The OF Blog

Friday, June 24, 2022

Current Reads in Progress

 Since I no longer have a dedicated team of rabid Serbian Reading Squirrels to read 99% of my books for me (or more like I currently have an administrative/educational job that requires 10+ hours of my time many days of the week, not to mention I’m currently rehabbing a cervical disc injury), my reading time has been slower but mostly steady.  I haven’t finished many books since February, but I’m operating more on a dip and taste approach where I might spend 15 minutes one night on a particular book/language and then an hour plus on another, comparing the originals to the translations as I either refresh or learn new classical languages.

So with that out of the way, here’s what I’ve completed since March and what I’m currently reading:

3.  Marco Girolamo Vida, Christiad (I Tatti Renaissance Library, Latin/English)

4.  Homer, The Iliad Books I-XII (Loeb Classical Library, Greek/English)


In progress:

Homer, The Iliad Books XIII-XXIV (Loeb Classical Library, Greek/English) - partway through Book XIII

St. Augustine, City of God Books I-III (Loeb Classical Library, Latin/English) - partway through Book I

Vishnu-sharman, Five Discourses on Worldly Wisdom (Clay Sanskrit Library, Sanskrit(transliterated)/English - partway through the first section

Soma-deva, The Ocean of the Rivers of Story (Clay Sanskrit Library, Sanskrit(transliterated)/English) - finished the introduction

Valmíki, Ramáyana Book One:  Boyhood (Clay Sanskrit Library, Sanskrit(transliterated)/English) - partway through section one

Statius, Thebaid Books I-VII (Loeb Classical Library, Latin/English) - partway through Book III

Various, One Hundred Latin Hymns:  Ambrose to Aquinas (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, Latin/English) - almost complete with introduction

Coulter H. George, How Dead Languages Work - currently on Ch. 2, dealing with Attic Greek

‘Any Al-Qudat, The Essence of Reality (Library of Arabic Literature, Arabic/English) - beginning Ch. 1

Ferdowsi, Shahnameh:  The Epic of the Persian Kings (English only graphic novel adaptation) - a few pages in

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Library of Arabic Literature

 Continuing my list of various supranational bilingual editions of “classic” literature, below are the volumes in the Arabic-English Library of Arabic Literature, published by New York University Press.  Begun in 2012, there are at this time a little over 50 volumes in print.  Several of these volumes contain literary works that exist at the interstices of several literary sub-genres and may be of interest to those (such as myself) who enjoy imaginative literature mixed with poetry, philosophical, and religious motifs.


1.  Geert Jan van Gelder (ed.), Classical Arabic Literature:  A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology

2.  Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi’i (trans. Joseph E. Lowry), The Epistle on Legal Theory

3.  al-Qāḍī al-Quḍāʿī (trans. Tahera Qutbuddin), A Treasury of Virtues:  Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of ‘Ali, with the One Hundred Proverbs attributed to al-Jahiz

4.  Abū l-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī (trans. Geert Jan van Gelder and Gregor Schoeler), The Epistle of Forgiveness vol. I:  A Vision of Heaven and Hell

5.  Ibn al-Jawzī (trans.  Michael Cooperson), Virtues of the Imam Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal Vol. I

6.  Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (trans. Humphrey Davies), Leg Over Leg Vol. I

7.  Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (trans. Humphrey Davies), Leg Over Leg Vol. II

8.  Abū l-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī (trans. Geert Jan van Gelder and Gregor Schoeler), The Epistle of Forgiveness vol. II: Hypocrites, Heretics, and Other Sinners

9.  ʿĀʾishah al-Bāʿūniyyah (trans. Th. Emil Homerin), The Principles of Sufism

10. Maʿmar ibn Rāshid (trans. Sean W. Anthony), The  Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muḥammad

11. Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (trans. Humphrey Davies), Leg Over Leg Vol. III

12. Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (trans. Humphrey Davies), Leg Over Leg Vol. IV

