A young soul

by Al Mutanabbi

A young soul in my ageing body plays, Though time’s sharp blades my weary visage raze.

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Hard biter in a toothless mouth is she, The will may wane, but she a winner stays.

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Spare me to win glory’s forbidden prize, Glory in hardship, sloth in comfort lies.

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Em’nence is not with cheap comfort bought, Hear the honey gath’rers bee-stung cries

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No indolent dreaming dawdler am I, Nor am content, while riches I descry.

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Life’s heaving tides of woe shall spare me not, Unless I, its unblocked courses defy

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Softly do town girls their faces adorn, But Bedu are from garish colours shorn.

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Town beauty is with pampered softness sought, The Bedu are with unsought beauty born.

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Grave harm have lovers to themselves done, Loving, ere understanding life begun.

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They, with with’ered and wasted souls, After vile, though pretty-faced creatures run.

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Beauti’ful women, as experienced men know, Are but darkness wrapped in dazzling light aglow.

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A life of friv’lous youth and worried age, Its futile course to futile death will flow

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When my hands from brimming cups weakly shook, I awoke, ere sense my wined mind forsook.

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Shunning choice wines, as rich as purest gold, I, of spring showers silv’ry draught partook.

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Secrets I keep no companion can discern, Nor to it can wine its potent way burn.

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Soft women I have for an hour, and then, Deserts I roam, never more to return.

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Courage to reason second place must take, For valour should not balanced judgment shake.

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But if both in a hard soul united are, Then Glory’s realms their own demesne shall make.

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Defiantly live, or in honour die, Midst slashing blades and banners flapping high

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Rage is best dispatched by lances’ points, and Spearing spiteful chests shall their spite deny.

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Face with cool, carefree calm life’s caretorn climes, As long as your soul with its body chimes.

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Your joys of yore have passed beyond recall, And sadness can summon not bygone times.

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A charger’s saddle is an exalted throne, The best companions are books alone.

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Without hardship everyone would prevail, The generous are poor, and courage kills its own.

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One’s ill-conduct brooding mistrust will breed, For dark thoughts on darker suspicions feed.

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Sland’ring friends with what foes have slandered one, Thus in black nights of doubt one’s life will lead.

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Fie’ry rashness may as valour be seen, And nervous anger may cowardice mean.

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Arms are carried by people everywhere, But not all claws are lion’s, nor as keen.

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Cowards see vapid impotence as sense, Such is treacherous villainy’s defense.

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Each of valour’s divers forms enriches, But valiant wisdom is of worth immense.

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Our dead we mourn, though we very well know, That but Vanity they leave ere they go.

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Reflection upon life’s hard course shall teach, ‘Tis one to die as be slain by a foe.

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Shoreless you would be of you were a sea. If rain, earth unable to contain ye.

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Country and people of you I could warn, Of that which only Noah could foresee.

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Misfortune’s arrows do upon me rain, Countless arrowheads does my heart sustain.

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As more shafts at my studded heart fly, Steel upon Steel shatters the hardy twain.

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At times in Bedu tents a home I find, Often, home is atop the camel’s hind,

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My body a target for the brigand’s lance, To scorching heat my aching face unbind.

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Though a noble lady and highly born, ‘Tis your unfeminine wisdom we mourn.

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True spirit is from softer self distilled, As potent wine from sweeter grapes is drawn.

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Last updated June 30, 2011