A tribute today to some of those whose birthday this is.
For William Shakespeare—two favorite of innumerable favorite quotes.
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
I see a voice.
—A Midsummer Night's Dream
For JMW Turner, painter of landscapes and seascapes and skyscapes and light—this Norham Castle Sunrise, with its radiant cow.
For that prose stylist supreme, Vladimir Nabokov, who I discovered at an early age and loved first for his writings about chess (not yet having learned about his butterflies or way of hearing colors)—a few typical quotes.
. . . and as for history it will limit his life story to the dash between two dates.
“I am sentimental,’ she said. ‘I could dissect a koala but not its baby. I like the words damozel, eglantine, elegant. I love when you kiss my elongated white hand.”
(from Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle)
The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.
For Ruggero Leoncavallo, Italian opera composer—this performance of his "Mattinata" by Beniamino Gigli.
For Ngaio Marsh, my favorite mystery writer from New Zealand, creator of detective Roderick Alleyn and his famous artist wife Agatha Troy—this account of her cottage outside Christchurch and her fascinating life.
For John Hannah, who so movingly read it in Four Weddings and a Funeral—this poem of W.H. Auden's.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
And for Roy Orbison, the singer-songwriter, this performance by The Traveling Wilburys of "Handle Me With Care."
Happy birthday, all!
image: JMW Turner, Norham Castle Sunrise