Tarafah ibn al Abd

Here you will find the Long Poem The Ode of Tarafah of poet Tarafah ibn al Abd

The Ode of Tarafah

A young gazelle there is in the tribe, dark-lipped, fruit-shaking, 

flaunting a double necklace of pearls and topazes, 

holding aloof, with the herd grazing in the lush thicket, 

nibbling the tips of the arak-fruit, wrapped in her cloak. 

Her dark lips part in a smile, teeth like a comomile 

on a moist hillock shining amid the virgin sands, 

whitened as it were by the sun's rays, all but her gums 

that are smeared with colyrium -- she gnaws not against them; 

a face as though the sun had loosed his mantle upon it, 

pure of hue, with not a wrinkle to mar it. 

Ah, but when grief assails me, straightway I ride it off 

mounted on my swift, lean-flanked camel, night and day racing, 

sure-footed, like the planks of a litter; I urge her on 

down the bright highway, that back of a striped mantle; 

she vies with the noble, hot-paced she-camels, shank on shank 

nimbly plying, over a path many feet have beaten. 

Along the rough slopes with the milkless shes she has pastured 

in Spring, cropping the rich meadows green in the gentle rains; 

to the voice of the caller she returns, and stands on guard 

with her bunchy tail, scared of some ruddy, tuft-haired stallion, 

as though the wings of a white vulture enfolded the sides 

of her tail, pierced even to the bone by a pricking awl; 

anon she strikes with it behind the rear-rider, anon 

lashes her dry udders, withered like an old water-skin. 

Perfectly firm is the flesh of her two thighs-- 

they are the gates of a lofty, smooth-walled castle-- 

and tightly knit are her spine-bones, the ribs like bows, her 

underneck stuck with the well-strung vertebrae, 

fenced about by the twin dens of a wild lote-tree; 

you might say bows were bent under a buttressed spine. 

Widely spaced are her elbows, as if she strode carrying the two 

buckets of a sturdy water-carier; 

like the bridge of the Byzantine, whose builder swore 

it should be all encased in bricks to be raised up true. 

Reddish the bristles under her chin, very firm her back, 

broad the span of her swift legs, smooth her swinging gait; 

her legs are twined like rope untwisted; her forearms 

thrust slantwise up to the propped roof of her breast. 

Swiftly she rolls, her cranium huge, her shoulder-blades 

high-hoisted to frame her lofty, raised superstructure. 

The scores of her girths chafing her breast-ribs are water-courses 

furrowing a smooth rock in a rugged eminence, 

now meeting, anon parting, as though they were 

white gores marking distinctly a slit shirt. 

Her long neck is very erect when she lifts it up 

calling to mind the rudder of a Tigris-bound vessel. 

Her skull is most like an anvil, the junction of its two halves 

meeting together as it might be on the edge of a file. 

Her cheek is smooth as Syrian parchment, her split lip 

a tanned hide of Yemen, its slit not best crooked; 

her eyes are a pair of mirrors, sheltering 

in the caves of her brow-bones, the rock of a pool's hollow, 

ever expelling the white pus more-provoked, so they seem 

like the dark-rimmed eyes of a scared wild-cow with calf. 

Her ears are true, clearly detecting on the night journey 

the fearful rustle of a whisper, the high-pitched cry, 

sharp-tipped, her noble pedigree plain in them, 

pricked like the ears of a wild-cow of Haumal lone-pasturing. 

Her trepid heart pulses strongly, quick, yet firm 

as a pounding-rock set in the midst of a solid boulder. 

If you so wish, her head strains to the saddle's pommel 

and she swims with her forearms, fleet as a male ostrich, 

or if you wish her pace is slack, or swift to your fancy, 

fearing the curled whip fashioned of twisted hide. 

Slit is her upper lip, her nose bored and sensitive, 

delicate, when she sweeps the ground with it, faster she runs. 

Such is the beast I ride, when my companion cries "Would I might ransom you, and be ransomed, from yonder 


His soul fluttters within him fearfully, he supposing 

the blow fallen on him, though his path is no ambuscade. 

When the people demand, "Who's the hero?" I suppose 

myself intended, and am not sluggish, not dull of wit; 

I am at her with the whip, and my she-camel quickens pace 

what time the mirage of the burning stone-tract shimmers; 

elegantly she steps, as a slave-girl at a party 

will sway, showing her master skirts of a trailing white gown. 

I am not one that skulks fearfully among the hilltops, 

but when the folk seek my succour I gladly give it; 

if yo look for me in the circle of t