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THE GOLDEN ODES OF PRE-ISLAMIC ARABIA: LEBID, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Gone are they the lost camps, light flittings, long so
Last Line: Woe be to all false friends! Woe to the envious!
Subject(s): Arabia; Arabs - Women; Enemies; Fights; Friendship - False Friends; War; Fair Weather Friends

GONE are they the lost camps, light flittings, long so-journings
in Miná, in Gháula, Rijám left how desolate.
Lost are they. Rayyán lies lorn with its white torrent beds,
scored in lines like writings left by the flood-water.
Tent-floors smooth, forsaken, bare of all that dwelt in them,
years how long, the war-months, months too of peace-pleasures.
Spots made sweet with Spring-rains fresh-spilled from the Zodiac,
showers from clouds down-shaken, wind-wracks and thunder-clouds;
Clouds how wild of night-time, clouds of the dawn darkening,
clouds of the red sunset,—all speak the name of her.

Here, in green thorn-thickets, does bring forth how fearlessly;
here the ostrich-troops come, here too the antelopes.
Wild cows, with their wild calf-sucklings, standing over them,
while their weanlings wander wide in the bare valleys.
Clean-swept lie their hearth-stones, white as a new manuscript
writ with texts fresh-graven, penned by the cataracts,
Scored with lines and circles, limned with rings and blazonings,
as one paints a maid's cheek point-lined in indigo.
All amazed I stood there. How should I make questionings?
Dumb the rocks around me, silent the precipice,
Voices lost, where these dwelt who at dawn abandoning
tent and thorn-bush fencing fled to the wilderness.
Now thy sad heart acheth, grieveth loud remembering
girls how closely howdahed, awned with what canopies.
Every howdah curtained, lined with gauze embroideries,
figured with festoons hung red from the pole of it.
Trooped they there the maid-folk, wild white cows of Túdiha,
ay, or does of Wújra, long-necked, their fawns with them,
Fled as the miráge flees, fills the vale of Bíshata,
fills the tree-clad wádies, íthel and rock-mazes.

What of her, Nowára, thy lost love, who fled from thee,
every heart-link sundered, close loop and free fetter!
Hers the Mórra camp-fires lit how far in Fáïda,
in Hejáz what marches! How shalt thou win to her?
Eastward move they marching, to Muhájjer wandering
camped in Tái, in Férda, ay, in Rukhám of it.
Southward on to Yémen, to Sowéyk their sojournings,
to Waháf el Káhri, ay, and Tilkhám of it.
Man, have done! forget her, one too far to comfort thee!
Who would his love garner first let him sunder it.
Shed the love that fails thee. Strong be thou, and break with her.
Keep thy gifts for friendship, freed from thy wilderment.
Mount thee on thy nága. Travel-trained and hard she is,
low her back with leanness, lessened the hump of her;
Shrunk her sides and wasted, jaded with long journeyings,
spare as her hide shoe-straps frayed by her road-faring.
Light she to her halter, to thy hand that guideth her,
as a red cloud southwards loosed from its rain-burden.
Nay a fair wild-ass she; at her side the white-flanked one,
he the scarred ass-stallion, bitten and struck for her.
Climbed they two the hill-top, he the bite-scarred asstyrant
her new mood resenting, being in foal to him
On the crags high posted watcheth he from Thálabut
all the plain to guard her, ambushes laid for her.
Six months of Jumáda wandered have they waterless,
browsing the moist herbage, he her high sentinel.
Till returned their thirsting, need of the far water clefts,
all their will to win there speeding them waterwards.
What though with heels wounded, still the hot wind driveth them,
as a furnace burning, fire-scorched the breath of it.
In their trail a dust-cloud, like a smoke it wavereth,
like a fire new-lighted, kindling the flame of it,
Flame fanned by the North-wind, green wood mixed with dry fuel,
smoke aloft high curling. So is the dust of them.
He, when her pace slackened, pushed her still in front of him.
Nay, she might not falter, tyrant he urged her on,
Till they reached the streamlet, plunged and slaked their thirst in it,
A spring welling over, crest-high the reeds of it;
All its banks a cane-brake, thick with stems o'ershadowing;
bent are some, some standing, night-deep the shade of them.

