The Pen is Mightier than the Sword is an ancient Arab proverb. Before Islam united them, Arabs were too often engaged in tribal warfare against each other, so much so that one of their many wars, one that lasted for 40 years, was started between two tribes through a camel owned by one tribe drinking from the other's water and the fight that ensued thereafter. In those tribal wars the poet of a tribe was highly esteemed and his ability to deride other tribes in his poetry and claim pride for his own was considered the height of might and the poet was given an honor higher than that of the warrior. To this day a traditional dance performed by men in Arabia revolves around the act of men with swords facing each other in battle formation and each is led by a poet, so that's two poets against each other, and the poets engage in a spontaneous poetry match where one starts with a line of poetry that is repeated by his men in a dance song behind him, and his opponent is required to answer him with a line of poetry that matches it in meter and rhyme - not an easy thing to do - and it continues until one poet is clearly the winner over the other, or, more wisely, until both poets seem to satisfy their men that the issue had been resolved through a display of mutual respect; by that, I mean, that both poets strive to stand to the occasion and show the other that their respective tribes are worthy of respect and won't be intimidated, while displaying respect for each other.
A poetry line might go "yo, your tribe stinks!" - and being such a good line it gets repeated perpetually throughout Arabia to the shame of the derided tribe. Alternatively, it might go "Ma tribe is da bestest!", and likewise, being a catchy line, gets repeated perpetually throughout Arabia to the pride of the poet's tribe.
18 İyul 2005