"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Birthdays Today

Some really interesting birthdays today.   In 1608 on this date, the poet John Milton was born.  Where does Milton rank in English poets?  For my money, just below Shakespeare, and even with Wordsworth and Tennyson.   In other words, he's in the pantheon of the greatest poets.   His great work, of course, is Paradise Lost, and his greatest creation was the romantic, seductive Satan that dominates the action in the poem:               
                          Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:

Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
Also born today, in 1916, the actor Kirk Douglas.   Douglas doesn't make the top tier of Hollywood actors in my view, but he starred in two of my all-time favorite movies, Paths of Glory, Kubrick's great anti-war movie, and Spartacus.   Here is his great speech near the end of Paths of Glory:

Finally, it is also the birthday of the second greatest football player ever, the great middle linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Dick Butkus.   Second, because, well, there's Jim Brown.  

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