13. Abū Zayd al-Sīrāfī and Aḥmad ibn Faḍlān (trans. Tim Mackintosh-Smith and James E. Montgomery), Two Arabic Travel Books:  Accounts of China and India and Mission to the Volga

14. Ibn al-Jawzī (trans.  Michael Cooperson), Virtues of the Imam Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal Vol. II

15. al-Qāḍī al-Nuʿmān (trans. Devin Stewart), Disagreements of the Jurists:  A Manual of Islamic Legal Theory)

16. Ibn al-Sāʿī (trans. Shawkat M. Toorawa), Consorts of the Caliph:  Women and the Court of Baghdad

17. Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥī (trans. Roger Allen),  What ʿĪsā ibn Hishām Told Us:  or, A Period of Time, Vol. I

18. Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥī (trans. Roger Allen),  What ʿĪsā ibn Hishām Told Us:  or, A Period of Time, Vol. II

19. Abū Bakr al-Ṣūlī (trans. Beatrice Greundler),  The Life and Times of Abū Tammām

20. ʿUthmān ibn Ibrāhīm al-Nābulusī (trans. Luke Yarbrough), The Sword of Ambition:  Bureaucratic Rivalry in Medieval Egypt

21. Yūsuf al-Shirbīnī (trans. Humphrey Davies), Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abū Shādūf Expounded, Vol. I

22. Yūsuf al-Shirbīnī (trans. Humphrey Davies), Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abū Shādūf Expounded, Vol. II

23. Bruce Fudge (ed. & trans.), A Hundred and One Nights

24. Muḥammad ibn Maḥfūẓ al-Sanhūrī (trans. Humphrey Davies), Risible Rhymes

25. al-Qāḍī al-Quḍāʿī (trans. Tahera Qutbuddin), Light in the Heavens:  Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad

26. Ibn Qutaybah (trans. Sarah Bowen Savant), The Excellence of the Arabs

27. Charles Perry (ed. & trans.), Scents and Flavors:  A Syrian Cookbook

28. Ḥmēdān al-Shwēʿir (trans. & ed. Marcel Kurpershoek), Arabian Satire:  Poetry from 18th-century Najd

29. Muḥammad al-Tūnisī (trans. Humphrey Davies), In Darfur:  An Account of the Sultanate and Its Peoples, Vol. I

30. Muḥammad al-Tūnisī (trans. Humphrey Davies), In Darfur:  An Account of the Sultanate and Its Peoples, Vol. II

31. ʿAbdallāh ibn Sbayyil (trans. Marcel Kurpershoek), Arabian Romantic:  Poems on Bedouin Life and Love

32. ʿAntarah ibn Shaddād (trans. James E. Montgomery), War Songs

33. al-Muḥassin ibn ʿAlī al-Tanūkhī (trans. & ed. Julia Bray), Stories of Piety and Prayer:  Deliverance Follows Adversity

34. Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī and Abū ʿAlī Miskawayh (trans. Sophia Vasalou & James E. Montgomery), The Philosopher Responds:  An Intellectual Correspondence from the 10th Century, vol. I

35. Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī and Abū ʿAlī Miskawayh (trans. Sophia Vasalou & James E. Montgomery), The Philosopher Responds:  An Intellectual Correspondence from the 10th Century, vol. II

36. al-Ḥasan al-Yūsī (trans. & ed. Justin Stearns),  The Discourses:  Reflections on History, Sufism, Theology, and Literature, vol. I

37. Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī (trans. Mario Kozah), The Yoga Statues of  Patañjali

38. Jamāl al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥīm al-Jawbarī (trans. Humphrey Davies), The Book of Charlatans

39. ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baghdādī (trans. Tim Mackintosh-Smith), A Physician on the Nile: A Description of Egypt and Journal of the Famine Years

40. Ḥannā Diyāb (trans. Elias Muhanna), The Book of Travels, vol. I

41. Ḥannā Diyāb (trans. Elias Muhanna), The Book of Travels, vol. II

42. Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (trans. Michael Fishbein and James E. Montgomery), Kalīlah and Dimnah:  Fables of Virtue and Vice

