Khamr, Nasīb, and Ghazal
The poems of al-A'˓šā (d. c. 629) amply evince how in early material the treatment of wine may be subordinated to the mood of the nasīb. Here wine consoles despondent love and in this role is informed variously by both fakhr and nostalgia. This treatment of khamr--its dynamic containment within the polythematic qaṣīda-- survived in al-Akhṭal in the Umayyad period, and in poets such as Muslim b. al-Walīd and Abū l-Šīṣ in the early 'Abbāsid period. al- Akhṭal intensified the descriptive repertoire whilst approximating to the language of the Jāhiliyya, whereas Muslim retained the same basic structure (in panegyric poems) but celebrated khamr in a language typical of a new quality of lyricism and influenced largely by developments in badī˓.
It is against this background that this chapter will demonstrate an important characteristic of Abū Nuwās in the celebration of wine: the fusion of elements of nasīb and ghazal into single poems of a composite but cohesive texture. This itself breaks down into two features: (i) the contrast of emotions, and (ii) the narrative focal point of seduction. Both features impart to his poems a tighter structure than is discernible in either his predecessors or contemporaries. In the extent of his achievement he is unique, and can be seen to synthesize possibilities in pre-existing poetry. The existence of khamr in nasīb, or in relationship with nasīb, is simply a starting- point. Indeed in the interim between al-A'šā and Abū Nuwās, developments in ghazal (as distinct from nasīb) are more relevant for discussion in that they cast their shadow on the language, imagery, and structure of bacchic verse.
In the jāhiliyya, khamr worked in conjunction with love poetry in two ways. It could either be the fleeting description of the beloved's