BLACK CAT POEMS
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A Song of War
Antarah ibn Shaddad
(6th century A.D.)
translated by E. J. W. Gibb
Go ask the warriors, O daughter of Malec, if thou art ignorant of my valor, ask them that which thou knowest not;
Ask how I act, when I am firmly fixed in the saddle of an elegant horse, swimming in his course, whom my bold antagonists alternately wound;
Yet sometimes he advances alone to the conflict, and sometimes he stands collected in a multitudinous throng of heroes with strong bows;
Ask, and whoever has been witness to the combat will inform thee that I am impetuous in battle, but regardless of spoils.
Many a warrior, clad in a suit of mail, at whose violent assault the boldest men have trembled, who neither had saved himself by swift flight nor by abject submission,
Has this arm laid prone with a rapid blow from a well-straightened javelin, firm between the knots:
Broad were the lips of the wound; and the noise of the rushing blood called forth the wolves, prowling in the night, and pinched with hunger;
With my swift lance did I pierce his coat-of-mail; and no warrior, however brave, is secure from its point.
I left him, like a sacrificial victim, to the lions of the forest, who feasted on him between the crown of his head and his wrists.
The instructions which my valiant uncle gave me I have diligently observed; at the time when the lips are drawn away from the bright teeth.
In the struggle of the fight, into whose deepest gulfs the warriors plunge themselves without complaint or murmur.
When my tribe has placed me as a shield between them and the hostile spears, I have not ignobly declined the danger, although the place where I fixed my foot was too narrow to admit a companion.
poems by Antarah ibn Shaddad