The Nile

The Poetry Translation Centre is a fantastic project which I stumbled upon recently. Today’s random poem I read had this to say:

The Nile flows quietly…
Seeping through the city’s silence
And the burning sorrows of the villages.

This from the first Sura of the Poem of the Nile by a leading Sudanese contemporary poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi. The original poem was in Arabic and has been translated by Hafiz Khebir and Mark Ford.

The traditional English poems of the Nile reflect on quite different themes: This is Shelley

O’er Egypt’s land of Memory floods are level
And they are thine, O Nile–and well thou knowest
That soul-sustaining airs and blasts of evil
And fruits and poisons spring where’er thou flowest.

And this is Keats:

Son of the old Moon-mountains African!
Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile!
We call thee fruitful…

Clearly the earlier poets had the Nile as the main hero. Al-Raddi puts the Nile as the silent spectator winding through cities made into ghosts and villages burnt into despair by the civil wars and calamities of Sudan.

Here’s a Flickriver stream of pictures of the Nile as it passes through Sudan.

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The Great Railway Bazaar

Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar is a commentary on the world passing by as seen from the window of a train, usually the first class compartment. He starts from London, goes to Paris, takes the Orient Express to Istanbul, crosses to Iran, Pakistan, India, South East Asia, Japan, Russia and then takes the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way back to Europe.

The trip was in 1973. Contemporary descriptions of the different lands Paul go through trigger much thought given the 37 years of upheaval in many of the countries like Iran, Pakistan, India, etc. His describes Teheran with the huge number of American expatriates working on contracts handed out by the Shah of Iran. There is a scene in a bar where brash rednecks take on the local Iranians in a brawl, just for fun. You just say to yourself, hey man, there’s a full revolution on its way.

It is a good read – I am currently reading it, have vicariously traveled with Paul and reached Bombay and specifically Bombay Central where he wants to simply disappear. Like his friend turned foe VS Naipaul in An Area of Darkness, Paul simply chickens out when he sees the crowds.

More about the book after I finish.

The Vagabond

So what is this blog about? Is it just another travel blog? Same old beaches and treks and beautiful buildings and photographs ad infinitum?

Maybe. And possibly some more. I don’t know what I will put on this blog except that it will concern the broad theme of travel. Of living on the road. It could be a pleasure trip. It could be business travel. It could be escaping away. It could be a journey.

I leave the word painting to Robert Louis Stevenson.

Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river –
There’s the life for a man like me,
There’s the life for ever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.

Or let autumn fall on me
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger.
White as meal the frosty field –
Warm the fireside haven –
Not to autumn will I yield,
Not to winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.

This is the road below me.