Seasonal Poetics: The Dry Season and Autumn Rains among Pre-Islamic Naǧdī and Ḥiǧāzī Tribes

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  • 1 University of Cambridge

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This article maps out the depiction among pre-Islamic tribes of two seasons, the August ḫarīf rains and the qayẓ dry season. References to the ḫarīf rain are found almost exclusively in southwestern Arabia, Yemen and the Ḥiǧāz. Tribes in these regions evidently began their seasonal migration in August, that is, earlier than tribes of central and northeastern Arabia (Naǧd), where migration began in October and November. The most conspicuous result of this difference is the development of two regional methods of depicting the ẓaʿn, or departure of the beloved’s caravan, in the classical qaṣīda (polythematic ode). Naǧdī tribes set this scene at the beginning of the summer dry season, while the Ḥiǧāzī Huḏayl set it in a rainy season. A sequence of poets within Tamīm developed an idiosyncratic set of vocabulary for developing the early-summer ẓaʿn, just as certain Huḏalī poets developed certain techniques to describe their rainy season ẓaʿn.

Cet article analyse la représentation dans les tribus préislamiques de deux saisons, les pluies d’août (ḫarīf) et la saison sèche (al-qayẓ). Les références à la pluie ḫarīf se trouvent presque exclusivement au sud-ouest de l’Arabie, au Yémen et dans le Ḥiǧāz. Les tribus de ces régions commençaient apparemment leur migration saisonnière en août, plus tôt que les tribus du centre et du nord-est de l’Arabie (Naǧd), où la migration commençait en octobre ou novembre. Le résultat le plus remarquable de cette différence est l’évolution de deux méthodes régionales de la représentation du ẓaʿn, le départ de la caravane de la bien-aimée, dans la qaṣīda classique (ode polythématique). Les tribus du Naǧd plantent le décor de cette scène au début de la saison sèche, tandis que la tribu ḥiǧāzienne Huḏayl la situe à la saison des pluies.

This article is in English.

  • 2

    Wagner, Grundzüge der klassischen arabischen Dichtung, p. 30-42. For a more up-to-date survey of views on pre-Islamic Arabic see Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 20142, p. 42-59. Peter Webb has recently strenuously argued that pre-Islamic linguistic unity was not matched by an ethnic identity: Imagining the Arabs: Arab Identity and the Rise of Islam, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

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  • 3

    Versteegh, The Arabic Language, p. 45-52.

  • 4

    Gustave E. von Grunebaum, “Abû Duʾâd Al-Iyâdî: Collection of Fragments,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 51 (1948), p. 83.

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  • 5

    Fred McGraw Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 7-20; Fred M. Donner, “The Role of Nomads in the Near East in Late Antiquity (400-800 CE),” in Tradition and Innovation in Late Antiquity, eds Frank M. Clover and R. Stephen Humphreys, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press (“Wisconsin studies in classics”), 1989, p. 73-85; Robert G. Hoyland, Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam, London, Routledge, 2001, p. 89.

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  • 6

    Daniel Martin Varisco, “The Rain Periods in Pre-Islamic Arabia,” Arabica, 34/2 (1987), p. 265-266.

  • 14

    Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, p. 51, 64, 65, 82.

  • 15

    Ibid., p. 51, 82.

  • 16

    Doughty, Arabia Deserta, i, p. 589 ff.; Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, p. 256.

  • 17

    Musil, Manners and Customs, p. 14, 17.

  • 19

    Doughty, Arabia Deserta, i, p. 489-491; Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, p. 34, 50.

  • 24

    Ibid., p. 6-7.

  • 26

    Varisco, “Rain Periods,” p. 257.

  • 27

    Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, ii, p. 1138-1141, s.v. “Ḫ.R.F;” Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, iv, p. 1560, s.v.Šaʿrā.”

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  • 32

    Ibn Qutayba, Kitab al-Anwāʾ, p. 153.

  • 38

    Al-Sukkarī, Ašʿār al-huḏaliyyīn, p. 464.

  • 40

    Ibid., ii, p. 311.

  • 41

    Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, iii, p. 1202, s.v. “R.Y.F”.

  • 42

    Lyall, The Mufaḍḍalīyāt, i, p. 729.

