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Macaronic (Mulamma') Poetry in Ottoman Damascus
In The Poet’s Tongues: Multilingualism in Literature (1970), Leonard Forster examines a multilingual love poem composed in Latin, Anglo-Saxon, and English from the fifteenth century. Such a poem, Forster argues “is not merely a tour de force by a talented linguist,” but rather “it presupposes a polyglot audience in England capable of appreciating it and does not stand alone” (17). Poems in more than one language known as macaronic, or in Arabic-Islamic literary terminology mulammaʿ (lit., polished or of various colors), were prevalent in the Islamicate world as well. Poets inserted a word, a phrase, or a full sentence from a different language than they normally composed their poetry in. They also composed poems with alternating hemistiches in two languages. In this paper, after providing a brief overview of macaronic poetry in the Islamicate literary traditions, I will discuss a number of poems composed in Turkish and Arabic by the janissary-turned-poet Māmayya al-Rūmī (d. 985–7/1577–9) with references to his contemporary poets.
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