Posted in Poetry

the secret of the sea

Scylla-and-Charybdis

In the wilderness of the great ocean

Lies a secret script of the Fate of Man

Sealed in the silence of tidal motion

In dissimulation of the opprobrious plan

Harboring the secrecy of the Age of Man

That gods so have kept to themselves alone.

 

The Ages of Man, the Plays of Man

On the Stages of Acts in Humanity –

Those gods wrote and watched for fun

In the theater of Comedy and Tragedy

As the Wheel of Fortune decided what

Would be played the next, and whatnot.

 

The heart of the ocean sends a pulse thru me

Of the secret hidden in the watery main

With the sunny breeze that pushed Odyssey

To sail forth against the forces of the divine

To find and write a new Age of Man to witness

The victory between the Scylla and Charybdis.

 

P.S.: This is a poem written out of my existential crisis in the reflection of Herodutus’s theory of the Age of Man. I am not a fatalist but a believer of luck as Shakespeare was. I believe that time and chance are what ascribe to the fulfillment of your ends in life or for the nonce. Didn’t Thomas Alba Edison also corroborate that a genius is made of 1 percent of ingenuity and 99 percent of efforts? I want to embark on an Odyssey to claim my own destiny.

Posted in book review

The Heroic Age Revisited: ‘The Tale of Troy’, by Roger Lancelyn Green – review

The Tale of TroyThe Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

History is a branch of literature woven by artists and artificers with stories full of events, places, and people embroidered on the latticework of time, which mirrors the invariable pith of humanity to posterity. In truth, history is a literary creation of reality in the habiliment of artistic imagination, which we call mythology. In this regard, The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green is a refreshingly cracking retelling of historical Trojan War knitted together with mythological strands as though to be seen from a magical casement to the misty antiquity, which Herodotus defines as the Heroic Age of the Five Ages of Man (which, by the way, Ovid interestingly omitted in his Roman version of the Ages of Men) when divine immortals responded to your pleas directly and promptly and freely made love with their beautiful mortal subjects with unquelled divine lust.

Drawn on a compendium of classical narratives of ancient writers, principally Homer’s Iliad, Green retells the beginning and end of Trojan War, reprises the scenes of the heroic characters and capricious Immortals, and remasters the thematic theater of dramas collapsing a great divide of time and space with his genius story-telling skills as an erudite but affable raconteur. Green takes you to the wedding banquet of Menelaus and Helen in Sparta where the goddess of discord Eris first presented an apple of discord, to Paris of Troy happily living with Oenone, a mountain nymph, on Mount Ida, to the Greek Camp outside the Wall of Troy where Agamemnon and Achilles were having a row over their beautiful Trojan female captives, and to Odysseus’s 10-year journey back home in Ithaca. The tale of Troy regenerates more stories about the fates of the characters following the end of the epic war, which leads to the dawn of the Iron Age, the Age of Man, in which we live. The Tale of Troy is a literary equivalent of Matryoshka, a frame story that presents manifold stories that delight you with pleasant surprises.

The great Roman poet Horace once said it’s harder to treat a story in your own way. In fact, to retell a story is harder than to create one from void because it requires a special ability with the aid of natural wit to make the original source texts adapt to the contemporary readership of the time the author belongs to. To that effect, this book is a magical casement of the misty past told by a Homeric storyteller of our modern time who will take you to where the ancient ocean sends forth the breeze of the shrill Aegean Sea to let you sail an imaginary voyage with the Greek Kings and the Trojan refugees, while the Olympian gods are watching you from Mount Olympus.

View all my reviews

Posted in Miscellany

Dialogue on Five Ages of Man

IMG_3900
Horatio (L) and Larry (R)

Larry: I wonder what age we are currently in.

Horatio: How do you mean? You sound like a peripatetic thinker like Aristotle.

Larry: I mean the age according to Hesiod, the father of western narrative history. The name may sound Greek to you, my dear friend.

Horatio: So, you think I am a philistine because of my patently plebian appearance and mercantile profession? I take false shadows for true substances, buddy. I have read about Five Ages of Man according to Hesiod and can tell you that we are in Iron age to which Hesiod himself also belonged. In this age, we human beings must toil away for livelihood, get old quickly, are besotted by troubles and more troubles under constant stress and pressure. In fact, it’s not our mortals’ faults but those Olympians who continued a cycle of creation and destruction of a human race on their whims and caprice in epicycle. In the first place, Zeus and his ilk drove away the benevolent race of the golden age after Titanomarchy, a ten year war against Titans, then began a recycle of the races for the silver, bronze, heroic and iron afterwards because they did not like what they saw in the races on the grounds of morality and maturity. It’s like the Olympians regarded us humans as a sort of puppets or marionettes. Or they are playing chess of our destiny with our beings used as pieces to be moved on a chess board. Yes, we live in the iron age, but I reject the idea that we are all living in a doomed scenario because we human beings have amazing intelligence with its general multipurpose learning strategies to triumph against the outrageous Olympian pandemonium. So, my friend, fear not. Boldness be our friends. For as Shakespeare encourages us that “true hope is swift, and files with swallow’s wings.”

Larry: My dear friend, Horatio. Thank you for your sagacious thinking and brilliant advice on humanity. And let’s just say that for all what’s worth, mankind has resilience to spring back from the ashes of destruction with its fortitude and instinct for survival. It’s our human nature. And let us also remind ourselves of the dictum of Hemingway: “Man can be destroyed but not be conquered.”

