The Poem Of Tarafa

v. 6. The Bedouins feed their camels with the leaves of the erak-tree.

vv. 8, 9. Lane, n his "Modern Egyptians," describing the composition of the black powder, called kohl, with which ladies of Cairo paint the edge of their eyelids, both above and below the eye, mentions the powder of various kinds of lead-ore (kohl el-hagar) as being employed for this purpose. He also states that "some women, to make their teeth glisten, tattoo their lips." It would appear from these verses that the Arab women in like manner employed a preparation of lead-ore in order to render their teeth more sparkling by contrast with their "dark-coloured bases."

Arabian Poetry: Extracts From The Lay of the Himyarites: Notes on the Poem of Tarafa v. 30. El-Yemen was famous for the production of red leather.

v. 41. This verse resembles a couplet in the song of Beshameh son of Hazn of Nahshal, thus rendered by Mr Lyall in his "Songs from the Hamaseh and Aghani:"

If there should be among a thousand but one of us, and men should call—"Ho! a knight!" he would think that they meant him.

'Tis mine, whene'er the tribes to glory call,

In deeds of daring to outstrip them all.

High waves the lash above my camel's head;

Though sultry vapours o'er the mountains spread,

Onward she rushes, and her flowing tail

Floats, like the dancer's garment, on the gale.

Me you will find, or at the council board,

Or where the taverns maddening draughts afford:

Come in the morning, and I'll give a bowl

Shall warm the prudence of thy chilly soul.

Come to the council of our tribe, and see

Its brightest honours showered down on me:

But, above all, come join the merry ring

Where gay youths laugh and blooming maidens sing.—R•.

vv. 48-51. The singing-girls who sang at the drinking-parties of the ancient Arabs were Greeks, Syrians, or Persians. Until after El-Islam the Arabs, though masters of rhythm and metre, had no indigenous system of singing except the rude song (originally of the camel-driver) called rajez. These girls probably sang for the most part in their own tongue, and played the music which they had learned in Persian 'Irak or Syria; but in the life of En-Nabigha of Dubyan, as given in the Aghani (ix. 164), a singing girl of Yethrib (afterwards El-Madina) is mentioned, who sang one of that poet's pieces in Arabic, and so enabled him to detect a fault of prosody.—Lyall: Notes on vv. 60, 61, Lebld's Mo'all.

v. 49. In Lane's "Modern Egyptians," Ed. 1860, p. 378, is an illustration of two Ghawazee, or public dancing-girls of Cairo, in which the costume exactly corresponds with Tarafa's description of the singing-girls' vests.

v. 56. This sentiment of the old Arab poet finds a parallel in the following verse, from the Persian of Omar Khayyam:

What boots it to repeat

Arabian Poetry: Extracts From The Lay of the Himyarites: Notes on the Poem of Tarafa

How time is slipping underneath our feet? Unborn To-Morrow, and dead Yesterday— Why fret about them if To-Day be sweet?

"Poets of all ages," remarks Nott, in his 'I&StecaiPOdes of Hafiz," "and particularly those who were voluptuaries, urge the advice of making the best use of the presenfbioment. The carpe diem of Horace is a frequently-quoted maxim."

In a very different strain does a modern English poet endeavour to inculcate the lesson of life:

Know'st thou Yesterday, its aim and reason? Work'st thou well To-Day for worthy things? Then calmly wait the Morrow's hidden season, And fear not thou what hap soe'er it brings.

The great American, Longfellow, too, in[paragraph is beautiful prose-poems: "Look not mournfully into the Past: it comes not back continues]

again. Wisely improve the Present: it is thine. Go boldly forth into the shadowy Future, without fear, and with a manly heart."

v. 58. The Arabs, like the Greeks and the Romans, commonly drank their wine diluted with water; and only on extraordinary occasions drank the lighter kinds pure, and the more heavy wines mixed with a very little water. (See Mo'all. of Amru, v. 2. and Note.)

If Death be near me, let me quaff the bowl, That none to-morrow mourn a thirsty soul. The same dark mansions, by an equal fate, The noble spirit and the mean await; Their mother-Earth impartial seals their doom, And one broad stone protects their common tomb. Death, the all-conquering, seizes on the bold, His proudest prey—then claims the miser's gold. Though short my life, I've seen the age of man Dwindling, still dwindling, in its narrow span The camel-riders, when they loose the rein, With firmer grasp the slackened cord retain: So, though he spare them for a little space,

Arabian Poetry: Extracts From The Lay of the Himyarites: Notes on the Poem of Tarafa

Death holds dominion over all our race.

Let me then quaff the goblets while I live,

Nor die unconscious of the joys they give. —Ret. Rev.

vv. 64, 65. Thus Horace, in his well-known ode (Sir Theodore Martin's translation):

It recks not whether thou Be opulent and trace

Thy birth from Kings, or bear upon thy brow

Stamp of a beggar's race:

In rags or splendour, Death at thee alike,

That no compassion hath for aught of earth, will strike.

And our English poet Young:

What though we wade in wealth or soar in fame? Earth's highest station ends in "Here he lies!" And "dust to dust" concludes the noblest song.

And the Persian Sa'dl: "When the pure aisd^giMfess soul is about to depart, of what importance is it whether we continues]

expire upon a throne or upon the bare ground?"

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