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

Imr-al-Kais: Description of a Mountain Storm

By Arabic Literature

From the most celebrated of the ‘Mu ’allakât,’ that of Imr-al-Kais, ‘The Wandering King’: Translation of Sir Charles James Lyall

O FRIEND, see the lightning there! it flickered and now is gone,

as though flashed a pair of hands in the pillar of crowned cloud.

Now, was it its blaze, or the lamps of a hermit that dwells alone,

and pours o’er the twisted wicks the oil from his slender cruse?

We sat there, my fellows and I, ’twixt Dárij and al-Udhaib,

and gazed as the distance gloomed, and waited its oncoming.

The right of its mighty rain advanced over Katan’s ridge;

the left of its trailing skirt swept Yadhbul and as-Sitar:

Then over Kutaifah’s steep the flood of its onset drave,

and headlong before its storm the tall trees were borne to ground;

And the drift of its waters passed o’er the crags of al-Kanân,

and drave forth the white-legged deer from the refuge they sought therein.

And Taimá—it left not there the stem of a palm aloft,

nor ever a tower, save ours, firm built on the living rock.

And when first its misty shroud bore down upon Mount Thabîr,

he stood like an ancient man in a gray-streaked mantle wrapt.

The clouds cast their burdens down on the broad plain of al-Ghabit,

as a trader from al-Yaman unfolds from the bales his store;

And the topmost crest, on the morrow, of al-Mujaimir’s cairn,

was heaped with the flood-borne wrack, like wool on a distaff wound.