The influences of western poets during the era of Arab Romanticism



In times of change, however, the poet becomes his own person and is less beholden to society. At the same time, the poet is influenced by the injustices and inequality that he sees around him, and sees his words as a way to overcome these negative qualities of society. The romantic poets, both English and French, reflected these times and sensibilities. The English romantics, led by Shelley, Byron, Keats, Coleridge, Blake and Wordsworth, and French poets, led by Hugo, Balzac, Vigny, Flaubert and Baudelaire, came of age during a time of revolution and their ideologies reflected this. They disdained traditional conventions of poetry, deciding to base their poetry on their own conscience and beliefs, relying upon imagery to show the reader what is in their hearts. Their poetry often relied upon injustice as its base, although love and sex were also frequent topics. Arabic romantics were highly influenced by these Western writers. They, like the earlier romantics, also came of age during a time of upheaval and change. The colonial era of the Arabic world was coming to an end when these writers gained prominence, and the the Arab nation states were struggling for independence, even as Palestine was undergoing a profoundly different type of upheaval in its being forced into a Zionist state. More and more, Arabic intellectuals were being immersed in the West, as they visited Western countries and studied Western topics in school. Because of the intersection between Arabic upheaval and more exposure to the West, the Arabic poetry reflected the sensibilities of the earlier English and French Romanticists. As with these earlier romanticists, the Arabic Romantic poets concentrated on poems which reflected the poets’ feelings and inner thoughts, while also railing against inequality and injustice. As with the earlier Romantics, the traditional forms of poetry, such as the use of couplets and rhyme, were either abandoned or loosely used. Form was much more free, just like the minds of the poets themselves. This paper will focus upon the Arabic romantic poets, with chapters on the French and English influences, societal and political influences, and the history of Arabic poetry in general. Chapter 1 – History of Arabic Poetry To understand how romanticism differed from earlier forms of Arabic poetry, a brief history of Arabic poetry must be introduced. Ancient poetry relied upon the forms of the ode and “occasional” piece, which included fragments. Of these, according to Arberry (1965), only the ode, which was “full length and fully articulated” is considered the only valid form of “classical” poetry (Arberry, 1965, p. 5). The ode opened with a rhyming couplet, and the length of the ode was from twenty to one hundred, with feminine rhymes (Arberry, 1965. 6). The ode could take the form of a praise poem, which was common in the Arabo-Islamic panegyric odes around 622 C.E. The ode also functioned as expression of political legitimacy and allegiance, as in the Umayyad period in 661-750 C.E. The victory ode was another form, in that the poems that take this form celebrate military victories, and this was common in around 692-693 C.E. Erotic odes became popularized around 775 C.E. Ceremonial odes were popularized around 756 C.E. (Stetkevych, 2002). Thus, the traditional ode was structured and had coherent themes. Jumping ahead several centuries to the poets who came just prior to the neo-classical poets, Badawi (1975) notes that these poets were marked by a lack of originality and were addicted to hyperbole and verbal tricks. Their subjects were devoted to “the narrow range of conventional empty panegyric addressed to local rulers and officials, commemoration of events in poems ending in chronograms, trivial social occasions like