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Jaroslav Stetkevych

Abstract

In his Tabaqāt Fuhūl al-Shu'arā', the 3rd/9th century literary critic al-Jumahī cites two lines from a poem by the Mukhadram (bridging the Jāhiliyyah and Islam) poet, Ibn Muqbil, which, he claims, express through the traditional image of weeping at the ruined abodes the poet's nostalgia for the pre-Islamic age. The present essay expands upon al-Jumahī's observation by placing the two lines he cites within the context of the full original qasīdah of fifty lines. In doing so, it demonstrates that the entire qasīdah in its themes and motifs is to be interpreted as an expression of nostalgia for the lost age of the Jāhiliyyah. Above all, the structure of the poem constitutes a dramatic inversion of the traditional qasīdah structure. The effect of this inversion is to replace the normal temporal and affective trajectory of the poem from past to present, with a reversed trajectory from present to past. Whereas al-Jumahī expresses puzzlement over how a Muslim could feel longing for the pagan past, this essay turns to the full text of the poem to uncover the nostalgic counter-current that accompanied the massive cultural transition from the Jāhiliyyah to Islam. It shows how Ibn Muqbil manipulates the traditional themes, motifs, and structures of the pre-Islamic qasīdah to express his political resentment at the destruction of his way of life.

Jaroslav Stetkevych

Abstract

In the hands of the early ‘Abbāsid poet, Abū Nuwās (d. 199 or 200/814 or 815), the free-standing tardiyyah (hunt poem) no longer features the pathos-laden wretched hunter of the pre-Islamic rahīl nor the chivalrous heroic hunter of the fakhr of the pre-Islamic qasīdah, but rather a hunter who is courtly and discreet and, as a persona, almost invisible. In the extensive corpus of hunt-poems attributed to Abū Nuwās, two basic types are identifiable. The first exhibits a subjective perspective in which the poet is the agent of the hunt. This type typically opens with the Imru' al-Qays-derived wa-qad aghtadī (“I would set out early in the morning”) formula and can be characterized as wasf (subjectively-involved description). Typologically and terminologically distinct from this is the second type, the hunt-poem of objectively distanced description (na‘t), which characteristically opens with the formula an‘atu (“I shall describe”). Through selected examples, the study analyzes the thematic and stylistic differences between these two types as well as their overlap in intermediate subjective-objective hunt-poems.

Jaroslav Stetkevych

Abstract

In its rahīl section the classical (pre-Islamic and Mukhadram) qasīdah may have images, or "stories" of quite specific animals, the wild ass/onager and the wild bull or cow/oryx, conforming always to very formalized appearance and behavior. Structurally, they are integrated into the qasīdah as similes of the journeying poet's she-camel/nāqah. The purpose of the present article is first of all to define the two animals, the onager and the oryx, as acting agents in the rahīl structure and "story" and, once defined, to reach deeper, beyond their separateness, in order to uncover their implicit coalescence into a composite, syncretic imaginary, and ultimately symbolic, figura of the unicorn. The essential characteristic of this "revealed" Arabic unicorn is that it has no other existence than its existence in the poem/qasīdah, within which, however, it simultaneously continues to be a simile, a metaphor, an allegory, and a symbol—all this aside from being one of the fields of glory of Arabic descriptive poetic art.

Jaroslav Stetkevych

Abstract

This study presents an analytical review of the genre of the “hunt-poem” (ardiyyah) at the hand of the ‘Abbāsid poet Ibn al-Mu‘tazz (d. 296/908). It is in this period that the genre of the ardiyyah reaches its second apogee after the great pioneering Abū Nuwās. After dealing with issues of genre and prosody (rajaz versus the qaīdah meters), the study focuses its critical attention on Ibn al-Mu‘tazz’s overcoming of the strictly formulaic opening lyrical phrasing of the majority of the ardiyyahs, especially as the genre was formalized by Abū Nuwās. It is in overcoming the limitations of the formulaism of Abū Nuwās, which does not do justice to the genre’s lyrical promise, that Ibn al-Mu‘tazz achieves his breakthrough into lyricism and a reinvigoration of the genre. Through a close reading and translation of the Arabic texts, the study presents a careful identification of the variants of lyricism in Ibn al-Mu‘tazz’s repertory of the ardiyyah genre.

Jaroslav Stetkevych

Abstract

This study consists of an interpretation and full translation of a single poem by the contemporary Arab Egyptian poet Muḥammad ʿAfīfī Maṭar (1935-2010). The poet titles it Ṭardiyyah (Hunt Poem). With this title, the poem admits its link to the Umayyad-born and ʿAbbāsid-matured genre of the “poem of the courtly hunt,” ṭardiyyah. ʿAfīfī Maṭar’s understanding of his no longer courtly, modernist poem is therefore hermeneutically connected to his understanding of the old genre, informing his modern mythopoetic employ of the archaic motif of “the morning of the hunter.” This essay also discusses: ʿAfīfī Maṭar’s place among the European and American poets of radical Modernism, especially, regarding the mythopoetic stance of Wallace Stevens; the problem of the notorious difficulty and obscurity ( ṣuʿūbah and ghumūḍ ) of ʿAfīfī Maṭar’s poetic language; and the general search of modern Arab poets, among them Adūnīs, for a new poetic language. Finally, the essay singles out ʿAfīfī Maṭar’s Ṭardiyyah and his very personal mythopoesis as a total achievement in the presentation of a Modernist Arabic poem—an achievement analogous to Wallace Stevens’ “central poem,” that is, A Primitive like an Orb.