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Love for a Camel

by zdog (Priest)
on Oct 26, 2000 at 09:11 UTC ( #38553=poem: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Okay!! Ya, ya. I know that this post has almost nothing to do with Perl. But I found this Arabic poem about a camel in my history book and I couldn't help it. :-)

THE ODE OF TARAFAH A young gazelle there is in the tribe, dark-lipped, fruit-shaking, flaunting a double necklace of pearls and topazes, holding aloof, with the herd grazing in the lush thicket, nibbling the tips of the arak-fruit, wrapped in her cloak. Her dark lips part in a smile, teeth like a comomile on a moist hillock shining amid the virgin sands, whitened as it were by the sun's rays, all but her gums that are smeared with colyrium -- she gnaws not against them; a face as though the sun had loosed his mantle upon it, pure of hue, with not a wrinkle to mar it. Ah, but when grief assails me, straightway I ride it off mounted on my swift, lean-flanked camel, night and day racing, sure-footed, like the planks of a litter; I urge her on down the bright highway, that back of a striped mantle; she vies with the noble, hot-paced she-camels, shank on shank nimbly plying, over a path many feet have beaten. Along the rough slopes with the milkless shes she has pastured in Spring, cropping the rich meadows green in the gentle rains; to the voice of the caller she returns, and stands on guard with her bunchy tail, scared of some ruddy, tuft-haired stallion, as though the wings of a white vulture enfolded the sides of her tail, pierced even to the bone by a pricking awl; anon she strikes with it behind the rear-rider, anon lashes her dry udders, withered like an old water-skin. Perfectly firm is the flesh of her two thighs-- they are the gates of a lofty, smooth-walled castle-- and tightly knit are her spine-bones, the ribs like bows, her underneck stuck with the well-strung vertebrae, fenced about by the twin dens of a wild lote-tree; you might say bows were bent under a buttressed spine. Widely spaced are her elbows, as if she strode carrying the two buckets of a sturdy water-carier; like the bridge of the Byzantine, whose builder swore it should be all encased in bricks to be raised up true. Reddish the bristles under her chin, very firm her back, broad the span of her swift legs, smooth her swinging gait; her legs are twined like rope untwisted; her forearms thrust slantwise up to the propped roof of her breast. Swiftly she rolls, her cranium huge, her shoulder-blades high-hoisted to frame her lofty, raised superstructure. The scores of her girths chafing her breast-ribs are water-courses furrowing a smooth rock in a rugged eminence, now meeting, anon parting, as though they were white gores marking distinctly a slit shirt. Her long neck is very erect when she lifts it up calling to mind the rudder of a Tigris-bound vessel. Her skull is most like an anvil, the junction of its two halves meeting together as it might be on the edge of a file. Her cheek is smooth as Syrian parchment, her split lip a tanned hide of Yemen, its slit not best crooked; her eyes are a pair of mirrors, sheltering in the caves of her brow-bones, the rock of a pool's hollow, ever expelling the white pus more-provoked, so they seem like the dark-rimmed eyes of a scared wild-cow with calf. Her ears are true, clearly detecting on the night journey the fearful rustle of a whisper, the high-pitched cry, sharp-tipped, her noble pedigree plain in them, pricked like the ears of a wild-cow of Haumal lone-pasturing. Her trepid heart pulses strongly, quick, yet firm as a pounding-rock set in the midst of a solid boulder. If you so wish, her head strains to the saddle's pommel and she swims with her forearms, fleet as a male ostrich, or if you wish her pace is slack, or swift to your fancy, fearing the curled whip fashioned of twisted hide. Slit is her upper lip, her nose bored and sensitive, delicate, when she sweeps the ground with it, faster she runs. Such is the beast I ride, when my companion cries "Would I might ransom you, and be ransomed, from yonder waste!" His soul fluttters within him fearfully, he supposing the blow fallen on him, though his path is no ambuscade. When the people demand, "Who's the hero?" I suppose myself intended, and am not sluggish, not dull of wit; I am at her with the whip, and my she-camel quickens pace what time the mirage of the burning stone-tract shimmers; elegantly she steps, as a slave-girl at a party will sway, showing her master skirts of a trailing white gown. I am not one that skulks fearfully among the hilltops, but when the folk seek my succour I gladly give it; if you look for me in the circle of the folk, you'll catch me. Come to me when you will, I'll pour you a flowing cup, and if you don't need it, well, do without and good luck to you! Whenever the tribe is assembled you'll come upon me at the summit of the noble House, the oft-frequented; my boon-companions are white as stars, and a singing-wench comes to us in her striped gown or her saffron robe, wide the opening of her collar, delicate her skin to my companions' fingers, tender her nakedness. When we say, "Let's hear from you," she advances to us chanting fluently, her glance languid, in effortless song."

