A lot of interesting people were born on this day. The most important to me is probably Elizabeth Barrett Browning who was born in 1806. I tend to prefer her and other Americans (like Poe) to the British Romantic Period poets. I wish that I had one great poem I could offer you here. The problem is that she didn’t tend to write nice little poems. She wrote a lot of rather long (1000+ line) poems. And she wrote collections of poems—mostly sonnets.
The poem she is best know for, of course, is Sonnet XLIII of Sonnets From the Portuguese. Even if you think you don’t know it, you do. It starts, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” What is remarkable about it is that although that line is tired, the poem is not. Despite that beginning, it is not sentimental—at least not for a Romantic poet.
Here it is; you can skip it if you like, but I urge you to not only read it, but to read it aloud. It is quite beautiful:
I rather like the idea of purity being deaf to praise. It is the one thing that artists most want and yet must ignore. I suspect that this idea was not foreign to her.
Michelangelo was also born on this day in 1475. I find it shocking that he lived to be 88 years old. I still remember when I saw David for the first time in Florence. Up to that time, I had no idea that art could be that powerful. It was only a week or two later that I fell in love with Rodin while in Paris. He was not born on this day.
David Gilmour is 57 today. I am big fan of his. He is probably my favorite rock guitarist. He has a great sense of melody.
Stephen Schwartz is 65 today. I’m a great fan of musical theater and Schwartz wrote some great ones when I was a kid: Godspell and Pippin. He also wrote Wicked, which I’ve long wanted to see (especially after I learned he had written it).
Ivan Boesky is 66 and Alan Greenspan is 87. I hope that I do not have to note the birthdays next year for these evil men. One is always torn by a great artist who is a horrible human being. I mean: at least they leave us their art. But men like Boesky and Greenspan do nothing but to enrich themselves and their horrible friends. They produce nothing good for society. What is the point of their lives? They could have done something useful like plumbing. If they had, the world would certainly be a far better place.
Here is the opening of Pippin. I believe this is from a 1981 filmed version of the Broadway play. That’s 4 years after the play opened and near the end of its run. Ben Vereen came back to play the Lead Player, for which he won the Tony Award for best lead actor in a musical.
I just learned that a new ending was added to the play. The play is about Pippin who is trying to make his life meaningful. At one point he sings, “Don’t you know I want my life to be something more than long.” The Lead Player guides him through various kinds of life experiences: war, power, sex, domesticity. At the end, Pippin has found nothing that is truly fulfilling. The Lead Player then offers up a great use for his life: burn himself alive on stage and provide a great ending to the play. (It is very postmodern in that way.) Pippin is about to go through with it when Catherine and her son show up on the stage and convince him to go back to them. The Lead Player is furious. He removes the sets, the music, the costumes, everything. But Pippin decides that life with Catherine is about the best that life can be, disappointing as that may be. In the end, love conquers all.
The new addition is that the son picks up one of the gloves thrown at Pippin by the players as they went off stage. This calls the players back; they have their new Pippin and so the cycle starts again. I think it is lovely.
And here is David Gilmour doing his thing: