At the time I was living in Riyadh, where I was posted as a diplomat in 1985–1989. 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 This part of my fieldwork has remained unpublished.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: ṯ for th, x for ḫ, ḏ for dh, š for sh, ġ for gh, ḏ̣ for the interdental velarized phoneme into which ḍ and ẓ 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.
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.
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.
It seems poetry was largely composed during the first half of his life.
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.
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.
ʿAbdallah al‑Khālid al‑Ḥātam, Min al‑shiʿr al‑Najdī, dīwān al‑shāʿir ʿAbdallah b. Ḥamūd b. Subayyil, p. 5, Kuweit, 1981 (third edition).
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.
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.”
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.
Al‑Faraj, p. 166.
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.
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.
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.
Arabia of the Bedouins, p. 194-196.
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.
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.
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.
In the pages devoted to Nifī in the geographical dictionary, ʿĀliyat Najd (High Najd) by Saʿd b. Junaydil.
Al‑Faraj, Dīwān, p. 165, mentions that Nifī became a hijrah, settlement of the ikhwān, for the ʿUtayba sections of al‑Ḍīṭ 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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).”
Al‑Faraj, p. 166.
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.
Sowayan, Nabaṭi Poetry, mentions that his grandfather Muḥammad as‑Sulaymān al‑Ṣuwayyān knew five poems by Ibn Subayyil.
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.
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.
yā‑rāćib, as it is pronounced by the transmitter with affrication of the k‑ for yā‑rākib, a common feature of the Najdi vernacular.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
lamm al‑aġāwāt “throng of Aga’s” refers to the Ottoman Turks in the Ḥijāz.
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
Bedouin and townfolk in Najd, i.e. all its inhabitants.
See note 53.
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
mxaḏ̣ḏ̣bīn al‑hanādi “Indian blades dyed, smeared with red,” i.e. “swords dripping with the enemy’s blood.”
ṭāri al‑giḏ̣a “the idea, thought of judging you, retaliating against you.” ḥīlih pl. ḥīl, ḥyāl “trick, artifice.”
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”).
See note 53.
Musil, Alois, The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin, p. 181‑82.
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.”
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.
Musil: ydawwir ˁind al‑badw hamm ydawwir ˁind al‑blādi.
Musil: gil ya‑bint.
Musil: al‑xalg tibāt.
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).
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.”
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.”
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.”
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).
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”).
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).
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.
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.
M l. 8: gaṭʿ al‑xarāyim wa‑d‑dyār al‑bʿādi. fiyāfi, “deserts” (CA fayfā’ pl. fayāfin).
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.”
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).”
M l. 11: […] li‑l‑maʿāni sidādi.
dakkah, “place, a platform outside, next to the house where the host and his guests are seated.”
ʿagādah expl. as “rooms with a domed ceiling.”
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).
tigil, “like, resembling, you’d say” (tigūl). ijtilād, “vigor, energy, ambition, speed.”
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).
M l. 15: mišaw w‑xallōhin ʿala l‑wajh zāfāt.
M l. 16: […] mišrifīnin ʿala byāt / […] w‑gibbin tgādi. gabba pl. gibb “barrel-chested horse, big-chested horse, fine horse” (CA qabbā).
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.
M l. 20: w‑illa ʿan alli bi‑l‑gisa yaḏbaḥ aš‑šāt / Fēḥān ibin Ǵāʿid ḥarīb al‑buwādi (the enemy of the Bedouin).
miṯal pl. miṯāyil, timāṯīl, “verses, poem, poetry; uplifting, instructive verses, wisdom poetry.” duwādi, “trifles, empty chatter.”
hal ad‑dōbliyyāt, “men who have been routed.” dibīlah pl. dibāyil, “calamity, misfortune; war” (CA dabīl).
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).”
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).”
gāfin w‑ṣād i.e. giṣa, “poverty, hardship.”
M l. 22: sāʿat lifanna ṣār bi‑ṣ‑ṣadr farḥāt.
nijāyir, “wooden parts” i.e. ašiddah, “the camel saddles.” xarz, “bags made of leather, like girbah, mīrakah, zahāb.” tarz, darz, “sewing, tailor.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!’”
KF: bēn al‑xalāyiǵ (among the people). miyādah, “laughing stock, object of ridicule.”
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.”
M l. 35: rāʿ al‑hawa ćaḏḏāb w‑iblīs ma māt.
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.”
M l. 38: bi‑l‑hija mistićinnāt.
ʿiṭīt pass. “you were given.” mann, “favour, act of kindness; promise.”
laḥayiǵ, “mediators, middlemen, useful contact” (CA laḥiqa). izbin, “seek support, protection!” ziban ʿala, “to seek refuge, safety.”
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.”
ʿawādi = sillah, “the attacking men, cavalrymen” (CA ʿādiyah pl.ʿawādī, “the first of the charging horsemen”).
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.”
xaraṣ, “to guess, estimate, surmise.” ṣimīl, “skin for water or milk, leather sack for sour milk.”
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”).
xaḏ̣īḏ̣, “moving, shaking, stirring.” xaḏ̣ḏ̣, “to move, stir, shake” (CA khaḍḍa).
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.”
The Ottoman telegraph line reached Basra from Baghdad in 1865.
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.
KF 170‑73; IS 47‑52.
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.”
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).
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.”
janāh, “offence, crime, treacherous action.”
