The Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets (El imperio en el que nunca se pone el sol)

I first heard this evocative phrase in a history class at university many years ago but in certain countries (the English and the Spanish can raise their hands here) it’s pretty well-known. And I don’t know about you but it makes me think of ships ploughing the oceans, armies marching and merchants haggling over exotic goods. I think of kings whose word was law over diverse lands, of gold and glory and of a confusion of languages to equal that of Babel. In fact, in my mind I can see the big globe in the library of the Escorial, turning slowly….

He oído esta frase evocador en una clase de historia en la universidad hace muchos años pero en ciertas países  (los españoles y los ingleses pueden levantar las manos aquí) es bastante bien conocida. No sé nada de ti, pero me hace pensar en barcos cruzando el mar, ejercitos en marcha y comerciantes regateando mercancías exóticos. Pienso en reyes cuyos palabras eran la ley en tierras distintas, en oro y gloria, y además en una confusión de idiomas igual que la de Babel. De hecho, mentalmente veo el gran globo en la biblioteca de El Escorial, girando despacio… 

The library of the Escorial with the big globe / La biblioteca de El Escorial con el gran globo
The library of the Escorial with the big globe / La biblioteca de El Escorial con el gran globo. Photo by José Maria Cuellar via Flickr. [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Continue reading “The Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets (El imperio en el que nunca se pone el sol)”

The Lament of King Roderick (La lamentación de don Rodrigo)

In the early 19th century, several English poets, among them Lord Byron, Walter Scott¹ and the poet laureate Robert Southey, were inspired by old Spanish historical ballads. Someday I will explore this topic in more detail but today, I’m merely sharing an excerpt from a ballad known as The Defeat of King Roderick.

A principios del siglo XIX, varios poetas ingleses, entre ellos Lord Byron, Walter Scott¹ y Robert Southey, eran inspirados por viejas baladas históricas españolas. Algún día voy a explorar este tema con más detalle pero hoy sólo estoy compartiendo un extracto de una balada conocida como La Derrota de Don Rodrigo (Los huestes de don Rodrigo).

King Roderick with is troops in the battle of Guadalete / El rey Don Rodrigo arengado a sus tropas en la batalla de Guadalete (Bernardo Blanco) [public domain via Wikipedia]
King Roderick with his troops in the battle of Guadalete / El rey Don Rodrigo arengado a sus tropas en la batalla de Guadalete (Bernardo Blanco) [public domain via Wikipedia]
Continue reading “The Lament of King Roderick (La lamentación de don Rodrigo)”

Nine Quirky Facts (Nueve hechos raros)

Nine Quirky Facts I Read Last Year

Books are not merely a source of entertainment but also of knowledge… (today’s cliché). How many of the following nine facts do you know?

Nueve hechos raros que leí el año pasado

Los libros no son sencillamente una fuente de entretenimiento, pero también lo de conocimiento… (cliché de hoy). ¿Cuáles de los nueve hechos siguientes ya sabes?

Continue reading “Nine Quirky Facts (Nueve hechos raros)”

Under Italian Influence: The Queen’s House in Greenwich

Today I’m going to depart a little from the usual topics to share instead some photos of the Queen’s House in Greenwich – built by one of England’s greatest architects, Inigo Jones. If you wonder why we’re looking at an English building on Mediterranean Monday, it’s because:

  1. The Queen’s House is the first pure, classical, Italianate building in England – which to English eyes at the time must have looked shockingly foreign
  2. Inigo Jones was heavily influenced by the classical architecture he saw in Italy in 1613-14, and in particular by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio
  3. It’s beautiful

Continue reading “Under Italian Influence: The Queen’s House in Greenwich”

Through the Doors of the Queen’s House, Greenwich

The Queen’s House in Greenwich is one of those buildings that I walked past dozens of times each year and never once entered, despite being a member in the Maritime Museum and despite the entry being free in any case. There is so much to see in Greenwich that the Queen’s House always ended up bypassed. I finally went in two weeks ago – to see the so-called Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that the museum had recently acquired and which was about to disappear into a conservator’s workshop for the near future. The building is so stunning I can’t believe I ignored it for years – don’t miss it if you ever visit Greenwich!

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (The Drake Version) [public domain] via Wikipedia
The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (The Drake Version) [public domain] via Wikipedia
Continue reading “Through the Doors of the Queen’s House, Greenwich”

The World According to Tolstoy (El mundo según Tolstói)

Over a year ago I read an article by Mario Vargas Llosa, who was at the time engaged in re-reading War and Peace by Tolstoy. It was so damnably well-written that not only it made me re-read War and Peace myself but it also made me to read Mario Vargas Llosa.

El año pasado leí un artículo por Mario Vargas Llosa (enlace al final del post), quien en aquel momento se dedicaba a releer la Guerra y paz de Tolstói. Y estaba tan condenadamente bien escrito, que no sólo me causó volver a leer Guerra y paz, sino también me animó leer el proprio Mario Vargas Llosa. 

Continue reading “The World According to Tolstoy (El mundo según Tolstói)”

The Case for the Elgin Marbles

I was reading Keats last night:

My spirit is too weak – mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep
That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old time – with a billowy main –
A sun – a shadow of a magnitude.

(On Seeing the Elgin Marbles by John Keats)

I have to say it threw me a bit. Not quite as easy as “Then I felt like some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken” (On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer also by John Keats). In fact, after much mulling over what some of the phrases actually meant, I had to seek enlightment from Mr Anglo-Saxonist who upon reading it pronounced that it was s**t poem and there was no need to rack my brains about what it meant. (He particularly objected to the sick eagle.) Well, I wouldn’t go quite as far but I have to agree: not one of Keats’s best. Nevertheless I do like the last few lines, in particular:

… mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old time…

Which is why today we’re going to talk about some Greek grandeur and the rude wasting of old time.

