Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Behind the Seen

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پشت مُشتای رندان

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Roger Daltrey, charismatic singer of The Who: b. March 1, 1944 - 67 today!


The Who: My Generation, 1965


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Harry Belafonte, Jamaican-American singer, actor and political activist is 84 today!

Belafonte was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and one of Martin Luther King’s confidants. He provided for King’s family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Like many civil rights activists, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He bailed King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other imprisoned civil rights protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drives, and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963. Belafonte strongly opposed both racial prejudice in the United States, and western colonialism in Africa. Like Robeson and other black entertainers, Belafonte’s success in the arts did not protect him from racial discrimination, particularly in the South of the United States. As a result, he refused to perform in the South of the U.S. from 1954 until 1961. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy named Belafonte as cultural advisor to the Peace Corps…


Harry Belafonte: Jamaica Farewell - from Calypso, 1956

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Oskar Kokoschka (Mar. 1, 1886 – 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes…

Above: Lovers with Cats



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Richard Wilbur (b. Mar. 1, 1921 - 90 today!) is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989.

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Ceremony by Richard Wilbur

A striped blouse in a clearing by Bazille
Is, you may say, a patroness of boughs
Too queenly kind toward nature to be kin.
But ceremony never did conceal,
Save to the silly eye, which all allows,
How much we are the woods we wander in.

Let her be some Sabrina fresh from stream,
Lucent as shallows slowed by wading sun,
Bedded on fern, the flowers’ cynosure:
Then nymph and wood must nod and strive to dream
That she is airy earth, the trees, undone,
Must ape her languor natural and pure.

Ho-hum. I am for wit and wakefulness,
And love this feigning lady by Bazille.
What’s lightly hid is deepest understood,
And when with social smile and formal dress
She teaches leaves to curtsey and quadrille,
I think there are most tigers in the wood.


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Confessional poet Robert Lowell: Mar. 1, 1917 - 1977…

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July in Washington by Robert Lowell

The stiff spokes of this wheel

touch the sore spots of the earth.



On the Potomac, swan-white

power launches keep breasting the sulphurous wave.



Otters slide and dive and slick back their hair,

raccoons clean their meat in the creek.



On the circles, green statues ride like South American

liberators above the breeding vegetation—



prongs and spearheads of some equatorial

backland that will inherit the globe.



The elect, the elected … they come here bright as dimes,

and die dishevelled and soft.



We cannot name their names, or number their dates—

circle on circle, like rings on a tree—



but we wish the river had another shore,

some further range of delectable mountains,



distant hills powdered blue as a girl’s eyelid.

It seems the least little shove would land us there,



that only the slightest repugnance of our bodies

we no longer control could drag us back.


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Birthday of the great African-American prose stylist, Ralph Ellison: March 1, 1913 - 1994…

“Eclecticism is the word. Like a jazz musician who creates his own style out of the styles around him, I play by ear.” - R.E.

Photo: Author Ralph Ellison sitting at typewriter at American Academy on Rome Fellowship in Literature, awarded by American Academy of Arts and Letters, June 1957 - James Whitmore



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Fyodor Sologub (born 1 March, 1863; died 5 December, 1927), pictured above in 1909 photograph made in Kiev

Austere my verse…

Austere my verse: therein are heard
Strange echoes, distant and despairing.
Are not my shoulders bowed in bearing
My inspiration’s bitter word?

The dim day rests as shadows fall.
No road before me is unwinding:
My promised land I’ll not be finding.
The world rears round me like a wall.

At times from that far land a vain
Faint voice resounds like distant thunder.
Can the long waiting on a wonder
Obliterate the long bleak pain?

(translated from the Russian by Avrahm Yarmolinsky)

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Frederic Chopin, Polish pianist and composer: March 1, 1810 - 1849 (tuberculosis)…

Chopin lived in Paris from 1830 onwards where he earned a living as a piano teacher. His circle included the author George Sand with whom he had a stormy affair, and who subsequently nursed him when he became terminally ill…

Chopin’s body of piano music is unique in its vitality and lyricism among the great Romantic composers for the instrument…


Frederyk Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu No.4 in C# Minor Opus 66

Vladimir Ashkenazy - piano

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Martin Ritt, American film director, actor and playwright: March 2, 1914 - 1990…

Ritt grew up in a leftist environment, always taking a stand against injustices and discrimination. This is strongly reflected in his movies, such as Norma Rae - a drama of a woman trying to get her factory unionized…

Another Ritt trademark was the use of non-linear storytelling techniques and multiple points-of-view - as witnessed in films as diverse as The Outrage (1964) and Nuts (1987)…

Ritt used Paul Newman in several of his ’60s films, including great parts in the two Westerns, Hud and Hombre


Theatrical poster for Martin Ritt’s Hombre
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Kurt Weill, Jewish-German composer who is mainly famous for his collaborations with Bert Brecht: March 2, 1900 - 1950

Weill studied formal composition but has become known for his songs and cabaret-like stage music. Apart from “Mack the Knife” - by far his greatest hit - and “Pirate Jenny” from his Brecht collaboration, Threepenny Opera, his most famous songs include “Alabama Song” (from Mahagonny), “Surabaya Johnny” (from Happy End), “Speak Low” (from One Touch of Venus), “Lost in the Stars” (from the musical of that name), “My Ship” (from Lady in the Dark), and “September Song” (from Knickerbocker Holiday)…

Photo of Weill in Vienna, 1932


Kurt Weill - Die Dreigroschenoper: Die Moritat Von Mackie Messer (sung by Rolf Boysen)



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Czech composer Bedřich Smetana (March 2, 1824 - 1884), whose national opus Má Vlast (My Fatherland) was created between 1874 and 1879. Smetana’s most famous composition is Vltava or The Moldau - one of the six parts of My Fatherland - but there is also great opera and chamber music on his opus list…


Bedřich Smetana: Poetic Polka No. 2 in G minor, Meno allegro (1854)

András Schiff - piano (January 1998)

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Tom Wolfe, novelist and journalist - usually all rolled into one, as in the New Journalist style he helped develop in the 1960s - was born March 2, 1931 - 80 today!

His writings about youth culture and style in the 60s was really cutting edge in volumes such as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965), The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), The Pump House Gang (1968) and Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970)…

“Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script” — Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test



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Singer, song-writer, musician, writer - and latterly, photographer Lou Reed is 69 years old today!

Reed took off from his Andy Warhol and Velvet Underground fame in the 1960s - subsequently launching a long and rather succesful solo career featuring c. 30 albums, including 9 live sets…

Many of Lou Reed’s albums are conceptual song-cycles, such as 1973’s Berlin, the Warhol tribute, Songs for Drella (1990, w. John Cale), and The Raven (based on Poe’s work)…

Photo: Still from Andy Warhol Screen Test, 1966


The Velvet Underground: I’m Waiting For the Man (by Lou Reed) - from The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967


Lou Reed: Vicious - from Transformer, 1972


Lou Reed: Perfect Day - from Transformer, 1972


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Birthday of Spain Rodriguez, underground cartoonist: March 2, 1940…

Above: The Gunners Meet the Fillmore Gang, or - The Origins of the Beat Generation



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John Irving, American popular novelist and screen-writer, was born March 2, 1942…

It used to be that all Irving novels would be off-beat and quirky, dealing with bears, wrestling, and going to Vienna. After his success in the mid-80s with Life According to Garp, he more or less shifted to family epics, spiced up with unlikely coincidences and turns of event - and a rather off-putting tendency on his part to ‘punish’ his own characters. He also became rather less challenging in the process…

“The history of a city was like the history of a family—there is closeness and even affection, but death eventually separates everyone from each other. It is only the vividness of memory that keeps the dead alive forever; a writer’s job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as our personal memories.” — John Irving, The World According to Garp


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English writer D.H. Lawrence, author of works such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Women in Love, Sons and Lovers, and numerous other novels, short stories and plays - died from tuberculosis, aged 44, on this day in 1930…

From his poem, Ship of Death:

Build then the ship of death, for you must take
the longest journey, to oblivion.

And die the death, the long and painful death
that lies between the old self and the new.

Already our bodies are fallen, bruised, badly bruised,
already our souls are oozing through the exit
of the cruel bruise.

Already the dark and endless ocean of the end
is washing in through the breaches of our wounds,
already the flood is upon us.

Oh build your ship of death, your little ark
and furnish it with food, with little cakes, and wine
for the dark flight down oblivion.

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Tenor sax man Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis was born March 2, 1922 (d. 1986). Davis played with Armstrong, Count Basie and many other greats, but also fronted a number of bands…

Photo: Gordon Blanz, 1983


Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis: Three Deuces - from The Eddie Lockjaw Davis Cookbook, vol 1.

Personnel: Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis - Tenor Saxophone; Jerome Richardson - Tenor Saxophone; Shirley Scott - Organ; George Duvivier - Bass; Arthur Edgehill - Drums

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Great s-f writer Philip K. Dick, the master of unreality and paranoia - died this day in 1982, aged 53, following a series of strokes…

“Everything is true”, he said. “Everything anybody has ever thought”. — P.K.D., Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


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Sholom Aleichem (born 2 March, 1859; died 13 May, 1916), pictured above in an 1889 photograph made in Kiev

‘All three children, Abramtzig, Moshetzig, and Dvairke, were born and brought up in the same place—between the wall and the stove. They always saw before them the same people and the same things: the gay father who cut cardboards, pasted boxes, and sang songs, and the careworn, hollow-cheeked mother who cooked and baked, and rushed about, and was never finished her work. They were always at work, both of them—the mother at the stove, and the father at the cardboards. What were all the boxes for? Who wanted so many boxes? Is the whole world full of boxes? That was what the three little heads wanted to know. And they waited until their father had a great pile of boxes ready, when he would take them on his head and in his arms—thousands of them—to the market. He came back without the boxes, but with money for the mother, and with cakes and buns for the children. He was a good father—such a good father. He was gold. The mother was also gold, but she was cross. One got a smack from her sometimes, a dig in the ribs, or a twist of an ear. She does not like to have the house untidy. She does not allow the children to play “fathers and mothers.” She forbids Abramtzig to pick up the pieces of cardboard that have fallen to the floor, and Moshetzig to steal the paste from his father, and Dvairke to make bread of sand and water. The mother expects her children to sit still and keep quiet. It seems she does not know that young heads will think, and young souls are eager and restless. They want to go. Where? Out of doors, to the light. To the window—to the window.

… . .

There was only one window, and all three heads were stuck against it. What did they see out of it? A wall. A high, big, grey, wet wall. It was always and ever wet, even in summer. Does the sun ever come here? Surely the sun comes here sometimes, that is to say, not the sun itself, but its reflection. Then there is a holiday. The three beautiful heads press against the little window. They look upwards, very high, and see a narrow blue stripe, like a long blue ribbon […]


Even a little bird is seldom seen here. Sometimes an odd sparrow strays in—grey as the grey walls. He picks, picks at the stones. He spreads out his wings and flies away. Fowls? The children sometimes see the quarter of one with a long, pale leg. How many legs has a fowl? “Four, just like a horse,” explains Abramtzig. And surely he knows everything. Sometimes their mother brings home from the market a little head with glassy eyes that are covered with a white film. “It’s dead,” says Abramtzig, and all three children look at each other out of great black eyes; and they sigh.


Born and brought up in the big city, in the huge building, in the congestion, loneliness and poverty, not one of the three children ever saw a living creature, neither a fowl, nor a cow, nor any other animal, excepting the cat. They have a cat of their own—a big, live cat, as grey as the high damp grey wall. The cat is their only play-toy. They play with it for hours on end. They put a shawl on her, call her “the wedding guest,” and laugh and laugh without an end. When their mother sees them, she presents them—one with a smack, a second with a dig in the ribs, and the third with a twist of the ear. The children go off to their hiding-place behind the stove. The eldest, Abramtzig, tells a story, and the other two, Moshetzig and Dvairke, listen to him. He says their mother is right. They ought not to play with the cat, because a cat is a wicked animal. Abramtzig knows everything. There is nothing in the world that he does not know.’

—from ‘Three Little Heads’, in Jewish Children (1921; translated from the Yiddish by Hannah Berman)

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James Merrill, American poet born March 3, 1926 (d. 1995), was known as a formalist, conservative lyric poet…

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James Merrill: The Kimono

When I returned from lovers’ lane
My hair was white as snow.
Joy, incomprehension, pain
I’d seen like seasons come and go.
How I got home again
Frozen half dead, perhaps you know.

You hide a smile and quote a text:
Desires ungratified
Persist from one life to the next.
Hearths we strip ourselves beside
Long, long ago were x’d
On blueprints of “consuming pride.”

Times out of mind, the bubble-gleam
To our charred level drew
April back. A sudden beam …
— Keep talking while I change into
The pattern of a stream
Bordered with rushes white on blue.

(Photo: Thomas Victor, 1980)


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Will Eisner, Jewish-American ‘sequential artist’, creator of The Spirit and other comic book heroes: March 3, 1917 - 2005…

Photo of Will and The Spirit, 1966


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Birthday of the Blonde Bombshell: Jean Harlow, American film star was born March 3, 1911. She died only 26 years later from complications arising from a progressive kidney disease…

Photo of Harlow doing fabric stretching experiments…


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Roger Caillois (born 3 March, 1913; died 21 December, 1978), pictured above with Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979), in a photograph taken in Argentina in the late 1930s or the early 1940s; during the Second World War, Ocampo and Caillois edited and produced Lettres Francaises, an anti-Nazi journal of literature and sociology

‘In ancient Greece, noon was in fact the hour of transition, marking the boundary between the reign of the Uranian and of the infernal Gods. But noon is also the time when shade is at a low point, and thus when the exposed soul is most vulnerable to dangers of all kinds. For similar reasons, noon is generally the hour when the dead make their appearance - they who cast no shadow. On the most elementary level, these are the reasons noon is preordained to witness the apparitions of ghosts. Clearly, they require only those fantasies of the human imagination that are the most general and ancient: sympathetic magic and the principle of correspondence, the identification of the soul with the body’s shadow.


Turning now from meteorology to physiology, we can observe that the hour of noon has here just as many reasons to command attention. The sun’s burning heat is unforgiving at this suffocating time of day. Heatstroke, sunstroke, cerebral fever, and their attendant mental and physical ailments offered sufficient proof of demonic activity to persuade people that they existed. In Greece, these mishaps simply figured among the numerous other prerogatives of divinities and ghosts whose activities were not confined to this sphere: Pan, Hecate, the Eurpensus, the nymphs and Sirens. But elsewhere, in the Slavic domain, for example, where these demons bear the name of Noon, the sufficient cause of their creation is manifest in their function, whether they are brandishing a white-hot frying pan or tearing off somebody’s head “like a flower.” ‘
(published originally in Minotaur, 1936; translated from the French by Claudine Frank and Camille Naish)

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The great Scottish engineer and inventor Alexander Graham Bell: March 3, 1847 - 1922…

Bell was preoccupied with the science of sound and its transmission, inspired by his deaf family members whom he desired to help communicate. In 1875 he came up with a working model of an ‘acoustic telegraph’ - what later came to be called a telephone…

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.” — A.G.B.



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Georg Cantor, German mathematician and philosopher of mixed Jewish-Danish-Russian heritage, the creator of set theory: March 3, 1845 - 1918…

“A set is a Many that allows itself to be thought of as a One.” -G.C.


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Isabel Bishop, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art



Isabel Bishop (March 3, 1902 - 1988): Artist’s Table, 1931 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)
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‘Doc’ Watson, blind American flat-pick guitar virtuoso, was born March 3, 1923…

Watson played electric guitar in Western Swing bands from the early 1950s onwards, but with the folk revival in the 1960s he ‘went acoustic’ and his virtuosity across the genres and repertoires of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel music quickly became legendary.

Photo: Jim McGuire


Doc Watson: Sitting on Top of the World (1964) - originally from the Vanguard LP Doc Watson; also available on the Trouble in Mind compilation…





Since a young David Grisman joined a newly discovered Doc Watson on the stage of Gerde’s Folk City in 1962, the two have made indelible marks in the realm of acoustic music. Watson has attached his ripe vocals and fleet flatpicked guitar to traditional, old-time, and bluegrass; Grisman has blended a variety of traditional styles to form a progressive one. This cozy, comfortable record culls 14 songs recorded at an assortment of relaxed, informal, after-dinner sessions at Grisman’s studio. As it moves from Jimmie Rodgers to Bill Monroe to jazz standards to traditional blues to rippling fiddle tunes, the record beautifully illustrates where the common ground lies. Most of all, the album exudes a passion and respect for the songs at hand; the superb picking (whether brisk or leisurely) is merely gravy. —Marc Greilsamer

Photo: Ricardo Vinos


David Grisman & Doc Watson: All About You - from Doc & Dawg




Texan songwriter Guy Clark puts Doc Watson’s status in perspective in his song Dublin Blues, which contains the following lines:

I have seen the David
I’ve seen the Mona Lisa too
I have heard Doc Watson
Play Columbus Stockade Blues



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Asger Jorn (March 3, 1914 - 1973) was a Danish artist and avantgarde theorist, founder of the COBRA movement and later a founding member of the Situationist International in 1957. Jorn lived in France for a long time, tried to study with Kandinsky but ended up with Léger instead…

Late in life Jorn deviced a new type of soccer which featured three sides playing against each other on a hexagonal field…




Asger Jorn: Comme si les cygnes chantent, 1963 - oil on canvas (Kunsthalle in Emden)

Late Jorn is angry and chaotic, less immediately pleasing to the eye. A whole museum room with angry Jorns is LOUD!




Asger Jorn: Wiedersehen am Todesufer, 1958 - oil on canvas (Kunsthalle in Emden)

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Over the years we’ve had a number of great Arnold Newman (Mar. 3, 1918 - 2006) portraits, but we’ve never actually celebrated his own birthday here on OF. Time to remedy that oversight:

Above: Self-portrait Baltimore MD, 1939


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Watching Catherine Deneuve in Truffaut’s The Last Metro
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Hitchcock (b. March 3, 1953) represents the legacy from John Lennon and Syd Barrett, the two great fabulators in English psychedelia…

Photo: Robyn goes to the Arctic…




I love how Robyn Hitchcock helps take care of and keep alive the treasure of English psychedelia and folk-rock songwriting, for instance by taking part in the Joe Boyd revues that celebrate the memory of Nick Drake and other fine songwriters…

And then there is The Man With the Lightbulb Head:

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3: Star of Venus from Propellor Time (2010)

The Soft Boys: Kingdom Of Love - from Underwater Moonlight, 1980





The Soft Boys (Robyn 2nd from left) - photo Curtis Knapp…

The missing link between The Byrds and R.E.M. (but English)!




