Post Islam, some Arabic poetry steered away from taboo topics such as sex and alcohol.
But still, there were poets who championed the “you only live once” or YOLO mantra, long before it was a thing. Free love and good wine were recurring and rather common themes in their writings. Chief among this new breed of poets was Abu Nuwas.
Abu Nuwas was born in Persia, most likely sometime during the 750s, and lived until 814. He pioneered the genres of Khamriyyat (wine poetry) and Ghazal (love poetry) as they took off during the Abbassid caliphate.
Not only did Abu Nuwas take the traditional poetic form of the Qasida and write many poems in praise of wine, his main occupation was writing erotic poetry addressed to both men and women.
Here are a few excerpts of his most beautiful poems on love and wine:
Abu Nuwas had a very simple solution for woes and troubles
“Forget all of that! Get on with yourself, and drink a fine vintage instead:
Golden-hued, it mingles with water and froth
As it pours from the hand of a slim-waisted beauty,
Who resembles a willow branch, flaunting its graceful bearing.”
This revolutionary poet was accused of being one of the most illicit poets of his time, here’s a clear example why
“Don't cry for Layla, don't rave about Hind!
But drink among roses a rose-red wine,
A drought that descends in the drinker's throat,
bestowing its redness on eyes and cheeks.
The wine is a ruby, the glass is a pearl,
served by the hand of a slim-fingered girl,
Who serves you the wine from her hand, and wine
from her mouth — doubly drunk, for sure, will you be!”
Abu Nuwas expressed his fondness of handsome young men, which contributed even more to his reputation
“I die of love for him, perfect in every way,
Lost in the strains of wafting music.
My eyes are fixed upon his delightful body
And I do not wonder at his beauty.
His waist is a sapling, his face a moon,
And loveliness rolls off his rosy cheek
I die of love for you, but keep this secret:
The tie that binds us is an unbreakable rope.
How much time did your creation take, O angel?
So what! All I want is to sing your praises.”
He had a very simple logic behind wine
"If apple is but wine, solidified,
And wine is apple, only liquefied,
You'll find, if drinking is not temporized,
Substantial joy and pleasure, actualized!"
He championed the forbidden
“Always I have and will scatter god and gold to the four winds.
When we meet, I delight in what the Book forbids.
And flee what is allowed.”