Monday, August 12, 2013



Richard F. Burton (1821-1890), Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah (London: Tylston and Edwards, 1893), p. 9:
And this is the Arab's Kayf. The savouring of animal existence; the passive enjoyment of mere sense; the pleasant languor, the dreamy tranquillity, the airy castle-building, which in Asia stand in lieu of the vigorous, intensive, passionate life of Europe. It is the result of a lively, impressible, excitable nature, and exquisite sensibility of nerve; it argues a facility for voluptuousness unknown to northern regions, where happiness is placed in the exertion of mental and physical powers; where Ernst ist das Leben; where niggard earth commands ceaseless sweat of face, and damp chill air demands perpetual excitement, exercise, or change, or adventure, or dissipation, for want of something better. In the East, man wants but rest and shade: upon the banks of a bubbling stream, or under the cool shelter of a perfumed tree, he is perfectly happy, smoking a pipe, or sipping a cup of coffee, or drinking a glass of sherbet, but above all things deranging body and mind as little as possible; the trouble of conversations, the displeasures of memory, and the vanity of thought being the most unpleasant interruptions to his Kayf. No wonder that "Kayf" is a word untranslatable in our mother-tongue!1

1 In a coarser sense "kayf" is app1ied to all manner of intoxication. Sonnini is not wrong when he says, "the Arabs give the name of Kayf to the voluptuous relaxation, the delicious stupor, produced by the smoking of hemp."
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