When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

A Prayer for a Favor

Composed and recited by Yaḥyā al-Ḍāwī Belḥāf, recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Damḳawt, March 2004. Translated with help of Thābit Musallim Bakhīt Hashm Āmr Ǧīd in Ṣalālah, February 2012. Lines 8 and 9 were problematic.

This poem is apparently addressed to Sultan Qābūs of Oman and is an application for the sultan’s favor and generosity. Literally, the poem is addressed to a female camel (Ar. nāqa, Omani Ar. bōsh), which is often a metaphorical stand-in for the ṣāḥib al-jalāla (“His Excellency,” i.e., the sultan) in poetry due to the munificence of both. Note that this poem is indifferent to the constraint of monorhyme.

1) sen heṣbaḥ ḫaṭf // w-hōfel ṣlībThey have become emaciated // with tight bellies
2) we-ḳlatsen medd // we-ǧhēm līrīḳTheir lips drooped // when they set forth to eat in the morning
3) we-mġōren flēš // nḥawleb enfīźAnd afterwards when it [the she-camel] disappeared // we milked a mirage
4) ʾēnāʾ ār ṭafṭayf // w-beh ṯeḳṯīḳThe rainclouds held back // though they were full of goodness
5) w-bād eḥyēl // lōbōd māṯīḳEven though after many years // they had been trustworthy
6) yešzaḥyem lā // wet ber ḏe-nhīrThey [the camels] never stray [though they are hungry] // even for a day
7) baḫta ḏ-lābōr // ṭar ḏ-mendəhīlLucky is he who has crossed to the other side // atop a place full of blessings [good pasturage]
8) lābēris nṭift // ḏerḳāt ḏe-ṭwībHer [the camel’s?] speech is clean // my(?) hope is that you are comfortable
9) w-kermərōm ḏyeh ṭlīb // w-ṯārōna ḏ-yertəyīḳThe noble ones [whose favor] is sought after // [even?] a pack of predators would be satisfied [by them]
10) w-bālī yerḥamh // we-fdōh men eźeyḳMy God have mercy on him // and keep discomfort far away
11) w-bād wēlēf // lādād swīḳAfter everything that has happened // no one will reveal it.

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