Adonis Diaries

The poet with the long curly hair

Posted on: July 28, 2016

“The man with the long curly hair”:

Fragments of Abu NuwassPoems  from the Abbasid period in Baghdad (February 12, 2009)

Note:  I am attempting to convey the style and position of the great Arab poet Abu Nawass.  The translation is not literal and I am selecting fragments in specific genres.

Ascetics  (Abu Nawass was frequently drunk and is now witnessing his physical disintegration after 50)

It is true O God: Great is my villainy.  Your clemency, I know, is infinite.

If the virtuous only dares keep hope.

Then, who the sinner is to appeal to?

Whom the sinner is to believe in?

In humility I implore you my Lord.  Don’t reject me! Only you can have pity.

You are the clement and forgiving.  Finally and besides, I am a Moslem.

My God, you have always been good to me.  My gratitude is little adequate.

Do I have to present my flat excuses?  My excuse is that I have none.

Nullity crawls in me; my members are dying one at a time. Every moment takes its share.

My youth has fled and didn’t deign to listen.

What have I done with my tender youth?

My youth was dedicated to pleasure, every day and every night.

All possible mischief I have committed.

Forgive me God; I hear you and I tremble.

The full moon is just a dim glow compared to your majestic Face.

I carry on my front the indelible mark of prostrations that might pass me a devout.

Oh, how many noble figures are entombed and as many refined beauties.

How many brave are buried and as many great minds.

Let a rational man interrogate Earth. 

We have taken all Earth’s alleys, highways, and passes.

Earth is our enemy disguised as friend.

Satires

(The Caliph Al Amine is pederast and wanted to honor Abu Nawass’s young son Mussa.  The satirized personalities were the poet’s benefactors and he joined their merriments)

The Caliph is losing his way.  It is the Caliph fault.

His ignorant vizier Fadl and his naïve counsellor Bakr are to be blamed.

The Caliph Al Amine is a pederast.  He loves young eunuchs.

The Caliph is the active actor: How wonderful!

His vizier is the passive one.

The compromises of these two are splattering all the neighborhood.

Like a pissing camel.

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