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Discreet and loving ; not one gift on earth
We shall now take leave of Chapman until our next number, when we propose to treat of the plays which he wrote in conjunction with Jonson, Shirley, and others; and we shall then have an opportunity of discussing his dramatic talents at greater length.
Art. XI.-The Moallakát, or Seven Arabian Poems, which were
suspended on the Temple of Mecca ; with a Translation and Arguments. By Sir William Jones. 4to. 1782.
The Arabic language was brought to its greatest perfection at the commencement of the seventh century, by the efforts of a poetical academy that used to assemble at Ocadh, where the candidates for fame produced their compositions, the best of which were transcribed in characters of gold upon
Egyptian paper and hung up in the temple at Mecca, on which account they were called Modhahebát, or Golden, and Moallakát, or Suspended : of these poems, the seven at the head of this article, which are usually found united in the same manuscript, are considered the best that were written before the time of Mahomet : they were printed, in Roman characters, by Sir William Jones, in 1782, with a prose version or rather paraphrase taken from the commentaries of the grammarians; they consist of Eclogues of a dramatic cast, in regular metres, embracing all the circumstances of an Arab's life, in which the female sex, then the companions, and not, as under the Prophet's system, the slaves of man, form the principal object. We propose in the present article to translate a few passages from each of these seven compositions, as specimens of the poetical talents of the Arabians.
Amriolkais, the first in order, was of the royal blood of one of the tribes. The opening of the poem represents him on a journey attended by a company of friends—they pass the place where his mistress formerly dwelt-he stops on the now deserted spot, and exclaims, Stay !-Let us weep
tries to trace,
He relates his adventures,—his courtship of Fathima, and his more dangerous amour with a girl of a tribe at war with his own, whose beauties he very minutely and luxuriantly delineates.
“Once through the ranks, at midnight's gloomy hour,
When shone the pleiads in the starry globe,
my fond heart I drew the trembling fair:
From these love-tales he proceeds to the commendation of bis own fortitude in the frequent and perilous expeditions, which his enterprise prompted him to make across the desert. His constant liability in these solitudes to be overtaken by darkness, gives occasion to a description of night.
“ Oft did the night her misty horrors roll,
The narrative of his adventures is interrupted by a storm of lightning; his companions retire, and the drama concludes.
The poem of Amriolkais is easy, sprightly and elegant ; that of Tarafa, the next in order, is in a more bold and youthful strain. This young poet, who, at the early age of twentysix, fell the victim of his love of satire, which he had indulged
at the expense of the king of his tribe, appears, from the poem before us, to have been remarkable for the ardour and unguardedness of his character. He and his brother jointly possessed a herd of camels, which they watched alternately, lest they should be carried off by a tribe at war with their own. The poet's negligence, however, enabled the enemy to seize the herd, while he was immersed in poetic meditation; and on being sarcastically asked by his brother, whether the camels could be restored by his poetry, he departed to solicit the aid of a kinsman. Instead of granting it, his kinsman rebuked him with acrimony for his remissness in this instance, and for his general prodigality, libertinism, and spirit of contention. Tarafa produced this poem in vindication of his character and conduct, which he boldly justifies in every respect, and even claims praise for the very course of life which had exposed him to censure.
He begins, according to custom, with descriptions of his absent mistress and of his camel, the latter of which is long and tiresome; but introduces the following passage, which aptly exhibits his passion for enterprise and voluptuousness.
“ Oft has my faithful camel borne me far
'Tis mine, whene'er the tribes to glory call,
Me you will find, or at the council board,
Tarafa seems to have been one of those joyous spirits whose love of wine was soon to be checked by the stern prohibition of the coming prophet. “ If,” says he,
“ If death be near me, let me quaff the bowl,
The same dark mansions, by an equal fate,
The rest of the poem contains an eulogy on his own fortitude, liberality, and valour, mixed with keen expostulations against the unkindness and ingratitude of his kinsman. There is a tradition, that one of the chiefs, whom Tarafa took occasion to compliment, made him a present of a hundred camels, and thus enabled him to convince his brother that poetry could repair his loss.
Zohair composed his poem, as a panegyric on Hareth and Harem, two chiefs of Arabia, who by a singular act of generosity had succeeded in healing a deadly feud that existed between theirs and a rival clan. Though the bard was, as he himself informs us, more than fourscore years age
when he wrote, yet, like his brethren, he opens his piece quite in an amatory strain, as he recognises the place where the tent of his mistress had been pitched, twenty years before. He passes on to the praises of the peace-makers, and then personifies war, describing its miseries, which the two chiefs had averted from their country, in a strain highly figurative.
“War is a monster of the foulest mien,
A bitter invective against the chief who had caused the