Posted in book review

The Library of Alexandria: The History and Legacy of the Ancient World’s Most Famous Library

The Library of Alexandria: The History and Legacy of the Ancient World's Most Famous LibraryThe Library of Alexandria: The History and Legacy of the Ancient World’s Most Famous Library by Charles River Editors

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first time I visited the New York Public Library to write a research paper on female monasticism in the High Middle Age, I was amazed by the volumes of book it possessed and its classification system of organization staffed by knowledgeable librarians, as well as the colossal architectural building in the middle of Manhattan, New York. Perhaps it might have been this kind of awe and wonder kindled in the minds of ancient travelers or scholars who had seen or visited the Library of Alexandra, one of the largest and greatest of the ancient libraries in the history of civilization, which is said to exist from the 3rd century B.C. until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 B.C. The Library of Alexandra: The History and Legacy of the Ancient World’s Most Famous Library by Charles River Editors presents a comprehensive history of this great ancient library from its genesis to demise on the grounds of historical accounts and logical scientific reasoning thereof.

For centuries when libraries were still few and far between as written knowledge had been exclusively held by the religious classes in private repositories, the image of this ancient library once existent in Alexandria had been evocative of mysterious ambience of esoteric mystical knowledge of the bygone eras and thus inspired imagination to create myths and legends. In fact, libraries as we know now and find ubiquitously are fairly a modern invention born of the cultural legacy of the Library of Alexandria as the apotheosis of two ancient literary and cultural traditions converging the Greek and the Egyptian.

  • The Egyptian Background
    When Alexander the Great and his army conquered the ancient Middle East in the 4th century – one of which was Egypt -, they were encountered with cultures with long literary traditions and traditions of literary documents in repositories called, “the House of Life” and “the House of Books” that housed thousands of documents written in papyrus-made scrolls for the Egyptian and clay tablets for the Mesopotamian under the administration of the priest class. Of these two houses of documents, it is the House of Life, the ancient Egyptian equivalent of a library, from which the majority of texts have survived until the present time. Consequently, Alexander and his army were overawed with the rich literary culture of their conquered land, took the ancient Egyptian concept of a library and transformed it from a religious to a secular institution by providing a bridge of knowledge from the most ancient concepts of libraries to the modern libraries in the process of Hellenization of the Egyptian.
  • The Greek and Hellenization (The spreading of the Greek culture)
    Alexander’s Hellenization was a two-fold political program consisting of (1) acculturation by performing and accepting certain religious and cultural traditions making him look “Egyptian” to gain acceptance by the Egyptian elite class; and (2) the promotion of the Greek culture, “Hellenism” by spreading the Greek culture throughout Egypt. The process of Hellenization in Egypt was well succeeded by his general named Ptolemy, (the founder of the Ptolemy dynasty from 304 to 330 B.C., including Cleopatra VII) who made Alexandria the capital of Egypt and the cultural center of the Hellenistic and the famed Library of Alexandria as the centerpiece. In fact, the Ptolemies’ subsidization of the Library was their way to link their dynasty, which was in a foreign land far away from their homeland Greece, to the greatness of their culture. They also banned the export of papyrus from Egypt, which resulted in increase of prices for books and creation of the industry of forgeries and plagiarism.

According to the Greek historian/geographer Strabo (64 B.C.-24 A.D.) upon visiting the Library of Alexandria, it was part of the royal palace and an annex to the museum, which was a community of academic and religious scholars gathering in the shrine of the Muses of the arts and intellect. The membership was exclusive to the men holding property in common with a priest in charge of the museum. The library housed over 500,000 papyrus book-scrolls written by the ancient notables, such as Homer, Euripeds, Sophocles, and Herodotus, all in Greeks as most of the documents stored therein had been translated from their original languages by priests under the Hellenistic influence. Besides, the Library organized all the entries into alphabetical order as a classification system of library organization that is akin to modern library information system.

  • Destruction of the Library of Alexandria
    Since there has been no definite archeological evidence of the Library discovered, myths and legends concerning its end are still rampant in the imaginations of creative minds. It is said to be burned down by the Civil Wars in 48 or 47 B.C. by Plutarch in Life of Caesar, the theory advocated by Seneca, a famous Roman orator, and later popularized by Edward Gibbon of “The Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire.” However, the most plausible and logical theory of the destruction of the Library is that the humidity must have ensued the destruction of books in papyrus and that the process of destruction would have taken place over hundreds of years contrary to a popular dramatic version of its being burned to ashes by Caesar’s men in one night. Also, another speculation is that after Egypt was annexed to the Roman Empire in 30 B.C., the presence of the Library of Alexandria became an afterthought to the Romans, who imported Greek Scholars and books into Rome, rather than made a long trip to the foreign land. The Romans were more concerned with building their own architectural building, including libraries and schools, in their own land by sending their book agents to the Library of Alexandria to take the originals back to Rome, which contributed to a gradual demise of the Library, by making its presence obsolete and unnecessary for the upkeep of the maintenance.

The great ancient Library of Alexandria as an architectural artifact might have disappeared into history, but its cultural inheritance of civilization preserving intellectual act of learning in appreciation of arts and beauty still strongly resonates with its historiography and contribution to our modern world by continuing to inspire our minds to carry it on for posterity. The Library of Alexandria still exists in the presence of any place of learning or knowledge as long as we appreciate such cultural influence on what we take for granted, such as using our own library. Now that I have read this book, the next time I visit any library, I will think of those ancient librarians and appreciate the legacy of the Library of Alexandria and Alexander the Great for making it all possible.

저장