Poet And Poetry

The word sha’ir occurs four times, as-shura and shi’r once in the Koran. The generic term sharru or precentor in Assyria can be traced in the sha’ir or poet-soothsayer of the Arabs. The Assyrian hymn was the shire, and in it we recognize the Hebrew shir (song) and the Arabic shi’r (poetry). The Psalm of David in Assyrian was the zamaru, which equates with the Hebrew zimrah (song) and mizmor (psalm). Certainly the Assyrian shigu or penitential psalm is identical with the shiggaion of the Hebrew and the shajan of the Arabs in origin. Likewise, the allu or wail in Assyrian may be linked up with the Hebrew and Arabic elal and wilwal. Indeed, the Assyrian shidru or recitation may find its cognate in the inshad of the Arabs. Yet scarcely a line has come down to us concerning the hymn of the ancient Arabs, that their songs were appreciated is borne out by an inscription of Ashurbanipal (7th century B.C.), where Arab prisoners toiling for their Assyrian masters whiled away their hours in singing (alili) and music (ninguti), which so delighted the Assyrians that they begged for more.

In Arabia, the Bedouin soul was essentially music loving. Its aspirations, its movements, and its impulses were all reflected in the rhythmic expression of Arabic verse, whose meter could be as short or long as the step of a camel. Let us imagine an Arab Bedouin riding his camel on frequent long journeys across lonely deserts. While the rhythmic beating of the padded hoofs on soft sand breaks the stillness of the air, the rider is sunk deep in recollections of his own past. As he feels excited to share his mood with his “two companions and fellow travelers” there is nothing more natural than that he should start chanting in unison with the movement, which has the sole possession of his entire perception. This unsophisticated outpouring of one’s hear in response to an occasional urge took the form of rajaz