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Those that dwelt with you have left in haste,

departing at evening or at dawn,

Alarmed and driven out by fate's caprice,

they head for distant lands.

And I, on the day fate took them off,

was like one drunk

On wine from Hims or Jadar

that sends shivers down the spine,

Poured generously from a brimming wine-jar,

lined with pitch and dark with age,

Its clay seal broken

off its mouth,

A wine so strong it strikes

the vital organs of the reveller,

His heart, hungover, can barely

sober up.

I was like that, or like a man

whose joints are racked with pain,

Or like a man whose heart is struck

by charms and amulets,

Out of longing for them and yearning

on the day I sent my glance after them

As they journeyed in small bands

on Kawkab Hill's two slopes.

They urged on their mounts,

turning their backs on us,

while in veiled howdahs, if you spoke softly to them,

were maidens lovely as statues.

They entice the tribesmen

until they ensnare them,

Yet they seem feeble-minded

when questioned.

Forget about union with beautiful women

when they are sure

That you are a man whom

old age's blossom has demeaned!

They turned away from me

when my bow's stringer bent it

And when my once jet-black locks

turned white.

They do not heed the man who calls them

to fulfill his need,

Nor do they set their sights upon

a white-haired man.

They headed east when summer's blast

had wrung the branches dry,

And, except where ploughshares run,

all green had withered.

So the eye is troubled by tears

shed for a now-distant campsite

Whose folk will find it hard to ever

meet again.

They are cut off, like a rope,

and the eye follows after them,

Between al-Shaqiq

and al-Maqsim Spring,

Until they descended to a land

on the side of a river bed

Where the tribes of Shayban and Ghubar


. Until when they left behind

the sandy tamarisk ground

And had reached high ground, or said,

"This is the trench [that Khosroes] dug."

They alighted in the evening,

and we turned aside our noble-bred camels:

For the man in need, the time had come

to journey.

To a man whose gifts do not elude us,

whom God has made victorious,

So let him in his victory

long delight!

He who wades into the deep of battle,

auspicious his augury,

The Caliph of God

through whom men pray for rain.

translated by Suzanne STETKEVYCH[