Say is this her likeness? Or a wild cow wolf-raided
of her sweet calf loitering, she in the van of them.
She, the short-nosed, missed it. Lows she now unendingly,
roams the rocks, the sand-drifts, mourning and bellowing,
Lows in rage beholding that white shape, the limbs of it,
dragged by the grey wolf-cubs: who shall their hunger stay?
Theirs the chance to seize it, hers the short forgetfulness.
Death is no mean archer. Mark how his arrows hit.
Stopped she then at night-fall, while the rain in long furrows
scored the bush-grown hill-slopes, ceaseless the drip of it,
Dripped on her dark back-line, poured abroad abundantly:
not a star the heaven showed, cloud-hung the pall of it;
One tree all her shelter, standing broad-branched, separate
at the sand-hills' edge-line, steep-set the sides of them.
She, the white cow, shone there through the dark night luminous,
like a pearl of deep-seas, freed from the string of it.
Thus till morn, till day-dawn folded back night's canopy;
then she fled bewildered, sliding the feet of her,
Fled through the rain lakelets, to the pool Suwáyada,
all a seven nights' fasting twinned with the days of them,
Till despaired she wholly, till her udder milk-stricken
shrank, so full to feed him suckling or weaning him.
Voices now she hears near, human tones, they startle her,
though to her eye naught is: Man! he, the bane of her!
Seeketh a safe issue, the forenoon through listening,
now in front, behind now, fearing her enemy.
And they failed, the archers. Loosed they then to deal with her
fine-trained hounds, the lop-eared, slender the sides of them.
These outran her lightly. Turned she swift her horns on them,
like twin spears of Sámhar, sharp-set the points of them.
Well she knew her danger, knew if her fence failed with them
hers must be the red death. Hence her wrath's strategy.
And she slew Kasábi, foremost hound of all of them,
stretched the brach in blood there, ay, and Sukhám of them.
Thus is she, my nága. When at noon the plains quiver
and the hills dance sun-steeped, cloaked in the heat-tremors,
Ride I and my deeds do, nor forbear from wantoning,
lest the fools should shame me, blame me the fault-finders.
Do not thou misprize me, thou Nowára. One am I
binder of all love-knots, ay, and love's sunderer;
One who when love fails him, wails not long but flies from it;
one whom one alone holds, hard death the hinderer.
What dost thou of mirth know, glorious nights, ah, how many:
cold nor heat might mar them, spent in good company?
Came I thus discoursing to his sign, the wine-seller's,
drank at the flag-hoisting, drank till the wine grew dear,
Bidding up each full skin: black with age the brand of it,
pouring forth the tarred jars, breaking the seals of them;
Pure deep draughts of morning, while she played, the sweet singer
fingering the lute-strings, showing her skill to me.
Ere the cock had crowed once, a first cup was quaffed by me:
ere slow man had stretched him, gone was the second cup.
On what dawns sharp-winded clothed have I the cold with it,
dawns that held the North-wind reined in the hands of them.
Well have I my tribe served, brought them aid and armament,
slept, my mare's reins round me, night-long their sentinel;
Ridden forth at day-dawn, climbed the high-heaped sand-ridges
hard by the foe's marches, dun-red the slopes of them;
Watched till the red sun dipped hand-like in obscurity,
till the night lay curtained, shrouding our weaknesses;
And I came down riding, my mare's neck held loftily
as a palm fruit-laden: woe to the gatherer!
Swift was she, an ostrich; galloped she how wrathfully,
from her sides the sweat streamed, lightening the ribs of her;
Strained on her her saddle; dripped with wet the neck of her,
the white foam-flakes wreathing, edging the girth of her;
Thrusteth her neck forward, shaketh her reins galloping;
flieth as the doves fly bound for the water-springs.

At the King's Court strangers thronged from what far provinces,
each athirst for bounty, fearing indignity.
Stiff-necked they as lions in their hate, the pride of them,
came with stubborn proud feet, Jinns of the wilderness.
Stopped I their vain boastings, took no ill-tongued words from them,
let them not take licence. What were their chiefs to me?
I it was provided camels for their slaughtering,
I who their shares portioned, drawing the lots for them.
Every mouth I feasted. Barren mount and milch-camel
slew I for all daily. All shared the meat of them.
Far guest and near neighbour, every man rose satisfied,
full as in Tebála, fed as in green valleys.
Ay, the poor my tent filled, thin poor souls like sick-camels,
nágas at a tomb tied, bare-backed, no shirt on them.
Loud the winter winds howled; piled we high the meat-dishes;
flowed the streams of fatness, feeding the fatherless.
Thus the tribes were trysted; nor failed we the provident
to name one, a wise man, fair-tongued, as judge for them,
One who the spoil portioned, gave to each his just measure,
spake to all unfearing, gave or refused to give,
A just judge, a tribe-sheykh, wise, fair-worded, bountiful,
sweet of face to all men, feared by the warriors.

Noble we; our fathers wielded power bequeathed to them,
dealt law to the nations, each tribe its lawgiver.
All our lineage faultless, no light words our promises;
not for us the vain thoughts, passions of common men.
Thou fool foe, take warning, whatso the Lord portioneth
hold it a gift granted, dealt thee in equity.
Loyalty our gift was, faith unstained our heritage;
these fair things He gave us, He the distributor.
For for us a mansion built He, brave the height of it,
lodged therein our old men, ay, and the youths of us,
All that bore our burdens, all in our tribe's sore sorrow,
all that were our horsemen, all our high councillors.
Like the Spring are these men, joy to them that wait on them,
to the weak, the widows, towers in adversity.
Thus our kin stands faith-firm, purged of tribe-malingerers.
Woe be to all false friends! Woe to the envious!

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