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

Ash-Shanfarà of Azd: A Picture of Womanhood

By Arabic Literature

From the ‘Mufaddaliyât’: Translation of Sir Charles James Lyall

ALAS, Umm ’Amr set her face to depart and went:

gone is she, and when she sped, she left with us no farewell.

Her purpose was quickly shaped—no warning gave she to friends,

though there she had dwelt, hard-by, her camels all day with ours.

Yea, thus in our eyes she dwelt, from morning to noon and eve—

she brought to an end her tale, and fleeted and left us lone.

So gone is Umaimah, gone! and leaves here a heart in pain:

my life was to yearn for her; and now its delight is fled.

She won me, whenas, shamefaced—no maid to let fall her veil,

no wanton to glance behind—she walked forth with steady tread;

Her eyes seek the ground, as though they looked for a thing lost there;

she turns not to left or right—her answer is brief and low.

She rises before day dawns to carry her supper forth

to wives who have need—dear alms, when such gifts are few enow!

Afar from the voice of blame, her tent stands for all to see,

when many a woman’s tent is pitched in the place of scorn.

No gossip to bring him shame from her does her husband dread—

when mention is made of women, pure and unstained is she.

The day done, at eve glad comes he home to his eyes’ delight:

he needs not to ask of her, “Say, where didst thou pass the day?”—

And slender is she where meet, and full where it so beseems,

and tall and straight, a fairy shape, if such on earth there be.

And nightlong as we sat there, methought that the tent was roofed

above with basil-sprays, all fragrant in dewy eve—

Sweet basil, from Halyah dale, its branches abloom and fresh,

that fills all the place with balm—no starveling of desert sands.