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Book No. 96

To first story in the book press: 4268

To last story in the book press: 4395

Moorish Literature

Basset René

Basset René, Moorish Literature, London & New York, 1901








Translated into English for the first time






The Cplonial Press

London * New York



The region which extends from the frontiers of Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger, was in ancient times inhabited by a people to whom we give the general name of Berbers, but whom the ancients, particularly those of the Eastern portion, knew under the name of Moors. "They were called Maurisi by the Greeks," said Strabo, "in the first century a.d., and Mauri by the Romans. They are of Lybian origin, and form a powerful and rich nation." [1] This name of Moors is applied not only to the descendants of the ancient Lybians and Numidians, who live in the nomad state or in settled abodes, but also to the descendants of the Arabs who, in the eighth century a.d., brought with them Islamism, imposed by the sabre of Ogbah and his successors. Even further was it carried, into Spain, when Berbers and Arabs, reunited under the standard of Moussa and Tarik, added this country to the empire of the Khalifa. In the fifteenth century the Portuguese, in their turn, took the name to the Orient, and gave the name of Moors to the Mussulmans whom they found on the Oriental coast of Africa and in India.

The appellation particularizes, as one may see, three peoples entirely different in origin — the Berbers, the Arabs of the west, and the Spanish Mussulmans, widely divided, indeed, by political struggles, but united since the seventh and eighth centuries in their religious law. This distinction must be kept in mind, as it furnishes the necessary divisions for a study of the Moorish literature.

The term Moorish Literature may appear ambitious applied to the monuments of the Berber language which have come down to us, or are gathered daily either from the lips of singers on the mountains of the Jurgura, of the Aures, or of the Atlas of Morocco; under the tents of the Touaregs of the desert or the Moors of Senegal; in the oases of the south of Algeria or in Tunis. But it is useless to search for literary monuments such as have been transmitted to us from Egypt and India, Assyria and Persia, ancient Judea, Greece and Rome; from the Middle Ages; from Celt, Slav, and German; from the Semitic and Ouralo-altaique tongues; the extreme Orient, and the modern literature of the Old and New World.

But the manifestations of thought, in popular form, are no less curious and worthy of study among the Berbers. I do not speak of the treatises on religion which in the Middle Ages and in our day were translated from the Arabic into certain dialects: that borrowed literature, which also exists among the Sonalulis of Eastern Africa and the Haussas and the Peuls of the Soudan, has nothing original. But the popular literature — the stories and songs — has an altogether different importance. It is, above all, the expression of the daily life, whether it relates to fétes or battles or even simple fights.

These songs may be satirical or laudatory, to celebrate the victory of one party or deplore the defeat of the True Believers by the Christians, resounding on the lips of children or women, or shouted in political defiance. They permit us, in spite of a coarse rhythm and language often incorrect, an insight into their manner of life, and to feel as do peoples established for centuries on African soil. Their ancestors, the Machouacha, threatened Egypt in the time of Moses and took possession of it, and more than twenty centuries later, with the Fatimides, converted Spain to the Mussulman faith. Under Arab chiefs they would have overcome all Eastern Europe, had it not been for the hammer of Charles Martel, which crushed them on the field of Poitiers.

The richest harvest of Berber songs in our possession is, without doubt, that in the dialect of the Zouaous, inhabiting the Jurgura mountains, which rise some miles distant from Algiers, their crests covered with snow part of the year. [2] All kinds of songs are represented; the rondeaux of children whose inspiration is alike in all countries:

            "Oh, moonlight clear in the narrow streets.

            Tell to our little friends

            To come out now with us to play —

            To play with us to-night.

            If they come not, then we will go

            To them with leather shoes. (Kabkab.) [3]


            "Rise up, O Sun, and hie thee forth,

            On thee we'll put a bonnet old:

            We'll plough for thee a little field —

            A little field of pebbles full:

            Our oxen but a pair of mice."


                  "Oh, far distant moon:

                  Could I but see thee, Ali!

                  Ali, son of Sliman,

                  The beard [4] of Milan

                  Has gone to draw water.

                  Her cruse, it is broken;

                  But he mends it with thread.

                  And draws water with her:

                  He cried to Ayesha:

                  'Give me my sabre,

                  That I kill the merle

                  Perched on the dunghill

                  Where she dreams;

                  She has eaten all my olives'." [5]


In the same category one may find the songs which are peculiar to the women, "couplets with which they accompany themselves in their dances; the songs, the complaints which one hears them repeat during whole hours in a rather slow and monotonous rhythm while they are at their household labors, turning the hand-mill, spinning and weaving cloths, and composed by the women, both words and music." [6]

One of the songs, among others, and the most celebrated in the region of the Oued-Sahal, belonging to a class called Deker, is consecrated to the memory of an assassin, Daman-On-Mesal, executed by a French justice. As in most of these couplets, it is the guilty one who excites the interest:


      "The Christian oppresses. He has snatched away

            This deserving young man;

      He took him away to Bougre,

            The Christian women marvelled at him.

      Pardieu! O Mussulmans, you

      Have repudiated Kabyle honor." [7]


With the Berbers of lower Morocco the women's songs are called by the Arab name Eghna.

If the woman, as in all Mussulman society, plays an inferior role — inferior to that allowed to her in our modem civilizations — she is not less the object of songs which celebrate the power given her by beauty:


            "O bird with azure plumes,

            Go, be my messenger —

            I ask thee that thy flight be swift;

            Take from me now thy recompense.

            Rise with the dawn — ah, very soon —

            For me neglect a hundred plans;

            Direct thy flight toward the fount,

            To Tanina and Cherifa.


            "Speak to the eyelash-darkened maid.

            To the beautiful one of the pure, white throat;

            With teeth like milky pearls.

            Red as vermillion are her cheeks;

            Her graceful charms have stol'n my reason;

            Ceaselessly I see her in my dreams." [8]


            "A woman with a pretty nose

            Is worth a house of solid stone;

            I'd give for her a hundred reaux, [9]

            E'en if she quitted me as soon.


            "Arching eyebrows on a maid,

            With love the genii would entice,

            I'd buy her for a thousand reaux,

            Even if exile were the price.


            "A woman neither fat nor lean

            Is like a pleasant forest green,

            When she unfolds her budding charms,

            She gleams and glows with springtime sheen." [10]


The same sentiment inspires the Touareg songs, among which tribe women enjoy much greater liberty and possess a knowledge of letters greater than that of the men, and know more of that which we should call literature, if that word were not too ambitious:


      "For God's sake leave those hearts in peace,

      'Tis Tosdenni torments them so;

      She is more graceful than a troop

      Of antelopes separated from gazelles;

      More beautiful than snowy flocks,

      Which move toward the tents,

      And with the evening shades appear

      To share the nightly gathering;

      More beautiful than the striped silks

      Enwrapped so closely under the haiks,

      More beautiful than the glossy ebon veil,

      Enveloped in its paper white.

      With which the young man decks himself,

      And which sets off his dusky cheek." [11]


The poetic talent of the Touareg women, and the use they make of this gift — which they employ to celebrate or to rail at, with the accompaniment of their one-stringed violin, that which excites their admiration or inspires them with disdain — is a stimulant for warriors:


      "That which spurs me to battle is a word of scorn,

      And the fear of the eternal malediction

      Of God, and the circles of the young

      Maidens with their violins.

      Their disdain is for those men

      Who care not for their own good names. [12]


      "Noon has come, the meeting's sure.

      Hearts of wind love not the battle;

      As though they had no fear of the violins,

      Which are on the knees of painted women —

      Arab women, who were not fed on sheep's milk;

      There is but camel's milk in all their land.

      More than one other has preceded thee and is widowed.

      For that in Amded, long since.

