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Abū Nuwās, Hunting Poems. Prof. James Montgomery

Abū Nuwās (d. 814) is considered by many to be the greatest poet in the Arabic language. When the philologist Ḥamzah al-Iṣfahānī (d. 961) came to edit the complete works of Abū Nuwās, he included over a hundred poems that describe hunting with hawks, falcons, eagles, cheetahs, and salukis, as well as poems on hunting with crossbows, slingshots and the hand-held bow.

This volume presents a new edition and translation of these poems.


A sample can be found on the Cordite Poetry Review website, including the poem below

Cheetah

I move through black cloud night—
Dark, at war with Dawn,
Quivers with a fine blade's sheen—
With a vigorous, widejaw cheetah
Thickneck, spine-welded-scapulae
Leanbelly in taut-twist well-rope body
Cheek-folds plump in a scowl,
Sheeny; black teardrops on masseters
Bactrian lungs in saffron ribcage
Heavy paws, bull neck, sudden dart
A lion but for the spotty coat
Alert for shapes that shift.

  

والصبحُ في الظلماء ذو تَعَدِّي
بأَهْرَتِ الشِّدْقَيْنِ مُرْمَئِدِّ
طاوي الحَشَا في طَيِّ جِسْمٍ مَعْدِ
دُلامِزٍ ذي نَكَفٍ مُسْوَدِّ
شَرَنْبَثٍ أَغْلبَ مُصْمَعِدِّ
للشَّبَح الحائلِ مُسْتَعِدِّ
سِرْبَيْنِ عَنَّا بجبينٍ صَلْدِ
في لَهَبٍ مِنْهُ وخَتْلٍ إدِّ
بكلّ نَشْزٍ وبكلّ وَهْدِ
صَعْصَعَهَا بالصَحْصَحَانِ الجَرْدِ
بين شَرِيجَيْ طَمَعٍ وحَرْدِ

   

قد أغتدي والليلُ أحْوَى السُّدِّ
مثل اهتزاز العَضْبِ ذي الفِرِنْدِ
أَزْبَرَ مَضْبُورِ القَرَا عِلَّكْدِ
كَرْهِ الرُوَا جَمِّ غُضُونِ الخَدِّ
وسَحْرِ بُخْتِيٍّ بنَحْرِ وَرْدِ
كاللَّيْث إلّا نُمْرةً بالجِلْدِ
عايَنَ بعد النظر الممتدِّ
فانقضّ يَأْدُو غَيْرَ مُجَرْهِدِّ
مثل انسياب الحيّة العِرْبَدِّ
حتّى إذا كان تُجاهَ القَصْدِ
وعاث فيها بِفَرِيغِ الشَّدِّدِ

A long search sights two herds
On ground flat as a man's brow
He's off, a slow stalk,
A trap about to explode
Puff adder slither
Through ground high and low
Face to face with his prey now—
Havoc! He scatters them across the desert
Full stretch, full pelt
Greedy fury.

Why hunt with any creature but a cheetah?

لا خَيْرَ في صيدٍ بغير فَهْدِ