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glories, "love of freedom, independence in thought and action,
truthfulness, largeness of heart, generosity, and hospitality." His
descriptions breathe the freshness of his outdoor life and bring us
close to nature: his whole tone rings out a solemn note, which is even
in his lighter moments grave and serious, - as existence itself was for
those sons of the desert, who had no settled habitation, and who, more
than any one, depended upon the bounty of Allah. Although these Kasídahs
passed rapidly from mouth to mouth, little would have been preserved for
us had there not been a class of men who, led on some by desire, some by
necessity, made it their business to write down the compositions, and to
keep fresh in their memory the very pronunciation of each word. Every
poet had such a Ráwiah. Of one Hammád it is said that he could recite
one hundred Kasídahs rhyming on each letter of the alphabet, each
Kasídah having at least one hundred verses. Abu Tammám (805), the author
of the 'Hamásah,' is reported to have known by heart fourteen thousand
pieces of the metre rájaz. It was not, however, until the end of the
first century of the Híjrah that systematic collections of this older
literature were commenced.

It was this very Hammád (died 777) who put together seven of the
choicest poems of the early Arabs. He called them 'Mu 'allakât,' - "the
hung up" (in a place of honor, in the estimation of the people). The
authors of these seven poems were: Imr-al-Kais, Tárafa, Zuhéir, Labîd
(570), 'Antara, 'Amr, and al-Hárith. The common verdict of their
countrymen has praised the choice made by Hammád. The seven remained the
great models, to which later poets aspired: in description of love,
those of Imr-al-Kais and 'Antara; in that of the camel and the horse,
Labîd; of battle, 'Amr; in the praise of arms, Hárith; in wise maxims,
Zuhéir. To these must be added al-Nabighah, 'Alkamah, Urwa ibn al-Ward,
Hássan ibn Thábit, al-A'sha, Aus ibn Hájar, and as-Shánfarah, whose
poem has been called "the most magnificent of old Arabic poems." In
addition to the single poems found in the 'Mu 'allakât' and elsewhere,
nearly all of these composed whole series of poems, which were at a
later time put in the form of collections and called 'Diwans.' Some of
these poets have left us as many as four hundred verses. Such
collections were made by grammarians and antiquarians of a later age. In
addition to the collections made around the name of a single poet,
others were made, fashioned upon a different principle: The
'Mufáddaliyát' (the most excellent poems), put together by al-Mufáddal
(761); the 'Diwan' of the poets of the tribe of Hudhéil; the 'Hamásah'
(Bravery; so called from the subject of the first of the ten books into
which the collection is divided) of Abu Tammám. The best anthology of
these poems is 'The Great Book of Songs,' put together by Abu al-Fáraj
al-Ispa-háni (died 967).

With these poets Arabic literature reached its highest development. They
are the true expression of the free Arabic spirit. Most of them lived
before or during the time of the appearance of Muhammad. His coming
produced a great change in the life of the simple Bedouins. Though they
could not be called heathen, their religion expressed itself in the
simple feeling of dependence upon higher powers, without attempting to
bring this faith into a close connection with their daily life. Muhammad
introduced a system into which he tried to mold all things. He wished to
unite the scattered tribes to one only purpose. He was thus cutting away
that untrammeled spirit and that free life which had been the making of
Arabic poetry. He knew this well. He knew also the power the poets had
over the people. His own 'Qur'an' (Koran) was but a poor substitute for
the elegant verses of his opponents. "Imr-al-Kais," he said, "is the
finest of all poets, and their leader into everlasting fire." On another
occasion he is reported to have called out, "Verily, a belly full of
matter is better than a belly full of poetry." Even when citing verses,
he quoted them in such a manner as to destroy the metre. Abu Bekr very
properly remarked, "Truly God said in the 'Qur'an,' 'We have not taught
him poetry, and it suits him not.'" In thus decrying the poets of
"barbarism," and in setting up the 'Qur'an' as the greatest production
of Arabic genius, Muhammad was turning the national poetry to its
decline. Happily his immediate successors were unable or unwilling to
follow him strictly. Ali himself, his son-in-law, is said to have been a
poet; nor did the Umáyyid Caliphs of Damascus, "very heathens in their
carnal part," bring the new spirit to its full bloom, as did the
Abbassides of Bagdad.

