The Latin poet Claudian lived from about 370 to 404 A.D. He was born in Egypt but as an adult associated himself with the imperial court at Rome. One of his more famous works is the unfinished epic “The Rape of Proserpina” (De Raptu Proserpinae). The poem contains a short prologue which I have translated as follows:Continue reading
David Nasaw’s The Patriarch is a comprehensive account of the life and times of the founder of the Kennedy family dynasty, Joseph P. Kennedy. In many ways he remains the least understood Kennedy; his name has been subject to rumor, surrounded by myth, and maligned in whispers. Even during his life he remained a divisive, controversial figure: at once irascible, overbearing, frustratingly obdurate, and cunning, as well as loyal, devoted, conscientious, and steadfast.
As I have gotten older I find that reading plays brings more enjoyment than it did in earlier years. Tragedies especially: the unformed mind has not yet been sufficiently battered by the winds and waves of fortune against the rocks, and is equipped with a merciful immunity to the pathos of existence. And yet, as the years roll on, beards and barnacles begin to replace the smooth, supple surfaces of youth; scars and aches accumulate; and the omnipresence of tragedy dawns on the maturing mind with a startling rapidity. The mind then calls for a tonic: it requires the writer to make sense of all this chaos, all this pain, and all this suffering. The struggle must be dignified with a sense of universal justice, and an ethic of enduring goodness. So the tragedian steps forward, and with his stylus attempts to perform this task.
In some recent researches I have discovered one of the more interesting travelers and scholars of the medieval Islamic world. I have been encouraged to review what sources are available; and the more we learn, the more impressive his story becomes. His name is Yakut Al-Hamawi, and his career and achievements tell us much about the geographical and social mobility of the age in which he lived. His career also confirms the truth of the adage that a man of ability will always find a way to rise to the top, regardless of the obstacles placed in his path.
There is a scene in the movie The Wild Bunch (1969) where Ernest Borgnine and William Holden are discussing the making of promises. Holden says, “We gave our word.” Borgnine angrily responds, “That ain’t what counts. It’s who you give it to!”
Ali Ibn Al-Athir (علي عز الدین بن الاثیر الجزري) was an Arabic historian, poet, and scholar who served for a time under Saladin. Born in 1160 in the city of Jazeera Ibn Omar (the modern Turkish town of Cizre), he received his education there and in Mosul, Iraq. From an early age, he showed an uncanny aptitude for literary work, composing verses and prose with fluent ease; he was soon able to master the essentials of grammar, philology, rhetoric, and law.Continue reading
The great antiquity and depth of Indian civilization had been known to Europe and the Middle East for many centuries; yet the precise contours of Indian advances in mathematics, literature, and philosophy were hidden behind the veils of preconception and confusion. We know that the caliph Harun Al-Rashid, in Baghdad in the 9th century A.D., commissioned translations of some prominent works of Indian literature, but such knowledge remained in the hands of scholars and was not widely diffused. Things began to change gradually with the advancement in geographic, scientific, and commercial knowledge in the 17th and 18th centuries.