Seven Famous Arab Poets You Need to Know
By: Yidan Fan/Arab America Contributing Writer
Arabic is a distinctive language and Arabic poetry is one of the important genres in Arabic literature. Since ancient times, many beautiful poems and famous poets have been born in the land of Arabia. This article will introduce you to seven distinctive Arab poets.
“Behold, she has come back to me,
My fair gazelle whose earrings shine;
Had not the king been sitting here,
I would have pressed her lips to mine!”
Tarafa was a 6th century Arabian poet of the tribe of the Bakr. Tarafa occupies an honored place within the Arabic tradition. One of his poems is contained in the Mo’allakat. His Diwan has been published in Wilhelm Ahlwardt’s The Diwans of the Six Ancient Arabic Poets (London, 1870). Some of his poems have been translated into Latin with notes by B. Vandenhoff (Berlin, 1895).
“On the morning of our separation it was as if I stood in the gardens of our tribe, Amid the acacia-shrubs where my eyes were blinded with tears by the smart from the bursting pods of colocynth.”
Imru’ al-Qais was one of the most renowned poets of pre-Islamic Arabia, and also the son of one of the last Kindite kings. Al-Qais was the son of Hujr, the last king of Kindah which is part of the present Republic of Yemen. He is sometimes considered the father of Arabic poetry. He wrote one of the famous “seven odes” in the work known as Al-Mu’allaqat.
Zuhayr bin Abi Sulma
“Does the blackened ruin, situated in the stony ground between Durraj and Mutathallam, which did not speak to me, when addressed, belong to the abode of Ummi Awfa?
And is it her dwelling at the two stony meadows, seeming as though they were the renewed tattoo marks in the sinews of the wrist? “
Zuhayr bin Abi Sulma , also romanized as Zuhair or Zoheir, was a pre-Islamic Arabian poet who lived in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. He is considered one of the greatest writers of Arabic poetry in pre-Islamic times. Zuhayr bin Abi Sulma was one of the poets of the Age of Ignorance who had written one of the seven Mu’allaqat i.e. the masterpieces of poetry, which remained suspended on the walls of the Ka’bah for a long time before the revelation of the Qur’an, and were a source of pride and glory in the literature of the Arab world.
“Everything, but Allah, is vain
And all happiness, unconditionally, will vanish
When a man is on a night journey, he thinks that he has accomplished some deed
But man spends his life in hopes”
Labīd (Abu Aqil Labīd ibn Rabī’ah) was an Arabian poet. He belonged to the Bani Amir, a division of the tribe of the Hawazin. One of his poems is contained in the Mu’allaqat.
His muruwwa (virtue) is highlighted in the story that he vowed to feed people whenever the east wind began to blow, and to continue so doing until it stopped. Al-Walid ‘Uqba, leader of the Kuffa, sent him one hundred camels to enable him to keep his vow.
Antarah ibn Shaddad
“My steeds live for War.
My swords are not for show.
My colt’s trained not to stop
short on the battlefield.
My shield gives
no cause for complaint.”
Antarah ibn Shaddad al-Absi, also known as Antar, was a pre-Islamic Arab knight and poet, famous for both his poetry and his adventurous life. ʿAntarah’s poetry is well preserved and often talks of chivalrous values, courage, and heroism in battle as well as his love for ʿAbla. It was immortalized when one of his poems was included in the Mu’allaqat, the collection of poems legendarily said to have been suspended in the Kaaba. His poetry’s historical and cultural importance stems from its detailed descriptions of battles, armor, weapons, horses, desert, and other themes from his time.
Amr ibn Kulthum
“Ha girl! Up with the bowl! Give us our dawn draught
And do not spare the wines of al-Andarina,
The brightly sparkling, as if by saffron were in them”
Amr ibn Kulthum was a poet and chieftain of the Taghlib tribe in pre-Islamic Arabia. His whose qaṣīdah (“ode”) is one of the seven that comprise the celebrated anthology of pre-Islamic verse Mu’allaqat. He became chief of the tribe of Taghlib in Mesopotamia at an early age and, according to tradition, killed ʿAmr ibn Hind, the Arab king of Al-Ḥīrah, c. 568.
Al-Harith ibn Hilliza al-Yashkuri
“I see no remains of the troth which she plighted in those stations; and I waste the day in tears, frantic with grief; but oh, what part of my happiness will tears restore?
Yet, O Hareth, a new passion invites thee; for Hinda is before thy eyes, and the fire which she kindles at night in the hills will direct thee to her abode:
She kindles it with abundance of wood between the hilly stations of Akeik and Shakhsein, and it blazes like the splendour of the sun.”
Al-Ḥārith ibn Ḥilliza al-Yashkurī was a pre-Islamic Arabian poet of the tribe of Bakr, from the 5th century. He was the author of one of the seven famous pre-Islamic poems known as the Mu’allaqat. Little is known of the details of his life.
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