The Poems of Mu'tamid, King of Seville
Publication date: April 2012
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of The Poems of Mu'tamid, King of Seville
A journey into the soul of al-Andalus and its Poet-King. King Abbad III, al-Mu'tamid 'ala Allah, was the 3rd and last ruler (reigned 1069-1091 CE) of Seville, Spain. He counts as one of the greatest Andalusian poets, and his blood is said to live on in the royal houses of Europe, and elsewhere. English, bookmarked, facsimile PDF eBook, 2 Megabytes, 60 pages - £1.50 WISDOM OF THE EAST THE POEMS OF MU'TAMIDKING OF SEVILLE RENDERED INTO ENGLISH VERSE BYDULCIE LAWRENCE SMITHWITH AN INTRODUCTION ""O Palm, thou art a stranger in the West.""Abd-al-Rahman. LONDONJOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.1915 ______________________________________ CONTENTS Introduction - p. 11The Poems of Mu'tamid - p. 33Appendix - p. 55 ______________________________________ King Abbad III, Abul Qasim Muhammad ibn Abbad al-Mu'tamid 'ala Allah, also called al-Zafir and al-Mu'ayyad Abu al-Qasim (1040-1095 CE), was the 3rd and last ruler (reigned 1069-1091 CE) of Seville (called Isbillah in Arabic) in Spain from Abbadid dynasty. He was born in Beja, near Seville. The collapse of the Andalusian Umayyad caliphate in 1031 diminished the illustrious capital city of Córdoba to a mere provincial town, and splintered al-Andalus into some 23 petty principalities and locally-ruled Kingdoms. The disarray unified the feuding Christian states of Galicia, León, Castile, Navarre, Aragón and Barcelona with visions of reconquest. This period became known as the era of the ""Party Kings"" or petty monarchs (as the decadent Arab rulers had become known) - Muluk al-Tawa'if in Arabic, Reyes de Taifas in Spanish. Once-glorious Córdoba was soon eclipsed by the flourishing dynasties of Seville, Badajoz, Granada and Toledo. Yet apart from brief coalitions against the common enemy, those Christian Visigothic invaders who originated from eastern Europe, the Muslim Kingdoms were constantly dividing and realigning themselves through feuds and treaties, their rulers vying not only for political dominance, but also to attract the greatest poets and scholars of the day to their respective courts. Of all these rival Kingdoms, the most formidable militarily and the most scintillating artistically was undeniably the Kingdom of Seville, ruled by the Abbadids. Mu'tamid inherited not only the reins of power from his ancestors, but their poetical talent as well. Mu'tamid's grandfather Abul Qasim Muhammad ibn Isma'il ibn Abbad, the founder of the Abbadid dynasty, was renowned for his justice and wise rule, while his son Mu'tadid, Mu'tamid's father, was perhaps not so popular. Nonetheless, poets and scholars gravitated to Mu'tadid's court, for he was also known as a great patron of literature and the arts, as well as a poet in his own right. In this example, Mu'tamid followed. The biographer Ibn Khallikan described Mu'tamid as ""the most liberal, hospitable, munificent and powerful of all the Princes ruling Spain. His court was the haling place of travellers, the rendezvous of poets, the point to which all hopes were directed and the haunt of men of talent."" Mu'tamid was not only the patron of the Andalusian Arabic poet ibn Ammar, but is also usually considered in his own right one of the greatest of the Andalusian poets. He is thus known as the Poet-King of Seville. Lovers of pleasure, high adventure and - above all - poetry, Mu'tamid and ibn Ammar became inseparable companions. Poetry flourished exuberantly in 11th Century al-Andalus. Verse was the common expression of the day, an arabesque of words and meaning the language of love, diplomacy and satire. Andalusians loved poetry and virtually everyone composed it. No poet so embodied the spirit of this brilliant poetical age as did Mu'tamid. ""Mu'tamid left,"" wrote literary historian ibn Bassam, ""some verses, beautiful as the bud when it opens to disclose the flower."" To amuse themselves, the young Mu'tamid and ibn Ammar often sallied forth in disguise to the banks of al-Wadi al-Kabir, now the Guadalquivir River. On such an outing, in 1059, Mu'tamid met his future wife. While strolling along the riverbank, where some young women were washing linen, Mu'tamid improvised a half-verse, challenging ibn Ammar to complete it impromptu. Ibn Ammar's brilliant wit never failed him but before he could take up the rhyme, one of the linen-washers unhesitatingly completed the verse. Amazed and captivated by her beauty and cleverness, Mu'tamid had the young poetess brought to the palace. Her name was I'timad; she