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image of Journal of Arabic Literature

In this article I explore the way in which an alienated and rebuffed poet might improve strained relations with his patron by means of a qasīda offering, and so obtain recompense. Taking for analysis Abū Tammām's panegyric to the judge Ibn Abī Du ād, I show how the poet tailors the tripartite pre-Islamic form to suit his individual needs. In this poem, we find Abū Tammām using the nasīb to express sorrow for the loss of the patron and to offer an indirect apology, then describing through the rahīl the privation he endured as an exile. He lauds the judge in the madīh to dispose him in his favor, but the praise gets gradually fainter as the poet becomes more assertive. He devotes most of his attention here to arguing his case, by citing precedents for magnanimity and pardon and by attributing the estrangement between them to the malice of enviers. He concludes the section by boasting of his poetic prowess, and insinuates that decorative praise could turn to withering satire if the patron does not reward him. Monetary considerations thus preponderate at the end of the qasīda , despite protestations of affection elsewhere. By illuminating Abū Tammām's subtle methods for persuading the judge, the essay increases our awareness of the poet's rhetorical skill. Furthermore, it calls attention to a latent possibility in the panegyric genre. The praise poem could well be put to uses besides celebration. The case of Abū Tammām and Ibn Abī Du ād demonstrates that a supplicant poet, before giving up on the patron and becoming hostile himself, might still exploit the form to salve old wounds and earn a prize.


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