Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Istiqsa al ma'ani & Baroque poetry

Ibn al Rumi is the acknowledged master of 'Istinfad al-ma'ani'- the poetic technique of exhausting a theme by ringing every possible change upon it. It appears he was also riddled with phobias and OCD.  Rumi was the son of a Greek convert and a Persian woman living in one of the most cosmopolitan and intellectually adventurous cities that ever existed. Yet, there were reasons to be anxious. In the South, the African slaves had rebelled. In the North, power was shifting from Arabs to Persianized Turks and at the center of Abbasid rule was the time-bomb of Shia dissent. Yet, the Islamic Golden Age still had plenty of mileage. By contrast, the pessimism of the Portuguese or Spanish baroque seems better founded. For the Iberian peninsula, the Renaissance had failed, Rationalism had failed, Cosmopolitanism had failed, Religious toleration was anathema. Kings were getting madder and madder and listening to the bat shit crazy likes of Maria de Agreda. On the other hand, Catholic cultural pessimism had not racial component. The Arabs were aware of having conquered culturally superior civilizations. But for the prophesy encoded in the Quran, their language and achievements could all too easily be wiped away.Western Europeans apprehended no similar danger from the one continent they conquered and the others which they had engrossed into their globalized mercantile system. Perhaps that's why Iberian baroque poetry never developed beyond 'brusque theological magic' whereas the Arab baroque opened itself to the truly philosophical.

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