Robyn Hitchcock: This Could Be The Day - from I Often Dream of Trains, 1984


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We celebrate a great classical birthday today:

Antonio Vivaldi, nick-named “The Red Priest” for his blazing hair colour: March 4, 1678 - 1741…

A prolific Baroque composer, Vivaldi’s vocal works were unjustly neglected for centuries, but have lately been taken up by ensembles interested in period instruments and reconstructions of performance practices…

There are also instrumental pieces galore in the RV catalogue - 350 of these are concerti for solo instrument and strings, prompting Luigi Dellapiccola’s famous crack that Vivaldi didn’t write hundreds of concerti but only one concerto hundreds of times…

Of course nowadays you can hear his instrumental music, esp. The Four Seasons, in any elevator, hotel or supermarket all over the world, too.

I’ve cued up a few samples over the next hour or so, alternating instrumental with vocal tracks - ending with Nigel Kennedy’s wild Seasons


Vivaldi: Oboe and Bassoon Concerto in G Major, RV. 541 - 1st movement

Performers: Hans Peter Westermann, oboe; Sergio Azzolino, bassoon - with Giorgio Fava conducting the Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca


Academia Montis Regalis: Arma, caedes, vindictae, furores - from Vivaldi: Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernes barbarie, oratorio in 2 parts, RV 644



Vivaldi: Concerto in D minor for Violin, RV 235: II. Adagio

Performed by Giuliano Carmignola (violin); Andrea Marcon w. The Venice Baroque Orchestra


Vivaldi: Amato Ben - Act III, Ercole sul Termodonte, RV 710

Performed by Joyce Didonato (mezzo) & Fabio Biondi conducting Europa Galante


Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in B minor for violins and cello RV 580 (op. 3 no. 10) - I. Allegro

Performed by Viktoria Mullova - Il Giardino Armonico


Vivaldi: Va per selve e sol pien d’ira - from Arsilda, regina di Ponto, opera in 3 acts, RV 700

Topi Lehtipuu - tenor (w. Diego Fasolis, conducting I Barocchisti)


Vivaldi: Violin Concerto In F Minor, Op. 8/4, RV 297, The Four Seasons; Winter - 2. Largo

Performed by Nigel Kennedy & The English Chamber Orchestra


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Charmion Von Wiegand (March 4, 1896 - 1983): Sanctuary of the Four Directions, 1963 - gouache over pencil on paper
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Edward Ranney (b. March 4, 1942): Caral, Supe Valley, Peru, 1994 - Silver Gelatin Print (Smithsonian)
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Sam Taylor-Wood (b. Mar. 4, 1967) is an English filmmaker, photographer and conceptual artist…

Above: Self-Portrait, Suspended iii, 2004




Sam Taylor-Wood: Jude Law, 2002-2004 - C-print - from the Crying Men series



Sam Taylor-Wood: Ghosts i, 2008
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Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa South-African born singer and activist: March 4, 1932 - 2008

Her accomplishments in the global civil rights struggle and war on poverty were very considerable and her joyful music lives on…

Photo - 1969


Miriam Makeba: Pata Pata (1957/67)


Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba: Malaika (My Angel) - from An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba, 1965


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Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink turns 82 today…

Photo from Glyndebourne, 1987 - Ira Nowinski


Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, op.30 - I. Allegro ma non tanto

Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Bernard Haitink, conducting The Concertgebouw Orchestra



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Alan Sillitoe, British writer of working class background who had become an increasingly old Angry Young Man, died last year, shortly after his 82nd birthday. He would have been 83 today…

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, his debut novel from 1958, is still a good read if you like a bit of ‘British Beat’, but his next book (of short stories), The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, is probably even better…

“On his first parade the sergeant-major exclaimed that he couldn’t make out the shape of Arthur’s head because there was so much hair on it, and Arthur jocularly agreed to get it cut, intending to forget about it until the fifteen days was over, which he did. ‘You’re a soldier now, not a Teddy-boy,’ the sergeant-major said, but Arthur knew he was wrong in either case. He was nothing at all when people tried to tell him what he was. Not even his own name was enough, though it might be on on his pay-book. What am I? he wondered. A six-foot pit-prop that wants a pint of ale. That’s what I am. And if any knowing bastard says that’s what I am, I’m a dynamite-dealer, Sten-gun seller, hundred-ton tank trader, a capstan-lathe operator waiting to blow the army to Kingdom Cum. I’m me and nobody else; and what people think I am or say I am, that’s what I’m not, because they don’t know a bloody thing about me.” — Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Photo: Mark Gerson, modern bromide print, 1961 (NPG)


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The young poet-doctor, 1920s…

March 4, 1963 was the day William Carlos Williams died…

WCW: To Waken an Old Lady

Old age is
a flight of small
cheeping birds
skimming
bare trees above a snow glaze.
Gaining and failing
they are buffeted
by a dark wind—
But what?
On harsh weedstalks
the flock has rested,
the snow
is covered with broken
seedhusks
and the wind tempered
by a shrill
piping of plenty.


WCW: Pastoral

When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.
No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.
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Ryszard Kapuściński (born 4 March, 1932; died 23 January, 2007) in a 1975 photograph taken in Angola

‘And so the three possibilities I have mentioned have always stood before man whenever he has encounter an Other: he could choose war, he could fence himself in behind a wall, or he could start up a dialogue.

Over the course of history man has never stopped wavering between these options; depending on the situation and culture he makes now one, now another choice; we can see that he is changeable in these choices, that he does not always feel certain, and is not always standing on firm ground.

It is hard to justify wars; I think everyone loses them, because it is a defeat for the human being. It exposes his inability to come to terms, to empathise with the Other, to be kind and reasonable, because in this case the encounter with the Other always ends tragically, in a drama of blood and death.

The idea that prompted man to build great walls and vast moats, to surround himself with them and isolate himself from others, has in modern times been given the name of the doctrine of apartheid. This concept has been wrongly limited to the politics of the now defunct regime of whites in South Africa, for in fact apartheid was already practised in ancient times. In simple terms it is a view whose adherents proclaim that anyone may live as he wishes, as long as he is at a distance from me, if he does not belong to my race, religion and culture. But if only that were all it was about, because in fact here we are dealing with a doctrine of structural permanent inequality dividing humankind.

The myths of many tribes and people include a belief that only we are human, the members of our clan, our society, and that Others — all Others — are subhuman, or not human at all.

How different the image of the same Other is in the era of anthropomorphic beliefs, in other words those where the gods can take on human form and behave like people. For in those days no one could be sure if an approaching traveller, nomad or stranger were a man or a god resembling a man. This uncertainty, this intriguing ambivalence is one of the sources of the culture of hospitality, which recommends showing every form of kindness to newcomers.’

—from The Other (2006; translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)


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Jacques Dupin (born 4 March, 1927), in a photograph made by Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

My body …

My body, you will not fill the ditch
That I am digging, that I deepen each night.

Like a wild boar caught in the underbrush
You leap, you struggle.

Does the vine on the rampart remember another body
Prostrate on the keyboard of the void?

Throw off your clothes, throw away your food,
Diviner of water, hunter of lowly light.

The sliding of the hill
Will overflow the false depth,
The secret excavation underfoot.

Calm wriggles into the night air
Through disjointed stones and the riddled heart

At the instant you disappear,
Like a splinter in the sea.

(translated from the French by Paul Auster)

Mon corps …

Mon corps, tu n’occuperas pas la fosse
Que je creuse, que j’approfondis chaque nuit.

Comme un sanglier empêtré dans les basses branches
Tu trepignes, tu te debats.

Le liseron du parapet se souvient-il d’un autre corps
Prostré sur le clavier du gouffre?

Jette tes vêtements et tes vivres,
Sourcier de l’ordinaire éclat.

Le glissement de la colline
Comblera la profondeur fourbe,
L’excavation secrete sous le pas.

Le calme s’insinue avec l’air de la nuit
Par les pierres disjointes et le coeur criblé

A la seconde où tu as disparu
Comme une écharde dans la mer.

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A scene from The Gospel According to St. Matthew, a 1964 film by Pier Paolo Pasolini (born 5 March, 1922; died 2 November, 1975)

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March 5, 1852 was the birthday of Lady Gregory (d. 1932) - the great Irish patron of the theatre and of poets such as Yeats, as well as playwright, poet and prose author in her own right. Lady G. co-founded The Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1904 and helped secure a national Irish literary tradition in the Modernist vein…

Photo by G. Beresford, 1911


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German revolutionary agitator and Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg: March 5, 1871 - 1919…

Luxemburg was murdered during the Spartacist uprising in Berlin in January 1919, when right-wing Freikorps militia-men crushed the attempted revolution…

Luxemburg has entered the annals of left-wing thinking as a less dogmatic, feminist inspired philosopher, partly because of her theorizing of spontaneity as a necessary for the revolution to come about.

“Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter.” — Rosa L.


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Brazilian composer and guitarist, Heitor Villa-Lobos: March 5, 1887 - 1959…

Villa-Lobos is one of the best-known and most significant Latin American composers of the 20th C. His numerous orchestral, chamber, instrumental and vocal works were influenced by both Brazilian folk music and by stylistic elements from the European classical tradition…

Photo of Villa Lobos, Rio de Janeiro, 1945 (LIFE)


Heitor Villa Lobos: Chôros No. 1 for Guitar, “Tipico brasileiro”, A.161

Performer: Julian Bream


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Howard Pyle, American illustrator and painter - great at mythological subjects - was born March 5, 1853 (d. 1911)…

Howard Pyle: Why Seek Ye the Living in the Place of the Dead?, 1905 - oil on canvas (The Kelly Collection of American Illustration)


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Birthday of Professor ‘iggins - i.e. Rex Harrison, stylish English actor of stage and screen, who won an Oscar for his signature part in My Fair Lady

Photo - still from Blithe Spirit, 1945



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Frank Norris, American novelist in the Naturalist vein: March 5, 1870 - 1902, ruptured appendix…

Norris was an important precursor to later progressive writers such as Dos Passos and Upton Sinclair. His works are indignant condemnations of greed and injustice, often quite melodramatic as his best-known novel McTeague - the story of the downfall of a simple dentist, who through the corrupting influence of money and women, is driven to murder and despair…

“No art that is not in the end understood by the People can live or ever did live a single generation.” — F.N.


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Dora Marsden, English writer, editor and feminist activist/Suffragist, born March 5, 1882 (d. 1960)…

Marsden edited the high-profile Modernist magazine The Egoist for a number of years, and helped bring into print some groundbreaking works by Joyce, Pound, Eliot and Lawrence…





Front page of The Egoist, 1919 w. Dora Marsden editorial… (The Beinecke)

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Mark E. Smith (b. March 5, 1957) is the lead singer, lyricist, frontman, and only constant member of English post-punk band The Fall…

As he puts it: Even if it’s just me and your Granny on bongos, it’s still The Fall!

One of the most literate and literary figures in contemporary music, Mark E. Smith named his band after a Camus novel, and constantly refers to books in his lyrics and titles…




The Fall: Living Too Late, 1986 - later re-issued on 458489 A Sides


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Gabriel García-Márquez, Columbian Nobel Laureate in Literature for 1982, was born March 6, 1927.

Márquez was awarded the prize “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.”

His contribution to establishing magical realism as a dominant literary mode, with a strong post-colonial political agenda to it, is very considerable. Books such as No One Writes to the Colonel (1961), One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) are great reads…

“Fiction was invented the day Jonas arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale.” — G.G.-M.



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Great retro-technique photographer, Mac Cosgrove-Davies (b. March 6, 1957): Grand Pre Church, circa 1867, Nova Scotia, 1986 - gum bichromate print on paper (Smithsonian)

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English poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, remembered as much for her Romantic love affair with and subsequent secret marriage to the six years younger poet Robert Browning who ardently admired her poetry and fell in love with her despite (or because of?) her fragile health, as for her literary output: March 5, 1806 - d. 1861…

Sonnet from the Portuguese, XLIV

Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through,
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart’s ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here’s eglantine,
Here’s ivy!—take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.

—————

Above - Harriet Goodhue Hosmer: The clasped hands of the Brownings, 1853 - bronze cast (NPG, London)



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Michelangelo, whose birthday we celebrate today (March 6, 1475 - 1564) suffers more than any other artist (with the possible exception of Leonardo) from what Walter Benjamin diagnosed as the loss of the auratic qualities of art in the age of ‘mechanical’ (read digital) reproduction. All of Michelangelo’s masterpieces are so worn out by reproduction that we cannot see them for what they are in their utter genius…

So, we turn to his work in architecture, instead…

Above: Michelangelo’s sketches for the dome of Saint Peter’s Cathedral showing a double shell dome and a lantern.



Michelangelo: Madonna of the Stairs, c. 1491 - low relief in marble (Casa Buonarroti, Firenze)
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Furry Lewis (March 6, 1893 - 1981) was a country blues guitarist and songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. Lewis was one of the first of the old-time blues musicians of the 1920s to be brought out of retirement, and given a new lease of recording life, by the folk blues revival of the 1960s. Furry didn’t let the loss of one leg, and eventually also his eye-sight, slow him down much…

I first encountered him on a Don Nix live album from ‘72, entitled the Alabama State Troupers Road Show. Nix is a Memphis musician, just like Furry…

Photo: Furry Lewis (l) w. Bukka White, fellow member of the Memphis Blues Caravan, who played and recorded w. Furry in the revival part of their careers…


Furry Lewis: Judge Harsh Blues - from The Blue Horizon Story, 1965 - 1970


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David Gilmour, lead guitarist for Pink Floyd post-Syd period (and vocalist and song-writer), was born March 6, 1946 - 65 today!


David Gilmour: Cruise - from About Face, 1984


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Kiri Te Kanawa is a lyric soprano from New Zealand, of part-Maori descent - she turns 67 today. She has been Dame Commander of The Order of the British Empire since 1982…

Photo of Kiri Te Kanawa, 1967, New Zealand


“Vissi d’arte” from Tosca — Giacomo Puccini

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano; London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Pritchard



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Georgia O’Keeffe, American nature painter and muse - died this day in 1986, aged 98…

Her ashes were scattered to the wind from the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved “faraway”…


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Arthur Ollman (b. March 6, 1947): Untitled, 1982 - ektacolor print on paper (Smithsonian)
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Jazz guitar wizard, Wes Montgomery: Mar. 6, 1925 - 1968, heart attack…

Photo: San Remo, 1965 - Roberto Polillo


Wynton Kelly Trio w/Wes Montgomery: Impressions (John Coltrane) - from Complete Live At The Half Note (1965)

Personnel: Wes Montgomery – guitar; Wynton Kelly – piano; Paul Chambers – bass; Jimmy Cobb – drums


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Bret Easton Ellis (b. Mar. 7, 1964) is one of the most misunderstood and maligned members of the so-called Blank Generation of urban American writers debuting in the 1980s.

I see him as a gifted satirist, deliberately cultivating the vapid, surface-oriented style that infuriates many critics…


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Warrington Colescott (b. March 7, 1921): Goya Studies War, 1976 - Original color intaglio

One of the most savage satires in the entire History of Printmaking series. Colescott contrasts Goya’s “studies,” the outrage of Napoleonic era French officers in Paris (upper left), and the present reduction of art to “collectibles” (lower right).


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March 7, 1872 was the birthday of Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan (he dropped the second ‘a’ from his name when he became internationally known)(d. 1944), who went from being a quasi-Victorian figure to being a complete De Stijl Modernist when he utterly gave up on representation as a principle in art. Instead he evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism, consisting of a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the use of the three primary colours…

We start you out with an early, figurative Mondrian:

Evolution, 1910-11 - oil on canvas (Gemeentemuseum, the Hague, Netherlands)



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In the sixties only a few black musicians bridged the genres of psychedelic rock, folk and r&b…

One of them was Arthur Lee (March 7, 1945 - 2006), the mastermind behind the band Love, ever a favourite of other musicians and a few discerning members of the public.


Love: A House Is Not A Motel (Arthur Lee) - from Forever Changes, 1967

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Celebrating the birthday or organist/singer/songwriter of 60s classical flavored rock band, Procol Harum, Matthew Fisher: b. Mar. 7, 1946

Procol Harum: Repent Walpurgis - from Procol Harum, 1967

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Townes Van Zandt: The Snake Song - from Seven Come Eleven demos, 1972 - later released as The Nashville Sessions, 1993


Townes Van Zandt: Rex’s Blues - from Flyin’ Shoes, 1978


Townes Van Zandt: For The Sake Of The Song - from At My Window (1987)


Believed by some to be the greatest song-writer ever (notably so Steve Earle, who offered to stand in his cowboy boots on Dylan’s coffee table and announce this! - But does Dylan even have a coffee table…?):

Townes van Zandt, b. March 7, 1944, d. New Year’s Day, 1997…

Tonight OF will do a career retrospective of Townes’ work - 10 great songs from 10 great albums… We’ll focus on some of the tunes not heard so often - just to show you the depth of Townes’ work as a true master of his craft…

Stay tuned for that at 11p.m., my time - I’ll start you off in a second with a teaser.

Photo: Jim McGuire


Townes Van Zandt: Columbine - from Townes Van Zandt, 1969

Townes Van Zandt: Tecumseh Valley - from For the Sake of the Song, 1968

Townes Van Zandt: She Came and She Touched Me - from Our Mother the Mountain, 1969

Townes Van Zandt: Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel - from Townes Van Zandt (3rd album, 1969)

Won’t you come and get me when
you’re sure that you don’t need me then
I’ll stand outside your window
and I’ll proudly call your name

Townes at his most Dylanesque…


Townes Van Zandt: Tower Song - live version from Rear View Mirror, originally on Delta Momma Blues, 1971


Townes Van Zandt: Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold - from Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, 1973 (originally on Hi, Low and In Between, 1972)


Townes Van Zandt: No Lonesome Tune - from The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, 1972


Finally, Townes’ will and testament in song form…

Townes Van Zandt: A Song For - from No Deeper Blue, 1994

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Maurice Ravel, French composer, was born March 7, 1875 (d. 1937). Ravel is usually regarded as an Impressionist composer, and his command of emotional effect through tonality and subtle instrumentation is second to none…

Unfortunately Ravel seems condemned to always be reduced to two big ‘hits’: Bolero and the instrumentation of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition

Photo of Maurice Ravel, 1930




Oiseaux tristes, from the suite Miroirs, composed for piano in 1905 by Maurice Ravel performed here by Frederic Chiu on a 1995 recording for Harmonia Mundi France; Ravel dedicated this portion of the suite to its first performer, the Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes (1875-1943)


Ravel: Gaspard De La Nuit, Op.55 - I. Ondine. Lent

Martha Argerich - piano


Maurice Ravel: String Quartet in F - II. Assez vif. Très rythmé

Quatuor Ysaÿe

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O vos omnes, a motet for five voices first composed in 1603 by Carlo Gesualdo (born 8 March, 1566; died 8 September, 1613), performed here by the Monteverdi Choir, under the direction of Sir John Eliiot Gardiner

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte:
Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
Attendite, universi populi, et videte dolorem meum.
Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.

