THE KHALIF OMAR BEN ABDULAZIZ AND THE POETS. (41)

It is said that, when the Khalifate devolved on Omar ben Abdulaziz (42) (of whom God accept), the poets [of the time] resorted to him, as they had been used to resort to the Khalifs before him, and abode at his door days and days, but he gave them not leave to enter, till there came to Omar Adi ben Artah, (43) who stood high in esteem with him. Jerir (44) accosted him and begged him to crave admission for them [to the Khalif]. "It is well," answered Adi 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 are abiding (45) and their arrows go straight to the mark." Quoth Omar, "What have I to do with the poets?" And Adi answered, saying, "O Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) was praised [by a poet] and gave [him largesse,] and therein (46) is an exemplar to every Muslim." Quoth Omar, "And who praised him?" "Abbas ben Mirdas (47) praised him," replied Adi, "and he clad him with a suit and said, 'O Bilal, (48) cut off from me his tongue!'" "Dost thou remember what he said?" asked the Khalif; and Adi said, "Yes." "Then repeat it," rejoined Omar. So Adi recited the following verses:


          I saw thee, O thou best of all the human race, display A book that came to teach the Truth to those in error's way.
          Thou madest known to us therein the road of righteousness, When we had wandered from the Truth, what while in gloom it lay.
          A dark affair thou littest up with Islam and with proof Quenchedst the flaming red-coals of error and dismay.
          Mohammed, then, I do confess, God's chosen prophet is, And every man requited is for that which he doth say.
          The road of right thou hast made straight, that erst was crooked grown; Yea, for its path of old had fall'n to ruin and decay.
          Exalted mayst thou be above th' empyrean heaven of joy And may God's glory greater grow and more exalted aye!

"And indeed," continued Adi, "this ode on the Prophet (may God bless and keep him!) is well known and to comment it would be tedious." Quoth Omar, "Who is at the door?" "Among them is Omar ibn [Abi] Rebya the Cureishite," (49) answered Adi, and the Khalif said, "May God show him no favour neither quicken him! Was it not he who said ... ?" And he recited the following verses:


          Would God upon that bitterest day, when my death calls for me, What's 'twixt thine excrement and blood (50) I still may smell of thee!
          Yea, so but Selma in the dust my bedfellow may prove, Fair fall it thee! In heaven or hell I reck not if it be.

"Except," continued the Khalif, "he were the enemy of God, he had wished for her in this world, so 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?" Quoth Adi, "Jemil ben Mamer el Udhri (51) is at the door;" and Omar said, "It is he who says in one of his odes" ... [And he recited the following:]


          Would we may live together and when we come to die, God grant the death-sleep bring me within her tomb to lie!
          For if "Her grave above her is levelled" it be said, Of life and its continuance no jot indeed reck I.

"Away with him from me! Who is at the door?" "Kutheiyir Azzeh," (52) replied Adi, and Omar said, "It is he who says in one of his odes ... " [And he repeated the following verses:]


          Some with religion themselves concern and make it their business all; Sitting, (53) they weep for the pains of hell and still for mercy bawl!
          If they could hearken to Azzeh's speech, as I, I hearken to it, They straight would humble themselves to her and prone before her fall.

"Leave the mention of him. Who is at the door?" Quoth Adi, "El Akhwes el Ansari." (54) "God the Most High put him away and estrange him from His mercy!" cried Omar. "Is it not he who said, berhyming on a man of Medina his slave-girl, so she might outlive her master ... ?" [And he repeated the following line:]

God [judge] betwixt me and her lord! Away With her he flees me and I follow aye.

"He shall not come in to me. Who is at the door, other than he?" "Heman ben Ghalib el Ferezdec," (55) answered Adi; and Omar said, "It is he who saith, glorying in adultery ..." [And he repeated the following verses:]


          The two girls let me down from fourscore fathoms' height, As swoops a hawk, with wings all open in full flight;
          And when my feet trod earth, "Art slain, that we should fear," Quoth they, "or live, that we may hope again thy sight?"

"He shall not come in to me. Who is at the door, other than he?" "El Akhtel et Teghlibi," (56) answered Adi; and Omar said, "He is the unbeliever who says in his verse ..." [And he repeated the following:]


          Ramazan in my life ne'er I fasted, nor e'er Have I eaten of flesh, save in public (57) it were.
          No exhorter am I to abstain from the fair, Nor to love Mecca's vale for my profit I care;
          Nor, like others a little ere morning appear who bawl, "Come to safety!" (58) I stand up to prayer.
          Nay, at daybreak I drink of the wind-freshened wine And prostrate me (59) instead in the dawn-whitened air.

"By Allah, he treadeth no carpet of mine! Who is at the door other than he?" "Jerir ibn el Khetefa," answered Adi; and Omar said, "It is he who saith ... " [And he recited as follows:]


          But for the spying of the eyes [ill-omened,] we had seen Wild cattle's eyes and antelopes' tresses of sable sheen.
          The huntress of th' eyes (60) by night came to me. "Turn in peace," [Quoth I to her;] "This is no time for visiting, I ween."

"If it must be and no help, admit Jerir." So Adi went forth and admitted Jerir, who entered, saying:


          He, who Mohammed sent, as prophet to mankind, Hath to a just high-priest (61) the Khalifate assigned.
          His justice and his truth all creatures do embrace; The erring he corrects and those of wandering mind.
          I hope for present (62) good [and bounty at thy hand,] For souls of men are still to present (63) good inclined.

Quoth Omar, "O Jerir, keep the fear of God before thine eyes and say nought but the truth." And Jerir recited the following verses:


          How many, in Yemameh, (64) dishevelled widows plain! How many a weakling orphan unsuccoured doth remain,
          For whom is thy departure even as a father's loss! To fly or creep, like nestlings, alone, they strive in vain.
          Now that the clouds have broken their promise to our hope, We trust the Khalif's bounty will stand to us for rain. (65)

When the Khalif heard this, he said, "By Allah, O Jerir, Omar possesseth but a hundred dirhems." (66) [And he cried out to his servant, saying,] "Ho, boy! give them to him." Moreover, he gave him the ornaments of his sword; and Jerir went forth to the [other] poets, who said to him, "What is behind thee?" (67) And he answered, "A man who giveth to the poor and denieth the poets, and I am well-pleased with him." (68)




Prev
Home
Next