  • 43

    See Jacob, Altarabisches Beduinenleben, p. 4; Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, p. 34; Theodore Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden, Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1879, p. 334.

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  • 46

    Varisco, “Rain Periods,” p. 261-263.

  • 48

    Ibid., p. 28; Ahlwardt, Six Divans, p. 128.

  • 49

    Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, vi, p. 2437, s.v. “Falaǧ.”

  • 50

    Ahlwardt, Six Divans, p. 25.

  • 51

    Bauer, Altarabische Dichtkunst, i, p. 105-117.

  • 56

    Ibid., p. 1146-1148.

  • 60

    Al-Sukkarī, Ašʿār al-huḏaliyyīn, p. 1249, no 1, l. 6-14 (al-Mutanaḫḫil).

  • 61

    Erich Bräunlich, “Versuch einer literargeschichtlichen Betrachtungsweise altarabischer Poesien,” Der Islam, 24 (1937), p. 229-236.

  • 65

    Ibn Qutayba, al-Šiʿr wa-l-šuʿarāʾ, p. 207.

  • 66

    Aws b. Ḥaǧar, Dīwān Aws b. Ḥaǧar, p. 42, no 21, l. 19 and p. 105, no 40, l. 19.

  • 67

    Ibid., p. 48, no 22, l. 7.

  • 68

    Steven A. Rosen and Gideon Avni, “The Edge of the Empire: The Archaeology of Pastoral Nomads in the Southern Negev Highlands in Late Antiquity,” The Biblical Archaeologist, 56 (1993), p. 197.

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  • 70

    Ibid., p. 192.

  • 72

    James E. Montgomery, The Vagaries of the Qaṣīdah, p. 7-9.

  • 73

    Aws b. Ḥaǧar, Dīwān Aws b. Ḥaǧar, p. 42, no 21, l. 21.

  • 74

    Lyall, The Mufaḍḍalīyāt, ii, p. 98.

  • 75

    Al-Mufaḍḍal, al-Mufaḍḍaliyyāt, p. 398, no 120, l. 8, 9, 11; transl. adapted from Michael Anthony Sells, Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 19891, p. 14-15.

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  • 76

    Ibn al-Mubārak, Muntahā l-ṭalab, i, p. 385-386.

  • 79

    Al-Muʿīnī (ed.), Šiʿr Banī Tamīm, p. 255 (twice), 389, 390, 400 and Aswad b. Yaʿfur, Dīwān Aswad b. Yaʿfur, p. 54, no 49, l. 10 (used verbally); Geyer, Gedichte von Abû Bas̤îr Maimûn ibn Qais al-ʾAʿšâ, p. 305. The term ḥimā is used three times in Ašʿār al-huḏaliyyīn in total, twice by the Umayyad Huḏalī Mulayḥ b. al-Ḥakam and Abū Ṣaḫr, and once (figuratively in the expression ḥimā al-nafs (life, “the soul’s pasture,” which cannot be protected against the fate of death) by the muḫaḍram Abū Ḫirāš: al-Sukkarī, Ašʿār al-huḏaliyyīn, p. 962, 1032, 1224. For all of the citations of vocabulary in Ašʿār al-huḏaliyyīn derived from the root Ḥ.M.Y see Bernhard Lewin, A Vocabulary of the Huḏailian Poems, Göteborg, Kungl. vetenskaps- och vitterhets-samhället (“Acta Regiae Societatis Scientiarum et Litterarum Gothoburgensis. Humaniora”, 13), 1978, p. 96.

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  • 81

    Bauer, Altarabische Dichtkunst, i, p. 251-273.

  • 82

    Montgomery, The Vagaries of the Qaṣīdah, p. 258.

  • 84

    For which see Renate Jacobi, “The Camel-Section of the Panegyrical Ode,” Journal of Arabic Literature, 13/1 (1982), p. 1-22.

  • 85

    Michael Bonner, “Commerce and Migration in Arabia before Islam: A Brief History of a Long Literary Tradition,” in Iranian Languages and Culture: Essays in Honor of Gernot Ludwig Windfuhr, eds Behrad Aghaei and Mohammad R. Ghanoonparvar, Costa Mesa, Mazda Publishers, 2012, p. 81-89.

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  • 86

    Ibid., p. 86.

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