O all you who walk by on the road, pay attention and see:
if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.
Pay attention, all people, and look at my sorrow:
if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.

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Anselm Kiefer (b. March 8, 1945) is one of the greatest contemporary artists…

Your Golden Hair, Margarete, 1981 - Oil, emulsion, and straw on canvas (Collection Sanders, Amsterdam)

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And of a ’60s ‘bad girl’ - English film and stage actress, Lynn Redgrave (Mar. 8, 1943 - 2010)

Photo: Cecil Beaton, 1966 - bromide print on white card mount (NPG, London)

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Many brave, bold and talented women share March 8th, The International Women’s Day, as their birthday…

Among them, this tough cookie:

Cyd Charisse (Mar. 8, 1922 - 2008), American film actress and on-screen dancing partner of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire…

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It’s March 8th - The International Women’s Day - and it’s appropriate to celebrate strong women today…

We begin with the birthday of Irish-American pirate Anne Bonny (Mar. 8, 1702 (or, 1698) - 1720 (or 1782, if indeed she escaped the noose, remarried and lived on under another name as some sources claim!)…

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Also the birthday of that most gentle blues-man, Mississippi John Hurt - Mar. 8, 1892 - 1966…


Mississippi John Hurt: Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor - from Complete Studio Recordings


Mississippi John Hurt: Farther Along - from Complete Studio Recordings

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Classical guitar virtuoso, Pepe Romero (b. March 8, 1944 - 67 today), is known both for outstanding technique and colour and temperament in interpretation…

Pepe Romero: Malagueña - from Essential Guitar


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Prolific and wonderful American composer, Alan Hovhaness: Mar. 8, 1911 - 2000…


Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 22, City of Light, Op 236: IV. Finale (Largo maestoso)

Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz


Alan Hovhaness: Suite for Flute and Harp, Op. 245 - The Garden of Adonis

I. Largo; II. Allegro; III. Adagio, like a solemn dance

Yolanda Kondonassis, harp - Eugenia Zukerman, flute





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Samuel Barber (March 9, 1910 - 1981) is among the most durable of American 20th C. composers. His Adagio for Strings is among his most popular compositions and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music.

Barber’s foundations are Bach’s counterpoint and Brahms’ broad tonal palette. In his later works he became more and more modern, using polytonality, atonal elements and borrowing from jazz and other forms of Americana. His failures in the operatic genre were a source of depression for Barber, but maybe Antony and Cleopatra is slowly working its way into the standard repertoire…

Photo:Samuel Barber by Edward Weston, 1942 - Film negative


Samuel Barber: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14 (1939) - III. Presto in moto perpetuo

Leonard Bernstein; New York Philharmonic; Isaac Stern, violin



“Adagio For Strings”—Samuel Barber


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In the world of underground rock and avant-garde music John Cale (b. March 9, 1942), Welsh-born multi-instrumentalist and composer, looms very large…

From his days in the Velvet Underground, through his solo work and numerous collaborations over the next 4 decades, Cale has remained cool as a cucumber, releasing upwards of 30 albums… Of these, Cale is perhaps best known for 1973’s Paris 1919, plus his mid-1970s Island Records trilogy of albums: Fear, Slow Dazzle, and Helen of Troy

John Cale: Andalucia - from Paris 1919

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French actress Juliette Binoche always lights up the screen with her acting intelligence and cool - some of her finest work came for Kieslowski in his Three Colours sequence in the early 90s…

Juliette is 47 today…

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March 9, 1892 was the birthday of Vita Sackville-West (d. 1962) - English novelist, poet and muse to many writers and painters…

Vita was a bi-sexual whose husband also favoured an open marriage. This allowed her to follow her desires to an unusual extent for a Victorian woman (of course being upper class helped…)

Her relation to Virginia Woolf has been of particular interest to scholars and readers in general. Woolf to some extent wrote one of her best novels, Orlando, as a long love letter to Vita.

Photo by John Gay, 1948 - bromide fibre print (NPG, London)


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Today is multi-instrumentalist Ornette Coleman’s 81st birthday…

Ornette is a great spokesman for harmolodics, a new concept developed as a description of his later fusion-free jazz collective improv compositions…. “Nobody solos, everybody solos” is Joe Zawinul’s nutshell explanation of the style.

Photo of Ornette Coleman by Lee Friedlander


Ornette Coleman: Chronology - from The Shape of Jazz to Come

Photo by William Claxton

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Swiss (French-born) composer Arthur Honegger: March 10, 1892 - 1955…

His best known work is his so-called symphonic movement from 1923, Pacific 231 which imitates the sounds of a steam locomotive… “I have always loved locomotives passionately. For me they are living creatures and I love them as others love women or horses.” - Honegger

Arthur Honegger: Pacific 231 (1923)

Performed by L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet (cond)




Les Six, a group of young French and Swiss composers (comprising of Poulenc, Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Honegger and Tailleferre) who also had links with Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau…

Photo of Cocteau and five of ‘the six’ (Auric is present only as a drawing) - it’s Honegger extreme right…


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In der Fremde, a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff (born 10 March, 1788; died 26 November, 1857), set (with minor changes in the third and fourth lines of the second stanza) by Robert Schumann (1810-1856) in his Op. 39, Liederkreis, of 1840; performed here by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with Alfred Brendel, in a 1985 recording

In der Fremde

Aus der Heimat hinter den Blitzen rot
Da kommen die Wolken her,
Aber Vater und Mutter sind lange tot,
Es kennt mich dort keiner mehr.

Wie bald, wie bald kommt die stille Zeit,
Da ruhe ich auch, und über mir
Rauschet die schöne Waldeinsamkeit,
Und keiner mehr kennt mich auch hier.

Far from Home

From my home beyond the lightning’s flash,
the clouds drift over me.
But father and mother are long since dead,
and no one there remembers me any more.

How soon, how soon comes the quiet time
when I too shall rest; and over me
will rustle the lovely, lonely forest.
And no one will remember me any more, even here.

—translated by Philip L. Miller


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Pablo de Sarasate (March 10, 1844 – 1908) was a Spanish violinist and composer of the Romantic period.

Sarasate was a flamboyant virtuoso on the violin, and often adapted other compositions into show pieces that illustrated his fabulous technical ability. Famous works include The Carmen Fantasy, a destillation of themes from Bizet’s opera, and Zigeunerweisen, beloved by virtuosi ever since for its passion and rhythm…


Pablo de Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) - Itzhak Perlman, violin; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, André Previn

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Bix Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – 1931, alcoholic seizure) was an American jazz cornetist and composer, as well as a skilled classical and jazz pianist.

Bix was the only jazz cornetist whose popularity rivaled Armstrong’s in the 1920s (where he actually scored more hits than Satchmo). Beiderbecke’s subtle compositions such as “In a Mist” have become classic early jazz standards, covered again and again in a multitude of roots styles. My intro to them was through Ry Cooder’s wonderfully eclectic 1978 album, simply entitled Jazz.

Photo of Bix w. The Wolverine Orch, 1924 - Bix dead center…


Bix Beiderbecke, w. Frank Trumbauer & his Orchestra: Blue River




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Robert Broner (b. March 10, 1922): Untitled (Falling Figures), n.d. - monotype
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French multi-genius Boris Vian was born March 10, 1920 (d. 1959, heart attack)…

Vian was a writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer. He is best remembered today for his novels. Those published under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan were bizarre parodies of criminal fiction, highly controversial at the time of their release. Vian’s other fiction, published under his real name, featured a highly individual writing style with numerous made-up words, subtle wordplay and surrealistic plots…

Surprise Party

The turntable hacked up a melancholy blues
The air was heavy with dust and odors
Several zazous danced while holding to their hearts
Short girls with spasmodic behinds

In a closet, an amateur obstetrics couple
Delivered themselves to games full of art and naivete
Another in a corner attempted with ardor
Tonsil-coupling, to music.

Hands encountered one another under too-short skirts
Drunk, two lovebirds—(what if I said: two dodos?)
Looked everywhere for a bed; they were all full…

Let this happy youth screw itself
Why eradicate from them this impure manure
If their hope restricts itself to rubbing membranes?



Boris Vian: La java des bombes atomiques - from Boris Vian chante Boris Vian


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Zelda Fitzgerald, American writer, dancer and Jazz-age belle - died this day in 1948, aged 47, caught in a fire in the sanatorium she had committed herself to for shock therapy…

Zelda is now buried in the same grave as her estranged husband F. Scott Fitzgerald. They share an epitaph that quotes the end of his novel, The Great Gatsby:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Zelda herself said:

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold.

Photo of Zelda, the Flapper - 1924

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Yehudi Menuhin, brilliant violin virtuoso, teacher and advocate for a mediation between Oriental and Western beliefs - died this day in 1999, aged 82, from complications of bronchitis…

Autographed photo of Menuhin, 1943 - De Bellis, N.Y.


Yehudi Menuhin - Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 In D (BWV 1068) by Johann Sebastian Bach; Scottish Chamber Orchestra - from Sarabande - Baroque Favorites

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Gabriele D’Annunzio (born 12 March, 1863; died 1 March, 1938), pictured above in a photograph made in the late 1880s

The Rain in the Pine Wood

Hush. On the edge
Of the woods I do not hear
Words which you call
Human; but I hear
Words which are newer
Spoken by droplets and leaves
Far away.
Listen. Rain falls
From the scattered clouds.
Rain falls on the tamarisks
Briny and parched.
Rain falls on the pine trees
Scaly and bristling,
Rain falls on the myrtles-
Divine,
On the broom-shrubs gleaming
With clustered flowers,
On the junipers thick
With fragrant berries,
Rain falls on our faces-
Sylvan,
Rain falls on our hands-
Naked,
On our clothes-
Light,
On the fresh thoughts
That our soul discloses-
Renewed,
On the lovely fable
That yesterday
Beguiled you, that beguiles me today,
O Hermione.

