I like poetry. Reading ancient poetry reveals the similarity of emotional concerns over time. I was looking at 10th century poetry from Arab Andalusia (southern Spain) and noted it shares the lyric tradition of Sappho 1600 years prior. I can image the evening soirées where this poetry was read, what a way to end a day!
I particularly identified with a poem by Ibrahim ib Ulthman’s “Apology” that who shows a respectful treatment for the “gift of the Muses”.
Don’t cross me off as fickle
because a singing voice
has captured my heart,
One must be serious sometimes
and lighthearted at other times;
like wood from which come
both the singers’ lute
and the warrior’s bow.
This poem was attractive to me because it characterizes my personality. Someone who enjoys laughter and even being silly yet my underlying temperament can be deadly serious. Humor does not preclude serious opinions and emotions. The fact that someone one thousand years ago can describe me is a pleasant reminder of the commonality of humanity and the shared traits across time and culture.
Imagine this peaceful scene of friendship, food and drink as illustrated in Abd al-Aziz ibn al-Qabtrnuh’s “Invitation”:
Your friend invites you
to enjoy two shimmer pots
already giving off
a savory odor,
a carafe of wine,
a delicious place
Although in somewhat of a contrast, I encountered an epitaph that highlighted the fear and sadness we also share with the ancients. The ancient Greek scholar, Kallimachos (c. 294-235 BC) recited the following epitaph for a son: “His father Philip laid here the twelve-year old boy Nikoteles: his dearest hope.”
I am left graced by the walk through these poems and pleasantly satisfied that one can speak with a neighbor of so long ago. I am very thankful for translators who handled these difficult works!