Scholarly assemblies in the Arabic intellectual tradition served as forums not only for entertainment butalso for spectacular events of both literary and historical significance. Al-Sīrāfī (d. 368/979) related how at one such literary seance, which was organized at the instance of Ibn Durayd (d. 321/933), a participant read these verses, attributed to Adam, the progenitor of mankind, lamenting the murder of Abel by Cain:
The land and all those on it have altered the face of the earth has turned dusty and vile. Anything of beautyand splendour has altered and the smile of the lovely face has waned.
The observation that the rhyme letter carries, in breach of the standard rule, different desinential vowels, namely, ḍamma in one line and kasra in the other, provoked a reaction from Ibn Durayd who said ‘This is a poem said at the beginning of the world, yet iqwā' was committed in it.’
But of course in Arabic historical lore, Ishmael, the son of Abraham, is said to have been the first to speak Arabic; and Adam is believed to have spoken Syriac. Factors which encouraged false ascriptions and the outright forgery of poetry have been discussed in various published works and the subject need not detain us here: suffice it to say that the foisting of these lines on Adam, and indeed the entire anecdote, might well be seen in terms of myth, in the sense defined by Jolles (Wahrsage), invented for the sake of a historical perspective.