mares trot along at their side. The mares are only ridden on short stretches, as in charging or chasing the enemy, so as to keep them fresh and not to wear them down.

181 It is explained that the chief, mounted on his horse, moves the hem of his shirt as a sign to attack. When the Bedouin go down to the markets in the fall to stock up and they find cheap goods, they buy as much as their pack camels can carry and more.

182 i.e. the herds were not accompanied by armed men, but were only guarded by shepherds.

183 The implied meaning is that they have no fear of any enemy and are unconcerned about any danger.

184 The chief is so powerful and self-assured that no one is bold enough to ask him where they are going or what he is up to.

185 Pronounced as wān: in the dialect of ʿTēbah sometimes the diphthong –ay instead of –ē becomes –ā, see also note 164.

186 In KF: waggifaw bih. jaww, “a basin or valley with spring wells having water enough to supply big camps.”

187 miʿṭān pl. maʿāṭīn, “resting-place at the water, place where the camels lie down after being watered.”

188 For ḥawdar KF has ḥaddar. zamil pl. zmūl, zimāyil, “laden camels, male camels used as pack-camels.” ḏ̣aʿan, “camels that carry the tents, clothing, household goods, women and children of a migrating clan.”

189 miṣfār, “autumnal camping grounds, at the time of ṣfiri, ninety nights from the beginning of October to the beginning of January,” and also, “beginning of the date harvest; time when the Bedouin go to the market towns in order to sell camels and to buy supplies of dates.” ṭrūš, s. ṭāriš, “travellers (who are questioned for news about the situation in the areas they have covered on their journey).”

190 wasmi, “the rains of Canopus, the Pleiades, and Gemini; rains of autumn, winter, and early spring.” kannah, ćannah, “the period of the eclipse of the Pleiades in late May and early June; rains of that period” (CA kanna, “to hide”).

191 kāyid, “hard, difficult.” wiṭāhum mūjib lit. “they were trodden by something that forced them to act, a reason.

192 zād aṣ‑ṣyaf lit. early summer food,” i.e. the milk produced by camels in the hot season. mṭarriǵ, ṭurgi, wayfarer, one who travels without a tent.

193 tarayyaḏ̣, “to tarry, wait for, pause, take one’s time.” ʿṣūb s. ʿaṣīb, entrails of a slaughtered sheep which are wound around other parts that are roasted separately, like the heart, liver, lungs.

194 taxāšar, “to agree to share (e.g. booty)”; xišīr, “booty to be divided.”

195 fāxat, “to miss, take a wrong turn, go astray from.” ḥwār pl. ḥīrān, “calf during the first ninety days after its birth when it is fed on milk only.” dwāl, dwal, “a large army.”

196 KF: rāsha ʿind ṯōbih. mʿaššir, “she-camel in the first forty-five days of pregnancy; eight days after being impregnated she tʿaššir, raises her tail in a sign to the stud that she is already pregnant.” KF has an additional verse after this one: ʿigb an‑nićāyif ćannhin sarāḥīn / ma gīl yasʿal gēnha w‑inḏ̣irō bih, “Indefatigable, on the return from a raid like wolves / No clanging sound of loose horseshoes to be heard.”

197 KF: w‑in gīl. gṭiyy, s. giṭāh, “the hind part of a horse.”

198 KF: gidm mḥabūbih. nūmās, “reputation, fame won through glorious feats.”

199 šinīʿ, “abominable, bad, evil, disgusting.” aćwān, aćāwīn, “wounds.” kōn, “battle, fight.” KF has an additional verse after this one: w li‑ḥdūdhim bi‑mṭarrig al‑ḥadd ḥāmīn / w‑gibbin tbadda fi barāyir ksūbih, see n. 215 for the translation.

200 ʿazzal, “to put, set aside; to separate; to divide the booty.” ḏōd pl. ḏīdān, “a herd of camels.” sabir, sābir, sabbār pl. sbūr, “mounted scouts who reconnoiter the country.”

201 KF, 188‑190; IS, 61‑63.

202 The space where the herds rest is covered with their droppings that turn into dry dust raised and scattered by the wind.

203 i.e. early autumn before the last two of the seven stars of Ursa Major make their appearance.

204 A mountain in the tribal ranges of ʿUtayba in High Najd.

205 Because the Bedouin, and with them the poet’s beloved one, left for the pastures as soon as they received these reports.

206 In other words, the area has hardly been dry that year as the rains of winter were followed by the rains of late spring.

207 The meaning of sustenance from early summer not stored in vessels is fresh milk of she-camels that is always available at that time.

208 Lit. food from God’s house, i.e. Mecca, for the rice is imported through the Red Sea harbors.

209 Either their calves are slaughtered for food, in which case the mother moans incessantly, or because they are not impregnated and are kept as riding camels. The incomprehensible grumblings refer to the language spoken by soldiers of a regular army, i.e. the Ottoman Turks.

210 The horse’s response to a pull at the reins is so eager that the reins seems to fold in two as the horse’s head goes up and backward so as to almost reach the rider’s shirt. In that position it resembles the tail of a pregnant camel raised to signal its unavailability to stud camels.

211 In KF the next verse is: They protect their borders with long spears in hand / On big chested horses fed on the milk of robbed she-camels. Horses are so precious to their Bedouin owners that they are fed with the camel’s milk even before the members of their household. Bedouin raiders would always try to capture the best animals on their raids, and therefore the milk of a robbed she-camel can be expected to be even more nutritious and tasty than that of other camels.

212 If their herds grazing on a distant pasture are under threat of being raided by enemies, they lose no time in rallying to their assistance. On the other hand, they invariably return with captured animals from their own raids and tell their shepherds to expect good tidings, i.e. captured animals, as they leave on a plundering expedition.

213 Battles are likened to markets where goods are sold and bought. In this case brave warriors do not hesitate to risk their life, i.e. offer it for sale, and take the life of others, i.e. buy it.

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Paul Marcel Kurpershoek, « Praying Mantis in the Desert. The Najdi Poet Ibn Subayyil Consumed with Love for the Bedouin », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 5 | 2015, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2015, consulté le 28 avril 2017. URL : http://cy.revues.org/2962 ; DOI : 10.4000/cy.2962

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