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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 remem
brance 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
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
Nay, the cure of my sorrow must come from gushing tears.
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, win. ning 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-i
On that day I killed my riding camel for food for the
maidens: How merry was their dividing my camel's trappings to be car
ried 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
Then the maidens commenced throwing the camel's flesh into The fat was woven with the lean like loose fringes of white
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.
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;
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
“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
There was another day when I walked with her behind the
sandhills, But she put aside my entreaties and swore an oath of vir
Oh, Unaizah, gently, put aside some of this coquetry.
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
And if any one of my habits has caused you annoyance,
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 desir
ous of killing me; If they could conceal my murder, being unable to assail me
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
I went out with her; she walking, and drawing behind us,
over our footmarks, The skirts of an embroidered woolen garment, to erase the
Then when we had crossed the enclosure of the tribe,
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,
In complexion she is like the first egg of the ostrich — white,
mixed with yellow.
Pure water, unsullied by the descent of many people in it, has
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
And she shows a neck like the neck of a white deer;
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 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.