Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Paris, in Balzac’s words ‘is a sentient being’. If you need understand its sense of being one need only have entered into one of its houses in the early nineteenth- century Paris. Different classes and degrees of affluence might well be housed in the same building; only a subtle hint clued you in: higher you climbed you were entering a world of its own something out of Dante’s inferno. For every casual visitor again to quote Balzac, ‘Paris is still the same monstrous miracle, as astounding assemblage of movements, machines and ideas, the city of thousand different romances, the world’s thinking voice.’

Paris in the fin de siècle for all the restless movements must not have imagined it was standing on the rim of a crater and the beguiling way of living was merely a mood; despite swirling in a whirligig of ideas and fads the city would soon be swallowed up by the events of 1914. As such the good old days of Paris mark socially as well as culturally  a distinct social phenomenon called La Belle Époque.

France had much to be proud about. The nations industrial, scientific and cultural advances would be showcased by the International Exposition of 1900 and the Eifel Tower was its jewel in the crown. A million visitors ascended the Tower, which was completed 11 years before, all blissfully forgotten of its scathing reception during its erection (‘A ghastly dream’ it was called in 1887; Guy de Maupassant supposedly ate lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the one place in Paris where the tower was not visible.)

On April, 14,1900 at four in the afternoon a balloon rose from the Tuileries Garden while 15,000 Parisians watched the cameraman who filmed the city for the coming Cinéorama, to be screened at the Exhibition that was due to open on the Left Bank.

The city was remodeled in the 1850s during the Empire Days by Baron Haussmann and had survived great many upheavals since then( the Commune of 1871 and Metro, whose first line opened to coincide with the Exhibition) and was the pleasure ground for two and a half million people. Symptomatic of the grand vision of the city everything was gigantic: the Ferris wheel 350 feet high, could carry 1,600 people at a time; The President of the Third Republic threw a party for 20,000 of mayors who were served by waiters on roller skates. The guide to the Exposition called the century ending ‘the most fertile in discoveries, the most prodigious in sciences’, that the world had had known and it spoke of a revolution in the economic order of the universe.’

In summer 1913, a party of San Francisco boy scouts passed through the city, and Le Figaro newspaper ran a survey – what had struck them the most?

Apart from the monuments and the gardens, they loved the trees lining the streets, and the general cleanliness. They thought the red trousers worn by soldiers most impressive, but it was odd how many young men wore moustaches and how many women smoked.

They loved the way policemen still wore swords, the dog barbers by the Seine, the glorious outdoor cafes. At the opera, one young American stared at the women “pivoting on their high heels, offering a fine view of their resplendent gowns and jewels”. This was Paris on the eve of war. Just doing what it did. Typical of the city, a thinking box, merely skirted the past, living for the moment. (Balzac quote is from his novel-Ferragus)( To be continued)


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I shudder when I think of the calamities of our time. For twenty years the blood of Romans have been shed daily between Constantinople and the Alps, Scythia,Thrace, Macedon, Thessaly, Dacia, Achaea, Epirus- all these places has been sacked and pillaged by Goths and Alans, Huns and Vandals. How many noble and virtuous women have been made the sport of these beasts! Churches have been overthrown, horses stalled in the holy places , the bones of the saints dug up and scattered.

Indeed the Roman world is falling: yet we still hold up our heads instead of bowing them. The East, indeed, seemed to be free from these perils; but now, in the year just past, the wolves of the North have been let loose from their remotest fastnesses, and have overrun great provinces, they have laid siege to Antioch, and have invested cities that were once the capitals of no mean cities.

‘Had I a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths, a voice of iron, I could not compass all/Their crimes, nor tell their penalties by name(Virgil: Aeneid VI)’

Well may we be unhappy, for it is our sins that have made the barbarians strong: as in the days of Hezekiah, so today God is using the barbarians to execute His fierce anger,  Rome’s army, once the lord of the world, trembles today at the sight of the foe.

Who will hereafter believe that Rome has to fight within her own borders, not for glory but for life? And as the poet Lucan says, ‘If Rome be weak where shall strength be found?’

Now a dreadful rumour has come to hand. Rome has been besieged, and its citizens have been forced to buy off their lives with gold. My voice cleaves to my throat, sobs choke my utterance. The city which had taken whole world captive is itself taken. Famine too has done its awful work.

The world sinks into ruin: all things are perishing save our sins; these alone flourish. The great city is swallowed up in one conflagration; everywhere Romans are in exile.

Who could believe it?who could believe that Rome, built up through the ages by the conquest of the world, had fallen; that the mother of nations had become their tomb? who could imagine that the proud city, with its careless security and its boundless wealth, is brought so low that the children are outcasts and beggars? We cannot indeed help them; all we can do is sympathize with them, and mingle our tears with theirs.

History teaches how events repeat themselves, like a lecher who changes his dresses each day to set out for his conquest. His dress everytime is different but inside holds every conceivable error: it is  nevertheless a body, that is set out to take pleasure as if were, his privileges without responsibilities is heir to. History is such impersonal body whose sins are collective lapses and omissions of man.  Instead of Goths one may in the modern context name any of the Jihadi elements and USA for Rome. In some aspects it would still make sense. It is valid since man makes history  and Rome, Ottomans are dresses he put on– b).

(Ack: Treasury of World’s Great Letters.)

