Abu Nuwas Respects his
Abu Nuwas had many minions, but in his youth he was a minion too. His greatest lover was a man he sought out for his talent, a poet of renown by the name of Waliba bin al-Houbab. Abu-l Chammakh, the kadi [judge] of Basrah, was a frequent witness to their friendship. This is how he tells it:
I was always running into Abu Nuwas at Walibas. He was a handsome young man, with a charming face, and I confess I was quite taken with him. One day I dropped in on Waliba and I revealed to him my feelings: By Allah, I would dearly love to spend some time together with your boy. Have you no shame? the poet replied. That lad is mine alone! That may well be, but that's still how I feel. Fine then, you just wait a little while, he won't be long in coming.
Soon enough Abu Nuwas made his appearance, and Waliba, without any ado, opened his big mouth: Abu-l Chammakh has the hots for you. The young man, smiling, looked at me and spoke: May I become your ransom! You would have me turn to you the loyalty that a wife owes her husband, you whose decisions are so admired by all the Moslem brothers who make their way to your courthouse. Misfortune upon your head, O Waliba! I replied to my host. Watch yourself with this young man. If he survives he will surely become a master of cunning.
Retold after the French version of Ahmad al-Tifashis The Delights of Hearts, tr. Rene Khawam.
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