Do you hear?
The rain is falling
On the solitary
Greenness
With a crackling that persists
And varies in the air
According to the foliage
Sparser, less sparse.
Listen.
The weeping is answered
By the song
Of the cicadas
Which are not frightened
By the weeping of the south wind
Or the ashen sky
And the pine tree
Has one sound, and the myrtle
Another sound, and the juniper
Yet another, instruments
Different
Under numberless fingers.
And we are
Immersed in the spirit
Of the woodland,
Alive with arboreal life;
And your ecstatic face
Is soft with rain
As a leaf
And your hair
Is fragrant like
The bright broom-flowers,
O earthly creature
Whose name is
Hermione.

Listen, listen. The harmony
Of the high-borne cicadas
Gradually becomes
Fainter
Beneath the weeping
That grows stronger;
But a song mingles with it-
Hoarser,
Rising from down there,
From the far damp shade.
Fainter and weaker
It slackens, fades away.
Only one note
Still trembles, fades away.
Rises again, trembles, fades away.
One hears no sea voice.
Now one hears upon all the foliage,
Pelting,
The silvery rain
That cleanses,
The pelting that varies
According to the foliage
Thicker, less thick.
Listen.
The daughter of the air
is mute; but the daughter
Of the miry swamp, in the distance,
The frog,
Is singing in the deepest shade,
Who knows where, who knows where!
And rain falls on your lashes,
Hermione.

Rain falls on your black eyelashes
So that you seem to weep
But from pleasure; not white
But made almost green,
You seem to emerge from bark.
And within us all life is fresh,
Fragrant,
The heart in our breasts is like a peach
Untouched,
The eyes between the eyelids
Are like springs in the grass,
The teeth in their sockets
Are like bitter almonds.
And we go from thicket to thicket,
Now joined, now apart
(And the rough green vigour
Entwines our ankles,
Entangles our knees)
Who knows where, who knows where!
And rain falls on our faces-
Sylvan,
Rain falls on our hands-
Naked,
On our clothes-
Light,
On the fresh thoughts
That our soul discloses-
Renewed,
On the lovely fable
That yesterday
Beguiled me, that beguiles you today,
O Hermione.

—translated from the Italian from Lucian Rebay
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A young Mahmoud Darwish in Cairo. (Al Akhbar)

excerpts from: To A Young Poet:

Don’t believe our outlines, forget themand begin from your own words.As if you are the first to write poetryor the last poet.
If you read our work, let it not be an extension of our airs,but to correct our errsin the book of agony.
Don’t ask anyone: Who am I?You know who your mother is.As for your father, be your own.

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Mahmoud Darwish (Mar. 13, 1941 – 2008) was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet.

Mahmoud Darwish: Passport

They did not recognize me in the shadows
That suck away my color in this Passport
And to them my wound was an exhibit
For a tourist Who loves to collect photographs
They did not recognize me,
Ah … Don’t leave
The palm of my hand without the sun
Because the trees recognize me
Don’t leave me pale like the moon!

All the birds that followed my palm
To the door of the distant airport
All the wheatfields
All the prisons

All the white tombstones All the barbed Boundaries
All the waving handkerchiefs
All the eyes
were with me,
But they dropped them from my passport

Stripped of my name and identity?
On soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Job cried out
Filling the sky:
Don’t make and example of me again!
Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don’t ask the trees for their names
Don’t ask the valleys who their mother is
From my forehead bursts the sward of light
And from my hand springs the water of the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!

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Le Trio Joubran and Mahmoud Darwish

محمود درويش والثلاثي جبران


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A Flower Girl at a Wedding, Connecticut, 1964, a photograph by Diane Arbus (born 14 March, 1923; died 26 July, 1971)
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John Butler Yeats (Mar. 16, 1839 - 1922) was a painter from Northern Ireland, who did portraits on commission - often also of people of the same Nationalist persuasion as himself. He is known for his two famous sons, Will the poet and Jack the painter…

Above: Self-Portrait, 1920 - chalk (National Portrait Gallery, London)




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René Daumal (16 March, 1908 - 1944, tuberculosis) was a French writer, philosopher and poet. He was born in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France.

In his late teens his avant-garde poetry was published in France’s leading journals, and in his early twenties, although courted by André Breton co-founded, as a counter to Surrealism and Dada, a literary journal, “Le Grand Jeu” with three friends, collectively known as the Simplists, including poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte . He is known best in the U.S. for two novels A Night of Serious Drinking and the allegorical novel Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing both based upon his friendship with Alexander de Salzmann, a pupil of G. I. Gurdjieff.

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René Daumal: Poem

One cannot stay on the summit forever -
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below -
But what is below does not know what is above

One climb, one sees-
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one’s self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

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César Vallejo (born 16 March, 1892; died 15 April, 1938), pictured above in a 1926 photograph taken in Paris

Trilce

XV

En el rincón aquel, donde dormimos juntos
tantas noches, ahora me he sentado
a caminar. La cuja de los novios difuntos
fue sacada, o talvez qué habrá pasado.

Has venido temprano a otros asuntos,
y ya no estás. Es el rincón
donde a tu lado, leí una noche,
entre tus tiernos puntos,
un cuento de Daudet. Es el rincón
amado. No lo equivoques.

Me he puesto a recordar los días
de verano idos, tu entrar y salir,
poca y harta y pálida por los cuartos.

En esta noche pluviosa,
ya lejos de ambos dos, salto de pronto…
Son dos puertas abriéndose cerrándose,
dos puertas que al viento van y vienen
sombra a sombra.

(1922)

Trilce

XV

In that corner, where we slept together
so many nights, I’ve sat down now
to take a walk. The bedstead of the dead lovers
has been taken away, or what could have happened.

You came early for other things,
but you’re gone now. This is the corner
where I read one night, by your side,
between your tender breasts,
a story by Daudet. It is the corner
we loved. Don’t confuse it with any other.

I’ve started to think about those days
of summer gone, with you entering and leaving,
little and fed up, pale through the rooms.

On this rainy night,
already far from both of us, all at once I jump …
There are two doors, swinging open, shut,
two doors in the wind, back, and forth,
shadow to shadow.

(translated from the Spanish by James Wright)

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French symbolist poet, Stéphane Mallarmé: March 18, 1842 - 1898…

Salutation

Nothing! this foam and virgin verse
to designate nought but the cup;
such, far off, there plunges a troop
Of many Sirens upside down.
We are navigating, my diverse
Friends! I already on the poop
You the splendid prow which cuts
The main of thunders and of winters;
A fine ebriety calls me
Without fear of its rolling
To carry, upright, this toast
Solitude, reef, star
To whatever it was that was worth
Our sail’s white solicitude.

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Photo by Nadar, 1896…


Claire de lune, an 1894 painting by Felix Vallaton (1865-1925), in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

From Herodiade, a poem begun in 1864 by Stéphane Mallarmé (born 18 March, 1842; died 9 September, 1898), and left unfinished at the time of his death

And soon, when the sad sun sinks,
It shall pierce through the body of wax till it shrinks!
No sunset, but the red awakening
Of the last day concluding everything
Struggles so sadly that time disappears,
The redness of apocalypse, whose tears
Fall on the child, exiled to her own proud
Heart, as the swan makes its plumage a shroud
For its eyes, the old swan, and is carried away
From the plumage of grief to the eternal highway
Of its hopes, where it looks on the diamonds divine
Of a moribund star, which never more shall shine!

(translated by Henry Weinfield)

Et bientôt sa rougeur de triste crépuscule
Pénétrera du corps la cire qui recule !
De crépuscule, non, mais de rouge lever,
Lever du jour dernier qui vient tout achever,
Si triste se débat, que l’on ne sait plus l’heure
La rougeur de ce temps prophétique qui pleure
Sur l’enfant, exilée en son cœur précieux
Comme un cygne cachant en sa plume ses yeux,
Comme les mit le vieux cygne en sa plume, allée
De la plume détresse, en l’éternelle allée
De ses espoirs, pour voir les diamants élus
D’une étoile mourante, et qui ne brille plus.


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Russian composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: March 18, 1844 - 1908…

R-K’s best known orchestral compositions—Capriccio Espagnol, Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade—are considered staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas, including The Tale of Tsar Saltan which yielded his single most famous composition Flight of the Bumblebee


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Xavier J. Barile (Mar. 18, 1891 - 1981): Reclining Nude, 1930 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)
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Wilfred Owen (March 18, 1893 - 1918): British poet known for his anti-war poetry of WW I - a war that took his own life one week before armistice…

Wilfred Owen: Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. —
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.



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American novelist and short story writer John Updike: March 18, 1932 - 2009

“Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” — J.U.

John Updike was the great master of the domestic drama, told in the realist mode…

“Customs and convictions change; respectable people are the last to know, or to admit, the change, and the ones most offended by fresh reflections of the facts in the mirror of art.” — J.U.


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Richard Francis Burton (March 19, 1821 - 1890) was an English adventurer, explorer and literary man, who famously traveled throughout the Muslim world in mufti, even visiting Mecca, passing as a believer making the Hajj (pilgrimage).

