Ibn al-Farid’s Khamriyyah



Rememb’ring the belovèd, wine we drink
Which drunk had made us ere the vine’s creation.
A sun it is; the full moon is its cup;
A crescent hands it round; how many stars
Shine forth from it the moment it be mixed!
But for its fragrance ne’er had I been guided
Unto its tavern; but for its resplendence
Imagining could no image make of it.
Time its mere gasp hath left; hidden it is.
Like secrets pent in the intelligence,
Yet if it be remembered[1] in the tribe,
All become drunk—no shame on them nor sin.
Up hath it fumed from out the vessel’s dregs.
Nothing is left of it, only a name;
Yet if that name but enter a man’s mind,
Gladness shall dwell with him and grief depart.
Had the boon revelers gazed upon its seal,[2]
That seal, without the wine, had made them drunk.
Sprinkle a dead man’s grave with drops of it,
His spirit would return, his body quicken.
If in the shadow of the wall where spreads
Its vine they laid a man, mortally sick,
Gone were his sickness; and one paralyzed,
Brought near its tavern, would walk; the dumb would speak,
Did he its savor recollect. Its fragrance,
If wafted through the East, even in the West,
Would free, for one berheumed, his sense of smell;
And he who stained his palm, clasping its cup,
Could never, star in hand, be lost by night.
Unveil it[3] like a bride in secrecy
Before one blind from birth: his sight would dawn.
Decant it, and the deaf would hearing have.
If riders[4] rode out for its native earth,
And one of them were bit by snake, unharmed
By poison he. If the enchanter[5] traced
The letters of its name on madman’s brow,
That script would cure him of his lunacy;
And blazoned on the standard of a host,[6]
Its name would make all men beneath it drunk.

In virtue the boon revelers it amends,
Makes perfect. Thus by it the irresolute
Is guided to the path of firm resolve.
Bountiful he, whose hand no bounty knew;
And he that never yet forbore forbeareth,
Despite the goad of anger. The tribe’s dunce,
Could he but kiss its filter, by that kiss
Would win the sense of all its attributes.

‘Describe it, well thou knowest how it is,’
They bid me. Yea, its qualities I know:
Not water and not air nor fire nor earth,
But purity for water, and for air
Subtlety, light for fire, spirit for earth—
Excellencies that guide to extol its good
All who would tell of it, and excellent
Their prose in praise of it, excellent their verse.
So he that knew not of it[7] can rejoice
To hear it mentioned, as Nu‘m’s lover doth
To hear her name, whenever Nu‘m is named.

Before all beings, in Eternity
It is, ere yet was any shape or trace.
Through it things were, then it by them was veiled,
Wisely, from him who understandeth not.
My spirit loved it, was made one with it,
But not as bodies each in other merge.
Wine without vine: Adam my father is.
Vine without wine, vine mothereth it and me.[8]
Vessels are purer for the purity
Of truths which are their content, and those truths
Are heightened[9] by the vessels being pure.
Things have been diff’renced, and yet all is One:
Our spirits wine are, and our bodies vine.[10]

Before it no before is, after it
No after is; absolute its privilege
To be before all afters. Ere time’s span
It pressing was, and our first father’s[11] age
Came afterwards—parentless orphan it!
They tell me: ‘Thou hast drunk iniquity’.
Not so, I have but drunk what not to drink
Would be for me iniquitous indeed.
Good for the monastery folk, that oft
They drunken were with it, yet drank it not,
Though fain would drink. But ecstasy from it
Was mine ere I existed, shall be mine
Beyond my bones’ decaying. Drink it pure!
But if thou needs must have it mixed, ‘twere sin
To shun mouth-water[12] from the Loved One’s lips.

Go seek it in the tavern; bid it unveil
To strains of music. They offset its worth,
For wine and care dwelt never in one place,
Even as woe with music cannot dwell.
Be drunk one hour with it, and thou shalt see
Time’s whole age as thy slave, at thy command.
He hath not lived here, who hath sober lived,
And he that dieth not drunk hath missed the mark.
With tears then let him mourn himself, whose life
Hath passed, and he no share of it hath had.

(English adaptation and notes by Martin Lings;
from Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 14, Nos. 3 and 4 (Summer-Autumn 1980) © World Wisdom, Inc.)


[1] The reference is to the dhikr, the remembrance or invocation of the Name of God, the basic rite of Islamic mysticism. It is to this Name that every mention of the wine’s name refers throughout the poem. The tribe is the brotherhood.

[2] The Prophet is not only the cup, but also, as Seal of the Prophets, the seal upon the wine-jar.

[3] Literally ‘unveil her’, for khamr (wine) is feminine. As Arberry remarks in the notes to his translation, the comparison of the unveiling of a becobwebbed wine-jar with the unveiling of a bride is frequent ‘in bacchic poetry’.