      My own heart was burned.

      Since you were a young lad I suffered —

      Since I wore the veil and wrapped

      My head in the folds of the haik." [13]


War, and the struggle of faction against faction, of tribe against tribe, of confederation against confederation, it is which, with love, above all, has inspired the Berber men.

With the Khabyles a string of love-songs is called "Alamato," because this word occurs in the first couplet, always with a belligerent inspiration:


            "He has seized his banner for the fight

            In honor of the Bey whose cause he maintains,

            He guides the warriors with their gorgeous cloaks,

            With their spurs unto their boots well fastened,

            All that was hostile they destroyed with violence;

            And brought the insurgents to reason."


This couplet is followed by a second, where allusion is made to the snow which interrupts communication:


            "Violently falls the snow,

            In the mist that precedes the lightning;

            It bends the branches to the earth,

            And splits the tallest trees in twain.

            Among the shepherds none can pasture his flock;

            It closes to traffic all the roads to market.

            Lovers then must trust the birds,

            With messages to their loves —

            Messages to express their passion.


            "Gentle tame falcon of mine,

            Rise in thy flight, spread out thy wings.

            If thou art my friend do me this service;

            To-morrow, ere ever the rise of the sun,

            Fly toward her house; there alight

On the window of my gracious beauty." [14]


With the Khabyles of the Jurgura the preceding love-songs are the particular specialty of a whole list of poets who bear the Arab name of T'eballa, or "tambourinists." Ordinarily they are accompanied in their tours by a little troop of musicians who play the tambourine and the haut-boy. Though they are held in small estimation, and are relegated to the same level as the butchers and measurers of grain, they are none the less desired, and their presence is considered indispensable at all ceremonies — wedding fêtes, and on the birth of a son, on the occasion of circumcision, or for simple banquets.

Another class, composed of Ameddah, "panegyrists," or Fecia, "eloquent men," are considered as much higher in rank. They take part in all affairs of the country, and their advice is sought, for they dispense at will praise or blame. It is they who express the national sentiment of each tribe, and in case of war their accents uplift warriors, encourage the brave, and wither the cowardly. They accompany themselves with a Basque drum. Some, however, have with them one or two musicians who, after each couplet, play an air on the flute as a refrain. [15]

In war-songs it is remarkable to see with what rapidity historical memories are lost. The most ancient lay of this kind does not go beyond the conquest of Algiers by the French. The most recent songs treat of contemporary events. Nothing of the heroic traditions of the Berbers has survived in their memory, and it is the Arab annalists who show us the role they have played in history. If the songs relating to the conquest of Algeria had not been gathered half a century ago, they would doubtless have been lost, or nearly so, to-day. At that time, however, the remembrance was still alive, and the poets quickly crystallized in song the rapidity of the triumph of France, which represents their civilization:


      "From the day when the Consul left Algiers,

      The powerful French have gathered their hosts:

      Now the Turks have gone, without hope of return,

      Algiers the beautiful is wrested from them.


      "Unhappy Isle that they built in the desert,

      With vaults of limestone and brick;

      The celestial guardian who over them watched has withdrawn.

      Who can resist the power of God?


      "The forts that surround Algiers like stars,

      Are bereft of their masters;

      The baptized ones have entered.

      The Christian religion now is triumphant,

      O my eyes, weep tears of blood, weep evermore!


      "They are beasts of burden without cruppers,

      Their backs are loaded,

      Under a bushel their unkempt heads are hidden.

      They speak a patois unintelligible,

      You can understand nothing they say.


      "The combat with these gloomy invaders

      Is like the first ploughing of a virgin soil.

      To which the harrowing implements

      Are rude and painful;

      Their attack is terrible.


      "They drag their cannons with them,

      And know how to use them, the impious ones;

      When they fire, the smoke forms in thick clouds:

      They are charged with shrapnel,

      Which falls like the hail of approaching spring.

      Unfortunate queen of cities —

      City of noble ramparts,

      Algiers, column of Islam,

      Thou art like the habitation of the dead,

      The banner of France envelops thee all." [16]


It is, one may believe, in similar terms that these songs, lost to-day, recount the defeat of Jugurtha, or Talfarinas, by the Romans, or that of the Kahina by the Arabs. But that which shows clearly how rapidly these songs, and the remembrance of what had inspired them, have been lost is the fact that in a poem of the same kind on the same subject, composed some fifty years ago by the Chelha of meridional Morocco, it is not a question of France nor the Hussains, but the Christians in general, against whom the poet endeavors to excite his compatriots.

It is so, too, with the declamatory songs of the latest period of the Middle Ages, the dialects more or less precise, where the oldest heroic historical poems, like the Song of Roland, had disappeared to leave the field free for the imagination of the poet who treats the struggles between Christians and Saracens according to his own fantasy.

Thanks to General Hanoteau, the songs relating to the principal events of Khabyle since the French conquest have been saved from oblivion, viz., the expedition of Marechal Bugeaud in 1867; that of General Pelissier in 1891; the insurrection of Bon Bar'la; those of Ameravun in 1896, and the divers episodes of the campaign of 1897 against the Aith Traten, when the mountains were the last citadel of the Khabyle independence:


      "The tribe was full of refugees,

      From all sides they sought refuge

      With the Aith Traten, the powerful confederation.

      'Let us go,' said they, ' to a sure refuge,'

      For the enemy has fallen on our heads,'

      But in Arba they established their home." [17]


The unhappy war of 1870, thanks to the stupidity of the military authorities, revived the hope of a victorious insurrection. Mograne, Bon Mazrag, and the Sheikh Haddad aroused the Khabyles, but the desert tribes did not respond to their appeal. Barbary was again conquered, and the popular songs composed on that occasion reproached them for the folly of their attempt.

Bon Mezrah proclaimed in the mountains and on the plain;


      "Come on, a Holy War against the Christians,

      He followed his brother until his disaster,

      His noble wife was lost to him.

      As to his flocks and his children,

      He left them to wander in Sahara.

      Bon Mezrag is not a man,

      But the lowest of all beings;

      He deceived both Arabs and Khabyles,

      Saying, ' I have news of the Christians.'


      "I believed Haddad a saint indeed.

      With miracles and supernatural gifts;

      He has then no scent for game.

      And singular to make himself he tries.


      "I tell it to you; to all of you here

      (How many have fallen in the battles),

      That the Sheikh has submitted.

      From the mountain he has returned,

      Whoever followed him was blind.

      He took flight like one bereft of sense.

      How many wise men have fallen

      On his traces, the traces of an impostor.

      From Babors unto Guerrouma!

      This joker has ruined the country —

      He ravaged the world while he laughed;

      By his fault he has made of this land a desert." [18]


The conclusion of poems of this kind is an appeal to the generosity of France:


      "Since we have so low fallen, [19]

      You beat on us as on a drum;

      You have silenced our voices.

      We ask of you a pardon sincere,

      O France, nation of valorous men,

      And eternal shall be our repentance.

      From beginning to the end of the year

      We are waiting and hoping always:

      My God! Soften the hearts of the authorities."


With the Touaregs, the civil, or war against the Arabs, replaces the war against the Christians, and has not been less actively celebrated:


      "We have saddled the shoulders of the docile camel,

      I excite him with my sabre, touching his neck,

      I fall on the crowd, give them sabre and lance;

      And then there remains but a mound,

      And the wild beasts find a brave meal." [20]


One finds in this last verse the same inspiration that is found in the celebrated passage of the Iliad, verses 2 and 5: "Anger which caused ten thousand Achseans to send to Hades numerous souls of heroes, and to make food of them for the dogs and birds of prey." It is thus that the Arab poet expresses his ante-Islamic "Antarah":


      "My pitiless steel pierced all the vestments.

      The general has no safety from my blade,

      1 have left him as food for savage beasts

      Which tear him, crunching his bones,

      His handsome hands and brave arms." [21]


The Scandinavian Skalds have had the same savage accents, and one can remember a strophe from the song of the death of Raynor Lodbrog:


"I was yet young when in the Orient we gave the wolves a bloody repast and a pasture to the birds. When our rude swords rang on the helmet, then they saw the sea rise and the vultures wade in blood." [22]


Robbery and pillage under armed bands, the ambuscade even, are celebrated among the Touaregs with as great pleasure as a brilliant engagement:


"Matella! May thy father die!

Thou art possessed by a demon,


      To believe that the Touaregs are not men.

      They know how to ride the camel; they

      Ride in the morning and they ride at night;

      They can travel; they can gallop:

      They know how to offer drink to those

      Who remain upon their beasts.

      They know how to surprise a

      Courageous man in the night.

      Happy he sleeps, fearless with kneeling camels;

      They pierce him with a lance,

      Sharp and slender as a thorn.

      And leave him to groan until

      His soul leaves his body:

      The eagle waits to devour his entrails." [23]


They also show great scorn for those who lead a life relatively less barbarous, and who adorn themselves as much as the Touaregs can by means of science and commerce;


      "The Tsaggmaren are not men,

      Not lance of iron, nor yet of wood,

      They are not in harness, not in saddles,

      They have no handsome saddle-bags.

      They've naught of what makes mankind proud;

      They've no fat and healthy camels,

      The Tsaggmaren; don't speak of them;

      They are people of a mixed race.

      There is no condition not found with them.

      Some are poor, yet not in need;

      Others are abused by the demon,

      Others own nothing but their clubs.

      There are those who make the pilgrimage, and repeat it,

      There are those who can read the Koran and learn by that

      They possess in the pasturage camels, and their little ones,

      Besides nuggets of gold all safely wrapped." [24]


Another style, no less sought for among the Berbers inhabiting cities, is the "complaint" which flourished in lower Morocco, where it is known under the Arab name of Lqist (history). When the subject is religious, they call it Nadith (tradition). One of the most celebrated is that wherein they tell of the descent into the infernal regions of a young man in search of his father and mother. It will give an idea of

this style of composition to recite the beginning:


      "In the name of God, most clement and merciful,

      Also benediction and homage to the prophet Mohammed,

      In the name of God, listen to the words of the author.

      This is what the Talebs tell, according to the august Koran.

      Let us begin this beautiful story by

      Invoking the name of God.

      Listen to this beautiful story, O good man,

      We will recite the story of a young man

      In Berbere; O God, give to us perfection;

      That which we bring to you is found in truthful tradition,

      Hard as a rock though thy heart be, it will melt;

      The father and mother of Saba died in his childhood

      And left him in great poverty:

      Our compassionate Lord guided him and showed him the way,

      God led him along toward the Prophet,

      And gave to him the Koran." [25]


Other poems — for instance, that of Sidi Hammen and that of Job — are equally celebrated in Morocco. The complaints on religious subjects are accompanied on the violin, while those treating of a historical event or a story with a moral have the accompaniment of a guitar. We may class this kind of poems among those called Tandant, in lower Morocco, which consist in the enumeration of short maxims. The same class exist also in Zouaona and in Touareg.

But the inspiration of the Khabyle poets does not always maintain its exaltation. Their talents become an arm to satirize those who have not given them a sufficiently large recompense, or — worse still, and more unpardonable — who have served to them a meagre repast:


      "I went to the home of vile animals,

      Ait Rebah is their name;

      I found them lying under the sun tike green figs,

      They looked ill and infirm.

      They are lizards among adders.

      They inspire no fear, for they bite not.

      Put a sheepskin before them, they

      Will tear your arms and hands;

      Their parched lips are all scaly,

      Besides being red and spotted.


      "As the vultures on their dung heaps,

      When they see carrion, fall upon it,

      Tearing out its entrails,

      That day is for them one of joy.

      udging by their breeches,

      And the headdresses of their wives,

      I think they are of Jewish origin." [26]


This song, composed by Mohammed Said or Aihel Hadji, is still repeated when one wishes to insult persons from Aith Erbah, who have tried several times to assassinate the poet in revenge.

Sometimes two rival singers find themselves together, and each begins to eulogize himself, which eulogy ends in a satire on the other. But the joust begun by apostrophes and Homeric insults finishes often with a fight, and the natural arm is the Basque drum until others separate the adversaries. [27] We have an example in a dialogue of this kind between Youssuf ou Kassi, of the Aith Djemnad, and Mohand ou Abdalla, of the Aith Kraten. The challenge and the jousts — less the blows — exist among the chellahs of lower Morocco, where they are called Tamawoucht; but between man and woman there is that which indicates the greatest liberty of manners.

The verses are improvised, and the authors are paid in small money. Here is a specimen:


The woman: "When it thundfers and the sky is overcast,

                  Drive home the sheep, O watchful shepherd."

The man: "When it thunders, and the sky is overcast.

                  We will bring home the sheep."

The woman: "I wish I had a bunch of switches to strike you with!

                  May your father be accursed, Sheepkeeper!"

The man: "Oh, God, I thank thee for having created

                  Old maids to grind meal for the toilers." [28]


Another manifestation, and not less important of the popular Berber literature, consists in the stories. Although no attempt has been made in our days to gather them, many indications permit us to believe that they have been at all times well treasured by these people. In the story of Psyche that Apuleius inserted at the end of the second century a.d., in the romance of Metamorphoses, [29] we read that Venus imposed on Psyche, among other trials, that of sorting out and placing in separate jars the grains of wheat, oats, millet and poppy pease, lentils and lima beans which she had mixed together. This task, beyond the power of Psyche, was accomplished by the ants which came to her aid, and thus she conquered the task set by her cruel mother-in-law.

This same trial we find in a Berber story. It is an episode in a Khabyle story of the Mohammed ben Sol'tan, who, to obtain the hand of the daughter of a king, separated wheat, corn, oats, and sorghum, which had been mingled together. This trait is not found in Arab stories which have served as models for the greater part of Khabyle tales. It is scarcely admissible that the Berbers had read the "Golden Ass" of Apuleius, but it is probable that he was born at Madaure, in Algeria, and retained an episode of a popular Berber tale which he had heard in his childhood, and placed in his story.

The tales have also preserved the memory of very ancient customs, and in particular those of adoption. In the tales gathered in Khabyle by General Hanoteau, [30] T. Riviere, [31] and Moulieras, [32] also that in the story of Mizab, the hero took upon himself a supernatural task, and succeeded because he became the adopted son of an ogress, at whose breast he nursed. [33] This custom is an ancient one with the Berbers, for on a bas relief at Thebes it shows us a chief of the Machouacha (the Egyptian name of the Berbers) of the XXII Dynasty nursed and adopted by the goddess Hathor. Arab stories of Egypt have also preserved this trait — for instance, " The Bear of the Kitchen," [34] and El Schater Mohammed. [35]

During the conquest of the Magreb by the Arabs in the seventh century a.d., Kahina, a Berber queen, who at a given moment drove the Mussulman invaders away and personified national defiance, employed the same ceremony to adopt for son the Arab Khaled Ben Yazed, who was to betray her later.

Assisted by these traits of indigenous manners, we can call to mind ogres and pagans who represent an ancient population, or, more exactly, the sectarians of an ancient religion like the Paganism or the Christianity which was maintained on some points of Northern Africa, with the Berbers, until the eleventh century a.d. Fabulous features from the Arabs have slipped into the descriptions of the Djohala, mingled with the confused souvenirs of mythological beings belonging to paganism before the advent of Christianity.

