Friday, 8 June 2018

The Lament of Maisun, the Bedouin wife of Mu‘āwiya - Maysun bint Bahdal

I give thee all the treacherous brightness
Of glittering robes which grace the fair,
Then give me back my young heart's lightness
And simple vest of Camel's hair.
The tent on which free winds are beating
Is dearer to the Desert's child
Than Palaces and kingly greeting?
O bear me to my desert wild!

More dear than swift mulo softly treading,
While gentlest hands his speed control,
Are camels rough their lone way threading
Where caravans through deserts roll.

On couch of silken ease reclining
I watch the kitten's sportive play,
But feel the while my young heart pining
For desert guests and watch-dog's bay.

The frugal desert's banquet slender,
The simple crust which tents afford,
Are dearer than the courtly splendour
And sweets which grace a monarch's board.

And dearer far the voices pealing
From winds which sweep the desert round
Than Pomp and Power their pride revealing
In noisy timbrel's measur'd sound.

Then bear me far from kingly dwelling,
From Luxury's cold and pamper'd child,
To seek a heart with freedom swelling,
A kindred heart in deserts wild.

Maysun bint Bahdal (8th century) Syria
Translated by H. W. Freeland and Faris Shidiak
Source: H. W. Freeland, 'Gleanings from the Arabic. The Lament of Maisun, the Bedouin Wife of Muâwiya', in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, Vol XVIII, Cambridge University Press, 1886.

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