43. ʿAyn al-Quḍāt (ed. and trans. Mohammed Rustom), The Essence of Reality:  A Defense of Philosophical Sufism 

44. al-Māyidī ibn Ẓāhir (trans. Marcel Kurpershoek), Love, Death, Fame:  Poetry and Lore from the Emirati Oral Tradition

45. Ibn Khaldūn (trans. Carolyn Baugh), The Requirements of the Sufi Path:  A Defense of the Mystical Tradition (10/4/2022)

46. Ibn Buṭlān (trans. & ed. Philip F. Kennedy and Jeremy Farrell), The Doctors’ Dinner Party (2/7/2023)

Monday, May 30, 2022

The Clay Sanskrit Library

The Clay Sanskrit Library was established in 2005 and added new volumes of transliterated Sanskrit with facing parallel English translations from then until 2009.  I’m listing this here as I do have a passing interest in learning some Sanskrit just so I can continue to broaden my literary and cultural horizons and to better understand the environments in which these classics were written.  I will list the books owned but not yet read in italics and eventually, if I gain some grasp of Sanskrit, read books will be listed in bold.


  1. The Emperor of the Sorcerers (volume one) by Budhasvāmin. trans. Sir James Mallinson
  2. Heavenly Exploits (Buddhist Biographies from the Dívyavadána) trans. Joel Tatelm
  3. Maha·bhárata III: The Forest (volume four of four) trans. William J. Johnson
  4. Much Ado About Religion by Bhaṭṭa Jayanta.  trans. Csaba Dezső
  5. The Birth of Kumára by Kālidāsa. trans. David Smith. Foreword by U.R. Ananthamurthy
  6. Ramáyana I: Boyhood by Vālmīki. trans. Robert P. Goldman. Foreword by Amartya Sen
  7. The Epitome of Queen Lilávati (volume one) by Jinaratna. trans. R.C.C. Fynes
  8. Ramáyana II: Ayódhya by Vālmīki. trans. Sheldon I. Pollock
  9. Love Lyrics by Amaru, Bhartṛhari & Bilhaṇa. trans. Greg Bailey & Richard Gombrich
  10. What Ten Young Men Did by Daṇḍin. trans. Isabelle Onians. Foreword by Kiran Nagarkar
  11. Three Satires by Nīlakaṇṭha, Kṣemendra, and Bhallaṭa. trans. Somadeva Vasudeva. Foreword by Mani Shankar Aiyar
  12. Ramáyana IV: Kishkíndha by Vālmīki. trans. Rosalind Lefeber
  13. The Emperor of the Sorcerers (volume two) by Budhasvāmin. trans. Sir James Mallinson
  14. Maha·bhárata IX: Shalya (volume one of two) trans. Justin Meiland
  15. Rákshasa’s Ring by Viśākhadatta. trans. Michael Coulson. Foreword by Romila Thapar
  16. Messenger Poems by Kālidāsa, Dhoyī, and Rūpa Gosvāmin. trans. Sir James Mallinson
  17. Ramáyana III: The Forest by Vālmīki.  trans. Sheldon I. Pollock
  18. The Epitome of Queen Lilávati (volume two) by Jinaratna. trans. R.C.C. Fynes
  19. Five Discourses on Worldly Wisdom by Viṣṇuśarman. trans. Patrick Olivelle 
  20. Ramáyana V: Súndara by Vālmīki.  trans. Robert P. Goldman & Sally J. Sutherland Goldman
  21. Maha·bhárata II: The Great Hall trans. Paul Wilmot
  22. The Recognition of Shakúntala by Kālidāsa. trans. Somadeva Vasudeva
  23. Maha·bhárata VII: Drona (volume one of four) trans. Vaughan Pilikian
  24. Rama Beyond Price by Murāri.  trans. Judit Törzsök
  25. Maha·bhárata IV: Viráta trans. Kathleen Garbutt
  26. Maha·bhárata VIII: Karna (volume one of two) trans. Adam Bowles
  27. “The Lady of the Jewel Necklace” and “The Lady Who Shows Her Love” by Harṣa. trans. Wendy Doniger. Foreword by Anita Desai
  28. The Ocean of the Rivers of Story (volume one of seven) by Somadeva. trans. Sir James Mallinson
  29. Handsome Nanda by Aśvaghoṣa. trans. Linda Covill
  30. Maha·bhárata IX: Shalya (volume two of two)  trans. Justin Meiland
