Post-classical history

IN THE SERVICE OF THE BURIDS OF DAMASCUS

§ Usama Moves to Damascus

And so the situation required that I move to Damascus. The messengers of the atabeg, meanwhile, came repeatedly to the lord of Damascus11 demanding that I return. But I remained in Damascus for eight years, during which time I was involved in numerous battles.12 The lord of Damascus (may God have mercy upon him) granted me a lavish stipend and fiefs,13 and distinguished me by making me one of his close associates and by extending to me every kindness – all this in addition to the fact that the commander Mu’in al-Din14 (may God have mercy upon him) honoured me, made me his constant companion and looked after all my needs.

§ Usama Takes his Leave of Damascus

Then certain things came to pass15 that necessitated my relocation to Cairo. I was obliged to leave behind any household belongings or weapons that I could not carry, and what I lost on my estates amounted to yet another disaster. Despite all of this, the commander Mu’in al-Din (may God have mercy upon him) was benevolent and kind, full of sorrow at our separation, and he acknowledged his inability to alleviate my situation.

He even sent me his scribe, the chamberlain Mahmud al-Mustarshidi (may God have mercy upon him), through whom he said: ‘By God, if I had only half the people with me, I would crush the other half with them, and even if I had only a third of them, I would crush with them the remaining two thirds, rather than be separated from you. But the populace in its entirety has amassed against me and I am powerless. Wherever you may be, the friendship between us will always be at its best.’

Concerning this, I say:16

[5] Mu’in al-Din, how many necklaces have you bestowed, Like the rings of a dove, upon my neck?

Benevolence has enthralled me to you in obedience; For to the noble, in benevolence lies bondage.

I find myself tracing my lineage back to your friendship, Even though I was once of glorious ancestors, self-ennobled.

Don’t you know that, just because I trace my kinship To you, everyone who can hurls shafts at my heart?

Were it not for your sake, my unruliness would not have been restrained

In the face of abuse, without my blade making its mark.

But I was afraid that the flames of the enemy would burn you

And so instead I quenched their fuel.

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