was commonly known as Rumaikiyyah, the slave of Rumaik, for whom she drove mules. Mu'tamid purchased her freedom and later married her. It is said that he adopted the public name al-Mu'tamid 'ala Allah - ""He Who Relies on God"" - after his wife's name I'timad, or ""Reliance"". Mu'tamid's youthful works show his preoccupation with pleasure and friendship, and mirror the popular themes of love, nature and sensual beauty. The second period of Mu'tamid's poetical work is dominated by themes of war and rulership, expansion of the Kingdom of Seville, his deep love for his wife and their splendid life together at court. Mu'tamid expressed his feelings for I'timad in an acrostic rhapsody that he composed while separated from her: Invisible to my eyes, thou art ever present to my heart.Thy happiness I desire to be infinite, as are my sighs, my tears, and my sleepless nights!Impatient of the bridle when other women seek to guide me, thou makest me submissive to thy lightest wishes.My desire each moment is to be at thy side - speedily may it be fulfilled!Ah! my heart's darling, think of me, and forget me not, however long my absence!Dearest of names! I have written it, I have now traced that delicious word – I'timad! The story is told of a wintry February day when snowflakes gently fell on Córdoba. I'timad's tears began to flow at sight of the uncustomary snow drifting past the palace windows and masking the world with a strange and lovely whiteness. She sobbed to her husband that he was cruel not to provide her such a lovely sight every winter. ""Oh, cruel,"" she complains,"" how could you keep this pretty thing a secret from me? So many winters have I lived at thy side and never seen the snow! But now let me at least have it every year, or surely thou dost not love me at all."" Even a Prince might well be suspected incapable of solving such a problem. But Mu'tamid was not only a Prince, he was also a poet, and because of I'timad it was commanded that the Sierra of Córdoba be planted thick with almond trees, whose delicate white blossoms would fill the first spring winds with a little blizzard and cover the fresh spring grass with a dancing frost. And so there was snow each year in Córdoba because of I'timad. In 1063, at the age of 23, Mu'tamid became, by his father's appointment, Governor of Shilb (Silves), ""the Paradise of Portugal"". ""One of its marvels,"" says Qazwini, ""is the fact, which innumerable persona have observed, that the people of that place with few exceptions are makers of verse and devoted to belles lettres; if you should pass a labourer standing behind his plough and ask him to recite some verses, he would at once improvise on any subject that you might demand."" The Prince named ibn Ammar his vizier, and when he ascended the throne, his prime minister (Grand Vizier). And thus, ibn Ammar was well on the road to his ultimate betrayal of his bosom friend, Mu'tamid. The story is not explicated here, but it is contained in the actual book being offered here. In 1069, Mu'tamid succeeded his father Abbad II al-Mu'tadid at the age of 28, to become the 3rd and last of the Abbadids. He became a protector of bards and men of letters. Although not overly concerned with state affairs, in 1071, he succeeded in annexing Córdoba to the Kingdom of Seville - a campaign initiated by his grandfather - and this in only the second year of his reign. He lost Córdoba in 1075 but regained it in 1078. Besides being a benevolent ruler and an eminent statesman, he became known for his noble personality. He enlarged his Kingdom, occupying among others cities, Jaén and Murcia. Seville's poet-King was in the heart of every battle and proved to be a great warrior. Alfonso VI, the Christian King of León, Castile and Navarre, had resolved to conquer the entire Iberian peninsula. ""Biding his time,"" the Dutch historian Reinhart Dozy wrote, ""he crushed the treasuries of the Muslim kinglets as in a wine-press, till they poured forth gold."" Mu'tamid was a patron of Rodrigo ""El Cid Campeador"" Diaz. After Alfonso VI exiled the Cid from his lands, Mu'tamid offered him safe haven. Alfonso VI forced the Muslim Kingdoms of Iberia to pay him tribute. In 1080, Mu'tamid brought down upon himself the vengeance of Alfonso VI. He had endeavoured to pay part of his tribute with false money, but a Jew, one of the envoys of Alfonso, detected the fraud. Mu'tamid, in a moment of folly and rage, crucified the Jew (according to another account, Mu'tamid hurled an inkpot at him with such force that it became embedded in his skull) and imprisoned the Christian members of the mission. Alfonso