1902 Encyclopedia > Hamasah


HAMASAH (more correctly HAMASEH), the name of a famous Arabian anthology compiled by Habib ibn Aus et-Tai, surnamed Abu Temmam (corruptly ABU-TEMAN, q.v.). The collection is so-called from the title of its first book, con-taining poems descriptive of constancy and valour in battle, patient endurance of calamity, steadfastness in seeking vengeance, manfulness under reproach and temptation, all which qualities make up the attribute called by the Arabs hamaseh (briefly paraphrased by Et-Tebrizi as esh-shiddeh fi-l-amr). It consists of ten books or parts, containing in all 884 poems or fragments of poems, and named respect-ively—(1) El-Hamdseh, 261 pieces; (2) El-Mardthl, "Dirges," 169 pieces; (3) El-Adab, " Manners," 54 pieces ; (4) En-Nesib, " The Beauty and Love of Women," 139 pieces; (5) El-Hijd, " Satires," 80 pieces; (6) El-Adydf wa-l-Medih, " Hospitality and Panegyric," 143 pieces; (7) Es-Sifdt, "Miscellaneous Descriptions," 3 pieces; (8) Es-Seyr via-n-Noas, "Journeying and Drowsiness," 9 pieces; (9) El-Mulah, " Pleasantries," 38 pieces; and (10) Medliemmet-en-nisd, "Dispraise of Women," 18 pieces. Of these books the first is by far the longest, both in the number and extent of its poems, and the first two together make up more than half the bulk of the work. The poems are for the most part fragments selected from longer com-positions, though a considerable number are probably entire. They are taken from the works of Arab poets of all periods down to that of Abu Temmam himself (the latest as-certainable date being 832 A.D.), but chiefly of the poets of the Ante-Islamic time (Jdhiliyyun), those of the early days of El-Islam (Mukhadrimun), and those who flourished during the reigns of the TJmawi caliphs, 660-749 A.D. (IsldmiyyUtn). Perhaps the oldest in the collection are those relating to the war of Basus, a famous legendary strife which arose out of the murder of Kuleyb, chief of the com-bined clans of Bekr and Teghlib, and lasted for forty years, ending with the peace of Dhu-l-Mejaz, about 534 A.D. Of the period of the 'Abbasi caliphs, under whom Abu Temmam himself lived, there are probably not more than sixteen fragments.

Most of the poems belong to the class of extempore or occasional utterances, as distinguished from qasidehs, or elaborately finished odes. While the latter abound with comparisons and long descriptions, in which the skill of the poet is exhibited with much art and ingenuity, the poems of the Hamdseh are short, direct, and for the most part free from comparisons : the transitions are easy, the metaphors simple, and the purpose of the poem clearly indicated. It is due probably to the fact that this style of composition was chiefly sought by Abu Temmam in com-piling his collection that he has chosen hardly anything from the works of the most famous poets of antiquity. Not a single piece from Imra'el-Qeys occurs in the Hamdseh, nor are there any from 'Alqameh, Zuheyr, or El-A'sha; En-Nabighah is represented only by two pieces (pp. 408 and 742 of Freytag's edition) of four and three verses respectively, 'Antarah by two pieces of four verses each (Id., pp. 206, 209), Tarafeh by one piece of five verses (Id., p. 632), Lebid by one piece of three verses (Id., p. 468), and 'Amr son of Kulthum by one piece of four verses (Id., p. 236). The compilation is thus essentially an anthology of minor poets, and exhibits (so far at least as the more ancient poems are concerned) the general average of poetic utterance at a time when to speak in verse was the daily habit of every warrior of the desert.

To this description, however, there is an important excep-tion in the book entitled En-Nesib, containing verses relat-ing to women and love. In the classical age of Arab poetry it was the established rule that all qasidehs, or finished odes, must begin with the mention of women and their charms (teshbib), in order, as the old critics said, that the hearts of the hearers might be softened and inclined to regard kindly the theme which the poet proposed to unfold. The fragments included in this part of the work are there-fore generally taken from the opening verses of qasidehs; where this is not the case, they are chiefly compositions of the early Islamic period, when the school of exclusively erotic poetry (of which the greatest representative was 'Omar son of Abu Rabfah) arose.

