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THE GOLDEN ODES OF PRE-ISLAMIC ARABIA: ZOHEYR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Woe is me for 'ommi 'aufa! Woe for the tents of her
Last Line: Only the mouth that hath no silence endeth in emptiness.
Subject(s): Arabia; Arabs - Women; Friendship

WOE is me for ´Ommi ´Aufa! Woe for the tents of her
lost on thy stony plain, Durráj, on thine, Mutethéllemi!
In Rákmatéyn I found our dwelling, faint lines how desolate,
tent-marks traced like the vein-tracings blue on the wrists of her.
Large-eyed there the wild-kine pastured, white roes how fearlessly,
leaped, their fawns beside them, startled: I in the midst of them.
Twenty years abroad I wander. Lo, here I stand to-day,
hardly know the remembered places, seek I how painfully.
Here our hearth-stones stand, ay, blackened still with her cooking-pots,
here our tent-trench squarely graven, grooved here our camel-trough.
Love, when my eyes behold thy dwelling, to it I call aloud:
Blessed be thou, O house of pleasure, greeting and joy to thee!

Friend of my soul! Dost thou behold them? Say, are there maidens there,
camel-borne, high in their howdahs, over the Júrthum spring?
Say, are their curtains lined with scarlet, sanguine embroideries,
veiling them from eyes of all men, rose-tinted coverings?
Slantwise up El Subáan they mounted: high-set the pass of it.
With them the new-born morning's beauty, fair-faced and fortunate.
At the blink of dawn they rose and laded. Now, ere the sun is up,
point they far to Wády Ras, straight as hand points to mouth.
Joy! Sweet joy of joys! Fair visions, human in tenderness,
dear to the human eye that truly sees them and understands!
As the scarlet fringe of fénna seed-pods no lip hath browsed upon,
so is the dye of their scarlet wool new-fringing the camping-grounds.
And they came to the watering pool in the red rocks: blue-black the depths of
And they planted the tent-poles, straight and fairly, firm for a
They have left Kanáan on the far right hand: dark-crowned the crest of it.
How many foes in El Kanáan! And friends, too, ah, how many!
But they came to El Subáan in their might, impetuous, beautiful,
they in their howdahs of scarlet wool. O friend, dost thou look on them?

I have sworn by the most illustrious dwelling, shrine of processioners,
house revered of Koréysh and Júrhum, founded in piety.
I have sworn my praise to the two chieftains, men of what hardihood,
prompt to do when need shall call them, light deeds and doughty deeds.
Strove ye well, ye Lords of Mórra, what though the clans of you
long had drowned in blood their friendship, drowned it in war-clamours.
Ye with Abs and Dóbián that day ye persuaded them,
spite of feud and their death-dealing perfumes of mínshami.
For thus ye spake: Let peace be garnered, all the fair wealth of it,
based on pay and fair exchanges, ours to establish it.
Theirs the peace and yours the glory, high names and dignities,
you the noble twain prevailing, purging the rage of them.
Lo, in Maád ye stand exalted, ye the high-guided ones.
He who a booty brings of glory, shall he not share in it?
Healing of wounds ye dealed in hundreds, hundreds of debt-camels,
guiltless you for the death-guilty, ending the feud of them.
Tribe and tribe, you paid the ransom, what though the hands of you
clean were of blood and the red shedding, ay, the least cup of it.
Yet ye brought the payment bravely, all your fair heritage,
camels yours by right of plunder, these and your earmarked ones.

Ho! To the oath-bound tribes a greeting: Have ye not sworn to it?
Ay, and to Dóbián a message: Will ye not keep the peace?
For you may not hide from God your dealings, what though in secrecy
deep in your heart of hearts you seal it. Nathless He knoweth it,
Knoweth and taketh note in patience, sure of His reckoning
till the day of the great counting, waiteth or hasteneth.
War! Ye have learned it all, its teachings, well have ye tasted them.
These no tales are that I tell you. Each is a certainty.
A smouldering coal ye flung it lightly, blindly despising it.
Lo, into raging flame it leapeth, wind-lit, destroyeth you.
Ye are ground as corn by Hate's ill-grinding, flat on her grinding-skin.
Nay, a too fruitful camel she. Twins hath she borne to you,
Sinister sons of fear and anger, milk-fed on bitterness;
dark as his, Aád's, their nursing. Lo, she is weaned of them.
And her hand is large to rain you harvests, evil the wealth of them.
No such plenty Irák hath garnered, hell-grain and hate-money.

