Antar A Bedoueen Romance
Transcriber’s Note: The page numbering in the original book wasmisprinted: page numbers 177-180 were omitted, but no pages are actuallymissing.
A BEDOUEEN ROMANCE.
TRANSLATED FROM THE ARABIC.
BY TERRICK HAMILTON, ESQ.
ORIENTAL SECRETARY TO THE BRITISH EMBASSY
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE-STREET.
London: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co.
Cleveland Row, St. James’s.
The Translator of “The History of Antar”being out of England, it is not in theEditor’s power to give to the reader muchpreliminary information on the contentsor nature of the Epic Tale, which is nowfor the first time in part submitted to theEuropean Public.
Antar is no imaginary personage. Hewas the son of an Arab Prince of thetribe of Abs, by a black woman, whomhis father had made captive in a predatoryexcursion: and he raised himself by theheroic qualities which he displayed fromhis earliest youth, and by his extraordinary[ii]genius for poetry, from the state ofslavery in which he was born, to the confidenceof his king, and to a preeminenceabove all the Chiefs of Arabia. He flourishedduring the close of the sixth, and theearly part of the seventh century, of theChristian æra; there is, consequently, littleor no allusion to the customs or institutionsof Islamism throughout the work;though the Hero is frequently designatedas “He by whom God organized theearth and the world for the appearance ofthe Lord of slaves.”
The following Romance, as it may becalled, was first put together, probablyfrom traditionary tales current at thetime, by Osmay, one of the eminent scholars,who adorned the courts of Haroun-al-Raschid,and of his two learned successors,Al-Amyn, and Al-Mamoun; and itstill continues to be the principal sourcewhence the story-tellers of the coffee-houses[iii]in Egypt, Syria, and Arabia, drawtheir most interesting tales: but, notwithstanding,its general circulation in theLevant, the name of Antar is hithertoonly known to us in Europe, as that ofthe Author of one of the seven poems, suspendedin the temple of Mecca, and fromthat circumstance called, The Moallakat.
The Author of this poem, and the Heroof our history, are identified, as well by thesimilar names which occur; in both; as bythe insertion of the poem itself in the bodyof the history, when, after much persecutionand opposition, Antar at length succeedsin suspending the poem within theHoly Sanctuary which surrounds theKaaba.
There is reason to believe that this isthe first attempt to transpose into anEuropean language, a real Arabian story,depicting the original manners of theArabs of the desert, uncorrupted by the[iv]artificial and refined customs of the neighbouringcities in Syria, Egypt, and Persia.
The characteristics of the real Arabsor Bedowins are here presented in theirnative simplicity. An eager desire for theproperty of their neighbour; an unconquerablefondness for strife and battle;a singular combination of profuse hospitality,with narrow economy—quick perception—deepcunning—great personalcourage, a keen sense of honour, respectfor their women, and a warm admirationand ready use of the poetical beauties oftheir unrivalled language.
The supposition of the learned orientalistMons. Langlès, that the Thousand andOne Nights were originally composed inthe Pehlevi, or the old Persian, and fromthat language translated into Arabic, appearsstill more probable, when we observethe rich and gorgeous descriptions of theworks of art and nature which abound[v]in them, their enchanted palaces—theirsultans and viziers, and all the attendantmagnificence of a court; their genii and magicians—theirwant of individual characterin the leading personages;—and whenwe contrast with those details the simplemanners of the Kings and Chieftains of thedesert, pourtrayed in this Romance; theirrude tents; the familiarity with which theylive amongst each other, controuled onlyby the rules of patriarchal authority;the almost total absence of supernaturalagents; and above all, the striking distinctionsof character, which mark thewhole progress of the story. In this workindeed, The Subordination of the warriorsand others, whether of high or low rank,to the irresistible Antar; in undauntedcourage; in active prowess; in intellectualacquirements; in public spirit; in theardour of his love; in the excellence of hispoetry; and in acts of private generosity[vi]and benevolence, is strictly consistent withthe best rules which the Critics have derivedfrom the Homeric writings, for theconduct of the Heroic poem.
In an adherence to these rules indeed,the early European writers of RomanticAdventures, who followed the age of Charlemagne,and to whom, perhaps, Antar wasbetter known than to their successors, didnot follow the steps of their prototype. Butwhether he really deserve that appellation,that is, whether from the frequent intercoursebetween the Eastern and Westernkingdoms of the Roman world, in the8th, 9th and 10th centuries, our Romancewriters imbibed their taste for the adventuresof Chivalry from this singular Tale,is a question, to the solution of which wemay look forward, when the whole of itshall be before the public. It may be observed,however, that little more was wantingin order to compose the Romances of[vii]the middle age, than to engraft on thewar, love, and courtesy of the Arabs, thesplendid and soft luxuries of the othercountries of the East, the witchcraft ofAfrica, the religious fervour of the Southof Europe, and the gloomy superstitions ofthe North.
The Editor abstains from adding anyfurther observations at present upon thissubject. It had been his intention to requestthe indulgence of the reader for the orientalphraseology which frequently occurs inthe following pages; but he prefers leavingthe public to form their own opinion, howfar the Translator has rightly judged, inpresenting a literal translation of his original,by which the Arabic idioms mightbe best preserved, rather than (by givingto it a strictly English dress, and therebydestroying its native freshness,) to havebeen led into an indulgence of ornament,which would have been equally remote[viii]from the nice refinement of the languagesof Europe, and from the copious simplicityof that of the desert.
