Literary Birthdays: Week of December 14 – 20

December 14

Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame) (b. 1503) – French clairvoyant / prophet – Les Propheties

December 15

Betty Smith (Elisabeth Wehner) (b. 1896) – U.S. Novelist / playwright – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

December 16

Noel Coward

Noel Coward (b. 1899) British playwright and composer

Read about Noel Coward here and here

About Coward’s 1941 comedy “Blithe Spirit” and its genesis

“His audacity in putting mortality, however farcically conceived, on stage at the height of a war which was wiping out whole communities is breathtaking and characteristically fearless.”

Listen to Coward’s song “There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner”

Song: There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner (second refrain)
There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be,
There are black birds over
The grayish cliffs of Dover
And the vultures are hovering
Round the Christmas tree.
We’re an unhappy breed
And ready to stampede
When we’re asked to remember what Lincoln said,
We’re going to untense our muscles till they sag sag sag
And wait until we drop down dead.

Noel Coward and Esme Wynne’s “Rules of Palship” (written in 1915 when Coward was age 15)

(1). We must not tease each other and if we begin we must stop directly we are asked.

(2). We must take it in turns to go and see one another and if one goes twice running to the other’s house, the other must do the same afterwards.

(3). We must never split on one another even if the PALSHIP is dissolved and we must hold all confidences sacred.

(4). We must share all profits in any transaction made together, however slight the help of the other may be. Profits are excluded from any expenses incurred during the said transaction.

(5). In case of serious quarrel a week or a fortnight may be taken to think things over before abolishing the PALSHIP.

(6). If one hits the other either in anger or fun, he must allow the other to hit back. Any other offence must be paid for.

(7). We must stick up for each other against anyone or anything, and stand by each other in all danger.

(8). We must tell each other all secrets concerned with ourselves, other confidences may be held sacred even from one another.

(9). We must not talk RELIGION unless it is inevitable.

(10). When writing to mutual friends we must tell each other, we must also tell each other what we have said in the letter.

(11). We must swear by “HONOUR AS A PAL” and hold it THE most sacred of bonds in the world.

(12). We must tell each other what we think about the other’s appearance or behaviour.

(13). We must go straight to one another in case of mischief being made and believe NOTHING unless it comes from the other’s own lips.

(14). NO ONE, not even our Parents, may keep us from one another.

(15). If any other rules are formed or thought of, the must be added (with the consent of both) at the end of this document.

(16). NO OTHER PERSON may be admitted into our PALSHIP or SECRETS.

December 17

John Greenleaf Whittier (b. 1807) U.S. Quaker poet

The Quakers Are Out!

(A campaign song for the 1860 election, in which Pennsylvania
voted earlier than other states, and Lincoln supporters won, with solid Quaker voting support.)

Not vainly we waited and counted the hours,
The buds of our hope have all burst into flowers.
No room for misgiving–no loop-hole of doubt,–
we’ve heard from the Keystone! The Quakers are out!
The plot has exploded–we’ve found out the trick;
The bribe goes a-begging; the fusion won’t stick.
When the Wide-awake lanterns are shining about,
The rogues stay at home, and the true men are out!
The good State has broken the cords for her spun;
Her oil-springs and water won’t fuse into one;
The Dutchman has seasoned with Freedom his krout,
And slow, late, but certain, the Quakers are out!
Give the flags to the winds! set the hills all aflame!
Make way for the man with the Patriarch’s name!
Away with misgivings–away with all doubt,
For Lincoln goes in when the Quakers are out!

December 18

Khas-Magomed Hadjimuradov (b. 1953) – Kazakh Chechen songwriter

Read the Wikipedia bio of Hadjimuradov here

Short bio and song links here

Watch a performance of Hadjimuradov’s song “Freedom or Death”

Another song here

Excerpt from the song Invasion (Нашествие)

The East, all aglow with fires flared
(Пылал Восток, весь заревом пожарищ)
And the steppe burnt, exactly like hell.
(И степь горела, точно как в аду.)
And leaving behind only death,
(И, оставляя за собою смерть лишь,)
Beneath the sun, the Mongolian Khan led the hordes.
(За солнцем вёл монгольский хан орду.)
The earth all around shivered to the sea.
(До моря вся земля вокруг дрожала,)
And the dust from the hoofs reached as far as heaven!
(И пыль из-под копыт – аж до небес! )
Yes, the steppe has a malicious sharp sting:
(Да, у степной ехидны остро жало: )
When fighting, the steppe-dweller is more terrible than a demon.
(В бою степняк ведь был страшней, чем бес.)

December 19

Su Tung-p’o [Su Shi] (b. 1036 or 1037) Chinese Buddhist poet of the Song Dynasty

To what can human life be likened?
Perhaps to a wild goose’s footprint on snow;
The print is accidentally left,
But carefree, the bird flies east and west.

December 20

Nalo Hopkinson (b. 1960) Jamaican-Canadian novelist / short story writer – Brown Girl in the Ring

Read about Nalo Hopkinson here

“Hopkinson is also often credited with helping to pave a way for writers of color to enter the mainstream of the SFF genre, historically dominated by white male writers. Having scooped up a number of major awards, she’s also become a popular speaker at science fiction conventions and helped found the Carl Brandon Society, an organization devoted to exploring race and ethnicity in speculative fiction.”

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