But if unsuccessful in prose, the Arabs were not so in poetry. This, even before the era of the prophet, had, as we have seen, attained no ordinary degree of excellence; and it reached its highest point during the following century, under the Ommiade dynasty, when Omar Ebn Rabeeyah, of the tribe of Koreysh; Jameel, of the Benoo Adhrah; Jareer and Farazdak, both of Tameem; and Noseyyeb, a Negro by birth-the first and second masters of erotic, the third and fourth of satirical, and the fifth of descriptive poetry -- with a cloud of lesser celebrities, lived and sang in the sunshine of the damascene court. The 8th and 9th centuries, agitated by civil dissensions or oppressed by the tyranny of the Abbasides, were less favourable to the Muses, till the reaction of the Greek and Persian, minds, with which the Arab spirit was now yearly brought into more intimate contact, gave rise to a new and brilliant school, less true to the simplicity of nature or the purity of Arab diction, but richer in imagery and deeper in philosophic thought, illustrating, too, the transition from the objective to the subjective which has accompanied and half veiled decline in the literature of every nation, turn after turn. Abu-Teman, of the tribe of Tai, known not as a poet only, but also as a critic and the compiler of the celebrated anthology, the Hamasa, the "Golden Treasury" of the Arabs, first came forwards in this field. His successor, the well-known Mutenebhe, is still esteemed by many of the greatest of Arab poets; in range of thought and polish of diction he certainly excels all besides. Later still, in the 11th century, appeared Toghrai, who in his Lameyyah, the title of his principal piece, entered the lists against Shanfarah, the most brilliant of pre-Islamitic poets, and, it seems, furnished our own Tennyson with the model of his "Locksley Hall;" while a little later, Ebn Faridh, in Egypt, composed the mystico-erotic volume that has never in its kind been surpassed, or even equaled, by the poets of any land.
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Arabia - Table of Contents