Basit

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Basīṭ (Arabic: بسيط‎‎), or al-basīṭ (البسيط), is a metre used in classical Arabic poetry. The word literally means "extended" or "spread out" in Arabic.[1] Along with the ṭawīl, kāmil, and wāfir, it is one of the four commonest metres used in pre-Islamic and classical Arabic poetry.[2] The metrical form is often as follows (where "–" is a long syllable, "u" is a short syllable, and "x" a syllable which can be either long or short):[3][4]

| x – u – | x u – | x – u – | u u – |

The mnemonic words (tafāʿīl) used by Arab prosodists to describe this metre are: Mustafʿilun Fāʿilun Mustafʿilun Faʿilun (مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ فَاعِلُنْ مُسْتَفْعِلُنْ فَعِلُنْ).

The metre is usually used in couplets of eight feet each. An example is the 38-couplet qasīda by al-Mutanabbi (915-965): “The poet reproaches Sayf al-Dawla” (king of Aleppo), from which comes the couplet:

إذا رَأيْـتَ نُيُـوبَ اللّيْـثِ بـارِزَةً * فَـلا تَظُـنّـنّ أنّ اللّيْـثَ يَبْتَسِـمُ
’idā ra’ayta nuyūba l-layti bārizatan
falā taẓunnanna ’anna l-layta yabtasimū
| u – u – | u u – | – – u – | u u – |
| u – u – | – u – | – – u – | u u – |
"If you see the lion’s fangs displayed,
do not imagine for a moment that the lion is smiling."

Variations[edit]

Although in the poem of al-Mutanabbi quoted above, the last foot of each half-line is always | u u – |, other poets use the metre in the following form, where "o" represents a biceps element, i.e. one where the two short syllables can optionally be replaced by one long one.

| x – u – | x u – | x – u – | o – |

An example is the following drinking-song by Abu Nuwas which begins:

دَعْ عَنْكَ لَوْمي فإنّ اللّوْمَ إغْرَاءُ * ودَاوني بالّتي كانَتْ هيَ الدّاءُ
da‘‘ ‘anka lawmī fa-’inna l-lawma ’iḡrā’u
wa-dāwinī bil-latī kānat hiya d-dā’u
| – – u – | – u – | – – u – | – – |
| u – u – | – u – | – – u – | – – |
"Censure me not, for censure but tempts me;
cure me rather with the cause of my ill—"[5]

The metre also exists in a trimeter form of which the half-line is as follows:

| x – u – | – u – | x – u – |

There is also a catalectic trimeter form:

| x – u – | – u – | x – – |

Occasionally the first foot of each half-line can be | – u u – |.

In a musical context[edit]

The term basīṭ is also used in a musical context; in the Andalusi nubah, or classical suites, of Morocco, each nubah, or suite, is divided into five main movements (called mīzān (ميزان; plural: mawāzīn, موازين)) each of which uses a different rhythm, as follows:

  1. Basīṭ (6/4)
  2. Qāim wa nusf (8/4)
  3. Btāyhī (8/4)
  4. Darj (4/4)
  5. Quddām (3/4 or 6/8)[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edward W. Lane (1863) Arabic-English Lexicon Archived 2015-04-08 at the Wayback Machine..
  2. ^ Golston, Chris & Riad, Tomas (1997). "The Phonology of classical Arabic meter". Linguistics 35 (1997), 111-132; p. 120.
  3. ^ McCarus, Ernest N. (1983). "Identifying the Meters of Arabic Poetry", Al-'Arabiyya vol 16. no. 1/2, pp. 57-83. (Georgetown University Press).
  4. ^ Wright, W. (1951). A Grammar of the Arabic Language, vol. II, Cambridge University Press; pp. 350-390.
  5. ^ Translation from Kennedy, Philip F. (1997). The wine song in classical Arabic poetry : Abu Nuwas and the literary tradition. Oxford University Press.)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]