War Songs

438 pages

2 maps

October, 2018

ISBN: 9781479880904



Add to Cart Available: 9/11/2018

Also available in


Arabic Literature

Part of the Library of Arabic Literature series


'Antarah ibn Shaddad was one of the most famous warrior-poets of pre-Islamic Arabia. A semi-legendary hero from the 6th century AD, 'Antarah was born into slavery as the son of an Arab father and an African mother. Many of his poems are about his love for 'Ablah, daughter of the tribe's shaykh--a love thwarted by his low social status.

All books by 'Antarah ibn Shaddad

 James E. Montgomery, author of Al-Jahiz: In Praise of Books, is Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity Hall.

All books by James E. Montgomery

Richard Sieburth is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at New York University and an award-winning translator of works by Henri Michaux, Michel Leiris, George Büchner, Walter Benjamin, and Friedrich Hölderlin. His translation of Gerard de Nerval’s Selected Writings won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize.

All books by Richard Sieburth

Peter Cole has published several books of poems and many volumes of translations from Hebrew and Arabic, both medieval and modern. He has received numerous honors for his work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and in 2007 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

All books by Peter Cole

Poems of love and battle by Arabia’s legendary warrior 
From the sixth-century highlands of Najd in the Arabian peninsula, on the eve of the advent of Islam, come the strident cries of a legendary warrior and poet. The black outcast son of an Arab father and an Ethiopian slave mother, 'Antarah ibn Shaddad struggled to win the recognition of his father and tribe. He defied social norms and, despite his outcast status, loyally defended his people.  
'Antarah captured his tumultuous life in uncompromising poetry that combines flashes of tenderness with blood-curdling violence. His war songs are testaments to his life-long battle to win the recognition of his people and the hand of 'Ablah, the free-born woman he loved but who was denied him by her family. 
War Songs presents the poetry attributed to 'Antarah and includes a selection of poems taken from the later Epic of 'Antar, a popular story-cycle that continues to captivate and charm Arab audiences to this day with tales of its hero’s titanic feats of strength and endurance. 'Antarah’s voice resonates here, for the first time in vibrant, contemporary English, intoning its eternal truths: commitment to one’s beliefs, loyalty to kith and kin, and fidelity in love. 


  • "An unmistakable voice... What is perhaps most beautiful about War Songs is how 'Antarah hints at tenderness beneath the violence, defending slaughter for a cause and remaining faithful to tribe and family, even in the face of death."

    —Marginalia (Los Angeles Review of Books)

  • "The Library of Arabic Literature has another landmark success with this so-called untranslatable poet...Sixth-century Arabia may be 'strange,' but the years of struggle on the part of this scholar-writer and his poet collaborator have given the general reader a visceral insight into this world in compelling, beautiful poetry."

    —Times Literary Supplement

  • "War Songs is a well-presented collection, with useful supplementary material, from the introductory matter to the appendices."

    —The Complete Review