The Rose Of The Alhambra

We will tell the tale of the Rose of the Alhambra.  For many years after the city of Grenada came under the control of the Spanish kings, it remained a quiet and secluded place.  Mute and desolate were its haunting spires; and, while every stone bore a secret, they contented themselves with accommodating the restless spirits of an Almoravid past.  But this changed with the accession of Philip V.  After his marriage to Isabella, he desired to visit Granada with his retinue.  The clatter of horses’ hooves, the blaring of courtly trumpets, and the cries of heralds and pages again resounded through the walls of the ancient city.

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The Mystery Of Cicero’s Lost Work “On Glory”

Of the literary works of classical antiquity, only a fraction have survived to the present day.  What fraction this is, we do not know; one estimate places it at one-fourth, but the true figure will never be known.  The reader may wonder how it can be that literary masterpieces could have been permitted to fade into obscurity, and then oblivion; but, on further reflection, he will marvel more at the fact that anything at all survived from antiquity than rue the losses we have suffered.  Printing and the mass production of books are relatively new inventions.  For most of history (in Europe at least) books could only be reproduced as fast as a copyist could transcribe them.  Multiplicity was the only insurance against destruction:  the more copies in existence, the better the book’s chance of survival.

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The Pursuit Of Work, And The Quest For Ideals

In 1893 Leo Tolstoy published an essay whose title was rather clumsily translated into English as “Non-Acting.”  In it the great novelist compared the relative merits of two positions, one held by Emile Zola, and the other held by Alexandre Dumas.  Both Zola and Dumas had been asked to state their opinions on what they believed to be the basic forces that move, or should move, humanity.  Tolstoy, mystic that he was, saw these rival opinions in terms of a cosmic competition between “the force of routine, tending to keep humanity in its accustomed path,” and “the force of reason and love, drawing humanity towards the light.”

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Solomon Outwits The Queen Of Sheba

The following tale is related in a forgotten nineteenth-century volume on the literature of the ancient world.  Its ultimate source is the Talmud (literally, “learning”), that immense compendium of Judaic civil and religious law, garnished with the diligent commentaries of hundreds of learned men.  To the foreigner unfamiliar with its mysteries, it appears to be a vast encyclopedia on every conceivable subject, including the minutiae of social life, work, family, and leisure.  Included also are fables, stories, allegories, proverbs, even jokes; the overall impression given is that of a distillation of cultural traditions and thought that spans many centuries.  The Talmud itself contains two parts:  the Mishna (the older text), and the Gemara, which is a commentary on the Mishna.

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The Genius Of The Iliad

About a year and a half ago, I listened to an audio book translation of the Iliad.  I like listening to audio books in my car as I drive around during the day; I can control the content of what I hear, and can avoid listening to the news.  It had been a long time since I had had any extended exposure to the poem, and was wondering if it might mean more to me than it did many years ago.  The full appreciation of works of literature, we all know, is often time-specific.  At one point in a man’s life, a book may seem like a tiresome bore; then, with a refreshing interval of years, the same work can hit you like a bolt of lightning, activating previously dormant or attenuated perceptions.

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The Bricklayer Of Granada: A Tale Of The Alhambra

I was lucky enough today to find an old  copy of Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra; the volume is lavishly illustrated and was actually published in Granada in the late 1940s.  The following tale is found in this Andalusian collection; it reminds us of the influence of Fortune in the lives of mortals, a theme that we have  explored frequently in these pages.

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The Syrian Lightning: The Fleeting Pleasures Of Imad Al-Din Al-Isfahani

The Persian scholar and poet Imad al-Din al-Isfahani (عماد الدين الأصفهاني) was an important figure in medieval Arabic literature.  He was born in Isfahan in Persia in 1125 and studied in Baghdad.  We are told that he studied law at the Nizamiya college there, but he preferred literature and adventure.  His proficiency in letters brought him to the attention of powerful political figures, who were able to secure him government posts in Basra and Wasit.

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