82nd & Fifth: “Poetic License” by Martina Rugiadi


This cup seems very minimal, very simple. But what is the most interesting feature is the content of this inscription. It is a poem by an Abbasid poet, Ibn Sukkara al-Hāshimī. The poem reads: “Drink! For this day has a special boon, which if you had known about it, you would have hurried up with entertainment and hastened with rapture! Don’t hold the cup back, but drink it diluted, until you die from it, dead without reason.” It’s actually a celebration of the exalted status of being drunk. This poet was very well known in Buyid Baghdad. He was a licentious poet, and many of his poems have very explicit sexual descriptions. His poems are part of a genre in the tenth century fostered by cultured people who were just enjoying life. I can imagine a feast attended by cultured people who would have read this inscription while drinking wine. The wine was diluted, so people would drink a lot. I actually imagine as the atmosphere becomes merrier people would have recited other poems. We can imagine a very warm setting with many textiles. They would have lit the room with candles and oil lamps. Such a precious object would have shined in the hands of the owner. Silver objects are very rare. Religious law forbids both wine drinking and the use of silver vessels. These religious laws are very clear. On the other hand, poems are very clear too. We have to take these things together; it was part of the same society. Often it was the same people who would be a judge, and then, have a party at home. This object helps us picture a whole scene of life and of enjoying life.

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