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Pay no heed to puritanical talk

by Abu Nuwas, translated from the Arabic by Alex Rowell

Pay no heed to puritanical talk

And drink of a northern-breeze-chilled rose

Red wine, pure, proffering its scent

Musk, with a hint of apple on the nose

Were it to fill the depths of a glass

It would beam as a lantern glows

I pour again for my love, and kiss him

Under night draped in monastic robes

Till he sings, with head inclined:

“O for the Hanna Monastery groves”1)Much of the wine in Abu Nuwas’ time (c. 800 AD) was sourced from Christian (and Jewish) vintners, who were able to cultivate orchards on church land. “Hanna Monastery” was one of many mentioned by the poet in this connection.

لا تَحفِلنَّ بِقَولِ الزاجِرِ اللاحي

            واشرَبْ على الوَردِ مِن مَشمولةِ الراحِ

صهباءُ صافيةٌ تُجديكَ نكهتها

            تنفُّسَ المِسكِ ملطوخاً بِتفّاحِ

حتي إذا سُلسِلتْ في قَعرِ باطيةٍ

            أغناكَ لألائُها عن ضوءِ مِصباحِ

ما زلتُ أسقي حبيبي ثُمَّ ألثُمُهُ

            والليلُ مُلتحِفٌ في ثَوبِ أمساحِ

حتى تَغَنَّى وَقَد مالتْ سَوالِفُهُ

            يا ديرَ حَنَّةَ مِن ذاتِ الأكيراحِ

Contributor
Alex Rowell

Alex Rowell is a Beirut-based reporter on political and cultural affairs for NOW Lebanon. His writing has also been published in outlets including BBC, the Economist, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Left Foot Forward, and the UK National Secular Society. He has spoken on HuffPost Live TV and BBC World Service and Monocle 24 radio. He is completing a book-length rhyming translation of the khamriyyat, or wine poetry, of Abu Nuwas. He tweets at @disgraceofgod.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1. Much of the wine in Abu Nuwas’ time (c. 800 AD) was sourced from Christian (and Jewish) vintners, who were able to cultivate orchards on church land. “Hanna Monastery” was one of many mentioned by the poet in this connection.
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