14 May 2010

Al-Rundi's qasida "Ratha' al-Andalus" رثاء الأندلس لأبي البقاء الرندي

Ratha' al-Andalus, The Lament for the Fall of Seville (1267), that can be heard on Youtube in a beautiful contemporary arrangement, traditionally used to be counted among the saddest poems ever composed in Arabic. Its author, known as Abu al-Baqa’ al-Rundi (or Salih ibn Sharif al-Rundi), was born in Seville, lived in a small Andalusian town of Ronda and in Ceuta, where he died in 1285. The form and content of this work is a good illustration of the gender called qasida, or “purpose poem”. Its “qasd” or literally the “purpose” is to gain a military aid from North African Muslims to help the Andalusians against the army of the Castilian king Alfonso X. It wasn’t written precisely at the occasion of the fall of Seville, but it mentions this event, among other episodes taken from pre-Islamic and Islamic history. It’s a nuniyya, a kind of poem in which the consonant “nun” repeats itself to create a frame of mind fitting the lamentation, which can be referred not only to concrete historical circumstances, but to the human fate in general, as "Everything declines after reaching the perfection", any state of power and glory is but a prelude of an inevitable fall.

The Arabic text can be found here, and its English translation by James T. Monroe here.

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