And yet the old spirit was gradually losing ground. The consolidation of
the empire brought greater security; the riches of Persia and Syria
produced new types of men. The centre of Arab life was now in the city,
with all its trammels, its forced politeness, its herding together. The
simplicity which characterized the early caliphs was going; in its place
was come a court, - court life, court manners, court poets. The love of
poetry was still there; but the poet of the tent had become the poet of
the house and the palace. Like those troubadours who had become
jongleurs, they lived upon the crumbs which fell from the table of
princes. Such crumbs were often not to be despised. Many a time and oft
the bard tuned his lyre merely for the price of his services. We know
that he was richly rewarded. Harún gave a dress worth four hundred
thousand pieces of gold to Já'far ibn Yahya; at his death, Ibn 'Ubeid
al-Buchtarí (865) left one hundred complete suits of dress, two hundred
shirts, and five hundred turbans - all of which had been given him for
his poems. The freshness of olden times was fading little by little; the
earnestness of the Bedouin poet was making way for a lightness of heart.
In this intermediate period, few were born so happily, and yet so imbued
with the new spirit, as was 'Umar ibn 'Rabí'a (644), "the man of
pleasure as well as the man of literature." Of rich parentage, gifted
with a love of song which moved him to speak in verses, he was able to
keep himself far from both prince and palace. He was of the family of
Kureísh, in whose Muhammad all the glories of Arabia had centred, with
one exception, - the gift of poetry. And now "this Don Juan of Mecca,
this Ovid of Arabia," was to wipe away that stain. He was the Arabian
Minnesinger, whom Friedrich Rückert called "the greatest love-poet the
Arabs have produced." A man of the city, the desert had no attractions
for him. But he sang of love as he made love, - with utter disregard of
holy place or high station, in an erotic strain strange to the stern
Umáyyids. No wonder they warned their children against reading his
compositions. "The greatest sin committed against Allah are the poems of
'Umar ibn Rabí'a," they said.

With the rise of the Abbassides (750), that "God-favored dynasty,"
Arabic literature entered upon its second great development; a
development which may be distinguished from that of the Umáyyids (which
was Arabian) as, in very truth, Muhammadan. With Bagdad as the capital,
it was rather the non-Arabic Persians who held aloft the torch than the
Arabs descended from Kuréish. It was a bold move, this attempt to weld
the old Persian civilization with the new Muhammadan. Yet so great was
the power of the new faith that it succeeded. The Barmecide major-domo
ably seconded his Abbasside master; the glory of both rests upon the
interest they took in art, literature, and science. The Arab came in
contact with a new world. Under Mansúr (754), Harun al-Rashid (786), and
Ma'mún (813), the wisdom of the Greeks in philosophy and science, the
charms of Persia and India in wit and satire, were opened up to
enlightened eyes. Upon all of these, whatever their nationality, Islam
had imposed the Arab tongue, pride in the faith and in its early
history. 'Qur'an' exegesis, philosophy, law, history, and science were
cultivated under the very eyes and at the bidding of the Palace. And, at
least for several centuries, Europe was indebted to the culture of
Bagdad for what it knew of mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy.

The Arab muse profited with the rest of this revival. History and
philosophy, as a study, demanded a close acquaintance with the products
of early Arab genius. The great philologian al-Asmái (740-831) collected
the songs and tales of the heroic age; and a little later, with other
than philological ends in view, Abu Tammám and al-Búchturí (816-913)
made the first anthologies of the old Arabic literatures ('Hamásah').
Poetry was already cultivated: and amid the hundreds of wits, poets, and
singers who thronged the entrance to the court, there are many who claim
real poetic genius. Among them are al-Ahtal (died 713), a Christian;
'Umar ibn Rabí'a (died 728), Jarír al-Farázdak (died 728), and Muslim
ibn al-Walíd (died 828). But it is rather the Persian spirit which
rules, - the spirit of the Shahnámeh and Firdaúsi, - "charming elegance,
servile court flattery, and graceful wit." In none are the
characteristics so manifest as in Abu Núwas (762-819), the Poet Laureate
of Harun, the Imr-al-Kais of his time. His themes are wine and love.
Everything else he casts to the wind; and like his modern counterpart,
Heine, he drives the wit of his satire deep into the holiest feelings of
his people. "I would that all which Religion and Law forbids were
permitted me; and if I had only two years to live, that God would change
me into a dog at the Temple in Mecca, so that I might bite every pilgrim
in the leg," he is reported to have said. When he himself did once make
the required pilgrimage, he did so in order to carry his loves up to the
very walls of the sacred house. "Jovial, adventure-loving,
devil-may-care," irreligious in all he did, yet neither the Khalif nor
the whole Muhammadan world were incensed. In spite of all, they petted
him and pronounced his wine-songs the finest ever written; full of
thought and replete with pictures, rich in language and true to every
touch of nature. "There are no poems on wine equal to my own, and to my
amatory compositions all others must yield," he himself has said. He was
poor and had to live by his talents. But wherever he went he was richly
rewarded. He was content only to be able to live in shameless revelry
and to sing. As he lived, so he died, - in a half-drunken group, cut to
pieces by those who thought themselves offended by his lampoons.

At the other end of the Muslim world, the star of the Umáyyids, which
had set at Damascus, rose again at Cordova. The union of two
civilizations - Indo-Germanic and Semitic - was as advantageous in the
West as in the East. The influence of the spirit of learning which
reigned at Bagdad reached over to Spain, and the two dynasties vied with
each other in the patronage of all that was beautiful in literature and
learned in science. Poetry was cultivated and poets cherished with a
like regard: the Spanish innate love of the Muse joined hands with that
of the Arabic. It was the same kind of poetry in Umáyyid Spain as in
Abbasside Bagdad: poetry of the city and of the palace. But another
element was added here, - the Western love for the softer beauties of
nature, and for their expression in finely worked out mosaics and in
graceful descriptions. It is this that brings the Spanish-Arabic poetry
nearer to us than the more splendid and glittering verses of the
Abbassides, or the cruder and less polished lines of the first
Muhammadans. The amount of poetry thus composed in Arab Spain may be
gauged by the fact that an anthology made during the first half of the
tenth century, by Ibn Fáraj, contained twenty thousand verses. Cordova
under 'Abd-al-Rahmán III. and Hákim II. was the counterpart of Bagdad
under Harun. "The most learned prince that ever lived," Hákim was so
renowned a patron of literature that learned men wandered to him from
all over the Arab Empire. He collected a library of four hundred
thousand volumes, which had been gathered together by his agents in
Egypt, Syria, and Persia: the catalogue of which filled forty-four
volumes. In Cordova he founded a university and twenty-seven free
schools. What wonder that all the sciences - Tradition, Theology,
Jurisprudence, and especially History and Geography - flourished during
his reign. Of the poets of this period there may be mentioned: Sa'íd ibn
Júdi - the pattern of the Knight of those days, the poet loved of women;
Yáhyah ibn Hakam, "the gazelle"; Ahmad ibn 'Abd Rabbíh, the author of a
commonplace book; Ibn Abdún of Badjiz, Ibn Hafájah of Xucar, Ibn Sa'íd
of Granada. Kings added a new jewel to their crown, and took an honored
place among the bards; as 'Abd al-Rahmán I., and Mu'tamid (died 1095),
the last King of Seville, whose unfortunate life he himself has pictured
in most beautiful elegies. Although the short revival under the
Almohades (1184-1198) produced such men as Ibn Roshd, the commentator on
Aristotle, and Ibn Toféil, who wrote the first 'Robinson Crusoe' story,
the sun was already setting. When Ferdinand burned the books which had
been so laboriously collected, the dying flame of Arab culture in
Spain went out.

During the third period - from Ma'mún (813), under whom the Turkish
body-guards began to wield their baneful influence, until the break-up
of the Abbasside Empire in 1258 - there are many names, but few real
poets, to be mentioned. The Arab spirit had spent itself, and the Mogul
cloud was on the horizon. There were 'Abd-allah ibn al-Mu'tazz, died
908; Abu Firás, died 967; al-Tughrai, died 1120; al-Busíri, died
1279, - author of the 'Búrda,' poem in praise of Muhammad: but
al-Mutanábbi, died 965, alone deserves special mention. The
"Prophet-pretender" - for such his name signifies - has been called by Von
Hammer "the greatest Arabian poet"; and there is no doubt that his
'Diwán,' with its two hundred and eighty-nine poems, was and is widely
read in the East. But it is only a depraved taste that can prefer such
an epigene to the fresh desert-music of Imr-al-Kais. Panegyrics, songs
of war and of bloodshed, are mostly the themes that he dilates upon. He
was in the service of Saif al-Dáulah of Syria, and sang his victories
over the Byzantine Kaiser. He is the true type of the prince's poet.
Withal, the taste for poetic composition grew, though it produced a
smaller number of great poets. But it also usurped for itself fields
which belong to entirely different literary forms. Grammar,
lexicography, philosophy, and theology were expounded in verse; but the
verse was formal, stiff, and unnatural. Poetic composition became a
_tour de force_.

