A Demon Spirit

A Demon Spirit

Arabic Hunting Poems

November 2024

ISBN: 9781479834136


Abū Nuwās was a prominent Abbasid poet of the Modernist style. He was born in what is now Ahvaz, Iran, ca. 139–40/756–58, before moving to Basra and later Baghdad, where he became the court companion of caliph al-Amīn. He died sometime between 198/813 and 200/815 in Baghdad.

James E. Montgomery is Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity Hall. His latest publications are Fate the Hunter: Early Arabic Hunting Poems, and Kalīlah and Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice, with Michael Fishbein.

Verses on hunter and quarry from a giant of Arabic poetry

Arguably the greatest poet of the Arabic language, Abū Nuwās was renowned for his innovations in poetic genre and style and was a larger-than-life figure even among his contemporaries in Abbasid Baghdad. In A Demon Spirit, acclaimed translator and scholar James E. Montgomery renders this literary giant’s hunting poetry, or ṭardiyyāt, translated for the first time in vivid English.

Abū Nuwās’s poems radiate brilliance, ingenuity, and lyrical attentiveness to both nature and body. These hunting poems convey the crackling energy of ruthless predators and wily prey, the worryingly uncertain outcome of perilous pursuits, and the mythic perfection of warriors both human and animal—all the while overturning genre structures and power dynamics with unforgettable imagery expressed in smooth, natural language.

A bilingual Arabic-English edition.