The dearness of home: Arabic verse attributed to Maysūn bint Baḥdal al-Kalbiyya   1 comment

The poem below is one of Heimweh. The poetess credited with the poem, whether rightly or wrongly, is Maysūn bint Baḥdal b. Unayf al-Kalbiyya, the mother of Yazīd I and wife of Muʿāwiya, and she is said to have sung these lines after her husband brought her to Syria (al-Šām) from the desert home of her family. She came from a tribe predominantly Christian. (See the brief article about her by Lammens in EI² 6: 924. On her father, Baḥdal, see EI² 1: 919-920.) After the Arabic text, an English translation follows, together with a list of some vocabulary.

The poem’s rhyme-letter (rawī) is f, which is preceded by ī or ū, these two vowels being considered as rhyming (Wright, Grammar of the Arabic Language, vol. 2, § 196b). The text of the poem is given in Nöldeke-Müller, Delectus veterum carminum arabicorum, Porta Linguarum Orientalium 13 (Berlin, 1890), p. 25, and in Heinrich Thorbecke’s edition of Al-Ḥarīrī’s (EI² 3: 221-222) Durrat al-ġawwāṣ fī awhām al-ḫawwāṣ (Leipzig, 1871), pp. 41-42. (Nöldeke and Müller dedicated their Delectus to the memory of the recently departed Thorbecke.) The images below are from the latter book.

al-hariri_durrat_p41al-hariri_durrat_p42

English’d:

Aye, dearer to me is a tent where the winds roar than a lofty palace.
Dearer to me is a rough woolen cloak with a happy heart than clothes of well-spun wool.
Dearer to me is a morsel of food at the side of the tent than a cake to eat.
Dearer to me are the sounds of winds in every mountain path than the tap of the tambourine.
Dearer to me is a dog barking at my night visitors than a familiar cat.
Dearer to me is a young, unyielding camel following a litter than an active mule.
And dearer to me is a thin generous man from among my cousins than a strong lavishly fed man.

Vocabulary and notes:

  • ḫafaqa i to beat; (of wind) to roar
  • qaṣr citadel, palace (on which see Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʾān, 240)
  • munīf lofty, sublime, projecting
  • ʿabāʾa cloak made of coarse wool
  • qarra a i to be cool; with ʿayn eye, to be joyful, happy (Lane 2499c)
  • šaff a garment of fine wool
  • kusayra (dimin.) a small piece of something
  • kisr side (of a tent). Note in this line the jinās, the use of two words of the same root but different meaning (see Arberry, Arabic Poetry, 21-23).
  • raġīf cake
  • faǧǧ wide path in the mountains
  • naqr beat, crack, tap
  • duff tambourine
  • ṭāriq, pl. ṭurrāq someone who comes at night
  • dūn here, before, opposite (Lane 938c)
  • alūf familiar, sociable
  • bakr young camel
  • ṣaʿb difficult, unyielding
  • baġl mule
  • zafūf agile, active, quick
  • ẓaʿīna a woman’s litter carried by camels
  • ḫirq liberal, generous, bountiful
  • naḥīf thin, slight, meager
  • ʿilǧ “strong, sturdy man” (Lane)
  • ʿalīf fatted, stuffed, fed

One response to “The dearness of home: Arabic verse attributed to Maysūn bint Baḥdal al-Kalbiyya

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Brilliant. Thank you so much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: