Translation Challenge #3: Shades of Black

Do you translate ghirbīb the same way both times? Rachel Schine is a scholar of   pre-modern Arabic literature. 1273), a scholar of the Qur’ān who hails, per his name, from Cordoba, and who witnessed his home city’s capture by Ferdinand III of Castile in his lifetime. First, the line by Imru’ ul-Qays:
العين طامحة واليد سابحة والرجل لافحة والوجه غربيب
In this small piece of descriptive verse, Imru’ ul-Qays achieves what typically takes poets several lines: the itemized description of the interesting physical parts of his mount…I mean love interest…I mean mount (no actually, this is said to be about his faras, a generic term for “horse” or “mare”). Translation Challenge #3: Shades of Black

For Week Three of the #ArabicTranslationChallenge, Rachel Schine raises the difficulty level a notch:
By Rachel Schine
First things first—eid mubarak ya ma‘shar al-nas! And, speaking of seeking clarity amid difficulty, with the holiday upon us I thought it only fitting to use this week’s translation challenge as an occasion for looking at poetry that works in service of better understanding and visualizing meanings in the Qur’ān. These two lines—one by the famed pre-Islamic warrior-poet Imru’ ul-Qays, and the other said in some places to be anonymous, and in others attributed to the ‘Abdallāh al-Ghāmidī—are often used jointly in tafsīr, or exegetical commentary, to aid in the understanding of the word ghirbīb, a term which occurs only once in the Qur’ān in reference to the deep black color of portions of the earth. Her research interests include   storytelling practices, kinship structures,   gender/sexuality, and race/racialization   in pre-modern works of   poetry and prose. Her dissertation,   “On Blackness in Arabic Popular Literature: The Black Heroes of the Siyar Sha‘biyya, their Conception, Contests, and Contexts,”   examines the   literary, socio-historical, and ethical functions of black heroes in the popular sīrahs, a body of medieval chivalric   literature   that features a diverse range of protagonists. Do you bring the verses together in a “micro-collection” as they occur in tafsīr? Using simple, repeating clauses (a body part followed by a descriptive, active participle), he gives us an image of his steed mid-stride that I have translated as follows:
Her eye—far-gazing,
Her hoof—fleet-floating,
Her leg—light-striking,
Her face—pitch black
 
And this one is ‘Abdallāh al-Ghāmidī’s:
ومن تعاجيبِ خَلْقِ اللهِ غاطية يُعصرمنها مُلاحي وغربيبُ
This piece of descriptive verse deals with the wondrousness of the earth being covered (ghāṭiya, meaning a tree or vine with its limbs outspread) with fruits of all colors, not unlike the Qur’anic verse, though by using the specific image of God creating both choice white grapes (mulāḥī) and choice dark grapes (ghirbīb) to be pressed (yu‘ṣar). And moreover, the challenge rests on finding the specific language with which to convey the uniquely intense blackness implied by ghirbīb, to the exclusion of its more commonplace synonyms! As a dweller once in the shade of the Berkshires and now in the Rockies, I also have long found it intriguing that the word “black” (sūd) gets modified in this particularly dramatic way, apart from the other colors mentioned, calling to mind the sublime smallness one can feel in the shadow of towering stone or mountains. How might one visually or linguistically represent that? Here is the āya in question:
Sūrat al-Fāṭir:27

Translation by M.A.S. My translation:
A wondrous range—God’s vines, trellised, rest
Light grapes and dark, all waiting to be pressed. Why or why not? But how to better understand this lonely little hapax? This interpretative trend seems to begin with al-Qurṭubī (d. Commentators seem to agree that this drama demands attention, with al-Qurṭubī noting that gharābīb is a badal, or a substitute term, meant to add emphasis (tawkīd) through repeating the same idea. I hope this month provided some peace amidst the chaos. To help with both, a bit of guiding interpretation (sharḥ), including an alternative recitation of the Imru’ ul-Qays verse with which to play, taken from a 2006 edition of the tafsīr of al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmi‘ li-Aḥkām al-Qur’ān:

I hope that by asking folks to translate two verses from two different authors centered on a keyword together, it will push us to think about polysemy in yet another way. Abdel Haleem:
“Have you [Prophet] not seen how God sends water down from the sky and that We produce with it fruits of varied colours; that there are in the mountains layers of white and red of various hues, and jet black […]”
I’ve always admired this image of the earth’s faces in all their variety, which also hearkens to other parts of the Qur’ān that underscore the creative intentionality behind variety in nature and among humankind. The answer, as with so many other things, lies in verse.