Resources Can Come In Unexpected Ways: The Bounty Of Imad al-Dawla

Imad ad-Dawla Ibn Buwaih (A.D. 891-949) was the founder of the Buyid Dynasty in medieval Persia.  His name in Persian is given as Ali Ibn Buya, but he is more commonly known as Imad al-Dawla (“pillar of the state”).  Ibn Khallikan’s short sketch of his life contains the story related here; this story in turn is taken from the historian al-Mamuni.  It reminds us of the fact that, sometimes in life, a bit of good fortune can provide us with all we need.  The world, somehow, has its own way of providing for us; and if we persist long enough, some problems eventually solve themselves.

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François-René de Chateaubriand: The Apostle Of Romanticism

The nineteenth century literary, artistic, and intellectual movement we today call “romanticism” is not easily defined, but is generally acknowledged to embrace the following sentiments:  an idealized view of the past, the emphasis of feeling and sentiment over rationality, a preference for exotic locales and peoples, and the primary of emotion.  One of the founders—perhaps the founder—of romanticism in French literature was François-René de Chateaubriand, whose memoirs I have just finished.  He titled his book Memories From Beyond The Tomb, since they were specifically intended to be published after his death.

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Wise Sayings Of The Poet Al-Tihami

The Arabic poet Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Tihami (? – 1025) is said to have taken the name Tihami in one of two possible ways that may hint at his family’s origins, according to our trusted chronicler Ibn Khallikan.  Tihami was used both as an informal name for the city of Mecca, and as a name for the mountains between the Hijaz and Yemen.  But it is not clear which of these geographic references apply to our poet.

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The Hedonistic Philosophy Of Yang Zhu

It is an unhappy fate for a philosopher to be known to posterity only through his enemies.  Quotes may be taken out of context, writings may be warped or obfuscated, and conclusions may be cherry-picked to present a picture far out of accord from the writer’s original intention.  We do not know if this is precisely the fate of the Chinese philosopher Yang Zhu (440-360 B.C.), but one suspects that if more of his writings had come down to us, we might have a more favorable view of his doctrines.  But we have what we have, and this does not exactly inspire man’s noblest sentiments.  Or does it?  Each reader will have to judge for himself.  It would be wrong to ignore him, even if we disagree with his doctrines.

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Why Every Man Should Read “Robinson Crusoe”


By any standard Daniel Defoe (1659?-1731) is one of the most remarkable authors in English history.  In versatility, energy, and practical wisdom, few can claim to be his peer in life experiences or in skill with the pen.  He came to writing by a circuitous route.  After fathering seven children, he threw himself into business and politics; bankruptcy was the result in 1692, but his repayment plan would eventually compensate his creditors almost in full with an amount of 17,000 pounds.

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A Fool Is Put In His Place


The following anecdote is related in Ibn Khallikan’s short biographical profile of the philologist and rhetorician Al Said.  His full name was Abu al-Said Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Isa Al-Raba’i.  Verbal abilities are highly prized in cultures with rich literary traditions, and this tale bears testament to this fact.

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The Song Of Roland


As Europe took shape in the early medieval period, the vernacular languages found their voices in popular epics and ballads.  This was not an accident; access to Latin and its literature required literacy, and this was something not easy to come by at that time.  But the lay audiences of Europe began to develop their own voices, and these soon coalesced by degrees into coherent form.  The tradition was mostly oral at first, until these songs and ballads began to be written down.  In every new civilization it seems that the epic ballad occupies the first stage of literary expression; perhaps this is because a people must first master their environments before they can have the leisure to philosophize.  And mastery of the environment means capability in war.

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