Tom's Book of Days
      April 21-30  

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April 21


323 BCE: Diogenes of Sinope, the Cynic (the guy who went around with a lantern looking for an honest man), dies.

1519: Cortes lands at Veracruz, Mexico. (See The Discovery of America and Other Myths [Chronicle Books], if you can find it.)

1894: George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man opens to cheers, with the sole exception of one who boos. Shaw bows to his detractor: "I quite agree with you, sir, but what can two do against so many?"

1910: Mark Twain dies in Redding, Connecticut, upon the reappearance of Halley's Comet, which had last shone the year he was born.


April 22


currency event

1707: Henry Fielding is born.

1724: Immanuel Kant is born.

1864: "In God We Trust" is approved as a motto on US coins. In times of war, some folks get religion. Apparently the inspiration for the motto on U.S. coins came from a letter sent from Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, to Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Watkinson wrote:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

Following Congress's act on this day, the motto will be applied to the one-cent and two-cent coins in 1964. Between 1883 and 1938 its usage will begin to fade; after 1938 all coins will bear the motto. This will be institutionalized by a law passed by Congress and approved by the President in 1955.

1870: V.I. Lenin is born.

1899: Kate Chopin's The Awakening is published.


April 23


M. Nabokov lui-meme

1564, 1616: William Shakespeare is born, according to traditional reckoning (his baptism will be recorded in the annals of Holy Trinity Parish in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26). He will die on the same date of April 23, in 1616. Miguel de Cervantes also dies on that date--but not on that day, because England, unlike Spain, has not yet adopted the Gregorian calendar.

1696: William Caslon, typographer, is born.

  • Caslon is "the typographical epitome of the English baroque" (Robert Bringhurst).
  • "To the question, 'What is the best type for all purposes which has been designed from the beginning of printing ntil the present day?' there can be no uncertain answer. The type is that designed and cut by William Caslon. It can be used for years for all purposes without palling on the taste" (Douglas C. McMurtrie).
  • "I'll stick with Caslon until I die" (George Bernard Shaw).
  • "I am not a great enthusiast over Caslon. It is at most a safe type for general use and moderately picturesque" (Bruce Rogers).

1849: Marx writes to Engels: "Keep your chin up. Les choses marcheront."

1899: Vladimir Nabokov is born in St. Petersburg.


April 24


m. de lisle chante

1792: "La Marseillaise," is composed by Captain Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle on the occasion of France's declaration of war on Austria. (He performs the song for the first time on the 25th.) Ironically, although De Lisle supported the monarchy, the song would be taken up by the revolutionary movement.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves
De traîtres, de rois conjurés?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés?
Français, pour nous, ah! quel outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter?
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage!

Quoi ces cohortes étrangères!
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers!
Quoi! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fils guerriers!
Grand Dieu! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres des destinées.

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides
L'opprobre de tous les partis
Tremblez! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix!
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros
La France en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre.

Français, en guerriers magnanimes
Portez ou retenez vos coups!
Épargnez ces tristes victimes
À regret s'armant contre nous
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires
Mais ces complices de Bouillé
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié
Déchirent le sein de leur mère!

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre!

Amour sacré de la Patrie
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté, Liberté chérie
Combats avec tes défenseurs!
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire!

English lyrics:
Sheet music:
Audio files:

1800: The US Library of Congress is established by Congress.

1849: French troops land at Cività Vecchia to restore Pius IX.

1898: Spain rejects an ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba and declares war on the US.

1915: Mass deportation of Armenians from Turkey begins.

1970: Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane is invited to a White House party by Tricia Nixon. She shows up with Abbie Hoffman, who is on trial for conspiring to riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Hoffman is turned away, and Slick leaves with him.

1970: The People's Republic of China launches a satellite transmitting the song "The East is Red."


April 25



1324: An entry in the Jornal de la Chambre of King Edward II shows a pence a day paid to one "Robyn Hod" for service to the King. Shown is a detail from "Robin and the Tinker at the Blue Boar Inn" by Howard Pyle, from his The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1883).

1599: Oliver Cromwell is born.

1846: A scouting party of US soldiers under the command of Captain Seth Thornton is attacked at el Rancho de Carricitos, about twenty miles from Fort Texas (later Brownsville). US President Polk takes advantage of this incident to declare war on Mexico. See The US-Mexican War, also April 11.