  31. Rama’s Last Act by Bhavabhūti. trans. Sheldon I. Pollock. Foreword by Girish Karnad
  32. “Friendly Advice” and “King Víkrama’s Adventures” by Nārāyaṇa. trans. Judith Törzsök
  33. Life of the Buddha by Aśvaghoṣa. trans. Patrick Olivelle
  34. Maha·bhárata V: Preparations for War (volume one of two)  trans. Kathleen Garbutt. Foreword by Gurcharan Das
  35. Maha·bhárata VIII: Karna (volume two of two)  trans. Adam Bowles
  36. Maha·bhárata V: Preparations for War (volume two of two) trans. Kathleen Garbutt
  37. Maha·bhárata VI: Bhishma (volume one of two) Including the “Bhagavad Gita” in Context  trans. Alex Cherniak. Foreword by Ranajit Guha
  38. The Ocean of the Rivers of Story (volume two of seven) by Somadeva.  trans. Sir James Mallinson
  39. “How the Nagas Were Pleased” and “The Shattered Thighs” by Harṣa and Bhāsa. trans. Andrew Skilton
  40. Gita·govínda: Love Songs of Radha and Krishna by Jayadeva. trans. Lee Siegel. Foreword by Sudipta Kaviraj
  41. “Bouquet of Rasa” and “River of Rasa” by Bhānudatta. trans. Sheldon I. Pollock
  42. Garland of the Buddha’s Past Lives (volume one of two) by Āryaśūra. trans. Justin Meiland
  43. Maha·bhárata XII: Peace: “The Book of Liberation” (volume three of five) trans. Alexander Wynne
  44. The Little Clay Cart by Śūdraka. trans. Diwakar Acharya. Foreword by Partha Chatterjee
  45. Bhatti’s Poem: The Death of Rávana by Bhaṭṭi. trans. Oliver Fallon
  46. “Self-Surrender,” “Peace,” “Compassion,” and “The Mission of the Goose”: Poems and Prayers from South India by Appayya Dīkṣita, Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita, Vedānta Deśika. trans. Yigal Bronner & David Shulman. Foreword by Gieve Patel
  47. Maha·bhárata VI: Bhishma (volume two of two) trans. Alex Cherniak
  48. How Úrvashi Was Won by Kālidāsa. trans. Velcheru Narayana Rao & David Shulman
  49. The Quartet of Causeries by Śyāmilaka, Vararuci, Śūdraka & Īśvaradatta. trans. Csaba Dezső & Somadeva Vasudeva
  50. Garland of the Buddha’s Past Lives (volume two of two) by Āryaśūra. trans. Justin Meiland
  51. Princess Kadámbari (volume one of three) by Bāṇa. trans. David Smith
  52. The Rise of Wisdom Moon by Kṛṣṇamiśra. trans. Matthew Kapstein. Foreword by J.N. Mohanty
  53. Maha·bhárata VII: Drona (volume two of four) trans. Vaughan Pilikian
  54. Maha·bhárata X-XI: Dead of Night & The Women trans.  Kate Crosby
  55. Seven Hundred Elegant Verses by Govardhana. trans. Friedhelm Hardy
  56. Málavika and Agni·mitra by Kālidāsa. trans. Dániel Balogh & Eszter Somogyi

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Loeb Classical Library: Books Owned

 I’ve been spending quite a bit of time the past two months working on improving on my college Latin (and teaching myself Attic Greek) and the Loeb Classical Library, with its parallel original/English translated text, has been a great use for me.  Since there are over 500 volumes in the series (and newer, revised translations are being released under the old series numbers or occasionally renumbered and/or divided), I think I will list the books I currently own, with the series number beside them (most of newish, but some are older editions I’ve bought over the years), and just add more as I buy more.  As is the norm with me, I’ll bold the books already finished, but the unread books that I own will appear in regular style instead of in italics like I normally due when listing books in a series.


