a collection of literature from poets, bards, songwriters, and skalds in the SCA

Doves of Light

talia's picture
Mon, 09/07/2020 - 22:35 -- talia

Doves of light are sleeping ‘round the moon
The tree of heaven casts its shadow on the dune
But there is no rival for the way your hair is strewn
The clouds below the stars make a veil of the light
I pray you think of me on a night like tonight
Beneath the rapid beat the strings do cast a spell
A pounding rhythm soars to highest citadel
The histr’y of your name the story that it tells
The clouds below the stars make a veil of the light
I pray you think of me on a night like tonight
In the well of your eyes a paradise did gleam
But the rush of time is a cold mountain stream
And the heat of your hands a faint and faded dream
The clouds below the stars make a veil of the light
I pray you think of me on a night like tonight
Every longing lovers song has the ring of a knell
Now the music of my heart is as a tongueless bell
Silent as a rose since the day we said farewell
The clouds below the stars make a veil of the light
I pray you think of me on a night like tonight
When the birds of night do low and mournful croon,
Beneath dark heaven plays that old familiar tune
Telling me I’ll never see you by the light of noon
The clouds below the stars make a veil of the light
I pray you think of me on a night like tonight

Documentation / Explanation (Razo): 


Consists of a multi-lined strophic verse poem commonly written in classical Arabic or Hebrew, usually five stanzas, alternating with a refrain with a running rhyme. Could begin with an optional introductory stanza called the matl or matla‟ (a short rhyme introductory verse), continues with strophe (bayt and qufl) and concludes with the kharja. The matla’ is followed by five or seven strophes; each has two parts called bayt (Arabic stanza) and qufl (return). Each strophe is made up of a rhymed verse and rhymed refrain: bayt uses different rhymes from strophe to strophe; the qufl has a common rhyme scheme found in matla‟ and repeated in the kharja. The lines in the last strophe, preceding the kharja, introduce the speaker of the kharja: this could be a young woman, a bird, a personified abstract concept, or the subject of the poets regard.

The meter for a muwashah often varied depending on the language it was written in and time period. Earlier muwashahat were predominantly written in Classical Arabic and followed strict Arabic quantitative metrical patterns borrowed from the earlier qasida form. In English, and also Romance languages, meters are determined by patterns of “heavy” and “light” syllables, referred to as qualitative meter. In quantitative meter, patterns of long and short syllables, corresponding to the length of time it takes to utter a syllable. Muwashat used twelve syllable lines as a rule.

As time went on and there was greater cross cultural influence and innovation, adherence to classical Arabic meters became less strict. An additional complication for someone trying to “scan” a muwashah on the page is that muwashah are intended to be sung to a musical accompaniment, so a word or syllable might be lengthened or shortened as needed to fit the rhythm of the song and mood of the verse, but there is some indication that the regular stress falls on the accented syllable of the rhymed word.

Rhyme Scheme Examples: a/b ccc a/b dddd a/b eee OR aaa b/b ccc b/b OR a/b cdcd a/b efef a/b ghgh a/b


The karja is the final refrain of a muwashah, usually a response to the previous stanzas, often written in colloquial language. Karja could be reused. 


My Attempt at the Form:


This is a muwashah without the kharja. Arabic meters are enormously complex and hard to transpose into English, and also there is some scholarship that argues muwashah originated in formal Arabic meters but later abandoned them. I tried something more organic here and just  listened to a bunch of muwashah on youtube (Lamma bada, for example, is still popular today) and tried to write something that you could sing along to those tunes, which ended up being roughly iambic hexameter, assuming a fairly fast beat. Rhyme structure is consistent within stanzas and stanzas evidence ring structure in both rhyme and theme. 




Alltharthi, Ziad Ali and Khrisat, Adulhafeth Ali. “The imapct of muwshah and zajal on troubadours poetry”.International Journal of English and Literature. Vol.7(11), pp. 172-178, November 2016  


Cole, Peter, translator.  The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492,  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007)


El-Huni, Ali A. (1996) The poetry of Ibn al-Rùmī. University of Glasglow  


 Ibn Hazam. Arberry, AJ, translator. The Ring of the Dove.  LUZAC & COMPANY, LTD.  


“The Poetry of Ibn Arabi” The Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society 


Poems of Samuel Hanagid 

"Poetry and History in Jewish Culture  


Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa: Vol. 1 Classical Traditions and Modern Meanings, eds Stefan Sperl, C. Shackle, BRILL, 1996   


“Spanish Literature” Encylcopedia Britannica.


Muwashshah and the Kharja: An introduction




The Mischievous Muse: Extant Poetry and Prose by Ibn Quzmān of Córdoba