Sunday, April 23, 2006

Birthday boys

No, no, no no! Come, let's away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i' th' cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
And take upon 's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies: and we'll wear out,
In a wall'd prison, pack and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by th' moon.

--King Lear

It is first and foremost, of course, William Shakespeare's birthday.

But also born on this date were Vladimir Nabokov--

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged—the same house, the same people—and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a band-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.

--Speak, Memory

And Halldor Laxness, Nobel Prize winner from Iceland--

He started crying then. This was the first great sorrow of his life he could remember. He was sure he had not cried so bitterly since he was sent away from his mother in a sack one winter's day, long before memory began. Admittedly he had never understood the book, but that did not matter. What mattered was that this was his secret, his dream, his refuge; in short, it was his book. He wept as only children weep when they sufer injustice at the hands of those stronger than themselves. It is the most bitter weeping in the world. That was what happened to his book; it was taken from him and burned. And he was left standing naked and without a book on the first day of summer.

--World Light

And dying on this date (or not, depending on your source) in 1616 were both Shakespeare and Cervantes.

This was the end of the Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha, whose village Cide Hamete did not wish to name precisely, so that all the towns and villages of La Mancha might contend among themselves to claim him as their own, as the seven cities in Greece contended to claim Homer.

--Don Quixote

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