It is difficult to separate the different sources of the Berber stories. Besides those appearing to be of indigenous origin, and which have for scene a grotto or a mountain, one could scarcely deny that the greater part, whether relating to stories of adventure, fairy stories, or comical tales, were borrowed from foreign countries by way of the Arabs. Without doubt they have furnished the larger part, but there are some of which there are no counterparts in European countries. "Half a cock," for instance, has travelled into the various provinces of France, Ireland, Albania, among the Southern Slavs, and to Portugal, from whence it went to Brazil; but the Arabs do not know it, nor do they know Tom Thumb, which with the Khabyles becomes H'ab Sliman. In the actual state of our knowledge, we can only say that there is a striking resemblance between a Berber tale and such or such a version. From thence comes the presumption of borrowed matter. But, for the best results to be gained, one should be in possession of all the versions. When it relates to celebrated personages among the Mussulmans, like Solomon, or the features of a legend of which no trace remains of the names, one can certainly conclude that it is borrowed from the Arabs. It is the same with the greater number of fairy tales, whose first inventors, the Arabs, commenced with the "Thousand and One Nights," and presented us with "The Languages of the Beasts," and also with funny stories.

The principal personage of these last is Si Djeha, whose name was borrowed from a comic narrative existing as early as the eleventh century a.d. The contents are sometimes coarse and sometimes witty, are nearly all more ancient, and yet belong to the domain of pleasantries from which in Germany sprung the anecdotes of Tyll Eulenspiegel and the Seven Suabians, and in England the Wise Men of Gotham. In Italy, and even in Albania, the name of Djeha is preserved under the form of Guifa and Guicha; and the Turks, who possess the richest literature on this person, have made him a Ghadji Sirii Hissar, under the name of Nasr-eddin Hodja (a form altered from Djoha). The traits attributed to such persons as Bon Idhes, Bon Goudous, Bon Kheenpouch, are equally the same as those bestowed upon Si Djeha.

But if the Berbers have borrowed the majority of their tales, they have given to their characters the manners and appearance and names of their compatriots. The king does not differ from the Amir of a village, or an Amanokul of the Touaregs. The palace is the same as all those of a Haddarth, and Haroun al Raschid himself, when he passes into Berber stories, is plucked of the splendor he possesses in the "Thousand and One Nights," and in Oriental stories. This anachronism renders the heroes of the tales more real, and they are real Berbers, who are alive, and who express themselves like the mountaineers of Jurgura, the Arabs of the Atlas; like the men of Ksour, or the nomads of Sahara. In general there is little art in these stories, and in style they are far below other collections celebrated through the entire world.

An important place is given to the fables or stories of animals, but there is little that is not borrowed from foreign lands, and the animals are only such as the Berbers are familiar with. The adventures of the jackal do not differ from those of the fox in European stories. An African trait may be signalled in the prominence which it offers the hare, as in the stories of Ouslofs and Bantous. Also, the hedgehog, neglected so lamentably in our fables, holds an important place; and if the jackal manages to deceive the lion, he is, in spite of his astute nature, duped by the hedgehog when he tries a fall with him. As to the lion, the serpent, the cock, the frog, the turtle, the hyena, the jackal, the rat, their roles offer little of the place they play in the Arab tales, or even the Europeans.

If we pass from Berber we find the Arab tongue as spoken among the Magreb, and will see that the literature is composed of the same elements, particularly in the tales and songs. There are few special publications concerning the first, but there are few travellers who have not gathered some, and thus rendered their relations with the people more pleasant. In what concerns the fairy tales it is, above all, the children for whom they are destined, "when at night, at the end of their wearisome days, the mothers gather their children around them under the tent, under the shelter of her Bon Rabah, the little ones demand with tears a story to carry their imaginations far away." "Kherrfin ya summa" ("Tell us a story"), they say, and she begins the long series of the exploits of Ah Di Douan. [36] Even the men do not disdain to listen to the tales, and those that were gathered from Tunis and Tripoli by Mr. Stemme,[37] and in Morocco by Messrs. Souin and Stemme, [38] show that the marvellous adventures, wherein intervene the Djinns, fairies, ogres, and sorcerers, are no less popular among the Arab people than among the Berbers.

We must not forget that these last-named have borrowed much from the first ones, and it is by them that they have known the celebrated Khalif of Bagdad, one of the principal heroes of the "Thousand and One Nights," Haroun al Raschid, whose presence surprises us not a little when figuring in adventures incompatible with the dignity of a successor of the Prophet.

As in the Berber tales, one finds parallels to the Arab stories among the folk-lore of Europe, whether they were borrowed directly or whether they came from India. One will notice, however, in the Arab tales a superior editing. The style is more ornate, the incidents better arranged. One feels that, although it deals with a language disdaining the usage of letters, it is expressed almost as well as though in a cultivated literary language. The gathering of the populations must also be taken into consideration; the citizens of Tunis, of Algiers, and even in the cities of Morocco, have a more exact idea of civilized life than the Berber of the mountains or the desert. As to the comic stories, it is still the Si Djeha who is the hero, and his adventures differ little with those preserved in Berber, and which are common to several literatures, even when the principal person bears another name.

The popular poetry consists of two great divisions, quite different as to subject. The first and best esteemed bears the name of Klam el Djedd, and treats of that which concerns the Prophet, the saints, and miracles. A specimen of this class is the complaint relative to the rupture of the Dam of St. Denis of Sig, of which the following is the commencement:


      "A great disaster was fated: [39]

      The cavalier gave the alarm, at the moment of the break;

      The menace was realized by the Supreme Will,

      My God! Thou alone art good.

      The dam, perfidious thing,

      Precipitated his muddy Legions,

      With loud growlings.

      No bank so strong as to hold him in check.


      "He spurred to the right,

      The bridges which could not sustain his shock fell

      Under his added weight;

      His fury filled the country with fear, and he

      Crushed the barrier that would retain him."


As to the class of declamatory poems, one in particular is popular in Algiers, for it celebrates the conquest of the Maghreb in the eleventh century by the divers branches of the Beni-Hilal, from whom descend almost the whole of the Arabs who now are living in the northwest of Africa. This veritable poem is old enough, perhaps under its present form, for the historian, Ten Khaldoun, who wrote at the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth, has preserved the resume of the episode of Djazza, the heroine who abandoned her children and husband to follow her brothers to the conquest of Thrgya Hajoute. To him are attributed verses which do not lack regularity, nor a certain rhythm, and also a facility of expression, but which abound in interpolations and faults of grammar. The city people could not bear to hear them nor to read them. In our days, for their taste has changed — at least in that which touches the masses — the recital of the deeds of the Helals is much liked in the Arab cafes in Algeria and also in Tunis. Still more, these recitals have penetrated to the Berbers, and if they have not preserved the indigenous songs of the second Arab invasion, they have borrowed the traditions of their conquerors, as we can see in the episode of Ali el Hilalien and of Er-Redah.

The names of the invading chiefs have been preserved in the declamatory songs: Abou Zeid, Hassan ben Serhan, and, above all, Dyab ben Ghanum, in the mouth of whom the poet puts at the end of the epic the recital of the exploits of his race:

"Since the day when we quitted the soil and territory of the Medjid, I have not opened my heart to joy;

We came to the homes of Chokir and Cherif ben Hachem who pours upon thee (Djazzah) a rain of tears;

We have marched againsi Ed-Dabis ben Monime and we have overrun his cities and plains.

We went to Koufat and have bought merchandise from the trades-men who come to us by caravan.

We arrived at Ras el Ain in all our brave attire and we mastered all the villages and their inhabitants.

We came to Haleb, whose territory we had overrun, borne by our swift, magnificent steeds.

