Thursday, July 06, 2006

Early Semitic Poets

A few days ago I was reading Ignaz Goldziher's Muslim Studies, and he was talking about how in pre-Islamic (and early Islamic) Bedouin culture, satirical poetry was believed to have an actual impact on the people satirized, so that tribes would often ask a poet to compose poetry about their enemies prior to attacking them. Goldziher also mentions that Numbers 22 is probably another example of this from a related culture. In this story, the Moabites hire one Balaam to curse the invading Hebrews. Poetry is never mentioned, but Balaam did speak in poetry, and the situation was probably obvious to the community in which the story originated. This also undoubtedly reflects the context in which Muhammad allegedly had a poet who satirized him put to death, a tradition which I suspect dates from a time when this aspect of Bedouin culture was still strong.

Have the Israelis and Palestinians considered making poetry the main weapon of their conflict instead of tanks and rockets?


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