Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Now that it's over

Yesterday was my birthday. I've arrived at a point where that's rather less an occasion for celebration than for whining, so I try to ignore it as much as possible.

I'm quite fortunate that my folks are still living, hale and hearty, young octogenarians. Mom is recently embarked on a Snowshoe Siamese breeding project, and I spent several hours yesterday with Dad, tromping through cattle pens in the search for a perfect heifer bull. This gives me hope that I've got another twenty good years before I succumb to bed-ridden invalidity.

Of course you never know.

I took a gander through the interwebs last evening to see how many famous people share my birthday. Lon Chaney Jr., Jimmy Durante, Robert Wagner, and Mark Spitz. Lots of young apparently famous names and faces that I do not recognize at all. As I suspect they do not recognize me.

But a couple of the ones I didn't recognize jumped out at me.

Ever hear of Sir John Suckling?
Sir John Suckling, February 10, 1609 - June 1, 1642. S
I admit it was the name that drew me in. Imagine carrying that moniker around in junior high.

But I plunged in and read a fascinating tale at the poetry foundation

Suckling was a "Cavalier," a term derived from the french cheval, or horse. A member of the gentlemanly social class, Suckling was allied to Charles I and an active fighter in both military and political battles. Alongside others of his class and allegiance, he went to war a-horseback in the English Civil War.

He was also a poet and playwright. His plays are said to be rather pedestrian, but noted for lavish sets, scenery, and costumes. His poetry is held in higher esteem and includes, "Ballade upon a Wedding", "I prithee, send me back my heart," "Out upon it, I have loved three whole days together," and "Why so pale and wan, fond lover?" from Aglaura.
Fragmenta Aurea, 1646. S
I've only scanned his poems, but they're well conceived and there's more than a hint of a lively and passionate mind there. He is/was well known as an outrageous rake, and it comes through in his verse. That alone is enough to endear him to me.

I rather like his poem "A Soldier," the title of which echoes through time in Frost's later work.

I am a man of war and might,
And know thus much, that I can fight,
Whether I am i'th' wrong or right, devoutly.

No woman under heaven I fear,

New Oaths I can exactly swear,
And forty Healths my brain will bear most stoutly.

I cannot speak, but I can doe

As much as any of our crew.
And if you doubt it, some of you may prove me.

I dare be bold thus much to say,

If that my bullets do but play,
You would be hurt so night and day, Yet love me.

Suckling died in Paris in 1642, allegedly at his own hand. I'll have to read more about him.


The other famous fellow who caught my eye was Samuel Plimsoll.

Samuel Plimsoll, February 10, 1824 - June 3, 1898. S
As you might have guessed, Plimsoll was the inventor of "Plimsoll Lines," those markings near the waterline of ships hulls which indicate draft and freeboard. This simple-seeming marking scheme is taken for granted today, but it's adoption is credited with saving countless ships and the lives of countless sailors down the years.

Plimsoll is another Englishman, born at Bristol and, unsurprisingly, strongly associated with the sea and seafaring. During a down time in his early life he dedicated himself to improving the lot of the socially disadvantaged, including that of sailors condemned to sail in 'coffin ships."

He was elected a Liberal Member of Parliament for Derby in 1867. In 1872 he published a pamphlet called Our Seamen, a treatise on Britain's merchant fleet and in part the plight of her merchant sailors. A year later, backed by strong support generated by Our Seamen, Plimsoll introduced a bill calling for reforms. Eventually the reforms were adopted, but not before a dramatic scene in Parliament where he called some members "villians" and shook his fist in the Speaker's face.

As you might have guessed, I like the cut of his jib.

Memorial to Samuel Plimsoll, Victoria Embankment, London. S

And that's about enough, don't you think?


  1. Nice post-birthday post. (Heh.)

    Plimsoll I'd heard of, seems like a fine fellow. Sir John rang a very faint bell, how does one forget a name like "Suckling"? Those cavalrymen, always popular with the ladies. At least in their own minds.

    1. Sounds like they were the Fighter Pilots of their time.

      You did know I'd have to chime in with that, dinja?

      Wishing you well on your next trip around the sun!

    2. I did. I would have been disappointed otherwise.


    3. Fighter pilots wouldn't let a little thing like the airplane not being invented cramp their style!