We entered the country of the Khazi Mohammed who wore a coat of mail, with long, floating ends.

We traversed Syria, going toward Ghaza, and reached Egypt, belonging to the son of Yakoub, Yousof, and found the Turks with their swift steeds.

We reached the land of Raqin al Hoonara, and drowned him in a deluge of blood.

We came to the country of the Mahdi, whom we rolled on the earth, and as to his nobles their blood flowed in streams.

We came to the iron house of Boraih, and found that the Jewish was the established religion.

We arrived at the home of the warrior. El Hashais:

The night was dark, he fell upon us while we slept without anxiety,

He took from us our delicate and honored young girls, beauties whose eyes were darkened with kohol.

Abou Zeid marched against him with his sharp sword and left him lying on the ground.

Abou So'dah Khalifah the Zemati, made an expedition against us, and pursued us with the sword from all sides.

I killed Abou So'dah Khalifah the Zemati, and I have put you in possession of all his estates.

They gave me three provinces and So'dah, this is the exact truth that I am telling here.

Then came an old woman of evil augur and she threw dissension among us, and the Helals left for a distant land.

Then Abou Ali said to me: 'Dyab, you are but a fool.'

I marched against him under the wing of the night, and flames were lighted in the sheepfolds.

He sent against me Hassan the Hilali, I went to meet him and said, 'Seize this wretched dog.' These are the words of the Zoght Dyab ben Ghanem and the fire of illness was lighted in his breast." [40]

The second style of modern Arabic poetry is the " Kelamel hazel." It comprises the pieces which treat of wine, women, and pleasures; and, in general, on all subjects considered light and unworthy of a serious mind. One may find an example in the piece of "Said and Hyza," and in different works of Mr. Stemme cited above. It is particularly among the nomad Arabs that this style is found, even more than the dwellers in cities, on whom rests the reproach of composing verses where the study and sometimes the singularity of expression cannot replace the inspiration, the energy, and even the delicacy of sentiment often found among the nomads:


"The country remains a desert, the days of heat are ended, the trees of our land have borne the attack of Summer, that is my grief.

After it was so magnificent to behold, its leaves are fallen, one by one, before my eyes.

But I do not covet the verdure of a cypress; my sorrow has for its cause a woman, whose heart has captivated mine.

I will describe her clearly; you will know who she is; since she has gone my heart fails me.

Cheika of the eye constantly veiled, daughter of Mouloud, thy love has exhausted me.

I have reached a point where I walk dizzily like one who has drunken and is drunk; still am I fasting; my heart has abandoned me.

Thy thick hair is like the ostrich's plumes, the male ostrich, feeding in the depressions of the dunes; thy eyebrows are like two nouns [Arab letters] of a Tlemcen writing.

Thy eyes, my beautiful, are like two gleaming gun barrels, made at Stamboul, city defiant of Christians.

The cheek of Cherikha is like the rose and the poppy when they open under the showers.

Thy mouth insults the emerald and the diamond; thy saliva is a remedy against the malady; without doubt it is that which has cured me." [41]


To finish with the modern literature of the northwest of Africa, I should mention a style of writings which played a grand role some five centuries ago, but that sort is too closely connected with those composing the poems on the Spanish Moors, and of them I shall speak later. It remains now to but enumerate the enigmas found in all popular Hterature, and the satiric sayings attributed to holy persons of the fifteenth century, who, for having been virtuous and having possessed the gift of miracles, were none the less men, and as such bore anger and spite. The most celebrated of all was Sidi Ahmed ben Yousuf, who was buried at Miliana. By reason of the axiom, "They lend but to the rich," they attributed to him all the satirical sayings which are heard in the villages and among the tribes of Algeria, of which, perhaps, he did pronounce some. Praises are rare:


            "He whom you see, wild and tall,

            Know him for a child of Algiers."


            "Beni Menaur, son of the dispersed,

            Has many soldiers,

            And a false heart"


      "Some are going to call you Blida (little village),

      But I have called you Ourida (little rose)."


            "Cherchel is but shame,

            Avarice, and flight from society,

            His face is that of a sheep,

            His heart is the heart of a wolf;

            Be either sailor or forge worker,

            Or else leave the city." [42]


      "He who stands there on a low hill

      All dressed in a small mantle,

      Holding in his hand a small stick

      And calling to sorrow, 'Come and find me,'

      Know him for a son of Medea."


            "Miliana; Error and evil renown,

            Of water and of wood,

            People are jealous of it,

            Women are Viziers there.

            And men the captives."


      "Ténès; built upon a dunghill,

      Its water is blood,

      Its air is poison,

      By the Eternal! Sidi Ahmed will not pass the night here.

      Get out of the house, O cat!"


            "People of Bon Speur,

            Women and men,

            That they throw into the sea."


      "From the Orient and Occident,

      I gathered the scamps,

      I brought them to Sidi Mohammed ben Djellal.

      There they escaped me.

      One part went to Morocco,

      And the rest went down into Eghrès."


            "Oran the depraved,

            I sold thee at a reasonable price;

            The Christians have come there,

            Until the day of the resurrection."


      "Tlemcen: Glory of the chevaliers;

      Her water, her air.

      And the way her women veil themselves

      Are found in no other land."


      "Tunis: Land of hypocrisy and deceit.

      In the day there is abundance of vagabonds,

      At night their number is multiplied,

      God grant that I be not buried in its soil."


Another no less celebrated in Morocco, Sidi Abdan Rahman el Medjidont, is, they say, the author of sentences in four verses, in which he curses the vices of his time and satirizes the tribes, and attacks the women with a bitterness worthy of Juvenal:

            "Morocco is the land of treason;

            Accursed be its habitants;

            They make guests sleep outside.

            And steal their provisions." [43]


      "Deceptive women are deceivers ever,

      I hastened to escape them.

      They girdle themselves with vipers.

      And fasten their gowns with scorpions."


"Let not thyself fall victim to a widow,

Even if her cheeks are bouquets,

For though you are the best of husbands.

She will repeat ceaselessly, 'God, be merciful to the dead.' "


            "No river on the mountains.

            No warm nights in the winter.

            No women doing kind actions,

            No generous-hearted enemies."


The battle of the Guadalete, where sank the Visigoth empire, delivered Spain almost defenceless to the Arab and Berber conquest. There developed then a civilization and an intellectual culture far superior to those of the barbarous Christian refugees in the Asturias, where they led a rude and coarse life which but seasoned them for future struggles. Of their literary monuments, there remain to us but mediocre Latin chronicles. The court of the Omayades at Cordova saw a literature blossom which did not disappear even after the fall of the Khalifate. On the contrary, it seemed to regain a new vigor in the small states which surged up about the Iberian Peninsula. The Christians, under the domination of the Mussulmans, allowed themselves to be seduced by the Arabian literature. "They loved to read their poems and romances. They went to great expense and built immense libraries. They scarcely knew how to express themselves in Latin, but when it was necessary to write in Arabic, they found crowds of people who understood that language, wrote it with the greatest elegance, and composed poems even preferable in point of view to the art of the Arab poets themselves." [44]

In spite of the complaints of fanatics like Euloge and Alvaro, the literary history of that time was filled with Christian names, either those of Spanish who had remained faithful to the ancient faith, or renegades, or children of renegades. By the side of the Arab names, like that of the Bishop Arib ben Said of Cordova, are found those of Ibn Guzman (Son of Guzman), Ibn el Goutya (son of Gothe), Ibn Loyon (son of Leon), Ibn er Roumaye (son of the Greek), Ibn Konbaret (son of Comparatus), Ibn Baschkoual (son of Paschal), and all have left a name among letters.

