Article

OLD AGE AND LOST YOUTH IN EARLY ARABIC POETRY.

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Abstract

As an initial contribution to the study of the thematics of early Arabic poetry, this dissertation traces the development of the theme of old age from the pre-Islamic period (about A.D. 500) until the end of the ninth century. The first chapter demonstrates how the evocation of the spread of hoariness, as a signal for the aged poet to renounce love and youthful levity or for women to reject the aged poet, comes in the opening lines of the pre-Islamic qas(')ida or in the context of the nas(')ib (erotic prelude) to serve to emphasize the opposition of gray old age to the poet's erotic interest and to draw a sharp contrast between the pleasant past and the lonely present. This chapter also shows how the lament for the passing of youth is developed by some pre-Islamic poets to function as a distinct prelude theme that occasionally replaces the nas(')ib altogether or dominates its discussion. Taking the treatment of old age and lost youth in pre-Islamic poetry as a point of departure for comparison and contrast, the contribution of each period of Arabic poetry to the development of the subject of age is examined to two main levels: the opposition of gray old age to the poet's interest in youthful love and women as a thematic component of the nas(')ib, and the lament for youth as a principal prelude theme. In four chapters following the first, it is explained in detail how these two thematic aspects (gray old age and the lament for youth) are taken up by the poets of the subseqent periods of Arabic poetry, and how each period presents a steady increase in the frequency, extent and expressive range of both aspects until the discussion of gray old age and lost youth finally reaches the highest level of its development at the hand of Ibn al-Rum(')i who wrote twelve preludes on age, of which two comprise seventy lines each, presenting the most extended treatment of this theme in the history of Arabic poetry up to modern times. DISSERTATION (PH.D.)--THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Dissertation Abstracts International,

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