LIFE AND ADVENTURES
Ishmael, son of Abraham, was the father ofAdnan, who had a son called Maad; and Maadwas the father of Nizar, whose four sons, Rebeeah,Medher, Ayad, and Anmar, reigned over the Arabsin great glory for many years, and their descendantscontinued to flourish and multiply till they amountedto twenty thousand horsemen, when disturbancesarising among them, they separated and migratedfrom the valley of Mecca and the holy sanctuary,and many of them settled in a spot called Ibreem-oob-mootemim,which was the furthermost point ofHijaz, and the first in the land of Yemen. Andthey had a king called Rebeeah, a man muchrespected and feared, and he was of the tribe ofMedher, a fair-raced people; and he had five sons,the eldest was called Nayil, the second, Taweed,the third, Mohelhil, the fourth, Medher, and thefifth, Adee; and their father was a stout and intrepidwarrior, he conquered the whole country by hisbravery, and ruled over the wilds and the deserts.
Again the Arabs disagreed amongst themselvesand dispersed, and every division had its chief andits leader. They carried away their property andtheir camels, and among them was Harith, son ofObad the Yashkirite, with the tribe of Yashkir,and the chief Dibyan with the tribe of Dibyan, andthe chief Abd Shems with his tribe, and Jazeemahwith the tribe of Abs and Adnan, and Bahiejwith the tribe of Ghiftan; and it was Jazeemah,King of the tribe of Abs and Adnan that attackedRebeeah, and having slain him, appointed Mohelhilto succeed his father. But on the death of Mohelhilall his cousins went away with their property andcamels, afraid of the surrounding Arabs, and settledwith the tribe of Abs and Adnan, and their chiefJazeemah; and among all the Arabs there was nogovernment better regulated than his, for he wasexperienced in all affairs, and had ten sons who wereall hardy lions, bold, endued with great bodilystrength, and in war they were unrivalled; theycourted battles and plunged into slaughter, and theirreputation was spread among the Arabs, and amongthem were Amroo and Jancah, and Asyed and Zoheir,and the rest of the ten brothers. But Amroowas the eldest, and King Jazeemah hoped thatAmroo would reign at his death. But one dayAmroo went to the lake Zatool Irsad, early in themorning, and with him was a slave called Nizah;and Amroo had round his neck a chain of goldstudded with jewels and diamonds; and when hecame to the lake he stripped off his clothes, andtook off the string of jewels from his neck, and thengoing down into the lake left them all with his slave.When he sprang into the water and plunged in,his body disappeared, and was borne away.
The slave perceiving that his master remained toolong under water, felt assured that his breath wasextinct; so he ran away to Jazeemah, and told him ofthis dreadful catastrophe. He was in the deepestgrief, and he dashed his fist against his face for theloss of his son Amroo. Over the whole tribe thedismay was general, the affliction was universal,and the lamentations deep. Many days and nightsthey remained in this state, when at last King Jazeemah,wishing to relieve his mind from his anguish,went out to the chase, and whilst he was thusoccupied, lo! there appeared a fawn, which heeagerly pursued; but as it launched into the wastein full flight, he could not catch it. Still he hopedto succeed; but at last it entered a forest aboundingin trees, and waters, and thickets, and Jazeemahstill pursued it. And whilst he was strugglingthrough the branches, behold a man quite nakedstood before him! He fled away in terror, fancyingthat it was a dæmon; O King! exclaimed the man,be not afraid, for I am thy son Amroo! If thouart my son, cried the King, follow me and quit thisspot. Jazeemah issued from the forest, and theman coming up with him, he gazed at him, andlo! he was his son! He was greatly rejoiced, andrunning up to him, O my son, said he, what hashappened to thee! who brought thee to this place?and thou art naked! So he explained all that hadoccurred to him, and the cause of his being snatchedaway from the lake was a dæmon, who bore him tothis place. His father joyed in seeing him, andclothed him in some of his own garments, and returnedwith him to his tribe and companions, andunbounded was the delight and satisfaction at thereturn of Amroo. Acclamations were loud, and thetime passed happily away, and they forgot the evilsof fortune.
All the Arabs took refuge with King Jazeemah,and paid him taxes and tribute, and there was notone but obeyed him and submitted, save a singleQueen, who was called Robab. And this Queenwas very powerful, and had numerous armies andslaves. She had subdued the heroes, and humbledthe bravest, and her tribe, was the most intrepidof the Arabs, and they were called the tribe ofReeyan. And when they heard that King Jazeemahwas become powerful and had extended his influence,and that the Arabs gave him tribute in cattleand camels; We, said they, will not give any oneeven a rope’s end, and whoever demand goods ofus, nothing will we give them but blows and battle.
Upon hearing this, Jazeemah assembled hisarmies and warriors, and the Arabs came to himfrom all the vallies and the waters, and he marchedaway with them in quest of the tribe of Reeyan, andtheir Queen Robab, that he might send downdestruction and torments upon them, and leave theirproperty to be pillaged by the Arabs. Now whenthe tribe of Reeyan saw those armies that were advancingupon them, they set up a loud shout, andthey thronged in haste from all quarters, and themountains trembled at the uproar. This tribe wasexceedingly numerous, and moreover, they had beenjoined by a great multitude who came to them andsettled round them, to be under the protection ofthat tribe and their Queen Robab; so great was herreputation, and so far famed her name.
And when the armies arrived and were allestablished about her, they waited in anxiousexpectation of the event. So the Queen summonedone of her tribe, a man of great consequence, andsaid to him—I wish thou wouldst go to these advancingpeople, and see what they are resolved todo, what place they come from, and what they want.The man went away; and when he came up with thetroops, they stopped. Whither in such haste? theycried; speak ere thou art a lost man! Arabs, saidhe, I am come as a messenger to ye; I want