Burton spoke numerous languages and produced translations of the unexpurgated 1001 Nights’ Tales and the Sanskrit Kama Sutra manual of human sexual behaviour…

“Travellers, like poets, are mostly an angry race: by falling into a daily fit of passion, I proved to the governor and his son, who were profuse in their attentions, that I was in earnest.” — R.F.B.


Of course, Richard Francis Burton was also the main protagonist of Philip José Farmer’s swashbuckling alternate world s-f sequence, The Riverworld Saga - a whacking good read!

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Philip Roth, the great Jewish-American novelist, turns 78 today!

“A Jew without Jews, without Judaism, without Zionism, without Jewishness, without a temple or an army or even a pistol, a Jew clearly without a home, just the object itself, like a glass or an apple. ” — Philip Roth


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Willem de Kooning: Seated Woman, 1940 - oil and charcoal / board




Willem de Kooning, Dutch-born American abstract expressionist painter - died this day in 1997, aged 92…


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Today is the birthday of mad German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin: March 20, 1770 - 1843…

Hölderlin: One Half of Life

Hung with golden pears
and full of wild roses
is the land in the sea.
Your stately swans,
drunk with kisses,
dunk their heads
in the holy, sobering water.

Alas, where shall I take, when
winter comes, flowers,
sunshine,
and shades of the Earth?
The walls stand,
speechless and cold, in the wind
the banners rattle.

********

(Painting of Hölderlin, 1792 - water color by Franz Karl Hiemer)



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Today is the birthday of Roman poet Ovid, known to his friends as ‘The Nose’: March 20, 43 BC – AD 17 or 18…

Ovid is famous for his re-interpretation of Greek mythology in the epic poem Metamorphoses. He was exiled to the farthest reach of the Roman Empire for crimes of poetry and love and died in Constanța (now Romania) on the Black Sea coast…

“Love and dignity cannot share the same abode.” — O.



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Johann Sebastian Bach: Mar. 21, 1685 - 1750!

Photo: Sonata for solo violin #1 in E minor, Johann Sebastian Bach




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A self-portrait made some time between 1630 and 1640 by Anthony Van Dyck (born 22 March, 1599; died 9 December, 1641) as part of his Iconography, an extensive collection of portraits of eminent people of his time; the etching printed above (representing an early state in the creation of this composition) is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
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Self-Obliteration by Dots, a 1967-1968 performance by Yayoi Kusama (born 22 March, 1929) documented here in a photograph by Hal Reif
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Joan Crawford (Mar. 23, 1905 - 1977) - major movie star of the ’30s, Academy Award winner in 1945 - and Pepsi mogul in the 1960s…!
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Birthday of Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa:Mar. 23, 1910 - 1998…

His work was jaw-droppingly good regardless of whether he used a katabasis structure similar to the American Western, as in Seven Samurai - or did a Shakespearean adaptation as in Ran…


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Erich Fromm, the Jewish-German psychoanalytical theorist and social psychologist who was associated with the Frankfurt School: March 23, 1900 - 1988.

Fromm was interested in the social implications of psychological processes and mechanism and emotions…

Fromm on love: “I believe that love is the main key to open the doors to the “growth” of man. Love and union with someone or something outside of oneself, union that allows one to put oneself into relationship with others, to feel one with others, without limiting the sense of integrity and independence. Love is a productive orientation for which it is essential that there be present at the same time: concern, responsibility, and respect for and knowledge of the object of the union.” (Credo, from On Being Human, English version, 1994)


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Peter Lorre, Hungarian-born actor and the scariest man in film - died this day in 1964, aged 59, of a stroke…

Photo: Still from Mad Love (w. Frances Drake), 1935)

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Liz Taylor - R.I.P.
Foto :Elizabeth Taylor in Iran

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The Great Escapist, Harry Houdini, was born March 24, 1874 (d. 1926, untreated appendicitis)…

Houdini (born Ehrich Weisz to a Jewish family in Budapest) came to America as a young child, and often tried to hide his foreign birth in later self-accounts. He taught himself a wide repertoire of magic tricks and stunts and gradually became successful, mainly in the area of escapology…

Houdini also did a lot of physical stunts and spent considerable time debunking so-called supernatural or spiritualist tricksters.


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Star of The Great Escape, Steve McQueen: Mar. 24, 1930 - 1980…
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The only true clown to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature…

Italian playwright, actor, comedian, activist: Dario Fo, 85 today!

“With comedy I can search for the profound.” — D.F.

Photo of Fo and Franca Rame, his wife and partner…


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Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the grand old man of Beat publication and founder of The City Lights bookshop and publishing house - and fine poet in his own right, turns 92 today!

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti - from Coney Island of the Mind

Don’t let that horse
eat that violin

cried Chagall’s mother

But he
kept right on
painting

And became famous

And kept on painting
The Horse with Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
and rode away

waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings
attached

(Photo: Scott Sommerdorf, 1987)


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Edward Weston (Mar. 24, 1886 - 1958) was an American photographer whose influence has been tremendous whether he showed landscapes, objects or nudes…

Photo of Weston and his Graflex camera in Mexico, by the great Tina Modotti, 1923


Edward Weston: Attic, Glendale, California, 1921
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Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), and (right) William Morris (born 24 March, 1834; died 3 October, 1896), pictured above at Burne-Jones’s home, the Grange, Fulham, in an 1874 photograph by Frederick Hollyer; in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

‘Morris, born at Walthamstow on 24 March 1834, had developed his love of medieval antiquity while at school at Marlborough, and had gone up to Exeter college, Oxford, in January 1853, a disciple of tractarianism and with the intention of taking holy orders. Here he formed his life-long friendship with Edward Burne-Jones, the two becoming the most prominent members of a circle, chiefly composed of schoolfellows of Burne-Jones from Birmingham and including the poet and historian Richard Watson Dixon. In 1855, this group took the title ‘the Brotherhood.’ Contact with men of common interests but of some variety of taste enlarged Morris’s sympathies. Under the guidance of Burne-Jones, he learned to appreciate Chaucer and Malory and was first introduced to northern mythology and epic. The contrast between the world of imaginative beauty in which he now found footing and the conventional hideousness of ordinary life gave definite shape to his imperfectly understood emotions. In the summer of 1855, Burne-Jones and Morris, returning from a tour in northern France and walking by night on the quay at Havre, decided to abandon their intention of taking orders and to devote themselves to art.’

—from The Cambridge History of English Literature, 1922

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James Arlington Wright (1927 – March 25, 1980) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet….

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James Wright: A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

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Claude Debussy at the piano, 1893

Claude Debussy, French Impressionist composer - died on this day in 1918, aged 55, from rectal cancer…

“Music is the space between the notes.” — C.D.


Debussy: Danse bohemienne (1880)



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Flannery O’Connor (March 25, 1925 – 1964, complications from lupus) was a Southern writer of novels (Wise Blood) and short stories (Everything That Rises Must Converge) depicting characters struggle to overcome the limitations of their environment and the general secularization of the 20th Century.

She resisted the often applied label of Southern Gothic and writer of grotesque fiction: “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”

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Academy Award winning actress, Simone Signoret (March 25, 1921 - 1985) was born in Germany to French parents but raised in Paris. Her breakthrough to international stardom came at the age of 38 with the British film Room at the Top (1959). She won an Oscar for her portrait of Alice Aisgill, an unhappily married woman who hopes she has found true love…
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Powerhouse feminist, writer, publisher and activist Gloria Steinem was born Mar. 25, 1934 - 77 today!

Her first coup (1963) was an undercover investigative piece on how Playboy bunnies were treated. She was active in the women’s movement throughout the ’60s and in 1972 founded Ms Magazine - creating a mainstream platform for broaching feminist issues and concerns…

Photo - 1968

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The second movement, Fuga (Risoluto, non troppo vivo), from the Sonata for Solo Violin, composed between 1943 and 1944 by Béla Bartók (born 25 March, 1881; died 26 September, 1945); composed originally for Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), it is interpreted here by Gidon Kremer


‘It might seem strange to the Bartók-conscious world of to-day, but the fact remains that the composer was at the time leading a life of obscurity and near poverty in a small New York apartment, plagued by ill-health and by a bitter and growing awareness of himself as a neglected stranger in the midst of the bustling musical life in America. Menuhin’s interest in his work excited and cheered Bartók, even as Bartók’s music had come to hold deep significance for the violinist, and he was eager to meet the composer.


[The violinist and composer met in November 1943. After playing together the first movement of Bartók’s First Violin Sonata, Bartók is said to have told Menuhin, ‘I thought works were only played in that way long after the composers were dead.’ Accounts vary as to whether the Sonata for Solo Violin was composed expressly at Menuhin’s request or whether it was a work that Bartok had been been considering already. In any case, Bartók completed the sonata for Menuhin on March 14, 1944, in Asheville, North Carolina, where the composer was undergoing treatment for his leukemia.]


‘The two met shortly before the first performance of this sonata on November 26, 1944, to discuss its final form. The composer’s luminous eyes seemed to burn with the inner flame that was consuming his life, and he was more than ever sparing of words, his manner alone indicating the friendship he felt for the young musician. Bartók briefly considered Menuhin’s suggestions in a voice that was soft but had at the same time a curious finality. When at one point, Menuhin asked if Bartók would make a slight alteration in a chord, the composer gazed at him for a moment or two and quietly said “No”, The chord remained unchanged.


