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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Caliph Omar Bin Abd Al-Aziz and the Poets
Arabic Literature
 
A Semi-Poetical Tale: Translation of Sir Richard Burton, in ‘Supplemental Nights to the Book of The Thousand Nights and A Night’

IT is said that when the Caliphate devolved on Omar bin Abd al-Aziz, (of whom Allah accept!) the poets resorted to him, as they had been used to resort to the Caliphs before him, and abode at his door days and days; but he suffered them not to enter till there came to him ’Adi bin Artah, who stood high in esteem with him. Jarir [another poet] accosted him, and begged him to crave admission for them to the presence; so ’Adi answered, “’Tis well,” and going in to Omar, said to him, “The poets are at thy door, and have been there days and days; yet hast thou not given them leave to enter, albeit their sayings abide, and their arrows from the mark never fly wide.” Quoth Omar, “What have I to do with the poets?” And quoth ’Adi, “O Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet (Abhak!) was praised by a poet, and gave him largesse—and in him is an exemplar to every Moslem.” Quoth Omar, “And who praised him?” And quoth ’Adi, “Abbás bin Mirdás praised him, and he clad him with a suit and said, ‘O Generosity! Cut off from me his tongue!’” Asked the Caliph, “Dost thou remember what he said?” And ’Adi answered, “Yes.” Rejoined Omar, “Then repeat it;” so ’Adi repeated:—
  “I saw thee, O thou best of the human race, | Bring out a book which brought to graceless, grace.
Thou showedst righteous road to men astray | From right, when darkest wrong had ta’en its place:—
Thou with Islâm didst light the gloomiest way, | Quenching with proof live coals of frowardness:
I own for Prophet, my Mohammed’s self, | and men’s award upon his word we base.
Thou madest straight the path that crooked ran | Where in old days foul growth o’ergrew its face.
Exalt be thou in Joy’s empyrean! | And Allah’s glory ever grow apace!”
  1
  “And indeed,” continued ’Adi, “this Elegy on the Prophet (Abhak!) is well known, and to comment on it would be tedious.”  2
  Quoth Omar, “Who [of the poets] is at the door?” And quoth ’Adi, “Among them is Omar ibn Rabí’ah, the Korashi;” whereupon the Caliph cried, “May Allah show him no favor, neither quicken him! Was it not he who spoke impiously [in praising his love]?—
  ‘Could I in my clay-bed [the grave] with Ialma repose, | There to me were better than Heaven or Hell!’
Had he not [continued the Caliph] been the enemy of Allah, he had wished for her in this world; so that he might, after, repent and return to righteous dealing. By Allah! he shall not come in to me! Who is at the door other than he?”
  3
  Quoth ’Adi, “Jamil bin Ma’mar al-Uzri is at the door.” And quoth Omar, “’Tis he who saith in one of his love-Elegies:—
  ‘Would Heaven, conjoint we lived! and if I die, | Death only grant me a grave within her grave!
For I’d no longer deign to live my life | If told, “Upon her head is laid the pave.”’
Quoth Omar, “Away with him from me! Who is at the door?” And quoth ’Adi, “Kutthayir ’Azzah”: whereupon Omar cried, “’Tis he who saith in one of his [impious] Odes:—
  ‘Some talk of faith and creed and nothing else, | And wait for pains of Hell in prayer-seat;
But did they hear what I from Azzah heard, | They’d make prostration, fearful, at her feet.’
Leave the mention of him. Who is at the door?” Quoth ’Adi, “Al-Ahwas al-Ansari.” Cried Omar, “Allah Almighty put him away, and estrange him from His mercy! Is it not he who said, berhyming on a Medinite’s slave girl, so that she might outlive her master:—
  Allah be judge betwixt me and her lord | Whoever flies with her—and I pursue.’
He shall not come in to me! Who is at the door other than he?” ’Adi replied, “Hammam bin Ghalib al-Farazdak.” And Omar said, “’Tis he who glories in wickedness…. He shall not come in to me! Who is at the door other than he?” ’Adi replied, “Al-Akhtal al-Taghlibi.” And Omar said, “He is the [godless] miscreant who saith in his singing:—
  ‘Ramazan I ne’er fasted in lifetime; nay | I ate flesh in public at undurn day!
Nor chid I the fair, save in word of love, | Nor seek Meccah’s plain in salvation-way:
Nor stand I praying, like rest, who cry, | “Hie salvation-wards!” at the dawn’s first ray….’
By Allah! he treadeth no carpet of mine. Who is at the door other than he?” Said ’Adi, “Jarir Ibn al-Khatafah.” And Omar cried, “’Tis he who saith:—
  ‘But for ill-spying glances, had our eyes espied | Eyes of the antelope, and ringlets of the Reems!
A Huntress of the eyes, by night-time came; and I | cried, “Turn in peace! No time for visit this, meseems.”’
But if it must be, and no help, admit Jarir.” So ’Adi went forth and admitted Jarir, who entered saying:—
  ‘Yea, He who sent Mohammed unto men | A just successor of Islâm assigned.
His ruth and his justice all mankind embrace | To daunt the bad and stablish well-designed.
Verily now, I look to present good, | for man hath ever transient weal in mind.’
  4
  Quoth Omar, “O Jarir! keep the fear of Allah before thine eyes, and say naught save the sooth.” And Jarir recited these couplets:—
  ‘How many widows loose the hair, in far Yamamah land, | How many an orphan there abides, feeble of voice and eye,
Since faredst thou, who wast to them instead of father lost | when they like nestled fledglings were, sans power to creep or fly.
And now we hope—since broke the clouds their word and troth with us— | Hope from the Caliph’s grace to gain a rain that ne’er shall dry.’
  5
  When the Caliph heard this, he said, “By Allah, O Jarir! Omar possesseth but an hundred dirhams. Ho boy! do thou give them to him!” Moreover, he gifted Jarir with the ornaments of his sword; and Jarir went forth to the other poets, who asked him, “What is behind thee?” [“What is thy news?”] and he answered, “A man who giveth to the poor, and who denieth the poets; and with him I am well pleased.”  6
 
 
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