"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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birthdays Today

Today is the birthday of Lord Byron.   Born in 1788, Byron, to me anyway, would rank third or fourth in the pantheon of great English Romantic poets, behind Wordsworth and Keats, and tied with or just ahead or behind of Shelley.   I don't recollect much of Byron the way I recall Wordsworth or Keats; this is probably the poem I would gravitate to:

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.

It's also the birthday of George Balanchine, the choreographer, born in 1904.  I'm not much on ballet, but Balanchine also did some great work for Broadway theater in its classic period in the 1930s-1950s; here is a famous ballet called "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," with Vera Ellen and the great (okay, I say that a lot, but this time I really mean it) Gene Kelly:

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