Arabian Romantic

Arabian Romantic

Poems on Bedouin Life and Love

328 Pages

October 2020

ISBN: 9781479804405




ʿAbdallāh ibn Sbayyil (d. 1352/1933) was a poet from the High Najd region in Central Arabia, in what is now Saudi Arabia.

Marcel Kurpershoek is a specialist in the oral traditions and poetry of Arabia. He is the author of the five-volume Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia, as well as several books on Middle Eastern history and culture. He served as Netherlands ambassador to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Poland, and as special envoy to Syria until 2015.

Annmarie Drury is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Queens College, CUNY. She is the author of Translation as Transformation in Victorian Poetry and is a translator of Swahili poetry.

Scenes from Arabian life at the turn of the twentieth century

Arabian Romantic captures what it was like to live in central Arabia before the imposition of austere norms by the Wahhabi authorities in the early twentieth century: tales of robbery and hot pursuit; perilous desert crossings; scenes of exhaustion and chaos when water is raised from deep wells under harsh conditions; the distress of wounded and worn-out animals on the brink of perdition; once proud warriors who are at the mercy of their enemy on the field of battle. Such images lend poignancy to the suffering of the poet’s love-stricken heart, while also painting a vivid portrait of typical Bedouin life.

Ibn Sbayyil, a town dweller from the Najd region of the Arabian Peninsula, was a key figure in the Nabaṭī poetic tradition. His poetry, which is still recited today, broke with the artifice of the preceding generation by combining inherited idiom and original touches reflecting his environment. Translated into English for the first time by Marcel Kurpershoek, Arabian Romantic will delight readers with a poetry that is direct, fluent, and expressive, and that has entertained Arabic speakers for over a century.

An English-only edition.