The Camel-Section of the Panegyrical Ode1

in Journal of Arabic Literature
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Abstract

The present analysis is limited in scope and material, and has to be complemented and confirmed by further studies. With these restrictions in mind, the development of the panegyrical ode can be sketched as follows: In the Pre-Islamic period the ode is composed, as a rule, with three sections of independent weight (nasīb, wasf al-jamal, madī), linked together by the techniques of the narrative. The camel-section is in no way specified from the panegyrical point of view. As in other types of the qasīda, it constitutes an expression of tribal life and society. I have referred to this form as "tribal ode". In the first half of the 7th century A.D., i.e. during the two generations of poets known as al-mukhadramŪn, a decisive change in function of the camel-section seems to have taken place, as evidenced by the poetry of al-A'shā MaimŪn and al-Hutai'a. Parallel to the tribal ode a new form is gradually emerging, in which the description of the poet's camel is substituted by an account of his desert-journey to the mamdŪ. In the early raīl elements of the former wasf al-jamal are retained. This is the first stage in the transformation of the "tribal ode" into the "courtly ode" of later periods. At the same time the bipartite ode, consisting of nasīb and madī only, begins to replace the tripartite form. At the Umayyad period the tribal ode is about to disappear, although still used by conservative poets. In its place we frequently observe the new ode with an elaborate raīl, emphasizing the poet's exertions in reaching his patron. The Umayyad raīl is entirely determined by the panegyrical function. All motifs of the tribal wasf al-jamal which do not contribute to the poet's object of influencing the mamdŪ, are eliminated. Sometimes the travel-theme is inserted into the madī or blended with the

The Camel-Section of the Panegyrical Ode1

in Journal of Arabic Literature

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