Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy birthday, Will

As you're probably aware, today is Shakespeare's birthday (and, supposedly, also the date of his death).  I've always thought that almost any other nation, presented with the coincidence that its greatest writer's birthday falls on the day of its patron saint, would have been only too eager to declare a national holiday, but to my disappointment the English have always resisted the idea.  I'm disappointed, I should add, not for any nationalistic reasons, but just because it happens to be my birthday as well.

Still, the English do finally seem to be reclaiming St George and their national heritage from the far-right.  There's an interesting article in today's Guardian looking at the St George's day folk-music bash being organised in Trafalger Square by the Mayor of London, alongside a rather more radical commemoration of the Topuddle Martyrs being organised on the same day by Billy Bragg and Martin Carthy.  The article  touches on the rather depressing attempts by the British National Party to appropriate English folk music to its political aims. All the more reason, I suppose, to applaud Billy Bragg's notion of the 'progressive patriot'.

Elsewhere in the Guardian, the poet Ian McMillan draws our attention to the remarkable array of other poets who followed Shakespeare's example by dying on 23 April.  These include, apparently, Cervantes, William Wordsworth, Henry Vaughn and Rupert Brooke.  I'm not really a poet, but I have had a few poems published over the years.  So perhaps I should keep my head down today, just in case.


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