Stopping By the Ruins
December 14, 2017 1:50 PM   Subscribe

"One of the most interesting places my ruins research has taken me is into the world of ancient Arabic poetry. So here's the story of how a tiny fragment from the opening of ancient poems became one of the most enduring poetic tropes in history:" (Twitter thread)
posted by Paddle to Sea (10 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Can we trace a line of influence to Shelley's Ozymandias as well?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:10 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by Oyéah at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2017

Thanks, a nice summary of the tradition. If anyone's interested, there's an excellent collection by Michael A. Sells called Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes; it includes two Mu’allaqát and has both scholarly introductions and notes and good poetic translations. Here's a stanza from the Mu’allaqa by Labid:
  Cut the bond
with one you cannot reach!
  The best of those who make a bond
are those who can break it.

> Can we trace a line of influence to Shelley's Ozymandias as well?

No, that's a separate tradition, as Cooper says in the linked thread. (The link is by Paul Cooper—name the author, folks!)
posted by languagehat at 3:27 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's an earlier poem than "Ozymandias" that seems to more similar in tone to the Arabic poems quoted here, the Anglo-Saxon poem "The Ruin", although the Arabic poems seem to lament the ruin of somewhere the poet had visited in happier times themself, while the Saxon one is more bewildered, describing ruins left my mysterious "giants", long before.
posted by Fuchsoid at 5:08 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is kind of totally fascinating and now I want to get really drunk and binge on some of these poets if I can find translations.
posted by egypturnash at 7:53 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are ruins in the general area where I grew up. Cliff dwellings, both in the Gila area and Mesa Verde. There is also the barely-existing remains of a Civil War era fort.

I think this (from the thread) is a beautiful way to describe how ruins feel.

The observation earlier in this thread that the Arabic use of the phrase has to do with personal past rather than ancient past is an interesting one. Perhaps pausing at the ruins can be an emotional state rather than a physical act.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

This resonates with me. Thank you for posting.
posted by delight at 9:36 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Re: Ozymandias, one of his replies:

"Ozymandias is more an example of "ubi sunt", which is a similar tradition in European art / literature"
posted by Drexen at 7:35 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

This work glows with remembrance, and consciousness, and the creative art of high literature. I love it when the talk of the world comes down through time, especially in fine poetry. A thousand years later, or even much later going backwards to forwards, we in the "West" were still throwing the contents of chamber pots down onto the streets, and not bathing at all.
posted by Oyéah at 11:49 AM on December 15, 2017

From Paul Cooper's twitter, I found that he had written a novel, which I checked out from the library and read pretty much straight through. Very good, but it kept me tense all the way through.
posted by moonmilk at 5:38 PM on December 17, 2017

« Older Penguin Nest Cam! Eggs hatching soon!   |   Because a chicken does not have a penis. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments