Al Maghrib Al Jadid - No 9/10 - February - March 1936
This title might seem bizarre but it is the title that came to mind after an hour consulting the works of Al Mutanabbi. I had written this on a piece of paper without realizing what I was writing or how I was expressing the sensations and feelings I experienced in the company of our eternal poet. He recited for me the most eloquent poems that struck a sensitive chord that arises when a great man is on the hunt for some internal flame. I meditated on his most sublime of maxims, inciting one to be swept willingly by a deep desire for the eternal life's grandeur and prestige.
Al Mutanabbi was not only a poet and an idealist. He was a genius with a balanced verve, combining the abundance from the poet's cup with the innate wisdom of the philosopher to express the driving force that guides his spirit towards grandeur or at the very least to an awareness of this grandeur. One that manifested itself in his daily behaviors that lasted for brief moments as well as in his poems dedicated to eternity.
Al Mutanabbi was the sole Arab poet who lived his life by scrutinizing it from above, who saw its paucity even when none could perceive its earthly force and oppression. As long as it was worthy of his efforts he saw no big deal to set upon either the easy or difficult paths of life. He paid little attention to the good or bad aspects of life. When he reflected upon himself, he noted that he did not enjoy the honors and titles of glory that he deserved. Overflowing with feelings and boiling with rage, here he is, engaged in a poem where the weak minded among intellectuals can not follow him. Meanwhile those who refuse to fall to the quirks of nature and who demand the most of what life has to offer kneel and bow before him.
For sure his life is a culmination of many attempts doomed to failure, one filled with baseless claims and poorly defined inclinations. However the life of a great man is not measured by criteria used to judge the life of a common mortal nor those of the society in which he lived. It imposes itself by willful force that no barrier can be erected in opposition. It obscures the path to greatness to the point where no moderation can be found for a balanced outcome. It never ceases to act in goodwill. And in case of failure, it finds no reason to be discouraged, to fall into despair or to abandon its cause. Life moves to its own tune. It glorifies all undertakings and justifies all ends by all means.
Al Mutanabbi does not belong to those illustrious men content to champion without cease some glorified principle; who seclude themselves in an ivory tower and sing hymns of unrealistic glory. Rather he belongs within the group of tyrants whose glory is measured by the degree of their voracity as well as their love of life. They do not avoid life's contingencies but seek instead to better establish themselves in its fancies and to wear its whims.
Such is Al Mutanabbi whose anthology of poems we course through in fascination of his extraordinary ambition and great voracity. His biographies inform us of his inability to distinguish between good and bad behavior. They present to us a strong self-confident personality justifying his acts who expresses his most intimate feelings in poems combining attributes of preeminence and aspiration for eternity. The poet who incarnates this personality holds a supreme position among Arab poets across the centuries. Despite a few harmless imperfections with regards to form and choice of certain expressions which led on occasion to some criticism, the poetic output of this author merits his immortality as long as there are men on Earth.
The Arabic language can take pride in celebrating the millennium of our great poet by witnessing the renewed studies of his poetry by researchers and men of letters who have shown their interest in the various aspects of his immortal body of work. As for me, it suffices to describe how all fired up I felt very deep inside when I sat alone in the company of his poems for awhile. One hour beside Al Mutanabbi made me feel the power of a mind that launched flashes of brilliance and manifested its aura in all its splendor.
One hardly begins to read the first of his poems and to concentrate on the ideas contained therein, when one feels obliged to endow this poet without equal, a much higher esteem than that by those who dedicated biographical studies and shown interest up close of his behavior. A number of detractors have tried to nitpick his prestige of grandeur and glory by emphasizing only certain faults to which he was particularly afflicted such as his voracity and mood swings. However Al Mutanabbi always came through as an eternal poet, obliging literati to accept him as a creator of a poetical universe that generations of poets have used as a model; imitating his aphorisms considered to be a code of rules and principles that will endure ad vitam aeternam (till the end of days).
- The first things that strike us when we are in his company are the wonderful maxims that emanate, not from the mind or the knowledge of the poet, but from deep inside to become proverbs for posterity whose echoes reverberate with morality across centuries. Our poet was not a philosopher interested in the essence of things who would submit it to detailed analysis. For while this would instill admiration it would not harvest our following.
The similarity one can make between Al Mutanabbi and Al Ma'arri with regards to the maxims replete in his work does not exclude the fact that the two poets are very different from one another. Al Ma'arri's poetry exclusively deals with the world of ideas; it exposes theories and manipulates doctrines. As for Al Mutanabbi, he writes poems with wonderful maxims drawn from deep within. They provide nourishment and reveal to him their polished beauty in verses destined for eternity not only driven by books but also from mouths of those who wish to talk about the laws of the universe and rules of existence.
If we were allowed a vocable to qualify the contents of this aspect of wisdom manifested by the feelings of our poet, we would call it the 'philosophy of innateness'. Furthermore to better appreciate the meaning of this naming, we must hark back to the origins of the poetic philosophy of Al Mutanabbi. Curiously a number of thinkers have tried to seek these origins of this philosophy from a source outside the feelings and sensitivity of the poet, claiming that the majority of his maxims were borrowed from Greek or Islamic philosophy. But our poet was not among those privileged with the good fortune to study the basic principles of philosophical theories. Moreover he was not one to elaborate on any theoretical composition or one to adhere to a predetermined doctrine. He was however a poet who was engaged with feelings that guide all sincere poets without being tied to this or that concept or by any doctrine.
To explore life, Al Mutanabbi drew from the bottom of his being and from the utmost depth of his poetic abilities a sense of observation and thereby succeeded spontaneously to evoke the immediate and concrete law of existence. His philosophy is guided by natural inclinations drawing their essence, not from his experiences or from his cultural upbringing, but by his conception of life.
- The second impression when one finds themselves in his company is the powerful character and obvious proud virility that emanate from all his poems. Nevertheless, these two traits are not revealed like the trivial pride of some poets to which we sometimes respond with a smile when they show their wares, rather it is shown with the pride of a man who commands respect, a man for whom one can show only reverence. We are obliged to reserve for him a special corner of our heart and a special spot in our mind to learn about his poems, to be able to recite his hymns of glory and to be in his shoes. This pride retraces the state of mind of a poet who dreams of prestige without attempting to engage in the paths that lead there. When he addresses kings and princes, he never dismounts from his pedestal so as to not cede any impression that they are his equal. He is sure of his greatness as we can see when he says:
My heart practices royal sovereign power
My poet tongue albeit one of a commoner
Candid pride. Pride of a man who feels something deep within himself; because, let's not forget that he always sought prestige and cherished the fleeting image of glory despite only a diminished gratification, far short of what he deemed his merit. His pride prevented him from boasting about some inane prestige. Instead it incited him to speak of himself in terms as if he possessed all the assets of prestige and greatness. And that is how he spoke of his virility, highlighting his strength and readily confounding all those who dare stand before him.
Al Mutanabbi was not only a poet who improvised masterpieces of poetry with wonderful, balanced and well arranged visions. He also added to his abundant poetic feelings a deep awareness of his strong character and extraordinary ambition for all that life presents pertaining to eminent prestige and relevance to great principles.
In conclusion, I closed the collection of poems that allowed me to celebrate if only for one hour of reading, the millennium marking the death of our great poet. I asked myself what type of feeling exudes from this beautiful adage which says that a human being can boast with such power of character and also, what kind of mortal would nourish such ambition. It can only be for a great man whose fate opens life's horizons parsimoniously. He could only take up a poet's calling but what a poet he was! A poet with a great soul slated for eternal life. A glorious and magnificent title that he can proudly claim.