Friday Finds: ‘Another Description of the Locust’

You know David Larsen from his lions and cats, but he’s not uninterested in insects:

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Turkey unspec., c. 1717
(al-Qazwini, Zakariya; ʻAjaʼib al-makhluqat)

He translates here from the Rare and Marvelous Tales of Devout Luminaries of Times Gone By of Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Qalyubi.

It opens:

It is said [in al-Damiri’s Life of Animals] that the locust unites the features of ten mighty creatures: the face of a stallion, the eye of an elephant, the neck of a bull, the horn of an oryx, the torso of a lion, the belly of a snake, the wings of the vulture, the forelegs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich and a scorpion’s tail. Such was the theme of a poet who said (meter: ṭawīl):

Thigh of a camel, shank of an ostrich,
a vulture’s paw and the breast of a biting lion.
Its belly was a gift from the viper of the earth,
and the noble horse gave up its face and nose.
The elephant’s eye is aped by its, and its
horns are the wild cow’s, do you follow?
Its neck and its tail are a bull’s and a scorpion’s,
and God is the One Who knows best.

It continues with another evocative description that you can read at Larsen’s Painted Lantern.