1    Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica (Greek)

6   Catullus, Tibullus, Pervigilium Veneris (Latin)

10  Euripides IV:  Trojan Women, Iphigenia Among the Taurians, Ion (Greek)

11  Euripides V:  Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes (Greek)

19  Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica (Greek)

20  Sophocles I:  Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus (Greek)

21  Sophocles II:  Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Philoctetes, Oedipus at Colonus (Greek)

23 Terence II:  Phormio, The Mother-in-Law, the Brothers (Latin)

24  The Apostolic Fathers, Volume I (Greek)

25  The Apostolic Fathers, Volume II (Greek)

26  Augustine, Confessions I:  Books 1-8 (Latin)

27  Augustine, Confessions II:  Books 9-13 (Latin)

31  Suetonius I:  Lives of the Caesars Books 1-4 (Latin)

33  Horace, Odes and Epodes (Latin)

39  Caesar II, Civil War (Latin)

42  Ovid III:  Metamorphoses Books 1-8 (Latin)

43  Ovid IV:  Metamorphoses Books 9-15 (Latin)

57  Hesiod I:  Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia (Greek)

58  Marcus Aurelius (Greek)

63  Virgil I:  Ecologues, Georgics, Aeneid Books 1-6 (Latin)

64  Virgil II:  Aeneid Books 7-12, The Minor Poems (Latin)

72  Caesar I:  The Gallic War (Latin)

74  Boethius, Theological Tractates, The Consolation of Philosophy (Latin)

90  Xenophon III:  Anabasis (Greek)

91  Juvenal and Perseus (Latin)

92  Clement of Alexandria (Greek)

104 Homer:  Odyssey I:  Books 1-12 (Greek)

105 Homer:  Odyssey II: Books 13-24 (Greek)

108 Thucydides I:  History of the Peloponnesian War:  Books 1-2 (Greek)

117 Herodotus I:  The Persian Wars:  Books 1-2 (Greek)

124 Quintilian, The Orator’s Education:  Books 1-2 (Latin)

145 Aeschylus I:  Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Suppliants, Prometheus Bound (Greek)

146 Aeschylus II;  Oresteia, Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides (Greek)

153 Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History I:  Books 1-5 (Greek)

166 Plato III:  Lysis, Symposium, Georgia’s (Greek)

170 Homer:  Iliad I:  Books 1-12 (Greek)

171 Homer:  Iliad II:  Books 13-24 (Greek)

178 Aristophanes I:  Acharnians, Knights (Greek)

179 Aristophanes III:  Birds, Lysistrata, Women at the Thesmophoria (Greek)

180 Aristophanes IV:  Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth (Greek)

181 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (Latin)

203 Josephus I:  The Jewish War, Books I-II (Greek)

207 Statius II:  Thebaid: Books 1-7 (Latin)

220 Lucan, The Civil War (Latin)

232 Ovid II:  The Art of Love and Other Poems (Latin)

234 Plato IX:  Timaeus, Critias, Cleitophon, Menexenus, Epistles (Greek)

239 Augustine, Select Letters (Latin)

250 Tertullian, Apology,De Spectaculis; Minucius Felix, Octavius (Latin)

254 Seneca, Moral Essays, Volume II (Latin)

265 Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History II:  Books 6-10 (Greek)