Menuhin gave the sonata a magnificent first performance, but the critics, while applauding the violinist, reacted negatively to the composition. It must be said, in all fairness, that they should have been given one or two private hearings in advance of the public performance. Neither Bartók nor Yehudi had thought of doing it, and the critics were completely unprepared for the exacting task of tracing the sonatas complex inner line. This, in the words of Olin Downes, was “ a test for ears, intelligence, the receptiveness, the receptiveness of the most learned listener … On initial acquaintance, we take none too kindly to the piece.” […]


The initial coolness to his work did little to dismay the composer: he was too confident about it. And he rejoiced in what he called, “Menuhin’s wonderful performance”.’

—from Yehudi Menuhin: The Story of the Man and the Musician by Robert Magidoff (1956)



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March 26 is also the birthday of a great American dramatist, Tennessee Williams (1911 - 1983), author of classic plays such as The Glass Menagerie (1945), A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955 and The Night of the Iguana (1961)…

Photo: Yousef Karsh



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Walt Whitman, cosmic American poet - died on this day in 1892, aged 72, from bronchial pneumonia…

“Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?” — Allen Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California


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Gregory Corso, the brat of the Beat circle: March 26, 1930 - 2001…

The Whole Mess… Almost

I ran up six flights of stairs
to my small furnished room
opened the window
and began throwing out
those things most important in life

First to go, Truth, squealing like a fink:
‘Don’t! I’ll tell awful things about you!’
‘Oh yeah! Well, I’ve nothing to hide… OUT!’
Then went God, glowering & whimpering in amazement:
‘It’s not my fault! I’m not the cause of it all!’ ‘OUT!’
Then Love, cooing bribes: ‘You’ll never know impotency!
All the girls on Vogue covers, all yours!’
I pushed her fat ass out and screamed:
‘You always end up a bummer!’
I picked up Faith Hope Charity
all three clinging together:
‘Without us you’ll surely die!’
‘With you I’m going nuts! Goodbye!’

Then Beauty… ah, Beauty—
As I led her to the window
I told her: ‘You I loved the best in life
…but you’re a killer; Beauty kills!’
Not really meaning to drop her
I immediately ran downstairs
getting there just in time to catch her
‘You saved me!’ she cried
I put her down and told her: ‘Move on.’

Went back up those six flights
went to the money
there was no money to throw out.
The only thing left in the room was Death
hiding beneath the kitchen sink:
‘I’m not real!’ It cried
‘I’m just a rumor spread by life…’
Laughing I threw it out, kitchen sink and all
and suddenly realized Humor
was all that was left—
All I could do with Humor was to say:
‘Out the window with the window!’

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Today is also a two poets and a playwright day:

The grand old man of New England poetry, Robert Frost was born March 26, 1874 (d. 1963). His poetry captures the colloquial speech patterns of the people of his day with unerring accuracy…

Carpe Diem

Age saw two quiet children
Go loving by at twilight,
He knew not whether homeward,
Or outward from the village,
Or (chimes were ringing) churchward,
He waited, (they were strangers)
Till they were out of hearing
To bid them both be happy.
‘Be happy, happy, happy,
And seize the day of pleasure.’
The age-long theme is Age’s.
‘Twas Age imposed on poems
Their gather-roses burden
To warn against the danger
That overtaken lovers
From being overflooded
With happiness should have it.
And yet not know they have it.
But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in the present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
Than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing-
Too present to imagine.



“A poet never takes notes. You never take notes in a love affair.” — Robert Frost

Photo: F. Palumbo, 1941 - Library of Congress


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Quentin Tarantino, b. March 27, 1963 is one ugly mofo - and so are most of his movies… but they are also cool!
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Francis Ponge (born 27 March, 1899; died 6 August, 1988), pictured above in a photograph from the early 1950s for El Pais

‘On could give to all poems this title: Reasons for Living. For me, at least, my writings are like notes I attempt to take down, when, as the result of meditation or contemplation, there arises, like a rocket, a combination of words from within me that refreshes my body, and gives it reason to live a few days more. […] This is how I would justify myself: Because joy comes to me in contemplation, joy could as well return to me in the act of painting. These returns of joy, these refreshments of memories of objects and sensations—these, precisely, are what I call reasons for living.

If I call them reasons, it is because they represent returning to the spirit of things [… ] The spirit returns to things, in a manner acceptable to the things themselves: when the things are not imposed upon, which is to say that things must be described from their own point of view.

But this is a rule, or a demand for perfection, which is impossible [… ] There is always a relationship between things and us … things do not talk amongst themselves, but it is we who talk about things, and in the midst of things, and we cannot escape our own vantage point.

There is a kind of primordial aspect to things, and one has to create a new idiom to give them voice, so that we can be surprised by the sheer newness of things…’

—from Proêmes, 1948 (translated from the French)

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Cecil Bødker (born 27 March, 1927), pictured above in a 1996 photograph by Mads Madsen

Self-portrait

Weeds grow shamelessly
on my tongue
in the middle of a bed
of taste buds,
and among my hair’s
mangrove roots
swamp-fish shoal
like fleeing silvergreen
shadowanimals.

My heart dangles
carefree
on its string
from my lower left rib,
if it gets broken,
I’ll scatter it
like ashes on the top of my head,
—or perhaps
like gunpowder.

—translated from the Danish by Nadia Christensen
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Grace Hartigan (March 28, 1922 - 2008): Chinatown, 1956 - oil on canvas (Hirshhorn)

“How can I explain my love and respect for the poets who have enriched my life? Poetry is the most pure of the arts. It is non-utilitarian. The expression does not give the creator power, prestige or money. It tells us what life is about, what it is to feel, to think, to question.” — Grace H.

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Russian/Soviet playwright and social realist author Maxim Gorky was born March 28, 1868 (d. 1936)… The name Gorky is a pseudonym, meaning ‘bitter’ - a nom-de-plume he chose to designate his commitment to speaking the bitter truth about the corruption of life in Tsarist Russia before the Revolution.

“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.” — M. G.


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Dirk Bogarde (March 28, 1921 - 1999), British film and stage actor, known for many character parts such as von Aschenbach in the film of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (1971, directed by Visconti).

Late in life Bogarde launched a second career as an author of many autobiographical volumes and novels…

Photo by George Courtney Ward, 1959 - glossy bromide print (NPG, London)




Bjørn Andresen & Dirk Bogarde on the set of Death in Venice

Photo by Patrick Lichfield, June 1970 - archival inkjet print (NPG, London)

“The camera can photograph thought.” — Dirk Bogarde


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Virginia Woolf, English writer and feminist philosopher - committed suicide on this day in 1941, aged 59…

Her note to her husband Leonard read:

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ‘til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.

Photo of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, July 1902 - platinum print (NPG, London)

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Above: The Bloomsbury Group in the garden at Charleston, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s home, in 1930. Standing from left to right are Angus Davidson, Duncan Grant, Julian Bell and Leonard Woolf. Seated are (a smiling!) Virginia Woolf, Margaret Duckworth, and Clive and Vanessa Bell. From the Tate Archive.

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Marc Chagall, Russian-born Jewish-French painter of wondrous scenes of flying people and fiddling goats - died this day in 1985, aged 97…

Photo of Marc Chagall by Ida Kar, 1954 - vintage bromide print (NPG, London)


Marc Chagall: Solitude, 1933 - Oil on canvas (Tel-Aviv Museum of Art)
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Ernst Jünger (born 29 March, 1895; died 17 February, 1998), pictured above with a turtle in 1997 (from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

‘The special trait making me an anarch is that I live in a world which I ‘ultimately’ do not take seriously. This increases my freedom; I serve as a temporary volunteer.’

—from Eumeswil (1977; translated from the German)

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Francisco Goya (March 30, 1746 - 1828): Self-Portrait in the Studio, 1790s - Oil on canvas (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid)



Goya: Nude Admiring Herself in the Mirror, 1796–1797 (Álbum de Madrid) - Drawing in gouache and ink on paper
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French poête maudit, Paul Verlaine: Mar. 30, 1844 - 1896…

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Verlaine: The Moon, White…
(La Bonne Chanson: VI)

The moon, white,
Shines in the trees:
From each bright
Branch a voice flees
Beneath leaves that move,

O well-beloved.
The pools reflect
A mirror’s depth,
The silhouette
Of willows’ wet
Black where the wind weeps…

Let us dream, time sleeps.

It seems a vast, soothing,
Tender balm
Is falling
From heaven’s calm
Empurpled by a star…

It’s the exquisite hour.




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Countee Cullen - Harlem Renaissance poet: Mar. 30, 1903 - 1946…

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Countee Cullen: Incident

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee;
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.


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Strange coincidence that March 30 is the shared birthday of two seminal figures in Modern Art - the last of the old masters and first of the Moderns: Francisco Goya; and Vincent van Gogh who more than anyone embodied the legend of the torture artist…

Above: Vincent van Gogh: March 30, 1853 - 1890, suicide…





Vincent Van Gogh: Couple making love, 1885 (Nuenen period - Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum)


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Octavio Paz (March 31, 1914 - 1998), Mexican Nobel Laureate in Literature, 1990…

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Between going and staying the day wavers

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

(Photo: Gorka Lejarcegi)

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Andrew Marvell (March 31, 1621 - 1678), author of the most perfect Carpe Diem poem, “To His Coy Mistress” (why seize the day if not for the purpose of making love?)…

…at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace…

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René Descartes (Mar. 31, 1596 – 1650): French philosopher, mathematician and logician…

René’s top three:

Dubium sapientiae initium. Doubt is the origin of wisdom.

Cogito, ergo sum. I think therefore I am.

Ex nihilo nihil fit. Nothing comes out of nothing.

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