[4] The riders are the advanced initiates, sâlikûn (travelers), who are immune from the effects of poison which, according to Nâbulusî, is the passionate attachment to worldly things.

[5] Again according to Nâbulusî, the enchanter is the Spiritual Master and the madman is one who takes appearances for reality.

[6] Another reference to the brotherhood, this time as an army whose warriors are engaged in the Greater Holy War (al-jihâd al-akbar), ‘the war against the soul’.

[7] Every human being is in love with the wine even if he be not conscious of it. The descriptions of it serve to awaken that latent love. Nu‘m, like Laylâ, is one of those women’s names by which Sufis denote the Divine Essence. Love of Nu‘m and love of the wine may therefore be said to coincide.

[8] At the level of my oneness with the principial wine in Eternity—wine which, being absolutely independent, is therefore in no need of grape or vine for its existence—I am a true son of Adam who, as Logos, prefigures my union by his. The vine is Najas ar-Rahmân (the Breath of the All-Merciful) which is also termed at-Tabî‘ah (Universal Nature), the feminine or maternal source of all manifestation.

[9] Reading tasmu as in the oldest manuscript. It is for the mystic to ensure, by the ritual means at his disposal, that his soul is filled with spiritual presences or truths. These presences have a purifying effect upon the soul which is their vessel, and this increase of purity qualifies the vessel to endure a heightening of the truths. If we read tanmu‘have increase’, as in the other manuscripts, the meaning is not basically changed.

[10] But, as Nâbulusî remarks, the vine contains the spiritual juice which will ultimately be transmuted into wine. We may compare the lines of Ibn al-Fârid’s younger contemporary, ‘Alî ash-Shushtarî:

Behold My beauty, witness of Me
In every man,
Like the water flowing through
The sap of branches.
One water drink they, yet they flower
In many hues.

[11] It is not the spiritual or ‘winal’ nature of Adam which is referred to here but his human or ‘vineal’ nature, of which the Prophet said:

‘I was a Prophet when Adam was yet between water and clay.’

[12] If you have not the spiritual strength for oneness with the Divine Essence Itself, then let the water that you mix the wine with be nothing less than ‘the saliva of God’, that is, the Supreme Spirit, which, if it be not fully Him, is not other than Him. The mixing of the wine thus signifies the emergence of the Logos, ar-Rûh al-Muhammadî, and this explains the mention of stars in line four. The manifestation of the Spirit of Muhammad precipitates the existence of the Spirits of his Companions, whom he likened to stars: ‘My Companions are even as the stars. Whichsoever of them ye follow, ye shall be rightly guided’. By extension the words ‘how many stars’ may be taken to include those Saints who are the heirs of the Companions in subsequent generations.



