Treatise on Arabic Poetry


Tratado de la Poesía Arabe (Treatise on Arabic poetry) is by Emilio Álvarez Sanz y Tubau, a translator and interpreter who was employed by the high commission that exercised administrative authority in the Spanish Moroccan protectorate. Alvarez Sanz lived in Tangier in his youth, where he was recognized as a distinguished student of Arabic. He later perfected his knowledge of Muslim law and the Arabic language at the seminary-university of the Maronite Order in Beirut. In June 1912 he was certified as a translator-interpreter, which enabled him to pursue a career in the Spanish foreign service. Tratado de la Poesía Arabe was published in Tétouan in 1919 and dedicated by the author to Prince Mulay al-Mahdi Bin Ismail. The book begins with a general account of the origins and history of Arabic poetry. Alvarez Sanz traces the evolution of Arabic poetry from the original plain rhymed prose and the rayes (poems in which every two verses are rhymed together) to the high forms of classical poetry in four distinct periods: Yahilium (pre-Islamism); Mujdramun (first period or Islamic); Mualidun (second period after Islam); and Muhadazun (third period to his own time). He describes the importance of zocos (poetry fairs held in different seasons, such as Ukaz); explores why poetry that is declaimed or sung is preferred to the written form; and discusses love as a persistent motif in Arabic poetry. The book is divided into five parts: 1. verse composition and metric art (showing 16 forms); 2. modern metrics (nine forms); 3. folklore, or songs and popular chants; 4. enigmas and logogryphs (special poetic compositions made with intricate words or intertwined sentences); and 5. a selection of examples of “oriental poetry,” with complete poems showing the virtuosity of Arabic artists.

Last updated: March 17, 2016