One magnificent period in literature unfolded itself in the eleventh century a.d., in the little courts of Seville, of Murcie, of Malaga, Valence, Toledo, and Badajos. The kings, like El Nis Sasim, El Mo'hadhid, El Mishamed, Hbn Razin, rank among the best poets, and even the women answered with talent to the verses which they inspired. They have preserved the names and the pieces of some of them: Aicha, Rhadia, Fatima, Maryam, Touna, and the Princess Ouallada. Greek antiquity has not left us more elegant verses, nor elegies more passionate, than these, of which but a small portion has been saved from forgetfulness in the anthologies of Hbn Khayan, Hbn el Abbar, Hbn Bassam de Turad-eddin, and Ibn el KhatJb el Maggari. They needed the arrival of the Berbers to turn them into Almoran. Those Berbers hastened there from the middle of Sahara and the borders of Senegal to help the cause of Islamism against Spanish rule, as it was menaced through the victories of Alfonso of Castile. The result would have been to stifle those free manifestations of the literary art under a rigorous piety which was almost always but the thin varnish of hypocrisy.

To the Almoravides succeeded the Almohades coming from the Atlas of Morocco. To the Almohades, the Merias coming from Sahara in Algeria, but in dying out each of these dynasties left each time a little more ground under the hands of the Christians, who, since the time in Telage, when they were tracked into the caverns of Covadonga, had not ceased, in spite of ill fortune of all sorts, to follow the work of deliverance. It would have been accomplished centuries before if the internal struggle in Christian Spain in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had not accorded some years of respite to the kingdom which was being founded at Granada, and revived, although with less brilliancy, the splendor of the times before the twelfth century.

In the course of the long struggle the independent Christians had not been able to avoid feeling in a certain measure something of the influence of their neighbors, now their most civilized subjects. They translated into prose imitations of the tales such as those of the book of Patronis, borrowing from the general chronicles or in translations like the "Kalila and traditions, legendary or historic, as they found them in the Dimna," or the book of "The Ruses of Women," in verse.

In their oldest romances — for instance, that of the "Children of Sara," [45] and in those to which they have given the name of romances fronterizos, or romances of the frontier — they give the facts of the war between the Mussulmans and the Christians.

But they gave the name of Mauresques to another and different class of romances, of which the heroes are chevaliers, who have nothing of the Mussulman but the name. The talent of certain litterateurs of the sixteenth century exercised itself in that class where the persons are all conventional, or the descriptions are all imaginative, and made a portrait of the Mussulman society so exact that the romances of Esplandian,

Amadis de Gaul, and others, which evoked the delicious knight-errantry of Don Quixote, can present a picture of the veritable chivalry of the Middle Ages. We possess but few verses of the Mussulmans of Granada. Argot de Moll preserved them in Arabic, transcribed in Latin characters, one piece being attributed to Mouley Abou Abdallah:


      "The charming Alhambra and its palaces weep

      Over their loss, Muley Boabdil (Bon Abdallah),

      Bring me my horse and my white buckler,

      That I may fight to retake the Alhambra;

      Bring me my horse and my buckler blue,

      That I may go to fight to retake my children.


      "My children are at Guadia, my wife at Jolfata;

      Thou hast caused my ruin, O Setti Omm el Fata.

      My children are at Guadia, my wife at Jolfata,

      Thou hast caused my ruin, O Setti Omm el Fata!" ^


As may be seen, these verses have no resemblance to those called Moorish. These are of a purely Spanish diction." [47]

Some romances, but not of these last-named, have kept traces of the real legends of the Arabs. There is among them one which treats of the adventures of Don Rodrigues, the last king of the Visigoths — "The Closed House of Toledo." [48] "The Seduction of la Cava," "The Vengeance of Count Julien," "The Battle of Guadalete," are brought back in the same fashion by the historians and writers of Mussulman romances.

The romance on the construction of the Alhambra has preserved the character of an Arabic legend which dates from before the prophet. [49] There is also a romance on the conquest of Spain, attributed to an Arab writer, the same man whom Cervantes somewhat later feigned to present as the author of Don Quixote, the Moor, Cid Hamet ben Engels. [50]

It is another style of writing, less seductive, perhaps, than that of the Moorish romances, in spite of their lack of vivacity and their bad taste. But why mark this as the expression of the Mussulman sentiment under Christian domination? Conquered by the Castilians, the Aragons, and the Portuguese, the Moors had lost the use of Arabic, but they had preserved the exterior sign-writing, just as their new converts retained their usages and their national costumes. We possess a complete literature composed in Spanish, but written in Arabic characters. They called it by the name of Aljaniado. Its chief characteristic is that it treats of the principal legends of the Mussulmans; those of Solomon and Moses, of Jesus; the birth, childhood, and the marriage of Mohammed; Temins ed Daria, the war of the king El Mohallal, the miracle of the moon, the ascension of Mohammed to heaven, the conversion of Omar,

the battle of Yarmouk, the golden castle, the marvels that God showed to Abraham, Ali and the forty young girls, the anti-Christ and the day of judgment, [51] etc.; the legend of Joseph, son of Jacob; that of Alexander the Great, [52] to which could be added the story of the princess Zoraida, [53] without speaking of the pious exhortations, magic formulas, conjurations, and charms. [54]

The Moors held to these documents all the more that they were written in Arabic, and that the fury of the Inquisition was let loose upon them. To save them from the flames, their owners hid them with the greatest care, and but recently, at El Monacid, they found a whole library in Arabic and Aljamiado, hidden more than two centuries between the double walls of an old house. [55] The Mussulman proprietor of these books and his descendants were dead, or had emigrated to Africa, abandoning the treasure which was to see the light in a more tolerant epoch.

Political relations also existed between those of the Moors who remained in Spain as converts and such as had fled from persecution and carried to the populations of the north of Africa the hatred of the Spanish Christians. Thus we find among the popular literature of the Magreb the same legends, but edited in Arabic. Only a small number has been published. [56] Whether in one language or the other, editing does not offer anything remarkable. The stories have been developed, after the traditions of the Mussulmans, by the demi-littérateurs, and by that means they have become easier and more accessible to the multitude.

It is thus that a literature in Spain sadly ends which, during seven centuries, had counted historians and poets, philologists, philosophers and savants, and which the Christian literature replacing it can possibly equal in some points, but never surpass. [57]


René Basset

[1] Geographica, t. xviii, ch. 3, § ii.

[2] Hanoteau, Poésies Populaires de la Khabylie du Jurgura, Paris, 1867, 8 vo.

[3] A sort of sandal.

[4] Affectionate term for a child.

[5] Hanoteau, v. 441-443/

[6] Hanoteau, Preface, p. iii.

[7] Hanoteau, p. 94.

[8] Hanoteau, p. 350-357.

[9] Reals.

[10] Hanoteau, pp. 302, 303.

[11] Masqueray, Observations grammaticales sur la grammaire Touareg et textes de la

Tourahog des Tailog, pp. 212, 213. Paris, 1897.

[12] Masqueray, p. 220.

[13] Masqueray, p. 227.

[14 ]Hanoteau, pp. 348-350.

[15] Hanoteau, lutroduction.

[16 ] Hanoteau, pp. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11.

[17] Hanoteau, p. 124.

[18] R. Basset, L'insurrection Algerienne, de 1871 dans les chansons populaires Khabyles. Lourain, 1892.

[19] J. D. Luciani, Chansons Khabyles de Ismail Azekkion. Algiers, 1893.

[20] Masqueray, pp. 228, 229.

[21] Mo'allagah, v. 49, 50.

[22] Marmier, Lettres sur I'lslemde.

[23] Hanoteau. Essaie de grammaire de la langue Tamacbek, pp. sio, 211. Paris, i860.

[24] Hanoteau, p. 212.

[25] R. Basset, Le Poème de Sabi, p. 15 et suis. Paris, 1879.