The compiler was himself a distinguished poet in the style of his day, and wandered through many provinces of the Muslim empire earning money and fame by his skill in panegyric. About 220 A.H. he betook himself to Khurasan, then ruled by 'Abd-allah son of T&hir, whom he praised and by whom he was rewarded; on his journey home to El-Traq he passed through Hamadiin, and was there detained for many months a guest of Abu-l-Wafa son of Selemeh, the road onward being blocked by heavy falls of snow. During his residence at Hamadan Abu Temmam is said to have compiled or composed, from the materials which he found in Abu-l-Wafa's library, five poeti-cal works, of which one was the Hamdseh. This collection remained as a precious heirloom in the family of Abu-1-Wafa- until their fortunes decayed, when it fell into the hands of a man of Dinawar named Abu-l-'AwMhil, who carried it to Isfahan and made it known to the learned of that city.

The worth of the Hamdseh as a store-house of ancient legend, of faithful detail regarding the usages of the pagan time and early simplicity of the Arab race, can hardly be exaggerated. The high level of excellence which is found in its selections, both as to form and matter, is re-markable, and caused it to be said that Abu Temmäm dis-played higher qualities as a poet in his choice of extracts from the ancients than in his own compositions. What strikes us chiefly in the class of poetry of which the Hamdseh is a specimen, is its exceeding truth and reality, its freedom from artificiality and hearsay, the evident first-hand experience which the singers possessed of all of which they sang. For historical purposes the value of the collec-tion is not small; but most of all there shines forth from it a complete portraiture of the hardy and manful nature, the strenuous life of passion and battle, the lofty contempt of cowardice, niggardliness, and servility, which marked the valiant stock who bore El-Isläm abroad in a flood of new life over the out-worn civilizations of Persia, Egypt, and Byzantium. It has the true stamp of the heroic time, of its weaknesses and crime as of its strength and beauty.

No less than twenty commentaries on it are enumerated by Häji Khallfeh. Of these the earliest was by Abu Riyäsh (otherwise Er-Riyäshi), who died in 257 A.H. ; excerpts from it, chiefly in eluci-dation of the circumstances in which the poems were composed, are frequently given by Et-Tebrizl. He was followed by the famous grammarian Abu-l-Fath ibn el-Jinni (died 392 A.H.), and later by Shihäb ed-Din Ahmed el-Marzuqi of Isfahan (died 421 A.H.). Upon El-Marzüqi's commentary is chiefly founded that of Abu Zekeriyä Yahyä et-Tebrizi (born 421 A.H., died 502), which has been published by the late Professor G. W. Freytag of Bonn, together with a Latin translation and notes (1828-1851). This monumental work, the labour of a life, is a treasure of information regarding the classical age of Arab literature which has not perhaps its equal for extent, accuracy, and minuteness of detail, in Europe. No other complete edition of the Hamäseh has been printed in the West; but in 1856 one appeared at Calcutta under the names of Maulavi Ghuläm Rabbani and Kabiru-d-dtn Ahmad. Though no acknowledgment of the fact is contained in this edition, it is a simple reprint of Professor Freytag's text (without Et-Tebrizi's commentary), and follows its original even in the misprints (corrected by Freytag at the end of the second volume, which being in Latin the Calcutta editors do not seem to have consulted). It is thus worthless as a fresh critical authority, and, owdng to the absence of a commentary, of little use to the student; its only merit is that it contains in an appendix of 12 pages a collection of verses (and some entire frag-ments) not found in Et-Tebrizi's recension, but stated to exist in some copies consulted by the editors ; these are, however, very care-lessly edited and printed, and in many places unintelligible.

The Hamdseh has been rendered with the utmost skill and spirit into German verse by the illustrious Friedrich Rückert (Stuttgart, 1846), who has not only given translations of almost all the poems proper to the work, but has added numerous fragments drawn from other sources, especially those occurring in the Scholia of Et-Tebrizi, as well as the Mo'allaqohs of Zuheyr and 'Antarah, the Lämiyyeh of Esh-Shenfera, and the Bauet So'acl of Ka'b son of Zuheyr. No such faithful interpretation of the ways and thoughts of the ancient Arabs exists to our knowdedge in any modem European language ; it is comparable, for fidelity, spirit, and fluency, only to Lane's translation of the Thousand and One Nights.
"When the Hamdseh is spoken of, that of Abu Temmäm, as the first and most famous of the name, is meant ; but several collec-tions of a similar kind, also called Hamäseh, exist. The best known and earliest of these is the Hamäseh of El-Bohturi (died 284 A.H.), of which some fragments were published by Theo. Noldeke in his Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Poesie der alten Araber (Hanover, 1864). Four other works of the same name, formed on the model of Abu Temmam's compilation, are mentioned by Haji Khahfeh. Besides these, a work entiÜe&Hamuset er-Bdh (the Hamäseh of wine), was composed by Abu-l-'Ala el-Ma'arri (died 449 A.H. ). (C. J. L.)

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