Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) was a central figure in the Romantic movement in England, but he was frustrated with his position; he wanted to be one of the nation's best Romantic poets, but he was not, and he knew it. However, he produced a prolific body of work during the first sixty years of the nineteenth century, ranging in style and length, including translations of Greek and Roman poems, translations from French and Italian, and narrative poems.
Abou Ben Adhem, first published in 1834, is one of the most anthologized works of Leigh Hunt. Hunt claimed that it was one of the best poems written by him. There are references to Islamic history in three of the poems in the first two publications of Hunt's poetry; Abou Ben Adhem is one such reference. According to available literature, Abou Ben Adhem refers to Ibrahim Ibin Adham, a Sufi of Islam. He is known as a king who ruled Balkh. A famous anecdote explains Ibrahim Ibin Adham's conversion to a religious life when, during a hunting trip, an unidentified voice advised him to repent for his sins. In fact, anecdotes about the Sufi are plenty in literature, written in languages such as Turkish, Javanese, Urdu, Malay, etc. These anecdotes make references to the miracles performed by him and his generosity and kindness toward loved ones.
Abou Ben Adhem relates to an event in the life of Ibrahim Ibin Adham, who encounters an angel who is making a list of all of those who love God. When he learns that his name is not on the list, he orders the angel to write him down as one who loves his fellow men. When the angel returns the next night with a second list, this time showing people whom God has blessed. Abou Ben Adhem's name is at the top of this list, which indicates that God blesses those who love their fellow men. From this encounter, it can be seen that the best way in which we can express our love for God is to love our fellow human beings.
Although known predominantly for this poem, Hunt is better known for promoting the work of his contemporaries such as Shelly and Keats; this particular poem is still widely published and widely read; most of his works, however, are not, and scholars generally agree that Hunt did not fulfill the precocious promise he showed as a twelve-year-old poet when he published his first volume of work.
In addition to Abou Ben Adhem, Hunt wrote several other narrative poems, such as The Story of Rimini, which was written in 1816 and is based on the same story as Keats’s poem by the same name. He also wrote several ballads, including The Glove and the Lions, which was published in 1845 and is considered to be one of his best works. Leigh Hunt also wrote several satires, such as The Wrath of Eliza, which was published in 1822 and is considered to be one of his most successful works. He also wrote several essays, such as The Town, which was published in 1820. Hunt's essays often contained his political views and his opinions on culture, religion, and literature. All of these works are considered to be representative of the Romantic period, and they are a testament to Hunt's talent as a writer.