[26] Hanoteau, Poèmes Populaires de la Khabyle, pp. 179-181, Du Jurgura.

[27] Hanoteau, p. 275 et seq.

[28] Stemme, p. 7, 8.

[29] Hanoteau, Essai de Grammaire Khabyle, p. 282 et seq. Alger.

[30] Hanoteau, p. 266. Le chasseur.

[31] Contes Populaires de la Khabylie du Jurgura, p. 239, Paris, 1892. Le chausseur.

[32] Legendes et contes merveilleuses de la grande Khabylie, p. 20. 2 vols. Tunis, 1893-1858. Le fils du Sultan et le chien des Chretîens, p. 90. Histoire de Ali et sa mère.

[33] R. Basset, Nouveaux Contes Berbers, p. 18. Pans, 1897. La Pomme de jeunesse.

[34] Spitta-bey, Contes Arabes modernes, p. 12. Ley de 1883.

[35] Arless Pasha, Contes Populaire de la vallée du Nil. Paris, 1895.

[36] Deeplun, Recueil de textes pour I'étude de I'Arabe parlfé, v. 12, p. iv. Paris, 1891.

[37] Iumsche Märchen und Gedichte. Leipzig, 1898. 2 vols. Märchen und Gedichte

Aus der Stadt Tripolis in Nord Afrika. Leipzig.

[38] Zum Arabischen Dialekt. Von Markko. Leipzig, 1893. Vers. 8.

[39] Delphin et Genis. Notes sur la Pocsie et la musique Arabes dans le Maghreb Algerien, pp. 14-16. Paris, 1886.

[40] R. Basset. Un Episode d'une chanson de geste Arabe sur la seconde conquête de

L'Afrique Septentrionale par les Mussulmans. Bulletin de Correspondence Africaine,

p. 147. Alger, 1885, in 8 vo. See also Stemme. Tripolitanisches Bederinenlieder. Leipzig, 1804, in 8 vo.

[41] Joly, Poesie Arnaduno chez les Nomades Algeriennes. Revue Africaine, XLV, pp. 217-219. Alger, 1901, 8 vo.

[42] R. Basset. Les dictionnaires satiriques attribues à Sidi ben Yousof. Paris, 1890, 8 vo.

[43] H.J. Castries. Les Gnomes de Sidi Abdir Rahman El Medjedoub. Paris, 1896.

[44] Dozy. Histoire des Mussulmans de I'Espagne, pp. 103-166. Leyden, 1861, in 12 mo, 4 to.

[45] T. Ramon Manendez Pidal. La legende de les Inrantes de Sara. Madrid, 1896. 8 vo.

[46] A. de Circourt. Histoire des Moors mudijares et des Moresques. Paris, 1846.

[47] T. A. de Circourt. I. iii., p. 327-332.

[48] R. Basset. Legendes Arabes d'Espagne. La Maison fermée de Tolède. Oran, 1898, in 8 vo.

[49] R. Basset. D' Alhambra et le Chateau de Khanumag: Revue des traditions populaires. Fairier, 1871, p. 459-465.

[50] Histoire des Conquétes d'Espagne par les Mores. Par Ali Aven Sufran. Paris, 1720.

[51] Guillon Robles. Legendas Moriscas. Madrid, 1885-86. 36 petit in 8 vo.

[52] Guillon Robles. La Legenda de Jose, hijo de Jacob, ye do Alexandro Magna. Zaragoza, 1888, en 8 vo.

[53] L. de Eguilas el Hditz. de La Princess Zoraida. Granada, 1892, i6mo.

[54] P. Gil y Ribera et Mar Sanches. Colleccion el textos Aljamiados. Zaragoza, 1888, 8 vo,

[55] Pamo. Las coplas del Peregrino de Puey Monçon. Zaragoza, 1897. Pet. en 8 vo.

[56] R. Basset. Les Aventures Merveilleuses de Tunis et Dais. Rome, 1891, en 8vo. L'expedition du Chateau d'or, et la combat d'Ali et du dragon. Rome, 1893, en 8 vo. M'lle Florence Groff. Les sept dormants, La ville de Tram, et I'excursion contre la Makke, Alger, 1891, en 8 vo.

[57] M. Basset's "Special Introduction" was written in French; the English translation

was made by Robert Arnot.


The Moorish ballads which appear in this volume are selected from a unique department of European literature. They are found in the Spanish language, but

their character is oriental; their inspiration comes from the Mahometan conquerors of northern Africa, and while they exhibit a blending of Spanish earnestness and chivalry with the wild and dashing spirit of the Arab, they present a type of literature which is quite unparalleled in the Latin and Teutonic countries of the Mediterranean basin.

Spain is especially rich in ballad literature, infinitely richer than any other civilized nation. These ballads take various forms. By Cervantes and his countrymen they are styled romances, and the romance generally consists in a poem which describes the character, sufferings, or exploits of a single individual. The language is simple; the versification, often artless though melodious, is seldom elaborated into complexity

of rhyme. But the heroic Moor is set before us in the most vivid colors. The hues and material of his cloak, his housings, his caftan, and his plumes are given, and quite a vocabulary is exhausted in depicting the color, sex, and breed of his warhorse. His weapons, lance, scimitar, and corslet of steel are dwelt upon with enthusiasm. He is as brave as Mars, and as comely as Adonis. Sometimes he dashes into a bull-ring and slays wild creatures in the sight of fair ladies and envious men. He throws his lance of cane, which is filled with sand, so high that it vanishes in the clouds. He is ready to strike down, in his own house, the Christian who has taken from him and wedded the lady of his choice. He is almost always in love with some lady who is unkind and cold, and for her he wanders at times in dark array, expressing his sombre mood in the device and motto which he paints upon his shield. Some of the ballads picture love more fortunate in the most charming manner, and the dark tortures of jealousy are powerfully described in others. The devotion of the Moor to his lady is scarcely caricatured in the mocking language of Cervantes, and is not exceeded by anything to be found in the history of French chivalry. But the god of these ballads is Allah, and they sometimes reveal a trace of ferocity which seems to be derived from religious fanaticism. Nor can the reader fail to be struck by the profound pathos which many of them express so well. The dirges are supremely beautiful, their language simple and direct, but perfect in descriptive touches and in the cadence of the reiterated burden.

Beside the ballads of warlike and amorous adventures, there are sea-songs, songs of captivity, and songs of the galley slave. The Spanish Moor is seized by some African pirate and carried away to toil in the mill of his master on some foreign shore, or he is chained to the rowing-bench of the Berber galley, thence to be taken and sold when the voyage is over to some master who leaves him to weep in solitary toil in the farm or garden. Sometimes he wins the love of his mistress, who releases him and flies in his company.

All these ballads have vivid descriptions of scenery. The towers of Baeza, the walls of Granada, the green vegas that spread outside every city, the valley of the Guadalquivir, and the rushing waters of the Tagus, the high cliffs of Cadiz, the Pillars of Hercules, and the blue waves of the Mediterranean make a life-like background to every incident. In the cities the ladies throng the balconies of curling iron-work or crowd the plaza where the joust or bull-fight is to be witnessed, or steal at nightfall to the edge of the vega to meet a lover, and sometimes to die in his arms at the hands of bandits.

There is a dramatic power in these ballads which is one of their most remarkable features. They are sometimes mere sketches, but oftener the story is told with consummate art, with strict economy of word and phrase, and the denouement comes with a point and power which show that the Moorish minstrel was an artist of no mean skill and address.

The authors of the Moorish romances, songs, and ballads are unknown. They have probably assumed their present literary form after being part of the repertoire of successive minstrels, and some of the incidents appear in more than one version.