شَـرِبْنَا عـلى ذكْـرِ الحبيبِ مُدامَةً      سـكِرْنَا  بها من قبل أن يُخلق الكَرْمُ
لـها  البدرُ كأسٌ وهيَ شمسٌ يُدِيرُهَا      هـلالٌ وكـم يـبدو إذا مُزِجَتْ نَجم
ولـولا  شـذَاها مـا اهتدَيتُ لِحانِها      ولـولا سَـناها مـا تصَوّرها الوَهْمُ
ولـم يُـبْقِ منها الدّهْرُ غيرَ حُشاشَةٍ      كـأنّ  خَـفاها في صُدور النُّهى كتْم
فـإن ذُكـرَتْ في الحَيّ أصبحَ أهلُهُ      نَـشاوى  ولا عـارٌ عـليهمْ ولا إثم
ومِـنْ بـينِ أحشاء الدّنانِ تصاعدتْ      ولـم يَـبْقَ منها في الحقيقة إلاّ اسمُ
وإن  خَطَرَتْ يوماً على خاطرِ امرئِ      أقـامتْ بـه الأفـراحُ وارتحلَ الهمّ
ولـو  نَـظَرَ الـنُّدْمَانُ خَـتمَ إنائِها      لأسـكَرَهُمْ  مـن دونِـها ذلكَ الختم
ولـو  نَـضحوا منها ثرَى قبرِ مَيّتٍ      لـعادتْ  اليه الرّوحُ وانتَعَشَ الجسم
ولـو  طَرَحُوا في فَيءِ حائطِ كَرْمِها      عـليلاً وقـد أشـفى لـفَارَقَهُ السّقم
ولـو  قَـرّبُوا من حانِها مُقْعَداً مشَى      وتـنطِقُ مـن ذِكْـرَى مذاقتِها البُكْم
ولـو عَبِقَتْ في الشرق أنفاسُ طِيبِها      وفـي  الـغربِ مزكومٌ لعادَ لهُ الشَّمُّ
ولـو  خُضِبت من كأسِها كفُّ لامسٍ      لـمَا ضَـلّ فـي لَيْلٍ وفي يَدِهِ النجم
ولـو جُـليتْ سِـرّاً على أَكمَهٍ غَدا      بَـصيراً  ومن راووقِها تَسْمَعُ الصّم
ولـو أنّ رَكْـباً يَمّموا تُرْبَ أرْضِهَا      وفـي الرّكبِ ملسوعٌ لمَا ضرّهُ السّمّ
ولو  رَسَمَ الرّاقي حُرُوفَ اسمِها على      جَـبينِ  مُـصابٍ جُـنّ أبْرَأهُ الرسم
وفـوْقَ لِـواء الجيشِ لو رُقِمَ اسمُها      لأسـكَرَ  مَـنْ تحتَ اللّوا ذلك الرّقْم
تُـهَذّبُ أخـلاقَ الـنّدامى فـيّهْتَدي      بـها  لـطريقِ العزمِ مَن لا لهُ عَزْم
ويـكرُمُ مَـن لـم يَعْرِف الجودَ كَفُّه      ويـحلُمُ عـند الـغيظ مَن لا لهُ حِلم
ولـو  نـالَ فَـدْمُ الـقومِ لَثْمَ فِدَامِها      لأكْـسـبَهُ  مَـعنى شـمائِلها الـلّثْم
يـقولونَ  لـي صِفْهَا فأنتَ بوَصفها      خـبيرٌ  أَجَـلْ عِندي بأوصافها عِلم
صـفاءٌ ولا مـاءٌ ولُـطْفٌ ولا هَواً      ونـورٌ ولا نـارٌ وروحٌ ولا جِـسْمٌ
تَـقَـدّمَ كُــلَّ الـكائناتِ حـديثُها      قـديماً  ولا شـكلٌ هـناك ولا رَسم
وقـامت بـها الأشـياءُ ثَـمّ لحكمَةٍ      بـها  احتَجَبَتْ عن كلّ من لا له فَهْمُ
وهامتْ بها روحي بحيثُ تمازَجا اتّ      تِـحـاداً  ولا جِـرْمٌ تَـخَلّلَه جِـرْم
فَـخَـمْر  ولا كـرْم وآدَمُ لـي أب      وكَـرْم  ولا خَـمْر ولـي أُمُّـها أُمّ
ولُـطْفُ  الأوانـي في الحقيقة تابع      لِـلُطْفِ الـمعاني والمَعاني بها تَنْمُو
وقـد وَقَـعَ الـتفريقُ والـكُلّ واحد      فـأرواحُنا خَـمْرٌ وأشـباحُنا كَـرْم
ولا  قـبلَها قـبل ولا بَـعْدَ بَـعْدَهَا      وقَـبْليُّة الأبْـعادِ فـهْي لـها حَـتْم
وعَصْرُ المَدى من قَبله كان عصرَها      وعـهْدُ أبـينا بَـعدَها ولـها الـيُتم
مـحاسِنُ  تَـهدي المادِحينَ لوَصْفِهَا      فَـيَحْسُنُ  فـيها مـنهُمُ النّثرُ والنّظم
ويَـطْرَبُ مَـن لم يَدْرِهَا عند ذِكْرِهَا      كَـمُشْتَاقِ  نُـعْمٍ كـلّما ذُكـرَتْ نُعم
وقـالوا شَـرِبْتَ الإِثـمَ كـلاّ وإنّما      شـرِبْتُ  التي في تركِها عنديَ الإِثم
هـنيئاً  لأهـلِ الدّيرِ كمْ سكِروا بها      ومـا شـربوا مـنها ولـكِنّهم هَمّوا
وعـنديَ  مـنها نَـشْوَةٌ قبلَ نشأتي      مـعي  أبـداً تـبقى وإنْ بَليَ العَظْم
عـليكَ  بها صِرْفاً وإن شئتَ مَزْجَها      فَـعَدْلُكَ عـن ظَلْم الحبيب هو الظُّلم
فَـدُونَكَهَا فـي الـحانِ واستَجْلها به      عـلى  نَـغَمِ الألـحان فهيَ بها غُنْمُ
فـما  سـكنَتْ والـهمَّ يوماً بموضع      كـذلك  لـم يـسكُنْ مـع النَّغَم الغَم
وفـي  سـكرةٍ منها ولَوْ عُمْرَ ساعةٍ      تَـرَى  الدَّهْرَ عبداً طائعاً ولك الحُكْم
فلا عَيْشَ في الدُّنْيا لمَن عاشَ صاحياً      ومَـن  لم يَمُتْ سُكْراً بها فاته الحزم
عـلى نـفسه فليَبْكِ مَن ضاع عُمْرُهُ      ولـيسَ لـهُ فـيها نَصيبٌ ولا سهمُ