Thursday, May 21, 2009

Artists' Day, 21st of May

So proclaimed by Vanilla at String Too Short to Tie.
The world has been doubly blessed by men born on this date, for in 1471 Albrecht Durer was born in Germany. Scarcely exists a person in the Western World who is not familiar with at least one of his works. And although there exist literally hundreds of his great paintings and etchings, chances are the one shown here is the one with which you are most familiar. This work was a tribute to his brother, Albert, who went to work in the mines to support his brother as he studied art, though they were equally talented. Albert's mangled, arthritic hands were no longer able to hold a brush when Albrecht, now famous and well-paid, offered to support him as he studied. Good story. Look it up.
Albrecht Durer 1471 - 1528 RIP
Our second honoree is unquestionably the greatest poet of the eighteenth century, Alexander Pope. Pope was born in London on May 21, 1688. Having encountered a tough taskmaster (read "tyrant") as my high school senior English teacher, I committed a number of Pope's couplets to memory. (Thank you, Miss Bateman. I needed that. And I appreciate the effort you put into attempting to save me from philistinism.) I digress.
Pope suffered a serious and debilitating illness at age twelve and never grew taller than 4' 6", a true intellectual giant in a tiny body.
One of my favorite couplets is from "Essay on Criticism" in which Pope writes,
"Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."
And from the same work,
"Words are like leaves, and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found."
And truly every "critic" should have this drilled into his mind and heart:
"In every work regard the writer's end,
Since none can compass more than they intend;
And if the means be just, the conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due;
As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,
To avoid great errors, must the less commit;
Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays,
For not to know some trifles, is a praise.
Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
Still make the whole depend upon a part.
They talk of principles, but notions prize,
And all to one loved folly sacrifice."
Alexander Pope 1688 - 1744 RIP

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