Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mark Twain's Eloquence and His Distaste for Islam

I finally finished "The Innocents Abroad" by Mark Twain.  It was a very entertaining read, and I was impressed with Twain's descriptive prose and vocabulary.  He uses some archaic language, but I found most of it in the Kindle dictionary.  Also impressive was his knowledge of the Bible and that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, of kings and emperors, generals and personages, and ancient battles and events.

Mark Twain's Eloquence
I was impressed with his description of the Sphinx.  He described it as follows:
After years of waiting, it was before me at last. The great face was so sad, so earnest, so longing, so patient. There was a dignity not of earth in its mien, and in its countenance a benignity such as never any thing human wore. It was stone, but it seemed sentient. If ever image of stone thought, it was thinking. It was looking toward the verge of the landscape, yet looking at nothing—nothing but distance and vacancy. It was looking over and beyond every thing of the present, and far into the past. It was gazing out over the ocean of Time—over lines of century-waves which, further and further receding, closed nearer and nearer together, and blended at last into one unbroken tide, away toward the horizon of remote antiquity.
 And this:
The Sphynx is grand in its loneliness; it is imposing in its magnitude; it is impressive in the mystery that hangs over its story. And there is that in the overshadowing majesty of this eternal figure of stone, with its accusing memory of the deeds of all ages, which reveals to one something of what he shall feel when he shall stand at last in the awful presence of God.
Twain was disgusted with the habit of some of his travel companions, who wanted to chip off pieces from every ancient building, tomb, statue or artifact they visited, to take home as souvenirs.  One fool tried to knock a piece off the chin of the sphinx with a hammer, but was stopped by officials before he could do any damage.  [In 1867 the Sphinx was buried in sand up to its neck, making the face accessible to miscreants like this.]

Twain's Distaste for Islam
Mark Twain wrote disparagingly of Muslims and Islamic culture and living conditions, noting the latter's hostility and antipathy towards non-Muslims.  He reported seeing some Muslim women dressed in body covers from head to toe, noting that they resembled mummies.

He saw Abdul Aziz, lord of the Ottoman Empire, sharing a parade in Paris, with Napoleon III, leader of France, and was disgusted by the presence of the former.  He wrote:
Napoleon III, the representative of the highest modern civilization, progress, and refinement; Abdul-Aziz, the representative of a people by nature and training filthy, brutish, ignorant, unprogressive, superstitious—and a government whose Three Graces are Tyranny, Rapacity, Blood. Here in brilliant Paris, under this majestic Arch of Triumph, the First Century greets the Nineteenth!
And this, while describing the Muslim Middle East:
Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound.
And this:
The Moslems watch the Golden Gate with a jealous eye, and an anxious one, for they have an honored tradition that when it falls, Islamism will fall and with it the Ottoman Empire. It did not grieve me any to notice that the old gate was getting a little shaky.
I almost hated finishing the book.  A good book is like a valued friend, visited nightly for conversation and cigars before bed.  When the book ends, there is a feeling of sadness.  I have resolved to read all of Twain's books and short stories.


Always On Watch said...

Here's another book that might interest you, Stogie: Washington Irving's Mohammed. Some years ago, I bought a copy from Amazon.

Stogie Chomper said...

That does sound intriguing.

Always On Watch said...

The word about what Islam really is has been available for a long time. Ostriches have refused to look!

Stogie Chomper said...

I bought the Kindle version of Washington Irving's book. Will be reading it soon, on your recommendation.

Always On Watch said...

Good! Let me know your thoughts about the book.