The Wine Song in Classical Arabic Poetry: Abu Nuwas and the Literary Tradition

By Philip F. Kennedy | Go to book overview
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to this poem in particular that one can best apply the comments of Hamori in assessing Abū Nuwās' mind-set:134 "the obsessed man both wills and is trapped by his compulsion . . .". Here there is "feverish agitation", with the poet struggling to come to terms with the nature of his loss of ilm. For his doubts after seduction are certainly typical of a man of ilm, whilst his mockery is for tuqā.


CONCLUSION

It is only in the zuhdiyyāt of Abū Nuwās that the treatment of tawba may be deemed to be sincere;135 the khamriyyāt, however, are suffused with a spirit which resists any apology for wine and indulgence--this is especially apparent in those duplicitous poems which respond to the Caliph's prohibition. Furthermore, the nature of abstinence and restraint is distinct in two essential ways from the earliest material we have examined (namely al-šā): (i) it is largely restricted to an Islamic context (though the poet defies Islam); (ii) wine is never unequivocally abandoned. The "secular" eschewal of wine and revelry made encumbent by ilm--common in the qaṣīda, even in the time of Abū Nuwās (see Abū l-Šīṣ)--is avoided; thus ilm, where it is treated, is generally internalized into the imagery of the bacchic scene.

With respect to Abū Nuwīs specifically, tawba and attendant religious motifs highlight two things: (i) his poems tend to accumulate, within their individual narratives, both in their indulgent spirit and their vindication of wine--here there is a simple imprint of paradox that has spawned a variety of poems; (ii) in his finest khamriyyāt the language, images, and themes feed off each other. In this respect the final three poems analysed demonstrate the artistic merit and originality of the poet--qualities born of his own conventions and those of the traditional canon of poetry.

____________________
134
On the Art of Medieval Arabic Literature, 72.
135
One should observe also that some of his zuhdiyyāt may have been a "generic exercise" written to order or commissioned by pious Muslims.

-240-

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