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Abu Nuwas

Wa-Khaiymati Naturin

Many a vintner’s tent perches on so steep a crag,

climbers fear to lose their grip.

Struck aslant by the sun it casts long shadows; struck from above,

it beckons the traveler in.

Here have we set our bags down, routed by the dog day heat,

flaming on without a wick.                      

The sun tarried a while, then yielded to the shade

of a poor thatched roof.

Stretched out on the rough, as if hard up against an ostrich’s breast

too bristly for a nap,

There I milked the fresh milk of youthful passion

for my friends:

A chilled white wine, the essence

of the vines;

No sooner sipped, all worries beat a retreat

from a young man heart;

And once twilight yielded to night I gave in to youthful passion,

and found beauty and delight in ugly things.

I chatted with my darling, all reserve cast aside, and subdued this reluctant boy,

not given to excess.

He burst into song, my right arm pillowing his cheek:

“How often have I sought what cannot be attained!”

So I shot my love between that kind boy’s twin loins, and him my best friend

and honored guest.

I woke at dawn cursing drunkenness, though it had been generous to me…

how often has generosity burdened you?

Now I’m off to seek my fortune, be it as the Caliph’s mate and peer,

or as the terror of a country road,

With any youth whose heart does not flinch when two armies call out in the name of

one who has been killed:

Let us grab God’s tithe from every paunchy reprobate who gobbles up

the fat of the land!

Do you not see this tax stirs up my faith, and the donor left penniless

is no longer a miser?
(after Kennedy, p. 270)

Philip F. Kennedy, The Wine Song in
Classical Arabic Poetry,
Clarendon Press,
Oxford, 1997, p. 270.

Abu Nuwas

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