On this day in 1685 the English poet and dramatist John Gay was born.
Gay seems to have been a man who made friends easily and was able to find patrons for his work in spite of their somewhat risqué nature. He is best known for his play The Beggars Opera which is a thinly veiled satire criticising government of the day under Robert Walpole.
Gay is buried at Westminster Abbey. The epitaph that he wrote for himself is suitably wry: ‘Life is a jest, and all things show it, I thought so once, and now I know it.’
Here is a poem on life in all its stages, by William Shakespeare:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Today I will be grateful that I have feelings that I can recognise.