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image of Journal of Arabic Literature

In this article I discuss the structural and thematic unity in Ibn Zaydūn's Nūniyya, perhaps the most famous poem from the period of Arab civilization in al-Andalus. I show that the ghazal is organized according to the principles of ring composition and that it is further characterized by a logical transition from formal to intimate address for the beloved and a thematic opposition between morning and night.

The Nūniyya comprises five discrete sections: A - B - C - B1 - A1. Section A introduces the idea of the poet's separation from his beloved, Wallāda, and culminates in a mood of hopelessness and resignation. Morning is associated with this somber reality. In section B, Ibn Zaydūn addresses Wallāda formally and recalls that their nights together were blissful. Section C constitutes the heart of the poem, a paean to Wallāda's beauty and royal stature. At the end of C, the poet switches to an intimate form of address, having implied that, her nobility notwithstanding, he is an equal by the agency of sensual love. B1 and A1 correspond thematically to sections B and A, yet the tone becomes increasingly personal at the end of the poem, consonant with private subject matter and an appeal for a reply. The ghazal concludes at the point when figurative night, filled with its dreams of Wallāda and hopes for a response, is about to be replaced by the bleak morning hour and hopelessness of the introduction, suggesting an awareness on behalf of the poet that word from the beloved will not likely come.


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