retaliated by attacking Seville. On 25th May, 1085, he forcibly annexed Toledo, a great centre of Muslim scholarship. He forced many of the Andalusian-Arab states, among them Seville, to pay tribute. In a panic, the Andalusians realised that, relying on their own resources, they had but 2 alternatives: submit to the Christian King or emigrate. A 3rd way was found - the Muslims of Andalusia sought help from the Almoravids, the stern Berber rulers of North Africa. Some of the Andalusian-Arab rulers were not enthusiastic about this but Alfonso's legions left them no choice. When Mu'tamid's son Rashid advised against introducing the Almoravids into Spain, Mu'tamid famously replied: ""I have no desire to be branded by my descendants as the man who delivered al-Andalus as prey to the infidels. I am loath to have my name cursed in every Muslim pulpit. And, for my part, I would rather be a camel-driver in Africa than a swineherd in Castile."" The Arab Kings of Seville, Badajoz and Granada sent a delegation to Marrakesh, pressing Yusuf ibn Tashifin, leader of the Almoravids, for help. Heeding the call of the Arab Kings, Yusuf ibn Tashifin crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with his army and in 1086, aided by Mu'tamid and the other Andalusian-Arab rulers, defeated Alfonso VI in the glorious battle of al-Zallaqah (Sagrajas), a few kilometres north of Badajoz. Mu'tamid fought like a lion, having 3 chargers killed under him and receiving 3 severe wounds. The Muslims thus were liberated from paying tribute to their Christian suzerains. Hailed as the saviour of all Andalusia, ibn Tashifin, and his piety, valor and military skill, were extolled throughout Muslim Spain. Returning together as heroes to Seville, Mu'tamid and ibn Tashifin spent some time together before the latter returned to Africa. When ibn Tashifin reached his capital, the Arab Kings returned to their squabbling, giving the Christians a chance to renew their attack. The Arab Kings, among them Mu'tamid, again travelled to Marrakesh seeking the Berber leader's assistance. At the same time, the religious leaders of al-Andalus were petitioning ibn Tashifin to rid them of their contending Arab Monarchs who were unable to cope with the Christian onslaught. With the encouragement of his advisors, ibn Tashifin again responded to the pleadings of the petty Kings, this time with the intention of adding al-Andalus to the Almoravid empire, which already stretched from Senegal to Algiers. In 1090, ibn Tashifin returned to Andalusia and in a short time disposed of the Party Kings, despoiled their cities and sent the rulers who were not assassinated into exile in North Africa. Only Mu'tamid, who had been in the forefront of those asking for ibn Tashifin's aid, offered serious resistance. At the last hour, Mu'tamid attempted to forge an alliance with Alfonso VI, but it was too late. In 1091, Seville surrendered to ibn Tashifin. Mu'tamid and his family were put in chains then loaded onto black barges. Ibn Tashifin, who had come to rescue Andalusia from the marauding Christians, instead led its foremost King into captivity and ignominy. A vast, grief-stricken crowd thronged the banks of the Guadalquivir to bid the royal family farewell; the exiles were ferried from their beloved al-Andalus across the Strait of Gibraltar to North Africa. At Tangier, where they were first deported, the poet Husri presented Mu'tamid with a volume containing selections from the best poets. Alas, the unhappy man - his Kingdom lost, his freedom forfeited, his son, Razi, but lately murdered - was hardly in a condition to appreciate even the best poets, but it was not his way to receive a gift without making return for it, and taking the sum of 36 ducats, the shrunken relic of his wealth, from his shoes where they had been hidden on leaving Seville, he sent them, still stained by his bleeding feet, to Husri with a few verses apologising for his enforced meanness. It is said that the ungracious poet did not even thank him. From Tangier, prisoners were initially settled in north Moroccan city of Meknes (Mequinez), then they were moved to the south Moroccan city of Aghmat - the Almoravids' first capital, located in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Mu'tamid dragged out a pitiful existence in destitution, tormented by the sight of his wife and daughters spinning wool for paltry sums. During the first 2 years of exile, Mu'tamid enjoyed some personal freedom, but poetry was his only solace. The elegies written at Aghmat recall his former greatness, his massacred sons and his splendid palaces and court life. The dramatic