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THE HANGED POEMS

THE POEM OF IMRU-UL-QUAIS 1

Stop, oh my friends, let us pause to weep over the remembrance of my beloved.

Here was her abode on the edge of the sandy desert between Dakhool and Howmal.

The traces of her encampment are not wholly obliterated even now;

For when the South wind blows the sand over them the North wind sweeps it away.

The courtyards and enclosures of the old home have become desolate;

The dung of the wild deer lies there thick as the seeds of pepper.

On the morning of our separation it was as if I stood in the gardens of our tribe,

Amid the acacia-shrubs where my eyes were blinded with tears by the smart from the bursting pods of colocynth.

As I lament thus in the place made desolate, my friends stop their camels;

They cry to me "Do not die of grief; bear this sorrow patiently."

Nay, the cure of my sorrow must come from gushing tears. Yet, is there any hope that this desolation can bring me solace?

1 This is supposed to be the oldest of the "hanged" poems. Like the others it shifts abruptly from theme to theme, and is full of poetic comparisons. Indeed, its author is said to have started this fashion, winning for himself the name of "The creator of images."

So, before ever I met Unaizah, did I mourn for two others; My fate had been the same with Ummul-Huwairith and her neighbor Ummul-Rahab in Masal.

Fair were they also, diffusing the odor of musk as they moved, Like the soft zephyr bringing with it the scent of the clove.

Thus the tears flowed down on my breast, remembering days of love;

The tears wetted even my sword-belt, so tender was my love.

Behold how many pleasant days have I spent with fair

women;

Especially do I remember the day at the pool of Darat-iJuljul.2

On that day I killed my riding camel for food for the maidens:

How merry was their dividing my camel's trappings to be carried on their camels.

It is a wonder, a riddle, that the camel being saddled was yet unsaddled!

A wonder also was the slaughterer, so heedless of self in his costly gift!

Then the maidens commenced throwing the camel's flesh into the kettle;

2 The poet in this and the following lines refers to an incident which is thus told us: during his wooing of Unaizah he followed her and the other maidens when they rode on camels to the pool Darat-i-Juljul. The women bathed in the pool and he captured their clothes and would not surrender these until each one came out of the water in turn and asked for hers. They held back so long before they yielded to this, that afterward they complained of being faint with hunger. Thereon he lavishly slew his camel so they could have it immediately for food. When they had eaten, they would not leave him stranded in the desert, so divided the trappings of his camel, each carrying home a part upon her beast, while the carrying of the poet himself fell to Unaizah. She jestingly protested that the howdah on her camel's back was too small for them both.

The fat was woven with the lean like loose fringes of white twisted silk.

On that day I entered the howdah, the camel's howdah of Unaizah!

And she protested, saying, "Woe to you, you will force me to travel on foot."

She repulsed me, while the howdah was swaying with us; She said, "You are galling my camel, Oh Imru-ul-Quais, so dismount."

Then I said, "Drive him on! Let his reins go loose, while you turn to me.

Think not of the camel and our weight on him. Let us be happy.

Many a beautiful woman like you, Oh Unaizah, have I visited at night;

I have won her thought to me, even from her children have I won her."

There was another day when I walked with her behind the sandhills,

But she put aside my entreaties and swore an oath of virginity.

Oh, Unaizah, gently, put aside some of this coquetry.

If you have, indeed, made up your mind to cut off friendship with me, then do it kindly or gently.

Has anything deceived you about me, that your love is killing me,

And that verily as often as you order my heart, it will do what you order?

And if any one of my habits has caused you annoyance,
Then put away my heart from your heart, and it will be put

away.

And your two eyes do not flow with tears, except to strike me with arrows in my broken heart.

Many a fair one, whose tent can not be sought by others, have I enjoyed playing with.

I passed by the sentries on watch near her, and a people desirous of killing me;

If they could conceal my murder, being unable to assail me openly.

I passed by these people at a time, when the Pleiades appeared in the heavens,

As the appearance of the gems in the spaces in the ornamented girdle, set with pearls and gems.

Then she said to me, "I swear by God, you have no excuse for your wild life;

I can not expect that your erring habits will ever be removed from your nature.'

""

I went out with her; she walking, and drawing behind us, over our footmarks,

The skirts of an embroidered woolen garment, to erase the footprints.

Then when we had crossed the enclosure of the tribe,

The middle of the open plain, with its sandy undulations and sandhills, we sought.

I drew the tow side-locks of her head toward me; and she leant toward me;

She was slender of waist, and full in the ankle.

Thin-waisted, white-skinned, slender of body,
Her breast shining polished like a mirror.

In complexion she is like the first egg of the ostrich mixed with yellow.

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Pure water, unsullied by the descent of many people in it, has nourished her.

She turns away, and shows her smooth cheek, forbidding with a glancing eye,

Like that of a wild animal, with young, in the desert of Wajrah.

And she shows a neck like the neck of a white deer;

It is neither disproportionate when she raises it, nor unornamented.

And a perfect head of hair which, when loosened, adorns her back,

Black, very dark-colored, thick like a date-cluster on a heavily laden date-tree.

Her curls creep upward to the top of her head;

And the plaits are lost in the twisted hair, and the hair falling loose.

And she meets me with a slender waist, thin as the twisted leathern nose-rein of a camel.

Her form is like the stem of a palm-tree bending over from the weight of its fruit.

In the morning, when she wakes, the particles of musk are lying over her bed.

She sleeps much in the morning; she does not need to gird her waist with a working dress.

She gives with thin fingers, not thick, as if they were the worms of the desert of Zabi,

In the evening she brightens the darkness, as if she were the light-tower of a monk.

Toward one like her, the wise man gazes incessantly, lovingly. She is well proportioned in height between the wearer of a long dress and of a short frock.

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