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This poem is taken from PN Review 8, Volume 5 Number 4, July - September 1979.

Four Poems Dick Davis

In his introduction to the theory of history, The Maqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun quotes and explains the proverb with which this poem opens. The meeting that ends the poem took place outside the walls of Damascus in 1401.

"The city filled with orange trees
Is lost", which, interpreted, meant
All conspicuous luxuries
Augur ruinous punishment.

This fitted what he knew. The zeal
For conquest, prayer, decays: the child
Mocks pieties he cannot feel
And children's children are beguiled

By comfort, gardens, literature.
Aesthetics dazes them, safe lives
Grow lax and soon they can endure
No-one but slaves, musicians, wives . . .

Till to degeneracy the Lord
Sends one who, like their forbears, spurns
Mere taste as mannered cant. The sword
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