Poems and Texts

Yaqut al-Hamawi on al-Muhassin ibn Kawjak translated by David Larsen

Note to the Reader: Alexis Almeida, John Keene, and David Larsen
Friday, May 24, 2019

Yaqut al-Hamawi (d. 626 A.H./1229 CE)
on al-Muhassin ibn Kawjak (d. 416/1025)
Translated by David Larsen

Ibn ‘Asakir says in his History of Damascus that the scholar Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Muhassin ibn ‘Ali ibn Kawjak dictated short, aphoristic lectures in Sidon, some on the authority of Ibn Khalawayh. These teachings were memorized and transmitted by Abu Nasr ibn Tallab.

Ibn ‘Asakir said: I was told by ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Umar that Ibn Tallab said: “Our teacher Ibn Kawjak dictated his lectures to us in Sidon, where I studied under him in the year 394 (= 1003-4). One of the poems he taught us was this” (meter: munsarih):

Your good looks are leaving you. They’re on their way out,
___when eyes roll and turn away from your [onetime] beauty.
You who used to slay others are now the slain.
___You come back to life and find that it’s moved on.
How many have seen my affection for you, and my passion,
___and had a talk with me, and called me a middle-aged [fool]?
May God have mercy on you, young man,
___when young romantics start to call you “Sir.”

From the Dictionary of the Scholars of Yaqut

Photo: Marc Schachter

David Larsen

David Larsen is a US poet and scholar of Islamic literature. His translations from Arabic have appeared in Denver QuarterlyCambridge Literary Review, and the Poetry Project Newsletter, and the 2018 Harold Morton Landon Award went to his translation of Ibn Khalawayh’s Names of the Lion (Wave Books). David Larsen lives in New York City, blogs at https://paintedlantern.blogspot.com, and teaches at NYU.

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