By Philip Kennedy

A readable survey of this celebrated ninth century Arab poet.

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Extra info for Abu Nuwas: A Genius of Poetry (Makers of the Muslim World)

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And how my ardor has intensified? Acute worry, 3 These are playful, at worst mischievous poems and are not evil in the way the word “satanic” might suggest. The mystics of Islam often treated the Devil with some sympathy, according to their system of thought – most famously al-Hallaj (d. 922). 045 19/02/2005 11:37 AM Page 45 “LOVE, WINE, SODOMY ... AND THE LASH” 45 Anxiety and passion have almost killed me ... ) What happiness after sorrow! – At which my heart almost ruptured; What grace and bounty!

His place in the next world Must resemble his place in this; If we were ever to deny God We would worship him instead; It suffices for me that the darkness of night Envelops both him and me. (D. ” Among the motifs rendered bland with repetition is that of the beloved as the full or crescent moon and the sun. ” Beauty had inscribed upon his forehead, “I testify that there is no comely one other than him” (D. iv, 370) One must read vigilantly to gauge fully the poet’s tone. Even from a setting that is awkward for the poet, as on one occasion when accused of seducing his sweetheart’s messenger, he manages in fulsome denial to salvage sentiment worthy of true love: ...

Abu Nuwas was a product (in very schematic terms) of this essential dichotomy of love poetry. Like the verse of the highly influential Bashshar ibn Burd (d. 784) before him, his ghazal was an alloy of the various tones and registers in which he was no doubt apprenticed during his literary schooling. These references pay lip-service to a certain kind of acute sensibility and create a sense of literary heritage and pedigree. The range of registers in Abu Nuwas is complemented in an important way by the fact that he composed homoerotic as well as heterosexual poems.

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