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Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew Poems. [Hardcover]

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Item Number 151078  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.27" Width: 5.34" Height: 0.88"
Weight:   0.81 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 17, 2001
Publisher   Princeton University Press
ISBN  0691089280  
EAN  9780691089287  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Presents a collection of translations of Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish poetry.

Publishers Description
Music of a Distant Drum marks a literary milestone. For the first time in English, poems from four leading literary traditions of the Middle East representing a wide sweep of medieval history appear in a single volume compiled by a single translator. Bernard Lewis, one of the world's greatest authorities on the region's culture and history, offers a work of startling beauty that leaves no doubt as to why such poets were courted by kings in their day. Like those in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poems here--as ensured by Lewis's mastery of all the source languages and his impeccable style and taste--come fully alive in English. They are surprising and sensuous, disarmingly witty and frank. They provide a fascinating and unusual glimpse into Middle Eastern history. Above all, they are a pleasure to read.The 132 poems, most of which here make their English-language debut, represent the three major languages of medieval Islam--Arabic, Persian, and Turkish--with the remainder from Hebrew. They span more than a thousand years, from the seventh to the early eighteenth century, when poetry, like so much else, was shattered and reshaped by the impact of the West. They range from panegyric and satire to religious poetry and lyrics about wine, women, and love. Lewis begins with an introduction on the place of poets and poetry in Middle Eastern history and concludes with biographical notes on all the poets.This treasure trove of verse is aptly summed up by a quote from the ninth-century Arab author Ibn Qutayba: ''Poetry is the mine of knowledge of the Arabs, the book of their wisdom, the muster roll of their history, the repository of their great days, the rampart protecting their heritage, the trench defending their glories, the truthful witness on the day of dispute, the final proof at the time of argument.''
In one hand the Qur'vn, in the other a wineglass,
Sometimes keeping the rules, sometimes breaking them.
Here we are in this world, unripe and raw,
Not outright heathens, not quite Muslims.
--Mujir (12th century)

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More About Bernard Lewis

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Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus at Princeton University. A highly eminent authority on Middle Eastern history, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, The Muslim Discovery of Europe and The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years.

Bernard W. Lewis was born in 1916.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Poetry That Will Surprise You  May 10, 2003
Bernard Lewis is probably the West's foremost scholar on Islam and the Middle East; I have enjoyed several of his books on these topics. Even so, I was surprised to find a volume of poetry, translated by Lewis, at my bookstore, and I bought it immediately, reasoning that if it remotely approached his other works, it would be well worth the money. I was not disappointed. With little or no knowledge of Near Eastern poetry to my credit, Music of a Distant Drum won me over. I read the entire volume of poems, about 130, in the first evening.

Music of a Distant Drum is divided into four sections of approximately equal lengths, each providing poems, translated by Lewis, from four distinct (although sometimes contemporaneous) cultures: Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hebrew. While I?m qualified to critique neither the poetry nor its translation, I can say that I found them all beautiful. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised by the brevity of many of the works. The Persians and Arabs in particular seem to be fond of short works in tight stanzas. Too, I found the worldliness and circumspection of the Persians unexpected, even though they, among all four cultures, seemed most fond of metaphor.

If you are a student of the East, I think you might be interested in, and surprised by, the topics these poems: war, love, aging, politics, drinking (!). Some scholars note that drinking (or drunkenness), as a topic in this poetry, is a metaphor for an all-encompassing love of God. Lewis seems to suggest that the drinking references may not be as metaphorical as others maintain it is. Either way, the poetry is agile and moving, and I enjoyed it very much. Poetry lovers may appreciate that some of these works have probably never appeared in print in the West, and I was impressed by the very number of poets represented: there are an astonishing 54 mini-biographies (about a paragraph, each) in the back of the book.

Buy this book and read it. I believe you will find it as powerful and enjoyable as I did.


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