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A Qasīdah by Ibn Muqbil the deeper reaches of lyricism and experience in a Mukhadram poem: An essay in three steps

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In his Tabaqāt Fuhūl al-Shu'arā', the 3rd/9th century literary critic al-Jumahī cites two lines from a poem by the Mukhadram (bridging the Jāhiliyyah and Islam) poet, Ibn Muqbil, which, he claims, express through the traditional image of weeping at the ruined abodes the poet's nostalgia for the pre-Islamic age. The present essay expands upon al-Jumahī's observation by placing the two lines he cites within the context of the full original qasīdah of fifty lines. In doing so, it demonstrates that the entire qasīdah in its themes and motifs is to be interpreted as an expression of nostalgia for the lost age of the Jāhiliyyah. Above all, the structure of the poem constitutes a dramatic inversion of the traditional qasīdah structure. The effect of this inversion is to replace the normal temporal and affective trajectory of the poem from past to present, with a reversed trajectory from present to past. Whereas al-Jumahī expresses puzzlement over how a Muslim could feel longing for the pagan past, this essay turns to the full text of the poem to uncover the nostalgic counter-current that accompanied the massive cultural transition from the Jāhiliyyah to Islam. It shows how Ibn Muqbil manipulates the traditional themes, motifs, and structures of the pre-Islamic qasīdah to express his political resentment at the destruction of his way of life.


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