books, bookshops, and authors

“[…] and conversations in the hotel lobby about books, bookshops, and authors.” (Coelho, 2010) – Aleph

In that simple statement lies an idea of utter serenity. Imagine gathering with a group of friends/relatives at a hotel lobby or lounge, chatting and catching up with each other. On a cold winter evening, you sit in a quiet, cosy corner trying to get warm; or on a hot summer afternoon, you sit in that said corner, trying to cool off. Then the conversation drifts to the subject of books, bookshops, and authors. You talk about your favourites and your dislikes; beloved ones and detested ones – each of you adding a special anecdote as the conversation continues.

Before you know it, hours have passed and night is soon upon you. As you all realize that it is time to depart, the conversation draws to a close, albeit temporary, because with your farewells, you make promises to meet again for more chats and more catching up. And as always, you will find yourselves talking about books, bookshops, and authors.

William Blake – What a Romantic!


The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life & bid thee feed,
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee!
 He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
 We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

The Tyger

Tyger Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
 What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp?
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
 And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Written at a time of both political and economical unrest in Europe as well as in America, and amid the Industrial Revolution, it comes as no surprise that The Tyger bears a menacing tone and is awe-inspiring. In the poem, Blake is doubting the essence of everything – do good and evil have the same origin? And why?

Despite being written five years earlier, I believe The Lamb was written to amplify and emphasise the imagery and symbolism in The Tyger – from start to finish, The Lamb exudes peace and calm.

I personally like The Tyger more, but that’s mainly because I love tigers🙂 Furthermore, it was one of the first English poems that I read. In fact, the first book of English poetry that I bought was Penguin’s ‘Selected Poems’ by Blake. I am hoping to study more of Blake’s poetry over the coming few years because I would really love to understand it better.

Next time you’re online, do look Blake’s poetry up; you’ll be glad you did. Even if you don’t get it the first time round, you’ll definitely enjoy its melodic flow and awesome imagery.

Beowulf – Hero of Heroes

Copyright: The British Library Board

Two weeks ago, we had our last lecture on Beowulf which we had studied over the past 7 weeks! That was some poem! It is the oldest and longest epic poem of Old English; composed over 12 000 years ago ( first half of the 8th century) in the Mercian dialect in alliterative verse. It was composed by a Christian poet who was fascinated by the culture of his Pagan ancestors. The poem was first transcribed in the 10th century and was first printed in 1815, and it became a part of the English literature canon.

If anything, this poem is a great account of a memorable adventure: good versus evil; the fight between a hero with supernatural abilities and monsters with superhuman powers. It tells the story of Beowulf, a Geat, who goes to help the Danes with their plight caused by Grendel’s (first monster) raids on them in their mead-hall which spanned 12 years. Other main characters in the poem are:

  • King Hrothgar: Lord of the Danes;
  • Grendel’s mother;
  • Hygelac: Lord of the Geats and Beowulf’s uncle.

The other two monsters that Beowulf fought were Grendel’s mother and a dragon, which he fought 50 years later when he was the king of the Geats. Beowulf’s main motive to fight those monsters was to secure his reputation as a hero and to become immortal by having his reputation live well beyond his death (Well done Beowulf! =) )

Despite all the excitement you get from reading the poem, there’s a recurring tone of elegy throughout, particularly at the beginning and the end, as the poem begins with a funeral and ends with one.

Moreover, the poet does emphasize the warriors’ code, but also illustrates his Christian values. He does that mainly by comparing and contrasting between Paganism and Christianity.

Naturally, I have not read the entire poem (note to self: add to pile of spring break reading). However, I find it quite interesting and thought-provoking. I especially love the vivid descriptions of the battles with the monsters as those help with envisioning them. Yet, what confuses me the most is the biblical references and the comparison/contrast between the Pagan and Christian elements.

All in all, I recommend this work of literature to anyone who is looking for a challenging read, but more importantly, I recommend it to anyone who would love to lose themselves in a great adventure🙂

A Sense of the Metaphysical

Sadly, I have not read the rest of Hamlet yet. Too much has been going on (example: had 3 tests in less than 48 hours and hardly managed to revise for two as I have fallen ill on Monday night and have not quite recovered yet!) Bright side: spring break reading is sorted😀

Moving on, we have discussed metaphysical poetry and poets in my literature class. Talk about taking the world from another point of view!! No wonder they were called ‘Revolutionaries’. One example is John Donne’s The Flea (yes, that sort of flea!) From my understanding (and I doubt the I have understood much), a man is trying to seduce a woman, and he’s envious of a flea that bit both of them because the flea managed to get so close to the woman, which is more than the man will ever manage to achieve. Maybe he’s trying to get the woman to feel sorry for him! Never mind.

We have also discussed another poem by Donne – A Woman’s Constancy, and To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell:


I quite like the former, particularly its structure, but also Donne’s employment of his knowledge of the law (he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn in London), as well as his wit in forming the arguments which the woman could have used to leave him. I think it’s sort of like: “I’ll dump you before you dump me!”


As for Marvell’s poem, I find it rather infuriating! A man is trying to seduce a woman (do they ever stop?!) using imagery that can be described as repulsive, at the very least. However, when it comes to structure, I think it’s great because it meets all the criteria that a metaphysical poem should meet.

Next week, as a class, we will write a metaphysical poem. It should be great fun as we have experimented with conceits and we will be using what we have come up with🙂 Can’t wait!

Hamlet (1)

If there be any good thing to be done,

That may to thee do ease and grace to me,

Speak to me!


Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

(Act I Scene i – lines 130 through 132)

I’ve stopped at line 132. Our instructor has assigned Hamlet last week and although it’s only 106 pages long, I’m finding it quite challenging! This is partly due to the language but also distractions which I have finally managed to dismiss a few hours ago. However, I need to do a couple of assignments for other courses.

Things seem to be getting more exciting by the line. The first time I tried to read Hamlet was about 10 years ago. I found a version that has been translated into Arabic and decided to tackle it. Never completed the first act, despite trying several times. Hopefully this time I’ll be more successful (I need to be since our mid-term exam is about the play!)