This is nowhere better seen than in that species of composition which
appeared for the first time in the eleventh century, and which so
pleased and charmed a degenerate age as to make of the 'Makamat' the
most favorite reading. Ahmad Abu Fadl al-Hamadhání, "the wonder of all
time" (died 1007), composed the first of such "sessions." Of his four
hundred only a few have come down to our time. Abu Muhammad al-Hariri
(1030-1121), of Bâsra, is certainly the one who made this species of
literature popular; he has been closely imitated in Hebrew by Charízi
(1218), and in Syriac by Ebed Yéshu (1290). "Makámah" means the place
where one stands, where assemblies are held; then, the discourses
delivered, or conversations held in such an assembly. The word is used
here especially to denote a series of "discourses and conversations
composed in a highly finished and ornamental style, and solely for the
purpose of exhibiting various kinds of eloquence, and exemplifying the
rules of grammar, rhetoric, and poetry." Hariri himself speaks of -

"These 'Makamat,' which contain serious language and lightsome,
And combine refinement with dignity of style,
And brilliancies with jewels of eloquence,
And beauties of literature with its rarities,
Besides quotations from the 'Qur'an,' wherewith I adorned them,
And choice metaphors, and Arab proverbs that I interspersed,
And literary elegancies, and grammatical riddles,
And decisions upon ambiguous legal questions,
And original improvisations, and highly wrought orations,
And plaintive discourses, as well as jocose witticisms."

The design is thus purely literary. The fifty "sessions" of Hariri,
which are written in rhymed prose interspersed with poetry, contain
oratorical, poetical, moral, encomiastic, and satirical discourses,
which only the merest thread holds together. Each Makámah is a unit, and
has no necessary connection with that which follows. The thread which so
loosely binds them together is the delineation of the character of Abu
Zeid, the hero, in his own words. He is one of those wandering minstrels
and happy improvisers whom the favor of princes had turned into
poetizing beggars. In each Makámah is related some ruse, by means of
which Abu Zeid, because of his wonderful gift of speech, either
persuades or forces those whom he meets to pay for his sustenance, and
furnish the means for his debauches. Not the least of those thus
ensnared is his great admirer, Háreth ibn Hammám, the narrator of the
whole, who is none other than Hariri. Wearied at last with his life of
travel, debauch, and deception, Abu Zeid retires to his native city and
becomes an ascetic, thus to atone in a measure for his past sins. The
whole might be called, not improperly, a tale, a novel. But the
intention of the poet is to show forth the richness and variety of the
Arabic language; and his own power over this great mass brings the
descriptive - one might almost say the lexicographic - side too much to
the front. A poem that can be read either backward or forward, or which
contains all the words in the language beginning with a certain letter,
may be a wonderful mosaic, but is nothing more. The merit of Hariri lies
just in this: that working in such cramped quarters, with such intent
and design continually guiding his pen, he has often really done more.
He has produced rhymed prose and verses which are certainly elegant in
diction and elevated in tone.