twists of Mu'tamid's life, which took him to triumphant Kingship in Seville and then to the bitterness of exile, are legendary, and they remain a poignant metaphor for the spectacular rise and fall of al-Andalus. In 1093, the remaining son of Mu'tamid revolted in al-Andalus. The rebellion was broken after a few months and the son killed. Constantly grieving over the loss of her offspring and the sad condition of life in Aghmat, I'timad became very ill and died shortly afterwards. Languishing in fetters, forgotten and ill, Mu'tamid was finally overwhelmed with grief. In 1095, aged 55, he succumbed, dying in exile at Aghmat. He was the last of the native-born Andalusian Kings, and he brilliantly represented a magnificent culture. His chivalry, liberality and courage endeared him to succeeding generations. The historian al-Marrakushi wrote of Mu'tamid, ""If one wanted to list all the examples of beauty produced by al-Andalus from the time of the conquest to the present day, then al-Mu'tamid would be one of them, if not the greatest of all ..."" The historian ibn al-Abbar wrote more than a century after Mu'tamid's passing, ""Everyone loves al-Mu'tamid, everyone pities him, and even now he is lamented."" All things come to an end,Even death itself dies the death of things.Destiny is chamæleon-coloured,Its very essence is transformation.In its hands we are like a game of chess,And the king may be lost for the sake of a pawn.So shake off the world, and find repose,For earth turns to desert, and men die.Say to this lowly world: the secret of theHigher world lies hidden at Aghmat ... - King Abbad III Epilogue The Spanish Reconquista was completed in 1492, with the final conquest of Granada by the armies of Ferdinand V. Ironically, Ferdinand (husband of Queen Isabella, who sent Christopher Columbus on his mission) was a descendant of Isabella of Denia, who had been born Zaida, daughter of Mu'tamid. When Seville was conquered by Alfonso VI, Zaida was forcibly converted to Catholicism and equally forcibly married to her city's conqueror. The great irony of this is that the Abbadids could claim direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad. Through this forced marriage, the bloodline of the Prophet entered the dynastic intermixture of European royalty and nobility, ensuring that most European nobles - and all the currently ruling monarchs of Europe, are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Another example of this pedigree is: Frederick II (1194-1250, Holy Roman Emperor, Stupor Mundi, King of Sicily and Jerusalem) Constance of Naples (1154-1198) Elvira de Castile (1100?-1134) Zaida (Isabella) of Denia (1071-1107) Abul Qasim Muhammad ibn Abbad al-Mu'tamid (1040-1095, King of Seville) Muhammad II Abu Amr Abbad al-Mu'tadid (1014-1086, King of Seville) Muhammad I Qadi Abu Qasim ibn Ismail (984-1042, King of Seville) Ismail ibn Qarais (959-?, Imam of Seville) Qarais ibn Abbad (934-?, Imam of Seville) Abbad ibn Amr (904-?) Amr ibn Aslan (884-?) Aslan ibn Amr (864-?) Amr ibn Itaf (Seville, 834-?) Itaf ibn Na'im (804-?) Na'im II al-Lakhmi Na'im al-Lakhmi Zahra' bint Husayn (700-?) Husayn ibn al-Hasan (669-?) al-Hasan al-Sibt ibn Ali (622-670) Lady Fatima (606-632?) Prophet Muhammad (570-632) This lineage, via Zaida bint Mu'tamid, applies also to King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (plus various other families across the world), and thus the titular head of the Church of Denmark is said to descend from the Prophet. The veracity of this genealogy has not been personally checked. ______________________________________ QUOTES p. 35: THE PHYSICIAN PALE fingers of the drowsy dawn have rent The garment of the night, and thou, beloved,Tearest the sad weeds of my discontent With dawn-tipped fingers. Wherefore I invent A medicine from the moisture of thy lipsAnd from the roses that thy cheeks have lent, To cure my melancholy. p. 44: TO SALMA, FROM BATTLE SALMA, Salma, have I forgotten thee ? In the glow of the fight I remember the nightWhen we parted; (Axe on sword, sword on mace!) And we stood face to faceBurning-hearted. In the forest of spears Thy vision appears To confound me; When the battle-alarms Threaten, Salma, thy armsAre around me. Salma, Salma, I have remembered thee! p. 46: ACROSTIC I HOLD thee ever in my heart; absent, Mu'tamid prays That endless as his tearful nights may be thy pleasant days, Impatient of the bridle, 'tis but thy small hands may guide me; My desire is all a longing till I see thee stand beside me. Ah, love of mine, the days increase, forget not Ibn Abbad. Dear name, I trace it on my heart for ever — Itimad.