Ay, by my life, the kin was noble. Yet did it fare with them
ill when they the peace-terms flouted. Démdem's the sin of it,
His, Huséyn's, who held his counsel, hiding the thought in him,
yielding naught and naught revealing, steeled in his stubbornness.
For he thought: My end will I accomplish. No ill shall come to me,
fenced and armed, with might behind me, warriors, horse-riders.
Proud he stood, nor feared the tent-lords, what though OmKáshami
watched them near, the vulture-mother, eyeing the multitude.
Strode he forth, full-armed, a wild beast, fierce for the blood-letting,
mane and claws unclipped, a lion. Who shall his anger brave?
Fearless, one who doth his vengeance swift on his wrongdoer,
one who unassailed yet rendeth, he the first injurer.
And they pastured there their fair milch-camels, drove to the waterings,
drank of the full pools brimming over, gall in the hearts of them,
This side and that by blood divided, rank hate the meat of them,
poison-grass to their herds' hurting, mired in blood-bitterness.
Yet, by thy life, not these the guilty. Clean was the steel of them,
pure of blood, Nahík's. They slew not him nor Muthéllemi,
Shareless sharers of the death-due. No blood of Náufali
stood to their account, nor Wáhab's, nay, nor Mukházzemi's.
Blameless! Clean! Yet have I seen them drive to the ransoming
camel herds untouched, unblemished, fresh from the rock-valleys.
Succour to the tribe that succoured! Who but shall haste to them
in their night of fear, of blackness! All men shall speed to them,
Since they gave, since them the avenger gained not to ill-willing,
nay, nor suppliant failed of favour. Him they abandoned not.

I am weary of life who bear its burdens fourscore and how many
years of glory and grief counted. Well may he weary be.
I know to-day, the day before it, ay, and the days that were,
yet of to-morrow I know nothing. Blind are the eyes of me.
I have seen Fate strike out in the darkness, strike like a blind camel:
some it touched died straight, some lingered on to decrepitude.
I have learned that he who giveth nothing, deaf to his friends' begging,
loosed shall be to the world's tooth-strokes: fools' feet shall tread on him;
That he that doeth for his name's sake fair deeds shall further it,
but he that of men's praise is careless dwindleth in dignity;
That he, the lord of wealth, who spendeth naught of his heaped money,
him his kinsfolk shall hold lightly: children shall mouth at him;
That he who keepeth faith shall find faith; who in simplicity
shall pursue the ways accustomed, no tongue shall wag at him;
That he who flieth his fate shall meet it, not, though a sky-ladder
he should climb, shall his fear fend him: dark death shall noose him down;
That he who gifteth the unworthy, spendthrift through idleness,
praised shall be to his dispraising, shamed at his fool-doing;
That he, who shall refuse the lance-butts borne by the peace-bearers,
him the lance-heads shall find fenceless, naked the flesh of him;

That he who guardeth not his tent-floor, with the whole might of him,
cold shall be his hearth-stone broken, ay, though he smote at none;
That he who fleeth his kin shall fare far, foes for his guest-fellows;
that he who his own face befouleth none else shall honour him;
That he, who casteth not the burdens laid on the back of him,
sheer disgrace shall be his portion, waged as he merited;
That whatso a man hath by nature, wit-wealth or vanity,
hidden deep, the day shall prove it: all shall be manifest.
For how many sat wise while silent, yet was their foolishness
proved when their too much, too little, slid through their mouth-slitting!
The tongue is the strong man's half; the other half is the heart of him:
all the rest is a brute semblance, rank corporality.
Truly, folly in the old is grievous; no cure is known for it:
yet may the young their soul's unwisdom win to new sanity.

We asked once, and you gave a guerdon,—twice and again you gave:
only the mouth that hath no silence endeth in emptiness.

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