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The proxy war in Syria between Russia and Turkey is only the latest of many clashes between these two great powers. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 left its mark in Anglo-American literature and culture, when it inspired the British songwriter Percy French to write “Abdul Abulbul Amir,” a comic ballad about the fatal duel between an Ottoman soldier and a Russian soldier:

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir …

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

More… “The Re-Enchantment of Poetry”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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It’s a happy day for “Happy Birthday.” A judge has ruled that the companies that have been collecting royalties on the song do not hold copyright claims to the popular tune. (LATimes)

A small but passionate group of Shakespeare scholars is asking the weighty question: Is Hamlet fat? The answer is turning out to be fairly complicated. (Slate)

On a beautiful but solemn note, author Heidi Stalla contemplates what humanity lost beyond the artifacts themselves through the destruction of Palmyra by the Islamic State. (Wilson Quarterly) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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