Amid a rich tradition of oral poetry, it meant that the history of the tribe would become preserved in memorable verse and that the tribe would be entertained by accounts of the adventures and thoughts of its prominent individuals.
In the Eighth Century, much of this oral poetry of earlier times was collected by one of the great humanists of Islam. Ḥammād al-Rāwiyah ‘The Transmitter’, a man of prodigious memory.
This he used to good effect in memorizing the poetry he encountered in his travels among the Bedouins.
From his memorized collection, seven qasida (odes) by individual authors came to be written down in an anthology.
The name of this work, The Mu’allaqat, has been translated as Suspended Odes, or Golden Odes, or Collected Odes.
Their fame brought with it exaggerated legends about their lives, so that it is difficult to know the true facts concerning these remarkable individuals.
The fame of Imr Al-Qais, ‘The Wandering King’, was said to have caused him to be summoned to the court of the Emperor Justinian at Byzantium in 530.
Tarafa, ‘The Murdered Boy’, is said to have started to write poetry at the age of seven and to have been treacherously put to death in his early twenties (perhaps in 564) for writing satires on tribal leaders.
Zuhair, ‘A Slave to Poetry’, belonged to a family of poets and was said to be sufficiently affluent to have time to polish his verses to perfection.
Antara, ‘The Black Knight’, was the son of a tribal leader and an Abyssinian slave girl. He became renowned for his poetry and for his skill in warfare; ultimately he became the hero of an extensive legend, the Romance of Antar.
Imr became a chieftain of his tribe at the age of fifteen and is also said to have lived 150 years. One account has him giving lucid advice to his sons on his deathbed; another says that he drank himself to death with wine.
between Durraj and Mutathallam, which did not speak to me
when addressed, belong to the abode of Ummi Awfa?
as though they were the renewed tattoo marks in the sinews of the wrist?
there, one herd behind the other, while their young are springing up
Awfa) after an absence of twenty years, and with some efforts
I know her abode again after thinking awhile.
place where the kettle used to be placed at night, and the
trench round the encampment, which had not burst, like the source of a pool.
'Now good morning, O spot!
May you be safe from dangers.'
sweet as to its place of kissing, delicious of taste.
It was as though the musk bag of a merchant in his case of perfumes
preceded her teeth toward you from her mouth.
such as the kings of Rome preserve.
whose herbage the rain has guaranteed,
in which there is but little dung;
and which is not marked with the feet of animals.
The skirts of an embroidered woolen garment, to erase the footprints.
The middle of the open plain, with its sandy undulations and sandhills, we sought.
She was slender of waist, and full in the ankle.
Her breast shining polished like a mirror.
Pure water, unsullied by the descent of many people in it, has nourished her.
Like that of a wild animal, with young, in the desert of Wajrah.
It is neither disproportionate when she raises it, nor unornamented.
Black, very dark-colored, thick like a date-cluster on a heavily laden date-tree.
And the plaits are lost in the twisted hair, and the hair falling loose.
Her form is like the stem of a palm-tree bending over from the weight of its fruit.
She sleeps much in the morning; she does not need to gird her waist with a working dress.
In the evening she brightens the darkness, as if she were the light-tower of a monk.
She is well proportioned in height between the wearer of a long dress and of a short frock.
Many bitter counselors have warned me of the disaster of your love, but I turned away from them.
It has whelmed me as a wave of the sea to try me with sorrow.
As his breast, his loins, his buttocks weighed on me and then passed afar,
You are a wonder, with stars held up as by ropes of hemp to a solid rock."
See its glittering, like the flash of two moving hands, amid the thick gathering clouds.
I sat down with my companions and watched the lightning and the coming storm.
Yet we could see its left end pouring down on Satar, and beyond that over Yazbul.
The spray of it drove the wild goats down from the hills of Quanan.
Nor a building, except those strengthened with heavy stones.
giant of our people draped in a striped cloak.
like a whirling spindle.
As though a Yemani merchant were spreading out all the rich clothes from his trunks,
And burst forth in song after a morning draught of old, pure, spiced wine.
They were drowned and lost in the depths of the desert at evening.
who lives eighty years will, may you have no father
if you doubt, grow weary.
before it, but verily, of the knowledge of what will happen
tomorrow I am ignorant.
whom he meets he kills, and he whom he misses lives and will
will be torn by teeth
and trampled under foot.
honor, increases his honor;
and he who does not avoid abuse, will be abused.
great wealth toward his people, will be dispensed with,
and he whose heart is guided to self-satisfying benevolence
will not stammer.
him, even if he ascends the tracts of the heavens
with a ladder.
praise will be a reproach against him, and he will repent of
having shown kindness.
then verily he will have to obey the spear points joined to
every long spear shaft.
tank, will have it broken; and he who does not oppress the
people will be oppressed.
and he who does not respect himself
will not be respected.
other people, and does not excuse himself from it,
will one day by reason of his abasement, repent.
he thinks it concealed from people,
it is known.
does not make himself independent of them even for one day
of the time, will be regarded with disgust.
but their excess in wisdom or deficiency
will appear at the time of talking.
mind, and here is nothing besides these two, except the shape
of the blood and the flesh.
there is no wisdom after it,
but the young man after his folly may become wise.
asking and you returned to the giving, and he who increases
the asking, will one day be disappointed.
verily, when I am not ill-treated, I am gentle to associate with.
very bitter is the taste of it, as the taste of the colocynth.
buying it with the bright-stamped coin.
which was accompanied by a white-stoppered bottle on the lefthand side.
and my honor is great, and is not sullied.
and, as you know, so are my qualities and my liberality.
what you have experienced, and what is said concerning it,
is not a story based on suppositions.
thing, and it will become greedy when you excite its greed
and it will rage fiercely.
against the lower, and it will conceive immediately after
one birth and it will produce twins.