294 Fragmentary Republican Latin I:  Ennius, Testimona, Epic Fragments (Latin)

344 Nonnos I:  Dionysiaca:  Books 1-15 (Greek)

347 Cicero V:  Brutus, Orator (Latin)

402 Caesar III: Alexandrian War, African War, Spanish War (Latin)

411 Augustine, City of God I:  Books 1-3 (Latin)

412 Augustine, City of God II:  Books 4-7 (Latin)

413 Augustine, City of God III:  Books 8-11 (Latin)

414 Augustine, City of God IV:  Books 12-15 (Latin)

415 Augustine, City of God V:  Books 16-18.35 (Latin)

416 Augustine, City of God VI:  Books 18.36-20 (Latin)

417 Augustine, City of God VII:  Books 21-22, Index (Latin)

488 Aristophanes II:  Clouds, Wasps, Peace (Greek)

495 Euripides VI:  Bacchae, Iphigenia at Audis, Rhesus (Greek)

496 Homeric Hymns, Homeric Apocrypha, Lives of Homer (Greek)

497 Greek Epic Fragments (Greek)

498 Statius III:  Thebaid: Books 8-12, Achilleid (Latin)


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library

 Ever since I decided a few months ago to return to reading for pleasure, I have been in the process of collecting books in a few series that interest me for historical, poetical, and linguistic reasons.  Below is the first of a half-dozen series of classics from across time and the world, the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library.  This series is published by Harvard University Press (which also publishes the Loeb Classical Library, the I Tatti Renaissance Library, and the Murthy Classical Library of India) and is still adding works from the medieval Roman Empire, medieval Western Europe in Latin, and pre-1066 Old English works.

The works I own will be marked in italics; those read will be bold.  I will update this list as new volumes are added.