1898: April 25 is a great day for declaring war. This time war is declared on Spain.


April 26


mr. hopper

1564: William Shakespeare is baptized in the parish church at Stratford-On-Avon.

1731: Daniel Defoe dies in London, where he is hiding from creditors.

1865: John Wilkes Booth is shot dead near Bowling Green, Virginia.

1877: Minnesota declares a day of prayer for deliverance from the grasshopper.

1848: Alfred Russell Wallace and Henry Walter Bates sail from Liverpool for the Amazon. Over years of research there they would indepedently of Darwin develop a theory of natural selection,

1986: In Pripet, Russia, the Chernobyl nuclear plant explodes, causing the death of untold numbers of people. How many people have really been killed by Chernobyl? (Mary Mycio in


April 27


ralph waldo emerson

1174: According to Andreas Capellanus's treatise on courtley love, De Amore (one of Chaucer's sources for the Canterbury Tales), Marie de Champagne was asked to arbitrate questions of love, notably whether romantic love is possible between a man and wife. On this date, she sends her reply in a formal letter: "No."
      Armed with such information, De Amore gives us the following rules of love:

      The Rules of Love

      1. Marriage is no excuse for not loving.
      2. He who is not jealous can not love.
      3. No one can be bound by two loves.
      4. Love is always growing or diminishing.
      5. It is not good for one lover to take anything against the will of the other.
      6. A male cannot love until he has fully reached puberty.
      7. Two years of mourning for a dead lover are prescribed for surviving lovers.
      8. No one should be deprived of love without a valid reason.
      9. No one can love who is not driven to do so by the power of love.
      10. Love always departs from the dwelling place of avarice.
      11. It is not proper to love one whom one would be ashamed to marry.
      12. The true lover never desires the embraces of any save his lover.
      13. Love rarely lasts when it is revealed.
      14. An easy attainment makes love contemptible; a difficult one makes it more dear.
      15. Every lover turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
      16. When a lover suddenly has sight of his beloved, his heart beats wildly.
      17. A new love expells an old one.
      18. Moral integrity alone makes one worthy of love.
      19. If love diminishes, it quickly leaves and rarely revives.
      20. A lover is always fearful.
      21. True jealousy always increases the effects of love.
      22. If a lover suspects another, jealousy and the efects of love increase.
      23. He who is vexed by the thoughts of love eats little and seldom sleeps.
      24. Every action of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.
      25. The true lover believes only what he thinks will please his beloved.
      26. Love can deny nothing to love.
      27. A lover can never have enough of the embraces of his beloved.
      28. The slightest suspicion incites the lover to suspect the worse of his beloved.
      29. He who suffers from an excess of passion is not suited to love.
      30. The true lover is continuously obsessed with the image of his beloved.
      31. Nothing prevents a woman from being loved by two men, or a man from being loved by two women.

1521: Ferdinand Magellan is killed in the Philippines.

1882: Ralph Waldo Emerson dies from the effects of a cold caught when he attended the funeral of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

193: Hart Crane jumps overboard, a suicide at 34, while returning by ship from Mexico.


April 28


1770: James Cook "discovers" Botany Bay in Australia.

1789: Fletcher Christian leads a group of mutineers against Captain William Bligh aboard the HMS Bounty.

1945: Around midnight Adolf Hitler weds Eva Braun (in a Berlin bunker). A day or two later (April 30) they commit suicide.

1953: After engineering the overthrow of the democratically elected government, the CIA installs the Shah in Iran, beginning his 25-year dictatorship.

1967: Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the army during the Vietnam War, is stripped of his championship title by the World Boxing Association. On June 20th, a federal court convicts Ali for violating the Selective Service Act, handing him a fine and a five-year prison sentence. In 1971, the Supreme Court unanimously overturns the conviction. Ali regained his title in 1974, defeating George Foreman in Zaire.

1977: The Mothers of the Disappeared hold their first rally at Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


April 29



FESTIVAL OF FLORA: The Roman goddess of flowers and gardens, known to the Greeks as Chloris, was a licentious celebration involving public sexual exhibitions.

1429: Jean d'Arc leads Orleans, France, to victory over the English.

1899: Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington is born.

1990: Demolition of the Berlin Wall begins near Brandenburg Gate.


