Thursday, May 14, 2009

the cheetah's counsel

Managed to get a copy online of A F L Beeston's Samples of Arabic Prose in its Historical Development (A Manual for English-speaking Students), a wonderful pamphlet which I believe has long been out of print. (Would love to see OUP issue a reprint.) Each section gives a brief account of the author and his place in literary history, a passage in Arabic, a translation, and linguistic notes.

Here is part of Beeston's translation of a passage by the Sufi Ibn Ganim (d. 628/1279),

The cheetah's counsel.

While I was immersed in this deep thought, suddenly the cheetah addressed me, saying, "You know me to be proud and of a haughty temper; in the chase I am not like the horse, or the lion pouncing on his prey. Because of my high resolution and lofty ambition I keep watch on my objective, while sitting close to my master, and outmatch my quarry by dint of my guile. But if I do not catch it at the first attempt, I am most terribly angry with myself; my folk then try to comfort me (but I will not be comforted), and apply a whole world of coaxing to me. My wrath is due simply to my shortcoming and ineffectiveness. So if a man sets himself to hunt perfection and fails, or calls on himself to perform noble deeds and then shrinks back, he ought to be proudly angry with himself, and turn to repentance and start again; he must not be content with lowly ambition in himself, nor with vacillation of will-power.

[In his introduction, Beeston comments that the extract, "the speech of the cheetah, or hunting leopard, displays a close acquaintanceship with that animal - its affectionateness to its master, its sulks when it fails to make a catch, &c." - a comment which somehow gives the impression that Beeston himself had extensive experience of the animal.]

3 comments:

bernardomoraes said...

Dear Helen!

I wrote you an e-mail. It's nice to read you again on your blog.

Best wishes,

Bernardo Moraes
bernardo@talenthos.com.br

Espressonist Artist said...

This is not traditional "be the hunted" stuff; it's more like the idealized and metaphorical hunter. One is reminded of both the prey and predator ceremonial dress of hunting peoples.

bernardomoraes said...

It's our old metaphorical everyday life.