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Remains of a tavern

by Abu Nuwas, translated from the Arabic by Alex Rowell

To the abandoned remains of a

Drinking house they set out at dark

Traces of wine pouches dragged along its soil

And bouquets of basil, some moist, some parched

I shut my friends inside, that they’d reunite

And I was among them from the start

And it was like I’d never known them

Back in east Sabat’s remotest parts1)A Persian city

We spent a day, then another, then a third

And not till the fifth did we depart

Wine circulated in gilded cups

Adorned with colourful Persian art

On the base a Khosrau2)A Persian king, and on the sides

An oryx speared by horsemen’s darts

Wine was poured up to their pockets

Followed by water to their hats’ marks

ودارِ نَدامى عَطَّلوها وأدلَجوا

            بِها أثَرٌ مِنهم جديدٌ وَدَارِسُ

مَساحِب مِن جَرِّ الزقاقِ على الثَرى

            وأضغاثُ ريحانٍ جَنِيٌّ ويابِسُ

حَبَستُ بِها صَحبي فجدّدتُ عَهدَهم

            وإنّي على أمثالِ تِلكَ لَحابِسُ

ولمْ أدرِ مَن هم غَيرَ ما شَهِدَت بِهِ

            بِشَرقيِّ ساباطَ الديارُ البسابِسُ

أقَمنا بِها يوماً ويوماً وثالثاً

            ويوماً له يومُ الترحُّلِ خامسِ

تُدارُ علينا الراحُ في عسجديّةٍ

            حَبَتها بألوانِ التصاويرِ فارِسُ

قَرارتُها كِسرى وفي جنباتِها

            مَهاً تَدّريها بِالقِسِيِّ الفَوارِسُ

فَلِلخَمرِ ما زُرّتْ عليهِ جُيوبُها

            وَلِلماءِ ما دارتْ عليهِ القلانِسُ

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. A Persian city
2. A Persian king
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