April 30


Walpurgisnacht by Norman Lindsay (detail)

Faust's Vision by Falero (detail)

The Witches' Sabbath by Goya (detail

Margarita Flying to the Witches Sabbath by  Nikas Safronov (detail)

Illustration for Faust by Eugene Delacroix (detail)

HT in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

BELTANE: Also known as Roodmas, Walpurgisnacht, and May Day, Beltane is one of the two major sabbats in the wiccan year (the other is halloween, to which Beltane is the calendrical opposite). The Celtic name Beltane derives from the Irish Gaelic "Bealtaine" or the Scottish Gaelic "Bealtuinn," meaning "Bel-fire," that is, the fire of the Celtic god of light, Bel, who may be traced to the Middle Eastern god Baal. By Celtic reckoning, Beltane begins on sundown of the preceding day (so that "May Day" may be said to occur in April according to the current calendar), because the Celts figured their days from sundown to sundown. At sundown, Druids would kindle great Bel-fires on hilltops. The fires were considered to have healing properties, and witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection. Beltane celebrations had a strong sexual element, which is why Puritans made the scandalously (to them at least) suggestive maypoles (wink wink nudge nudge say no more) illegal in 1644.

      Sgt. Howie (shocked): "But they are naked!"
      Lord Summerisle: "Naturally. It's much too dangerous to jump through the fire with your clothes on!"
The Wicker Man (dir. Dir: Robin Hardy, 1973)

As the cross-quarter between the equinox and the solstice, Beltane represents the final defeat of winter. Before departing, however, the witches have one last fling. In Germany, Walpurgisnacht celebrations were similar to those of Halloween, featuring witches, goblins, and pranks. It was popularized internationally by the famous scene in Goethe's Faust in which in which Mephistopheles takes Faust to revel with the witches:

Witches [in Chorus].
The Witches to the Brocken go;
The grain is green, the stubble aglow.
There gathers all the mighty host;
Sir Urian' sits uppermost.
So goes it over stone and stock;
The Witch breaks wind, and stinks the buck.
A Voice. Alone old Baubo's coming now;
She's riding upon a farrow sow.
So honour to whom honour is due!
In front, Dame Baubo! Lead the crew!
A sturdy sow with mother astride,
All witches follow in a tide.
A Voice. Which way did you come here?
A Voice. The Ilsenstein way.
I peeped in the owl's nest there today.
She made great eyes at me!
A Voice.
Oh, fare on to Hell!
Why ride so pell-mell?
A Voice. Just see how she's flayed me!
The wounds she has made me!
Witches [Chorus].
The way is broad, the way is long;
What is that mad and crazy throng?
The broomstick pokes, the pitchfork thrusts,
The infant chokes, the mother busts.
Wizards [Half Chorus].
We steal along, like snails' our pace;
All women beat us in the race.
If toward Hell we set our pace,
By a thousand steps they win the race.
Other Half.
Not so precisely do we take it,
In a thousand steps may woman make it;
Yet though she hastes as ever she can,
In a single leap it's done by man.
A Voice [from above]. Come with us from the cliff-bound mere!
A Voice [from below]. We'd like to go with you up there.
We wash and we're scoured all bright and clean,
But sterile still as we've always been.
Both Choruses.
The wind is stilled, the stars take flight,
The dismal moon fain hides its light;
In whiz and whirr the magic choir
By thousands sputters out sparks of fire.
A Voice [from below]. Halt there! Ho, there! Ho!
A Voice [from above]. Who calls out from the cleft below?
A Voice [below]. Take me too! Take me too!
I'm climbing now three hundred years
And I can never reach the summit.
I want to be among my peers.
Both Choruses.
The broomstick bears, and bears the stock,
The pitchfork bears, and bears the buck.
Who cannot lift himself today,
Is a lost man for aye and aye.
Half-Witch [below]. I've tripped behind so many a day,
And now the others are far away!
I've no repose at home, and yet
Here too there's none for me to get.
Chorus of Witches.
Salve puts a heart in every hag,
Good as a sail is any rag;
A good ship every trough is too.
You'll fly not 'less today you flew.
Both Choruses.
And when we glide the peak around,
Then sweep along upon the ground;
Bedeck both far and wide the heather
With all your witchdom's swarm together.

            --George Madison Pries, trans.

1844: More fire in the woods: Thoreau accidentally burns 300 acres of forest near Concord, Massachusetts, during a fishing trip, causing $2,000 in damages.

continue to May 1


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