Continue reading “The Case for the Elgin Marbles”

My Love-Hate Relationship with Caravaggio

the_taking_of_christ-caravaggio_c-1602-detail-caravaggio
Caravaggio (detail from The Taking of Christ)

For today’s Mediterranean theme, we’ll take a painter. From a Mediterranean country, clearly. He’s a painter I cannot be indifferent to: I either hate his pictures – or love them.

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Last Year’s Best Reads? (Or Self-hosted vs Hosted)

In the past week I’ve been engaged in looking at my statistics… And since the blog moved from being self-hosted to wordpress.com during the year, I had to collate the statistics manually, a task during which I found myself evaluating the pros and cons of…

Continue reading “Last Year’s Best Reads? (Or Self-hosted vs Hosted)”

Ice Station (An Antarctic Thriller)

Minus 55 degrees, zero visibility and a raging snowstorm. Nobody at Halley Station should be outside under these circumstances but the station doctor has just discovered that the cold weather gear of one of the scientists is missing from the boot room and according to the sign-in board he has gone to the met tower. Only a hundred metres’ walk but in this weather that’s a lot – and nobody has seen the man all afternoon. Besides, he’s not the meteorologist, so what was he doing there? Perhaps it’s time to get worried!

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Spain in Black & White II (España en blanco y negro II)

No comment.  Sin comentarios. 

(Click on the images to enlarge. Haz click en las imágenes para ampliar.)

You may also like / Quizás también te gusta:Spain in Black & WhiteTales of the AlhambraVenice in Black & White

This also doubles as my entry to Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge this week!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (of 2016)

Last year I borrowed the title of this well-known spaghetti western of my childhood for an end-of-year post, choosing a book for each category. I don’t see why I shouldn’t cast a look back at this year’s reading and do so again… (And I hope you appreciate that I’m sparing you an embedding of Ennio Morricone’s theme tune to play in the background while you’re reading this!)

Continue reading “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (of 2016)”

The Roman Theatre of Mérida

The Extremadura region (in the west, bordering Portugal) is not a part of Spain that’s particularly overrun by tourists. But although it hasn’t got beaches, it’s still well worth a visit for anyone who’s at all interested in history, in architecture or indeed, for anyone who’d just like to holiday somewhere beautiful and atmospheric without the crowds.

Continue reading “The Roman Theatre of Mérida”

Christmas Lights on the Cutty Sark

Christmas preparation took  up too much time this week for me to be able to write anything that’d be worth your while to read. So instead, three pictures of the Christmas lights of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich to wish you all a…

Merry Christmas

cutty-sark-greenwich-christmas-night-p1020498

P.S.: Although it'll be Boxing Day on Monday, Mediterranean Monday will go ahead as usual - with the stunning Roman Theatre of Mérida for its subject.

Mérida in the Extremadura

Mr Anglo-Saxonist hates beaches – in general – and overcrowded Spanish beaches in particular. Which is why, despite of us having visited Spain three times so far, we’ve never yet been down the Mediterranean coast. On the other hand his dislike of beach holidays led us to visit a small town in the west of Spain which, quite simply, blew our minds.

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The London Eye at Night (Geometry)

Or, as this post more appropriately should be titled:

A Dummy’s First Attempts at Night Photography

(I’ll let you know when I feel competent enough to write A Guide to Night Photography for Dummies instead. Just watch this space.)

Generally, I much prefer taking pictures in blazing sunshine – they seem to come out so much better with so much less effort. But since winter arrived in London (in as much you can call 10 degrees above zero winter), the only choice is between fuzzy-muzzy-grey or night scenes. I’ll take night any time!

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New Horizon

img_1157

whhheeeeᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇEEEEEEEE! The scream of jet engines rises to a crescendo on the runways of the world. Every second, somewhere or other, a plane touches down, with a puff of smoke from scorched tyre rubber, or rises in the air, leaving a smear of black fumes dissolving in its wake. From space, the earth might look to a fanciful eye like a huge carousel, with planes instead of horses spinning round its circumference, up and down, up and down. Whhheeeeeeeeeee!

Small World by David Lodge

In response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: New Horizon.

Sappho: Midnight Poem (Fragment 48)

The Temple of Poseidon at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Temple of Poseidon at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in the winter of 570 BC or thereabouts, on the island of Lesbos, an elderly Greek woman wrote:

Δέδυκε μεν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδες, μέσαι δὲ
νύκτες πάρα δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα,
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.

Which has been translated as (one of the many translations):

Continue reading “Sappho: Midnight Poem (Fragment 48)”

Made by the Egyptians: A Bust of Amenhotep III

When I saw Cee’s latest black & white photo challenge, Made by Human Beings, I immediately thought of this statue in the British Museum. Over the years I’ve taken half a dozen photos of it; I just don’t seem to be able to pass it by (and you do have to pass by it on your way from the Great Court to the Parthenon Room) without stopping and taking another photo. Enjoy:

Hecho por los egipcios: un busto de Amenhotep III

Cuando vi el último reto de fotografía en blanco y negro de Cee, Made by Human Beings (Hecho por seres humanos), pensé, inmediatamente, en esta estatua en el Museo Británico. A lo largo de los años sacaba una media docena de fotos de ella; parece que no puedo pasar cerca de ella (y hay que pasar cerca de ella andando de Great Court a la sala de Parthenon) sin sacar otra foto. Disfruta:

Continue reading “Made by the Egyptians: A Bust of Amenhotep III”