Al-Mutanabbi : voice of the 'Abbasid poetic ideal by Margaret Larkin

By Margaret Larkin

"Abu'l-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi (915-965) is frequently considered as the best of the classical Arab poets, together with his paintings occupying a different place on the middle of Arab tradition. Born the son of a water-carrier in Kufah, Iraq, al-Mutanabbi lived a tumultuous lif.

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This is made possible because in Arabic poetry the beloved, whether female or male, may be referred to by grammatical terms that are masculine in gender. The beloved’s companions, travelling with her in the dark, have no need for the moon, so brilliant is her light. The transition between the two is accomplished by applying terms more properly part of one world to the other. , 377), the phrase “the dust of the horses” is plucked from its usual environment – the description of battle scenes – and applied to the concluding frame of the beloved’s departure.

The great irony is that, according to some sources, at this point in his life he was barely able to mount a horse or assemble his weaponry. A child prodigy, he probably expected the world to throw open its arms to him, which is hardly what happened. qxd 9/14/2007 1:57 PM Page 23 GROWING PAINS 23 teenager, though there are a few pieces that are almost refreshingly adolescent. Warned by concerned friends that he should stick to praising great men and leave off the tirades, al-Mutanabbi, like a typical rebellious teenager, responded with increasingly bold expressions of defiance: So leave me my sword, my steed and my supple lance, as if we were one, to confront men [in battle] – then watch what I will do!

Qxd 9/14/2007 1:57 PM Page 44 44 AL-MUTANABBI joined his new patron in Aleppo and there recited to him an elegy on the latter’s recently deceased mother. ”), al-Mutanabbi puts the vocabulary of love poetry to work in a new environment. In the earlier poem, this enabled alMutanabbi to inject emotional power into the formal and predictable panegyric ode and exaggerate the psychological importance of Sayf al-Dawlah and the poet’s devotion to him. The poet emphasizes the finality and completeness of the separation from the beloved woman in verses that resonate with the traditional amatory prelude of an ode, which, in keeping with poetic custom, is technically absent from this elegiac poem.

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