Exploring Arab Folk Literature

By Pierre Cachia | Go to book overview

13
A Zajal on the Mi〈rāj Attributed to Al-Xubārī

This article was drafted and delivered as a companion to a paper by Professor Margaret Larkin in which she surveyed what is known of al-

ubārī’s career and summed up the character and quality of his writings. This she has since published under the title ‘The Dust of the Master: a Mamlūk Era zajal by Khalaf al-Ghubārī in Quaderni di Studi Arabi, Nuova serie, 2 (2007), pp. 11–29. I still commend this article to the reader, but since our complementary studies have now been separated, Ifind it necessary to add within the few pages of mine below the briefest account of al- ubārī’s activities as a single sample of his style as a zajjāl. This sample comes from al->Ibšīhī Šihāb ad-Dīn Muḥammad, al-Mustaţraf fī Kull Fann Mustazraf, vol. 2 (Cairo, 1952), pp. 241–2.

Urbain Bouriant (11 April 1849–19 June 1903) was an enterprising self-made Orientalist. After an active military career, his scholarly interests caught the attention of the Egyptologist Gaston Maspéro, at whose behest he became a founder member of the Mission Française d’Archéologie Orientale in 1880, then its energetic director from 1886 until he was disabled in 1898. Between 1883 and 1886 he was also in Egyptian Government service as adjunct curator of the Būlāq Museum. Other publications of his, in what became the Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, are translations of Maqrīzī (1364–1442) titled Description historique et topographique de l’Égypte and Monuments pour servir à l’étude du culte d’Atonou en Égypte. He is also known to have worked on ancient papyri.

The breadth of his linguistic competence and cultural interests was evidenced still further when he published a volume titled Chansons Populaires Arabes en dialecte du Caire d’après les manuscrits d’un chanteur des rues (Paris, 1893). It runs to 160 well printed pages and consists of thirty-four verse compositions, all but six of which are in common forms of the zajal. The only signs of editorial intervention are minor emendations which in M. Bouriant’s judgement were required either by the sense or by the metre, but always with the original text reproduced in a footnote. In addition, a brief notice by the publisher informs us that ‘a stroke of luck’ had brought the collection to M. Bouriant’s hands, that other commitments prevented him from offering more than a sampling, but that an integral edition of ‘the manuscript deposited in the Cairo Library, with a translation and commentary’, would follow. Alas, M. Bouriant was virtually incapacitated by ill-health in 1895

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