1.  The Vulgate Bible, Volume I: The Pentateuch (Medieval Latin)

2.  The Arundel Lyrics. The Poems of Hugh Primas (Medieval Latin)

3.  The Beowulf Manuscript (Old English)

4.  The Vulgate Bible, Volume II, Part A: The Historical Books (Medieval Latin)

5.  The Vulgate Bible, Volume II, Part B: The Historical Books (Medieval Latin)

6.  The Rule of Saint Benedict (Medieval Latin)

7.   Old Testament Narratives (Old English)

8.  The Vulgate Bible, Volume III: The Poetical Books (Medieval Latin)

9.  Satires: Sextus Amarcius. Eupolemius (Medieval Latin)

10. Histories, Volume I: Books 1–2, Richer of Saint-Rémi (Medieval Latin)

11.  Histories, Volume II: Books 3–4, Richer of Saint-Rémi (Medieval Latin)

12. Miracle Tales from Byzantium (Byzantine Greek)

13. The Vulgate Bible, Volume IV: The Major Prophetical Books (Medieval Latin)

14. Apocalypse: Pseudo-Methodius. An Alexandrian World Chronicle (Byzantine Greek/Medieval Latin)

15. Old English Shorter Poems, Volume I: Religious and Didactic (Old English)

16. The History: Michael Attaleiates (Byzantine Greek)

17. The Vulgate Bible, Volume V: The Minor Prophetical Books and Maccabees (Medieval Latin)

18. One Hundred Latin Hymns (Medieval Latin)

19. The Old English Boethius (Medieval Latin)

20. The Life of Saint Symeon the New Theologian: Niketas Stethatos (Byzantine Greek)

21. The Vulgate Bible, Volume VI: The New Testament (Medieval Latin)

22. Literary Works:  Alan of Lille (Medieval Latin)

23. The Old English Poems of Cynewulf (Old English)

24. Accounts of Medieval Constantinople:  The Patria (Byzantine Greek)

25. The Well-Laden Ship: Egbert of Liège (Medieval Latin)

26. Ysengrimus (Medieval Latin)

27. Old English Poems of Christ and His Saints (Old English)

28. On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, Volume I (Byzantine Greek)

29. On Difficulties in the Church Fathers:  The Ambigua, Volume II (Byzantine Greek)

30. Saints’ Lives, Volume I: Henry of Avranches (Medieval Latin)

31. Saints’ Lives, Volume II:  Henry of Avranches (Medieval Latin)

32. Old English Shorter Poems, Volume II: Wisdom and Lyric (Old English)

33. The Histories, Volume I: Books 1–5, Laonikos Chalkokondyles (Byzantine Greek)

34. The Histories, Volume II: Books 6-10, Laonikos Chalkokondyles (Byzantine Greek)

35. On the Liturgy, Volume I: Books 1–2, Amalar of Metz (Medieval Latin)

36. On the Liturgy, Volume II: Books 3-4, Amalar of Metz (Medieval Latin)

37. Allegories of the Iliad: John Tzetzes (Byzantine Greek)

38. Poetic Works: Bernardus Silvestris (Medieval Latin)

39. Lives and Miracles:  Gregory of Tours (Medieval Latin)

40. Holy Men of Mount Athos (Byzantine Greek) 

41. On Plato's Timaeus: Calcidius (Byzantine Greek)

42. Old English Psalms (Old English)

43. The Rhetorical Exercises of Nikephoros Basilakes (Byzantine Greek)

44. The Old English History of the World (Old English)

45. Christian Novels from the Menologion of Symeon Metaphrastes (Byzantine Greek)

46. Poems: Venantius Fortunatus (Medieval Latin)

47. The Life of Saint Neilos of Rossano (Byzantine Greek)

48. Carmina Burana: Volume I (Medieval Latin)

49. Carmina Burana: Volume II (Medieval Latin) 

50. The Poems of Christopher of Mytilene and John Mauropous (Byzantine Greek)

51. Medieval Latin Lives of Muhammad (Medieval Latin)

52. Two Works on Trebizond: Michael Panaretos, Bessarion (Byzantine Greek)

53. Tria sunt: An Art of Poetry and Prose (Medieval Latin)

54. Saints of Ninth- and Tenth-Century Greece (Byzantine Greek)

55. Architrenius: Johannes de Hauvilla (Medieval Latin)

56. Allegories of The Odyssey: John Tzetzes (Byzantine Greek)

57. The History of the Kings of Britain: The First Variant Version (Medieval Latin)

58. Old English Lives of Saints, Volume I: Ælfric (Old English)

59. Old English Lives of Saints, Volume II: Ælfric (Old English)

60. Old English Lives of Saints, Volume III: Ælfric (Old English)

61. On Morals or Concerning Education: Theodore Metochites (Byzantine Greek)

62. Appendix Ovidiana: Latin Poems Ascribed to Ovid in the Middle Ages (Medieval Latin)

63. Anonymous Old English Lives of Saints (Old English)

64. Homilies: Sophronios of Jerusalem (Byzantine Greek)

65. Parisiana poetria: John of Garland (Medieval Latin)

66. Old English Legal Writings: Wulfstan (Old English)

67. The Byzantine Sinbad: Michael Andreopoulos (Byzantine Greek)

68. Fortune and Misfortune at Saint Gall: Casus sancti Galli, Ekkehard IV (Medieval Latin)

69. The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition (Old English/Medieval Latin)

70. The Life and Death of Theodore of Stoudios (Byzantine Greek)

71. Writings on Body and Soul: Aelred of Rievaulx (Medieval Latin)

72. The Old English Pastoral Care (Old English)

73. Animal Fables of the Courtly Mediterranean: The Eugenian Recension of Stephanites and Ichnelates (Byzantine Greek)

74. Biblical and Pastoral Poetry: Alcimus Avitus (Medieval Latin)


Saturday, May 07, 2022

Old School Book Porn: Dante Alighieri’s La Divina Commedia, illustrated by George Cochrane



Last year, I contributed to a Kickstarter for a limited-edition illustrated edition of Dante’s most famous work, La Divina Commedia, that would feature illustrations on virtually every single page by illustrator George Cochrane.  I finally received my Anniversary Edition slipcased hardcover earlier this week and while I’m waiting until after I finish reading certain classic epic poems first, I plan on re-reading Dante, this time in the original Italian.  Thought there might be a few people who might be interested in seeing an image from this marvelously-constructed illustrated edition.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Marco Girolamo Vida, Christiad