KF: ḏ̣ārib ad‑darb. mištān, expl. as “used to travelling; out of sorts, upset.”
wāni, “weak, faint.” winiyyah, “mare, either exhausted or wounded.” ḥagrān pl. ḥaǵāri, “disrespect, humiliation” (CA ḥaqārah).
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.”
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.”
kāġid, “paper” (Turkish kâğıt, “paper, piece of paper”). dwāh, “inkwell” (CA dawāh).
gisa, “hardship; times of want and hunger; difficult circumstances” (CA qasā). ṣalfān, “tired, exhausted”. aṣlaf, “to tire, wear out” (CA aṣlafa).
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.”
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.”
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).
rāwyah pl. rwiyy, ruwāya, “water-skin, large receptacle made of camel skin used to hold and carry water on a camel’s back.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
nāziḥ, “distant, far away.” šafgān, “anxious, fearful; desirous, longing for.”
farraʿ, “to loosen.” īgān, “certainty, steadfastness of faith” (CA yaqīn).
ṭimūḥ see note 159. šifāh, “desire, wish, longing, ambition.”
jāḏi, “falling short, faltering, limping”; zabn al‑jāḏyāt, “protector of horses that falter and lag behind.” šān = šēn, “bad, something bad.”
šanāḥ, “tall, shapely, stately.” gāṭin, gaṭṭān, “one who camps near the well for a considerable length of time” (CA qaṭana).
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.”
wiṣāh, “bequest; message” (CA waṣāh). lōn pl. alwān, “color; sort, way, manner, something, anything.”
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).
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.”
wikdān, “sure, for sure” (CA akada).
bšārah pl. bišāyir, “the reward given to the bringer of good news” (CA bishārah). la šakk, “but, however.”
KF: awṣif. iḥtaraf, “to swing, turn about; to turn, pay attention to.”
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.”
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”).
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”).
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).
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).
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.”
At this age, when it has grown its teeth called sidāsiyyāt, riding camels are at the peak of their strength.
i.e. not stopping off for refreshments and conversation.
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.
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.
In the heat of battle, women loosen their hair, bare their breasts, and cry out to embolden their tribe’s fighters.
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.
i.e. the settled inhabitants of the villages, the ḥaḏ̣ar, who are more punctual about religious obligations than the Bedouin.
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.
Al‑Hēḏ̣al, the chiefs of ad‑Daʿājīn of Barqa of ʿUtayba.
Lit. : Zanāti, i.e. the courageous hero of the Bani Hilāl epic.
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.
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”).
FK: tgērab al‑migṭān.
ḏ̣ōl, “multitude, great mass of people packed together.”
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.”
ʿasūs, “scout, s.o. who reconnoiters the land ahead for good pastures and places of rainfall.”
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.”
KF: fārigih for rafʿatih. zōl, “indistinct outline, silhouette, form of a figure observed from afar” (CA zawl).
ṣakk, “to lock, press from all sides.” nigaʿ, “large pool of water.”
sayyar ʿala, “to pay a visit (without being invited).” tāʿa, “to call a horse.” arwaʿa, “to pay attention, to heed” (CA irʿawā).
FK: gīl for gāl. gahar, “to curb, check; to stop, halt, rein in”; ighar giʿūdak, “stop your camel.”
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.”
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.”
ḥill pl. ḥlūl, “time; right time; period.” darham, “to trot (said of a camel).” ištāl, “to carry, load on.”
ʿēlah, “transgression; acts breaching the peace; daring attacks.”
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.”
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.
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.”
KF: sarāh for as‑sēr. ġibb, “after, following”; ġibb as‑sara, “after yesterday’s march.” šāx is šēx in the dialect of ʿUtayba.
KF, 178‑181; IS, 75‑78
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.
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.
i.e. the herds were not accompanied by armed men, but were only guarded by shepherds.
The implied meaning is that they have no fear of any enemy and are unconcerned about any danger.
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.
Pronounced as wān: in the dialect of ʿTēbah sometimes the diphthong –ay instead of –ē becomes –ā, see also note 164.
In KF: waggifaw bih. jaww, “a basin or valley with spring wells having water enough to supply big camps.”
miʿṭān pl. maʿāṭīn, “resting-place at the water, place where the camels lie down after being watered.”
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.”
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).”
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”).
kāyid, “hard, difficult.” wiṭāhum mūjib lit. “they were trodden by something that forced them to act, a reason.”
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.”
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.”
taxāšar, “to agree to share (e.g. booty)”; xišīr, “booty to be divided.”
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.”
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.”
KF: w‑in gīl. gṭiyy, s. giṭāh, “the hind part of a horse.”
KF: gidm mḥabūbih. nūmās, “reputation, fame won through glorious feats.”
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.
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.”
KF, 188‑190; IS, 61‑63.
The space where the herds rest is covered with their droppings that turn into dry dust raised and scattered by the wind.
i.e. early autumn before the last two of the seven stars of Ursa Major make their appearance.
A mountain in the tribal ranges of ʿUtayba in High Najd.
Because the Bedouin, and with them the poet’s beloved one, left for the pastures as soon as they received these reports.
In other words, the area has hardly been dry that year as the rains of winter were followed by the rains of late spring.
The meaning of “sustenance from early summer not stored in vessels” is fresh milk of she-camels that is always available at that time.
Lit. “food from God’s house,” i.e. Mecca, for the rice is imported through the Red Sea harbors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Haut de page