Friday, January 27, 2006

Birthday boys

January 27 is the birthday of two famous men. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27, 1756. A child prodigy, he toured Germany at the age of six, and at the age of seven his father Leopold (a music teacher) took the young Wolfgang and his older sister on a three-year tour of Europe's royal courts. Mozart once said, "People err who think my art comes easily to me." He died at the age of 35, but during his short lifetime he composed 40 concertos, 49 symphonies, and a wide range of other works, including operas such as The Marriage of Figaro (1784) and The Magic Flute (1791). Mozart once wrote: "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

My favourite pieces by Mozart include his Flute and Harp Concerto, his Clarinet Concerto in A Major, and his Piano Concertos 20 - 23. I listened to a lot of Mozart's music whilst writing my Tolkien paper earlier this month. If you're interested in learning more about Mozart, I recommend The Classic FM Friendly Guide to Mozart, which comes with a CD of excerpts from his 20 "greatest hits". Tim Lihoreau used to present a Saturday morning show on Classic FM with two colleagues and I am sure his sense of humour and enjoyment of music will be evident in this book that he has co-authored with Darren Henley.

The man who shares his birthday with Mozart is well known to even those with little interest in either children's literature or fantasy. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is better known as Lewis Carroll, was born in Daresbury, Cheshire on January 27th, 1832. He was a mathematician and taught at the University of Oxford. One day, he took the three young daughters of Henry Liddell, who was the Dean of Christ Church College (Dodgson's college) on a boat trip up the Thames for a picnic. Dodgson told them a fantastic story about a girl named Alice and "Her Adventures Underground." The girls, Alice, Lorina and Edith, begged him to write the story down for them and he did. The story was subsequently published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, and a second book, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, was published in 1871. They went on to become two of the most popular books in the world. There has been much controversy over Dodgson's relationship with Alice Liddell, but whatever the truth (and I don't pretend to know the truth), the books are fun, inspirational and challenging. I particularly like this poem:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

If the Jabberwocky baffles you rather than causing you to rejoice in its wonderful nonsensical rhymes, you may be interested in the site Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.


Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the tip on Lewis Carroll!

Michele said...

You're welcome - always glad to be informative !