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The Times We Live In
The following are the introductory lines of a dāndān tribal ode by an unknown poet from the interior of al-Mahra and sung by an unknown performer (possibly the poet himself). I believe that the recitation is incomplete and therefore the topic of this poem is obscured. Although this recording does not specify the event that occasioned the composition of this poem, I believe that it merits classification as an occasional poem. The metrical scheme and melody to which this poem is sung was referred to by Ḥājj as yēd w-yēd (DAN i DAN, or | – ˇ – |). The rhyme letter is /d/ and /ṭ/, indicating the coalescence of these two phonemes in pausal position.
This recording was played for me on a cellphone in the possession of a Mahri speaker visiting al-Ghaydha from Shiḥn. I transferred the recording to my own digital audio recorder by placing the latter against the cellphone’s speaker while the clip played.
Poem Translation 1) hayye bīš emdīt // rēhī men eġawṭ Welcome to you, Mdīt // refreshing breeze from the middle of the sea! 2) hāwēl ḏe-rbē // šīs ḥell mawʿūd The first appearance of Rbē // has happened at its appointed time 3) nekśōt hǧīs // ḏ-hēm šbawṭ It aroused feelings // that were still under wraps 4) hēm fōn yūḳayf // rīhōf ḏe-ǧmōd They had stayed still // slender and unmoving [“frozen”] 5) ḥōm lāmēr beh // lenṭeyren wrawd I want to speak about // it in order to make the roses [feelings] blossom 6) men ḏōbel nwōź // we-ṭrēf yehdawd From the direction of the lightning // and the direction [where] it thunders 7) w-ḥōm slōm // be-ḳlēm we-śhōd I want peace // [as testified] by the pen and witnesses 8) w-rēḳem ṣḥeyḥ // ḏel heh yhenġawṭ A correct accounting // which will not cause [any one] anger 9) le-twōlī le-sʿīd // ḥrō w-ʾāmawd And after this, to Sʿīd // the head and the spinal column (i.e., an important, responsible man, Ar. al-marjaʿ) 10) yśeyləsen kell // we-l heh yeśśədawd He carries them all (virtues) // and is not incapable [of anything] 11) w-ġawheh kell // ṭrūf yeśdawd [For] all of his brothers // he represents [all] parties 12) hābūn māyōn // wel fōn yeśṭawṭ The people are flowing springs (some goods, some bad) // but Sʿīd has never “overflowed the limits” 13) hṭeyr besṭōn // we-ḏbōr we-ḥdawd [Standing watch] over the garden // [protecting] its soil and borders 14) we-nḥā men khēn // bēnwēn tḳeyyōd And we, since time immemorial // tribal rules [are followed] among us 15) ṭeyr śēra w-ṭawl // w-ṭeyr mezhawd [Remaining] atop the Sharia and its entire scope // and atop intelligent ideas 16) men bād hawlōʾī // eə-ṣfēf we-ǧdawd Ever since the very first ones // for generations and [since our] ancestors [we have preserved our laws] 17) ʾār waḳten ḏēh // ġśōh l-mezhōd But this time of ours // has overturned wisdom 18) šenhawl eṭmā // rōyā l-meḳṣawd Inconsistent ambition // has vanquished the [steadfast] intention 19) w-kām men ṭnōḥ // le-bdēn yerźawd How many people follow [the ambitious] // and hack [my] body to pieces (people who cause the poet problems) 20) wśawr ḏ-lūḥeyn // wet tēhem nḳawd In putting together the planks to make a boat // at that time, he chooses the best of them.
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