Download document


I have grown tired of life, and the length my days drag on,

and of men for ever asking, 'How is Labid to-day?'

Time conquers all men, Time the unconquerable

freshly renewed evermore and ever more extended.

I see the day come upon me, and after that the night,

and each of them, alas! departs but to return.

The Poem of Labid

DESOLATE are the mansions of the fair, the stations in Minia, where they rested, and those where they fixed their abodes! Wild are the hills of Goul, and deserted is the summit of Rijaam.

The canals of Rayaan are destroyed: the remains of them are laid bare and smoothed by the floods, like characters engraved on the solid rocks.

Dear ruins! Many a year has been closed, many a month, holy and unhallowed, has elapsed, since I exchanged tender vows with their fair inhabitants!

The rainy constellations of spring have made their hills green and luxuriant: the drops from the thunder-clouds have drenched them with profuse as well as with gentle showers:

Showers, from every nightly cloud, from every cloud veiling the horizon at day-break, and from every evening cloud, responsive with hoarse murmurs.

Here the wild eringo-plants raise their tops: here the antelopes bring forth their young, by the sides of the valley: and here the ostriches drop their eggs.

The large-eyed wild-cows lie suckling their young, a few days old—their young, who will soon become a herd on the plain.

The torrents have cleared the rubbish, and disclosed the traces of habitations, as the reeds of a writer restore effaced letters in a book;

Or as the black dust, sprinkled over the varied marks on a fair hand, brings to view with a brighter tint the blue stains of woad.


And many a bitter morn of wind and cold

And many a bitter morn of wind and cold

I curbed,

When its reins were in the hand

of the north wind.

I defended the tribe, my battle gear borne

by a winning courser,

Her reins my sash when I went

forth at dawn.

Then I mounted a lookout post

on a narrow, wind-blown peak

Whose dust rose to the banners

of the foe

Until when daylight dipped its hand into

the all-concealing night,

And darkness veiled the crotches of

each mountain pass,

To the plain I descended and my mare

held erect her neck

Like the date palm's stripped trunk at which

the picker's courage fails.

I spurred her to a speed

fit for the ostrich chase,

Until when she was heated through

and her bones were nimble,

Her light leathern saddle slipped,

sweat flowed from her neck,

And her saddle girth

was soaked with froth.

She coursed, head held high and thrusting

in the bridle, racing headlong

Like a thirsting dove to water when

her flock beats urgent wings.

Lament for Arbad

We perish and rot   
   but the rising stars do not.

  When we are gone, 
    tower and mountain stay. 

Once I was under  
   a coveted neighbor's wing.

  And with Arbad, that protector 
    has passed away.

I'll stand ungrieved,   
   though Fortune force us asunder

  For every man 
    is felled by Fortune one day.

I am no more enthralled  
   by newfound riches

  than grieved by aught 
    that Fortune wreaks or takes.

For men are like desert camps:   
   one day, full of folk

  but, come the morrow, 
    an unpeopled waste.

They pass away in flocks,   
   and the land stays on:

  a trailing herdsman 
    rounding up the strays.

Yes, men are like shooting stars:   
   a trailing light 

  collapsed to ashes 
    after the briefest blaze.

Men's wealth and kin   
   are but a loan of Fortune.

  All that is loaned
    must be at last repaid. 

Men are at work.   
   One worker razes his building

  to the ground, another 
    raises something great.

Among them are the happy 
   who seize their lot,

  and unlucky others: 
    beggars till the grave. 

If my Doom be slow in coming, 
   I can look forward

  to ailing fingers 
    clenched about a cane,

While telling tales   
   of youth and yesteryear,

  on slow legs, trying to stand 
    yet bent with pain.

I am become a sword   
   whose sheath is worn

  apart by the years since smithing, 
    though sharp the blade. 

Do not be gone! 1  
   A due date for death is meted

  to all. It is yet to come...
    then comes today!

Reproachful woman! 2    
   When fine lads trek forth,

  can you say who of them 
    shall return from the fray?

Will you grieve   
   what fell Fortune wreaks on men?

  What noble man 
    will disaster not waylay?

No, by your lifeblood:   
   neither pebble-reader

  nor auguress 3  know 
    what fey things God ordains.

If any of you would doubt me,   
   simply ask them

  when a lad shall taste of Doom, 
    or the land taste rains.