By Philip Kennedy
A readable survey of this celebrated ninth century Arab poet.
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Additional resources for Abu Nuwas (Makers of the Muslim World)
When love was blighted by time and separation, the preIslamic poet had tended to “cut the ropes of affection” (to cut his losses in an heroic posture); the ‘udhri poet, by contrast, projected his love into the future opened up by the new religion: toward death and, of course, far beyond it. The philandering ‘Umar ibn Abi Rabi‘a modeled himself partly on Imru’ al-Qays (fl. early sixth century). ‘Umar’s animated poem in which he describes a nocturnal visit to his beloved’s tribe (stealing into her tent, spending the night and oversleeping, and having to escape the encampment at dawn draped in a woman’s robes, trailing them behind him to erase his tracks), expands upon a short passage in Imru’ al-Qays’s Mu‘allaqa (“Suspended Ode”), one of the archetypes of the ancient corpus.
AND THE LASH” 43 He was sitting on a prayer rug Surrounded by slaves; He threw a glance at me, Hunting with his eyes. That was in Hafs’s schoolroom – How lucky is Hafs! ” Silk robes were stripped from him And a striped garment, Then they “terrorized” him with molly-coddling Castigation, without even a stick; Then my sweetheart cried out: “Sir! ” (D. iv, 194) Castigation is a double-edged theme and part of the erotic tension of the piece in which, with perfectly pitched understatement, chastisement-and-leniency or servitude-anddomination, swap roles with each other.
Satirizing his tediously pedantic ponderings on the stillness and motion of objects. Abu Nuwas was not irreligious in the sense that he belonged to a heretical group. His license with religious pre- and proscription was affected irreverence,as was in essence his reliance on God’s clemency as a pliant excuse. It is significant in this respect that the two noncanonical prophetic traditions told on his authority deal with the possibility of entering Paradise as a sinner. His transgressions were not only those associated with wine-drinking and affection for young men.
Abu Nuwas (Makers of the Muslim World) by Philip Kennedy