Two poems of Abu Nuwas, Islamic poet of male love

Abu-Nuwas al-Hasan ben Hani Al-Hakami (756–814), (best known simply as Abū-Nuwās), was one of the greatest of classical Arabic poets, who also composed in Persian on occasion. He was particularly noted for his celebrations in verse of wine – and boys. Here are two examples:




In the Bath-house


In the bath-house, the mysteries hidden by trousers
    Are revealed to you.

All becomes radiantly manifest.
    Feast your eyes without restraint!

You see handsome buttocks, shapely trim torsos,
    You hear the guys whispering pious formulas
        to one another
    (“God is Great!” “Praise be to God!”)

Ah, what a palace of pleasure is the bath-house!
    Even when the towel-bearers come in
        And spoil the fun a bit.

A Boy Is Worth More Than a Girl

For young boys, the girls I’ve left behind
And for old wine set clear water out of mind.
Far from the straight road, I took without conceit
The winding way of sin, because this horse
Has cut the reins without remorse,
And carried away the bridle and the bit.

Here I am, fallen for a faun,
A dandy who butchers Arabic.
His forehead, brilliant like a full moon,
Chases away the black night’s gloom.
He cares not for shirts of cotton
Nor for the Bedouin’s hair coat.

He sports a short tunic over his slender thighs
But his shirt is long of sleeve.
His feet are well-shod, and under his coat
You can glimpse rich brocade.

He takes off on campaign and rides to attack
Casting arrows and javelins;
He hides the ardor of war, and his
Attitude under fire is magnanimous.

Comparing a young boy to a young girl,
I am ignorant.
And yet, how can you mix up some bitch
Who goes in monthly heat
And drops a litter once a year
With him I see on the fly.

How I wish he would come
Return my greeting.
I reveal to him all my thoughts
Without fear of the imam, or of the muezin.

Abu Nuwas, Le Vin, le Vent, la Vie, (tr. Vincent Mansour Monteil), Sindbad, Paris, 1979, p. 91



For more of Abu Nuwas’ homoerotic poetry, see this page at Matt and Andrej Kowalsky’s Living Room 

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