BTW, there may be some formatting mistakes with the stanzas as far as where the line ends, but the actual text should be good.

Zenon Zabinski | zdog | zdog7@hotmail.com

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RE: Love for a Camel
by gaggio (Friar) on Oct 26, 2000 at 19:04 UTC
    I like it a lot.
    I think that it can be very well understood as the Perl Camel - it is the first time that I am thinking of it as a female, though, but it fits really well!

    e.g. in the first verse: Perl has lots of Jewels, that's right. A little later, Perl is a language which is perfectly firm on her two thighs (have a look at the Camel Lot6 talk slides on Larry's Website, when he shows the evolution of Perl in the programming languages world... pretty straight!).
    Etc., etc. There are so many "second degree" things that you can think of when reading that poem!

    Thanks!
RE: Love for a Camel (more information)
by neshura (Chaplain) on Oct 27, 2000 at 00:37 UTC
    The language on this poem is simply luscious (as is common in classical arabic literature). Is it allegory? :D
    I tend to think not, though I have difficulty accepting that level of interest in one's camel.

    For credit's sake, the author of this poem is Tarafah ibn al-'Abd. This poem, along with classical and modern literature selections, may also be found in the Arabic section of the Cornell library.

    e-mail neshura

      No :) first He describes the camel, but you should notice that later he start praising his beloved (his woman) this is typical in classic arabic poetry (about horse, camel etc), any arab will tell you that. Can you pinpoint the transition between the description of Tarfa camel and that of the girl he loves! he start describing his camel, but later his woman (the camel is his "vehicle" to reach his love, a beautiful woman.. which he lavish with a generous yet elocuent words... ) when he start talking about his women! The text is very rich, inmensly elocuent (to say the least) and in the original language it ryhime gracefully! PS: in the classical time, the start describing their journy: his feeling , his beast (horse or camel) but gently move to his love sometimes it needs a keen eye to se that transition.. and they do that for many reason. Great piece thank you
RE: Love for a Camel
by wombat (Curate) on Oct 27, 2000 at 18:58 UTC
    In a related vein :-) Camel quotes from scripture!
    If I can't talk about it here, where CAN I talk about it.

    Genesis 24:10 Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor.

    Genesis 24:19 After she had given him a drink she said, "I'll draw water for your camels too until they've finished drinking."

    Genesis 24:31 "Come you who are blesssed by the LORD," he said "Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels."

    Genesis 24:63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.

    Leviticus 11:4 There are some that only chew the cud or have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof. It is ceremonially unclean for you.

    1st Chronicles 27:30 Obil the Ishmaelite was in charge of the camels. Jehdeiah the Meronothoite was in charge of the donkeys.

    2nd Chronicles 11:45 They also attacked the camps of the herdsmen and carried off droves of sheep and goats and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.

    Job 1:3 ...and he owned 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys, and had a large number of servents. He was the greatest man among all people of the east.

    ~W
      That Job 1:3 guy.. He must own a library with that many O'Reilly books...

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