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Islamic Astronomical Poetry. The Aubade of Ibn Hani of Andalusia (d. 361 / 973) Translation: Professor Arthur J. Arberry (Cambridge University).

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Islamic astronomical poetry

Islamic Astronomical Poetry

The Aubade of Ibn Hani of Andalusia (d. 361 / 973)


Professor Arthur J. Arberry (Cambridge University)

Wonderful night, that sent to meAnd you a black-tressed messenger,What time we watched the GeminiPendant in the ears of her!And our saki all the nightLaunched against the shadows grimHis lantern, red as dawning light,Never extinguished, never dim.Softly humming, cheeks aglow,Slender his stature, slim and fine,Thick-lashed eyelids, drooping lowWith the burden of the wine.The brimming liquor, tremulous,Scarcely leaves him with a hand;So constantly he bows to us,Scarcely has he strength to stand.

They say, ‘He is a lissom reedWaving on a sandy dune’;Know they not a dune indeed,Do they forget a reed so soon?For our bed, to couch us in,The garments of the wine we take;The harsh shadows tear its skinOur warm coverlet to make.Passionate heart to passionateHeart draws nigh, and lip to lipPresses; for hearts are yearning yet,And mouths would honeyed kisses sip.I beg you, rouse his idle cupAnd bid his sleepy eyelids wake;The drowsy flagon tumbles up,Mindful our dry throats to slake.

Darkness has already snappedA stretch of his constricting chain;Night’s army stands to order, aptTo contend with dawn again.The stars that crown the PleiadesTurn their backs on all the landAnd vanish; gleaming rings are theseOn fingers of a hidden hand.And in their wake AldebaranLumbers on his plodding wayLike a laden journeyman,Whose beasts are spirited astray.Yonder shining SiriusAdvances with more urgent stride,Spurring on impetuousHis steed Mirzam at his side.

And his sister from behindEre the rising of the dayHurries to him, to unwindTheir veil that is the Milky Way.She fears the Lion’s dreadful roarAs he flashes through the night,Nathra, his muzzle, thrust before,And rends the darkness at a bite.Yet, it seems, the Fishes twainSwimming broadly down the skyMake to clutch him by the mane,And undertake that he shall die:One, the Lancer, aims his dartAnd strikes, until his lifeblood drips;Unarmed, the other in his heartRaging, gnaws his finger-tips.

Ursa’s stars, methinks, are roesOf Wajra, searching till the dawnA wild wilderness, where thoseSeek their lost and straying fawn.And Canopus on the rimOf his horizon, torn apartFrom a loved friend, finds after himNo other, to console his heart.Dim Suha, that wasted swainWith his visitors, this nightNow is visible, againAnd again is lost to sight.Aloft the Pole-star, cavalierSupreme, with pennants twain arrayed,Very scornful seems to peerAt the stars’ slow cavalcade.

Aquila, his pinions clipped,Drops vertiginous through the skies;His wings, no more feather-tipped,Fail him, and he cannot rise.His brother, wheeling yet on wingSublime, unwearied to the prey,Suddenly appears to springAnd snatches half the moon away.Night, circumferenced in profoundDarkness, black as ebony,Presently is swathed aroundIn purple weave of majesty.As her shadows now declineSwaying slantwise o’er the earth,Meseems she passed the night with wineAnd staggers in her drunken mirth.

Dawn, lifting up his pole of light,Is a Turkish monarch, whoChallenges that Ethiop night,And he vanishes from view.The sun’s standard flutteringIs Jaafar, my Lord-EmperorWho, looking on a rival king,Only laughs, and laughs the more.END