The most ancient of them are often the shortest, but they belong to the period when southern Spain under Mahometan rule was at the height of its prosperity, and Arabian learning, art, and literature made her rank among the first countries in Europe. The peninsula was conquered by the Moors in the caliphate of Walid I, 705-715 a.d., and the independent dynasty of the Ommiades was founded by Abderrhaman at Granada in 755 a.d. It was from this latter date that the Spanish Moors began to assume that special character in language, manners, and chivalric enthusiasm which is represented in the present ballads; the spirit of Christian knighthood is here seen blended with Arabian passion, impetuosity, and impulsiveness, and the Spanish language has supplanted, even among Mahometan poets, the oriental idiom. We may roughly estimate the period in which the Moorish romance flourished as comprised in the years between iioo and 1600 a.d.

The term Moorish is somewhat indefinite, and is used in Spanish history as a synonym of Saracen or Mahometan. It cannot be called a national appellation, though originally in the Augustan age it was applied to the dwellers in Mauretania, with whom the Romans had first come in contact when the war with Hannibal was transferred from Italy and Spain to Africa. In the present day, it may be applied to all the races of northwestern Africa who have accepted Mahometanism; in which case it would include the aborigines of that region, who live not on the coast and in towns, but in the Atlas Mountain and the Sahara Desert. While these races, all Berbers under different local names, are Mussulmans in profession, they are not so highly civilized as their co-religionists who people the coast of the Mediterranean. They live a tribal life, and are blood-thirsty and predatory. They are of course mixed in race with the Arabians, but they are separate in their life and institutions, and they possess no written literature. Their oral literature is, however, abundant, though it is only within quite recent years that it has become known to America and Europe. The present collection of tales and fables is the first which has hitherto been made in the English language. The learned men who collected the tales of the Berbers and Kabyles (who are identical in ethnical origin) underwent many hardships in gathering from half-savage lips the material for their volume. They were forced to live among the wild tribesmen, join their nomad life, sit at their feasts, and watch with them round their camp-fire, while it was with difficulty they transferred to writing the syllables of a barbarous tongue. The memory of the Berber story-teller seems to be incredibly capacious and retentive, and the tales were recited over and over again without a variation. As is to be expected these tales are very varied, and many of them are of a didactic, if not ethical, cast. They are instructive as revealing the social life and character of these mountain and desert tribes.

We find the spirit of the vendetta pervading these tales with more than Corsican bitterness and unreasoning cruelty, every man being allowed to revenge himself by taking the life or property of another. This private and personal warfare has done more than anything else to check the advance in civilization of these tribesmen. The Berbers and Kabyles are fanatical Mahometans and look upon Christians and Jews as dogs and outcasts. It is considered honorable to cheat, rob, or deceive by lies one who does not worship Allah. The tales illustrate, moreover, the degraded position of women. A wife is literally a chattel, not only to be bought, but to be sold also, and to be treated in every respect as man's inferior — a mere slave or beast of burden. Yet the tribesmen are profoundly superstitious, and hold in great dread the evil spirits who they think surround them and to whom they attribute bodily and mental ills. An idiot is one who is possessed by a wicked demon, and is to be feared accordingly.

There are found current among them a vast number of fairy tales, such as equal in wildness and horror the strangest inventions of oriental imagination. Their tales of ogres and ogresses are unsoftened by any of that playfulness and bonhomie which give such undying charm to the "Thousand and One Nights." The element of the miraculous takes many original forms in their popular tales, and they have more than their share of the folk-lore legends and traditions such as Herodotus loved to collect. It was said of old that something new was always coming out of Africa, and certainly the contribution which the Berbers and Kabyles have made to the fund of wonder-stories in the world may be looked upon as new, in more than one sense. It is new, not only because it is novel and unexpected, but because it is fresh, original and highly interesting.

The fables of these tribes are very abundant and very curious. The great hero of the animal fable in Europe has always been the fox, whose cunning, greed, and duplicity are immortalized in the finest fable the world's literature possesses. The fables of northwest Africa employ the jackal instead of Reynard, whose place the sycophant of the lion not inaptly fills.

There are a number of men among the Kabyles and other Berber tribes who make a profession of reciting poems, tales, and proverbs, and travel from one village or encampment to another in search of an audience. They know the national traditions, the heroic legends, and warlike adventures that pertain to each community, and are honored and welcomed wherever they go. It was from these men that the various narratives contained in this collection were obtained, and the translation of them has engaged the talents and labors of some of the world's foremost oriental scholars.

Epiphanius Wilson


Moorish Ballads

Fatima's Love

The Braggart Rebuked

The Admiral's Farewell

Moriana and Galvan

The Bereaved Father

The Warden of Molina

The Loves of Boabdil and Vindaraja

The Infanta Sevilla and Peranguelos

Celin's Farewell

Celin's Return

Baza Revisited

Captive Zara

The Jealous King

The Lovers of Antequera

Tarfe's Truce

The Two Moorish Knights

The King's Decision

Almanzar and Bobalias

The Moorish Infanta and Alfonzo Ramos

The Bull-fight of Zulema

The Renegade

The Tower of Gold

The Dirge for Aliatar

The Ship of Zara

Hamete Ali

Zaide's Love

Zaida's Jealousy

Zaida of Toledo

Zaide Rebuked 65

Zaida's Inconstancy

Zaide's Desolation

Zaida's Lament

Zaida's Curse

The Tournament of Zaide

Zaide's Complaint

Guhala's Love

Azarco of Granada

Azarco Rebuked

Adelifa's Farewell

Azarco's Farewell

Celinda's Courtesy

Gazul's Despondency

Gazul in Love

Celinda's Inconstancy

The Bull-fight

Lovers Reconciled

Call to Arms

Gazul Calumniated

Gazul's Despair

Vengeance of Gazul

Gazul and Albenzaide

Gazul's Arms

The Tournament

Abunemeya's Lament

The Despondent Lover

Love and Jealousy

The Captive of Toledo in

The Blazon of Abenamar

Woman's Fickleness

King Juan

Abenamar's Jealousy

Adelifa's Jealousy

Funeral of Abenamar

Ballad of Albayaldos

The Night Raid of Reduan

Siege of Jaen

Death of Reduan

The Aged Lover

Fickleness Rebuked

The Galley Slave of Dragut

The Captive's Lament

Strike Sail!

The Captive's Escape

The Spaniard of Oran


Moorish Romances – [Metrical Translation by J. Lockhart]

The Bull-fight of Gazul

The Zegri's Bride

The Bridal of Andalla

Zara's Ear-rings

The Lamentation for Celin

The Story of Sidi Brahim of Massat


Five Berber Stories – [Translated by G. Mercier and Chauncey C. Starkweather]

Djokhrane and the Jays

The Ogre and the Beautiful Woman

The False Vezir

The Soufi and the Targui

Ahmed el Hilalieu and El Redah


Poems of the Maghreb – [Translated by M. C. Sonneck and Chauncey C. Starkweather]

Ali's Answer

In Honor of Lalla

Sayd and Hyzyya

The Aïssaoua in Paris

Song of Fatima

The City Girl and the Country Girl


Popular Tales of the Berbers – [Translated by Rene Basset and Chauncey C. Starkweather] – STORIES OF ANIMALS

The Turtle, the Frog, and the Serpent

The Hedgehog, the Jackal, and the Lion

The Stolen Woman

The King, the Arab, and the Monster

The Lion, the Jackal, and the Man

Salomon and the Griffin

Adventure of Sidi Mahomet

The Haunted Garden

The Woman and the Fairy

Hamed ben Ceggad

The Magic Napkin

The Child and the King of the Genii

The Seven Brothers


Strange Meetings

The King and His Family


The Language of the Beasts

The Apple of Youth

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