From an Antique Land
When I was a young man I traveled in the Mediterranean as well as the Middle East.
Four of the titles are inspired by the times I spent on the island of Cyprus. Caravan
to Ur relates to my stay in Iraq in 1958.
In the course of writing this I was drawn back to two poems that influenced me in
my youth. Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley and On First Looking into
Chapman's Homer by John Keats.
Ozymandias opened my understanding to the fact that no matter what you achieve,
death will cause it to amount to nothing. Even the greatest and most powerful meet
the same fate as the poor and destitute. The results of that understanding can drive
me to look beyond time for the answer to death or as in Shelley's case it can drive
one to self-destruction.
Chapman's Homer caused me to understand that no matter how hard the journey
there are moments of illumination that make it worthwhile. If you seek you will find.
Keats writes of his enlightenment while reading Homer for the first time thanks to
Chapman's translation. He likens it to Cortez, really Balboa, who after thousands
of miles of foot weary travel with his men, tops a rise and is astounded to
see the Pacific Ocean.
BY Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN'S HOMER
By John Keats
Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Hillarion is a Castle built by King Richard the Lion Hearted the ruins of which are in Cyprus
Kyrenia is a small city in Cyprus on the Mediterranean. It is exquisitely beautiful and hosts
Kyrenia Castle where I once saw Othello performed.
Paphos is another Cypriot coastal city. Venus was said to be born on a wave there. The apostle
Paul was shipwrecked and run aground there. It is famous for the Tomb of the Kings.
Ur of the Chaldees, of course, is the city that Abram set out from on his journey to Canaan.
It was on an ancient trade route in present day Iraq where I lived for a short time in the
The overall inspiration for this project came from the sweet presence of the Lord.