 

Regardless of one’s individual beliefs regarding one of the central tenets of Christianity, the execution via crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ, is certainly a story worthy of an epic.  There were for the much of late antiquity and the medieval period, recastings of the Passion in the form of hymns, tractates, and plays.  Yet it was not until the Italian Renaissance of the 14th-16th centuries that greater efforts were made to synthesize Christianity’s greatest story ever told with Greco-Roman dactylic hexameter epic poetry.  The exemplar of this new effort to recombine elements of Christology with themes, motifs, and narrative structures of the early Roman Empire poetry was Marco Girolamo Vida’s Christiad, first published in full in 1536 in Latin.

The Christiad borrows much from Vergil, not just the structure of poetic devices used in his Aeneid but also from the more bucolic Eclogues.  Comprised of six books, the structure of Christiad depends much less on chronological linearity as it does on the introduction of the eternal theme of struggle between the forces of God and those of Satan.  In reading Vida’s descriptions of the legions of hell, I could not help but to be struck by how influential his depictions of the demonic hordes were on Milton’s Paradise Lost, published nearly a century and a half later.  In particular, the invasion of these demons into the bodies of the leaders of the Sanhedrin is chilling in how well he uses the vitriol of Hell’s host to create a vivid contrast between the nobility of Heaven and the baseness of raging, defiled human (amplified by demonic possession) desire for dominion of vice.

This duality easily could have become too didactic to make for an enjoyable read, but Vida adroitly mixes in epic metaphors that, similar to those of Vergil or Homer in their epics, serve to create brief, beautiful asides that do not distract from narrative momentum as much as underscoring what is truly at stake.  However, there are times that the metaphors clang rather than ring out.  One such occasion was a metaphoric comparison of a mob’s clamor to that of a cannonball bursting through.  While to some degree an apt metaphor, this anachronistic description of an event set in the first century did briefly jar me out of the flow of the narrative.

The characters aren’t as well-defined as one might expect from modern literature.  While Vida mostly avoided the repetitious adjectives that Homer in particular would use to establish his warriors, his secondary characters, with the notable exception of Pontus Pilate (who here appears as much more sympathetic to Christ’s plight than he did in the Gospel accounts), are not very memorable.  Although in part necessary due to his fate as a tragic hero, Vida’s Jesus is described more through the speech of others than by any dialogue.  While this is nothing more than a minor annoyance (because the lines themselves are a pleasure to sound out in Latin), it does justify a brief note.

The narrative flows forwards and backwards in time, from Heaven to Hell to Jerusalem and back, in smooth, cascading rhythms.  Vida does an outstanding job capturing the vibe of Vergil’s works, to the point where his Latin is nearly devoid of linguistic innovations that occurred in Ecclesiastical and Medieval Latin.  His hexameters are very polished, with only rare blips like the one I noted above with the metaphor ringing false.  Reading it “aloud” in scansions makes Vida’s accomplishment all the more praiseworthy.

However, there is a latent “but” in this praise.  Vida takes traditional Greco-Latin poetic themes as far as they can go.  And yet, and this is most notable in the final Book VI, the metaphors and similes just pale in comparison to the story Vida wants to tell.  The aftermath of Book V’s crucifixion scene halters, sputters, and just collapses into an overly-extended epilogue that while it does relate the eventual triumph of Christ, it just feels anticlimactic. This reduced narrative power lessened the impact of the whole Christiad for me, moving it from being a near-equal to Milton to something slightly lesser in nature.  That being said, Christiad certainly is one of the finer neo-Latin works of the Italian Renaissance and a work that I would recommend to those who have some background in Latin to read.  For those who aren’t Latinophones, Harvard Univeristy Press’s I Tatti Renaissance Library edition of Christiad does have modern English translation that does capture much of the power of the Latin original.  It certainly is a work that is important even today, even though its influence has waned with the decline of Latin readers.

 
Add to Technorati Favorites