History, Profiles, Reviews, Occasional Meanderings

Monthly Archives: August 2020

Long Dirge of the Barbary Scourge

It’s been awhile since I wrote – the summer has been a mentally taxing one so I briefly suspended some of the features here. However, to cheer myself (and perhaps others) up I shall post an old poem, an imagined old villagers’ song from the Algerian littoral in the 1500s or 1600s. It deals with some of my favourite characters in history – the Barbary Corsairs, who simultaneously waged jihad against the various European seafaring powers in the Mediterranean (in some cases, as vassals of the Ottomans or Alouis in Turkey and Morocco respectively; in others as independent adventurers) and ruled the littoral as emirs of near-republican piratical councils. The reality was much less enjoyably sinister than the typical idea of a pirate, but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine them in the style of the freebooting rogue: as necessary champions of North African Islam, ambiguous for their mixture of piracy and principle, feared by friend and foe alike. Hence my poem, which I put into the mouths of fictional North African housewives cautioning their children not to stray too far from the fishing villages:

“Such loomed the fear of buccaneer,
Creeping corsair, prowling privateer,
Should we hear but stillness on the air,
We’d fly inland to private lair.

‘O take thy care, and say thy prayer,
For out upon t’ briny fair,
Sail ships by which the Lord strikes fear
Amid his foes; but scare’s a scare
For war renders much hardship fair,
Its blows do men’s mercy ensnare
Look if you must(yet dinnae stare)
Each manjack gird with cutlass bare,
Ravaged visage, with stony glare
The seas’ own wolf, a ready slayer;
Shores hunting fields, seacraft his lair;
What manner beast therein would fare?
So hold thy berth, maintain thy care;
A wolf’s a wolf, though for Din Khair'”




(since I have been plagiarized before, copyright Ibrahim Moiz 2020 with full rights reserved)