Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Al-Nâbighah: Eulogy of the Men of Ghassân

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Al-Nâbighah: Eulogy of the Men of Ghassân

By Arabic Literature

From the Dîwân of Al-Nâbighah; a eulogy of the valor and culture of the men of Ghassân, written in time of the poet’s political exile from them: Translation of Sir Charles James Lyall

LEAVE me alone, O Umaimah—alone with my sleepless pain—

alone with the livelong night and the wearily lingering stars;

It draws on its length of gloom; methinks it will never end,

nor ever the Star-herd lead his flock to their folds of rest;—

Alone with a breast whose griefs, that roamed far afield by day,

the darkness has brought all home: in legions they throng around.

A favor I have with ’Amr, a favor his father bore

toward me of old; a grace that carried no scorpion sting.

I swear (and my word is true—an oath that hath no reserve,

and naught in my heart is hid save fair thought of him, my friend)—

If these twain his fathers were, who lie in their graves; the one

al-Jillik, the others al-Saidâ, by Hârib’s side,

And Hârith, of Jafnah’s line, the lord of his folk of old—

yea, surely his might shall reach the home of his enemy!

In him hope is sure of help when men say—“The host is sped,

the horsemen of Ghassân’s line unblemished, no hireling herd,

His cousins, all near of kin, their chief ’Amr, ’Âmir’s son—

a people are they whose might in battle shall never fail!”

When goes forth the host to war, above them in circles wheel

battalions of eagles, pointing the path to battalions more;

Their friendship is old and tried, fast comrades, in foray bred

to look unafraid on blood, as hounds to the chase well trained.

Behold them, how they sit there, behind where their armies meet,

watching with eyes askance, like elders in gray furs wrapt,

Intent; for they know full well that those whom they follow, when

the clash of the hosts shall come, will bear off the victory.

Ay, well is that custom known, a usage that time has proved

when lances are laid in rest on withers of steeds arow—

Of steeds in the spear-play skilled, with lips for the fight drawn back,

their bodies with wounds all scarred, some bleeding and some half-healed.

And down leap the riders where the battle is strait and stern,

and spring in the face of Death like stallions amid the herd;

Between them they give and take deep draughts of the wine of doom

as their hands ply the white swords, thin and keen in the smiting-edge.

In shards fall the morions burst by the fury of blow on blow,

and down to the eyebrows, cleft, fly shattered the skulls beneath.

In them no defect is found, save only that in their swords

are notches, a many, gained from smiting of host on host:

An heirloom of old, those blades, from the fight of Halîmah’s day,

and many the mellay fierce that since has their temper proved;

Therewith do they cleave in twain the hauberk of double woof,

and kindle the rock beneath to fire, ere the stroke is done.

A nature is theirs—God gives the like to no other men—

a wisdom that never sleeps, a bounty that never fails.

Their home is God’s own land, His chosen of old; their faith

is steadfast. Their hope is set on naught but the world to come.

Their sandals are soft and fine, and girded with chastity,

they welcome with garlands sweet the dawn of the Feast of Palms.

There greets them when they come home full many a handmaid fine,

and ready, on trestles, hang the mantles of scarlet silk.

Yea, softly they wrap their limbs, well-knowing of wealth and ease,

in rich raiment, white-sleeved, green at the shoulder—in royal guise.

They look not on Weal as men who know not that Woe comes, too:

they look not on evil days as though they would never mend.

Lo, this was my gift to Ghassân, what time I sought

My people; and all my paths were darkened, and strait my ways.