Arabian Satire: Poetry from 18th-Century Najd

Arabian Satire: Poetry from 18th-Century Najd

by Hmedan al-Shweir


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This lively volume collects poems by Hmedan al-Shwe'ir, who lived in Najd in the Arabian Peninsula shortly before the hegemony of the Wahhabi movement in the early 18th century.

A master of satire known for his ribald humor, self-deprecation, and invective verse (hija), Hmedan was acerbic in his criticisms of society and its morals, voiced in in a poetic idiom that is widely referred to as “Nabati,” here a mix of Najdi vernacular and archaic vocabulary and images dating back to the origins of Arabic poetry. In Arabian Satire, Hmedan is mostly concerned with worldly matters, and addresses these in different guises: as the patriarch at the helm of the family boat and its unruly crew; as a picaresque anti-hero who revels in taking potshots at the established order, its hypocrisy, and its moral failings; as a peasant who labors over his palm trees, often to no avail and with no guarantee of success; and as a poet recording in verse how he thinks things ought to be.

The poems in Arabian Satire reveal a plucky, headstrong, yet intensely socially committed figure—representative of the traditional Najdi ethos—who infuses his verse with proverbs, maxims, and words of wisdom expressed plainly and conversationally. Hmedan is accordingly quoted by historians of the Gulf region and in anthologies of popular sayings. This is the first full translation of this remarkable poet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479878062
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 12/01/2017
Series: Library of Arabic Literature Series , #49
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ḥmēdān al-Shwēʿir was an early eighteenth-century poet from the region of Najd in the Arabian Peninsula, in what is now Saudi Arabia.

Table of Contents

Letter from the General Editor iii

Introduction ix

Map: Northeastern Arabia xxxv

Map: Central Najd around Sudayr and al-Washm xxxvi

Note on the Text xxxvii

Notes to the Introduction xli

Arabian Satire 1

1 My temples flecked with gray 2

2 Mjalli, listen to me, this eloquent graybeard 6

3 I saw two rutting camels in al-Arid 8

4 When man comes to be judged by his Lord 10

5 I swear to God, it was Mnif who said to me 14

6 Water from the pools of war is brackish 16

7 To look for kind favors from misers 18

8 Mani', say this prayer for my guest 22

9 I spend the evening working at the well 24

10 Even wise men achieve at best half of their goals 26

11 A sudden shock upset me, deprived me 30

12 Listen to my verses of wise counsel, in such high demand 34

13 One man enjoys a life of ease and comfort 38

14 These are the words of a learned and discerning poet 40

15 Once, I came down from the stony heights 46

16 These are the words of an old man who watched the years roll by 50

17 Mani' sits on his rooftop and plays horseman 56

18 These are the words of Hmedan the poet 60

19 Our plowmen labored in the fields 64

20 The urge to speak in verse burst forth 74

21 Wealth elevates the children of the vulgar herd 80

22 No use praying for the return of the days 88

23 If a dumb ox comes asking for your daughter's hand 96

24 Prosperity sparkles like a heady wine 98

25 Yesterday at the well Khalifah accosted me 102

26 Listen carefully, my boy, to this wise old man 104

27 I swear by God and by all that is holy 108

28 Time is pregnant, events are its midwife 110

29 Ibn Nhet, listen carefully to these polished verses 118

30 These are the words of an old graybcard 122

31 Smart fellows, heed this piece of advice 128

32 This is the faith that is as clear 130

33 If you head for al-Qasab you'll find me to its south 132

34 Things are simple and easy at the start 134

Notes 137

Glossary 154

Bibliography 166

Further Reading 170

Index of Poems, Editions, and Manuscripts Used for this Edition 171

Index 180

About the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute 199

About the Typefaces 200

Titles Published by the Library of Arabic Literature 201

About the Editor-Translator 204

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