Such tales as these, told as an exercise of linguistic gymnastics, must
not blind us to the presence of real tales, told for their own sake.
Arabic literature has been very prolific in these. They lightened the
graver subjects discussed in the tent, - philosophy, religion, and
grammar, - and they furnished entertainment for the more boisterous
assemblies in the coffee-houses and around the bowl. For the Arab is an
inveterate story-teller; and in nearly all the prose that he writes,
this character of the "teller" shimmers clearly through the work of the
"writer." He is an elegant narrator. Not only does he intersperse verses
and lines more frequently than our own taste would license: by nature,
he easily falls into the half-hearted poetry of rhymed prose, for which
the rich assonances of his language predispose. His own learning was
further cultivated by his early contact with Persian literature; through
which the fable and the wisdom of India spoken from the mouths of dumb
animals reached him. In this more frivolous form of inculcating wisdom,
the Prophet scented danger to his strait-laced demands: "men who bring
sportive legends, to lead astray from God's path without knowledge and
to make a jest of it; for such is shameful woe," is written in the
thirty-first Surah. In vain; for in hours of relaxation, such works as
the 'Fables of Bidpai' (translated from the Persian in 750 by 'Abd Allah
ibn Mukáffah), the 'Ten Viziers,' the 'Seven Wise Masters,' etc., proved
to be food too palatable. Nor were the Arabs wanting in their own
peculiar 'Romances,' influenced only in some portions of the setting by
Persian ideas. Such were the 'Story of Saif ibn dhi Yázan,' the 'Tale of
al-Zir,' the 'Romance of Dálhmah,' and especially the 'Romance of Antar'
and the 'Thousand Nights and A Night.' The last two romances are
excellent commentaries on Arab life, at its dawn and at its fullness,
among the roving chiefs of the desert and the homes of revelry in
Bagdad. As the rough-hewn poetry of Imr-al-Kais and Zuhéir is a clearer
exponent of the real Arab mind, roving at its own suggestion, than the
more perfect and softer lines of a Mutanábbi, so is the 'Romance of
Antar' the full expression of real Arab hero-worship. And even in the
cities of the Orient to-day, the loungers in their cups can never weary
of following the exploits of this black son of the desert, who in his
person unites the great virtues of his people, magnanimity and bravery,
with the gift of poetic speech. Its tone is elevated; its coarseness has
as its origin the outspokenness of unvarnished man; it does not peep
through the thin veneer of licentious suggestiveness. It is never
trivial, even in its long and wearisome descriptions, in its
ever-recurring outbursts of love. Its language suits its thought: choice
and educated, and not descending - as in the 'Nights' - to the common
expressions of ordinary speech. In this it resembles the 'Makamat' of
Hariri, though much less artificial and more enjoyable. It is the Arabic
romance of chivalry, and may not have been without influence on the
spread of the romance of mediæval Europe. For though its central figure
is a hero of pre-Islamic times, it was put together by the learned
philologian, al-'Asmái, in the days of Harun the Just, at the time when
Charlemagne was ruling in Europe.

There exist in Arabic literature very few romances of the length of
'Antar.' Though the Arab delights to hear and to recount tales, his
tales are generally short and pithy. It is in this shorter form that he
delights to inculcate principles of morality and norms of character. He
is most adroit at repartee and at pungent replies. He has a way of
stating principles which delights while it instructs. The anecdote is at
home in the East: many a favor is gained, many a punishment averted, by
a quick answer and a felicitously turned expression. Such anecdotes
exist as popular traditions in very large numbers; and he receives much
consideration whose mind is well stocked with them. Collections of
anecdotes have been put to writing from time to time. Those dealing with
the early history of the caliphate are among the best prose that the
Arabs have produced. For pure prose was never greatly cultivated. The
literature dealing with their own history, or with the geography and
culture of the nations with which they came in contact, is very large,
and as a record of facts is most important. Ibn Hishám (died 767),
Wákidi (died 822), Tabari (838-923), Masudi (died 957), Ibn Athír (died
1233), Ibn Khaldún (died 1406), Makrisi (died 1442), Suyúti (died 1505),
and Makkári (died 1631), are only a few of those who have given us large
and comprehensive histories. Al-Birúni (died 1038), writer,
mathematician, and traveler, has left us an account of the India of his
day which has earned for him the title "Herodotus of India," though for
careful observation and faithful presentation he stands far above the
writer with whose name he is adorned. But nearly all of these historical
writers are mere chronologists, dry and wearisome to the general reader.
It is only in the Preface, or 'Exordium,' often the most elaborate part
of the whole book viewed from a rhetorical standpoint, that they attempt
to rise above mere incidents and strive after literary form. Besides the
regard in which anecdotes are held, it is considered a mark of education
to insert in one's speech as often as possible a familiar saying, a
proverb, a _bon mot_. These are largely used in the moral addresses
(Khútbah) made in the mosque or elsewhere, addresses which take on also
the form of rhymed prose. A famous collection of such sayings is
attributed to 'Ali, the fourth successor of Muhammad. In these the whole
power of the Arab for subtle distinctions in matters of wordly wisdom,
and the truly religious feeling of the East, are clearly manifested.

The propensity of the Arab mind for the tale and the anecdote has had a
wider influence in shaping the religious and legal development, of
Muhammadanism than would appear at first sight. The 'Qur'an' might well
suffice as a directive code for a small body of men whose daily life was
simple, and whose organization was of the crudest kind. But even
Muhammad in his own later days was called on to supplement the written
word by the spoken, to interpret such parts of his "book" as were

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