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1. “See in what peace a Christian can die.”
~~ Joseph Addison, writer, d. June 17, 1719

2.“Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well–let ’em wait.”
In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you.”
~~ Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general, d. 1789

3.“Am I dying or is this my birthday?”
When she woke briefly during her last illness and found all her family around her bedside.
~~ Lady Nancy Astor, d. 1964

4.“Nothing, but death”.
When asked by her sister, Cassandra, if there was anything she wanted.
~~ Jane Austen, writer, d. July 18, 1817

5.“Codeine . . . bourbon.”
~~ Tallulah Bankhead, actress, d. December 12, 1968

6.“How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
~~ P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, d. 1891

7.“Is everybody happy? I want everybody to be happy. I know I’m happy.
”~~ Ethel Barrymore, actress, d. June 18, 1959

8.“Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
~~ John Barrymore, actor, d. May 29, 1942

9.“I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”
~~ Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, d.1170

10. “Now comes the mystery.”
~~ Henry Ward Beecher, evangelist, d. March 8, 1887

In her new book The Most Famous Man in America, author Debby Applegate writes on page 466 that Beecher’s last words in fact were, “You were saying that I could not recover.” Ms. Applegate has not been able to confirm the traditional version of Beecher’s last words.

11.“Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.”
~~ Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, d. March 26, 1827

12. “Josephine…”
~~ Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor, May 5, 1821

13.“Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you.”
~~ Johannes Brahms, composer, d. April 3, 1897

14. “Oh, I am not going to die, am I? He will not separate us, we have been so happy.”
Spoken to her husband of 9 months, Rev. Arthur Nicholls.
~~ Charlotte Bronte, writer, d. March 31, 1855

In reply to her husband who had asked how she felt.
~~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writer, d. June 28, 1861

16.“Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight.
”~~ Lord George Byron, writer, d. 1824

17. “Et tu, Brute?”
~~ Gaius Julius Caesar, Roman Emperor, d. 44 BC

18. “Don’t let poor Nelly (his mistress, Nell Gwynne) starve.”
~~ Charles II, King of England and Scotland, d. 1685

19.“Ay Jesus.”
~~ Charles V, King of France, d. 1380

20. “I am dying. I haven’t drunk champagne for a long time.”
~~ Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, writer, d. July 1, 1904

21.“The earth is suffocating . . . Swear to make them cut me open, so that I won’t be buried alive.”
Dying of tuberculosis.
~~ Frederic Chopin, composer, d. October 16, 1849

22.“I’m bored with it all.”
Before slipping into a coma. He died 9 days later.
~~ Winston Churchill, statesman, d. January 24, 1965

23. “This time it will be a long one.”
~~ Georges Clemenceau, French premier, d. 1929

24. “I have tried so hard to do the right.
”~~ Grover Cleveland, US President, d. 1908

25.“That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.”
~~ Lou Costello, comedian, d. March 3, 1959


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Mr. Clod and Leaf on the War Path




One fine morning Mr. Clod was surprised by a leaf who introduced himself as a Jihadi. He had a South London accent that marked him as a Brit and he said, “Clod, Is it not time to clean up the land?”

Clod who has been called Ali Baba said, “ Why don’t you clean up your house first?” Leaf was sure that they should not settle for anything less than a Caliphate .”

At that point Clod brightened up and said, “Caliphate! All you need to say ‘Open Sesame’ Syria and Levant shall be under our feet.” Clod pointed out to some rag that was blackened under the scorching sun and said it should make a flag. Mr. Leaf giggled and said, “Hardly have I made a suggestion before you are brimming with ideas.” They agreed to march to Syria in order to found their Caliphate.

On the way they discussed what needed to be done. Clod was all for rooting out music from the land. Mr. Leaf wanted to crucify the minorities and Clod was sure all women they won at the point of sword was to be sold as slaves and enemies slaughtered.

Mr. Leaf asked somewhat apprehensively, “Is it permitted by the Prophet?”

Clod said brusquely,”I have not heard any Imam forbidding them, So we shall do as we please.”

They called themselves As Is Where Is. “IS for short.” they shouted.

Thus they went on. Suddenly a storm arose and Mr. Leaf all shook up and said, “Wish we did some thing against Nature before we took to war on human nature.” No sooner than he said the clouds massed up. The hard wind carried the leaf away and the rain washed away the silly clod.


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A Roman emperor* as he was being murdered by his own soldiers said: “I live” Famous deathless words. We need not know his name but we know his quote shall pass on from generations to generation. Perhaps it may be attributed so many others. It is as famous as ‘Give me death or liberty’ Both have to be experienced in order to understand their quality. Alas we know liberty for all the praises heaped on it by patriots and scoundrels alike is a tough idea to live up to. But last words are like silver spikes driven into the heart of a vampire. The curse is laid to rest and a life has closed its doors.

Here are some famous last words.

1. Jack Daniel: “One last drink, please”

Jack Daniel (1850-1911)was an American distiller and founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery. 

Daniel died of blood poisoning in Lynchburg in 1911. Rumor has it that he contracted an infection from kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open. However, multiple biographers have refuted this claim.

2.Karl Marx: “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

Karl Marx (1818-1883)was a significant German political theorist, philosopher and economist. He is perhaps best known for his works “The Communist Manifesto” (1848) and Das Kapital (1867).

Marx died of complications from a catarrh that he developed in 1881. He died a stateless person.

3. Richard Harris: “It was the food.”

Richard Harris was an Irish singer, actor and film star. He is known for his roles in films like Camelot (1967) and as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Harris died from pneumonia resulting from Hodgkin’s disease, and died in 2002 at the age of 72.

4. Walt Disney : “Kurt Russell”

Walt Disney (1901-1966) was an American business magnate, artist, cartoonist, screenwriter, philanthropist and voice actor. He won numerous accolades for his work, including 22 Academy Awards, four honorary Academy Awards and seven Emmy Awards. His name was also given to numerous theme parks around the world (Disneyland!).

Disney was also a chain smoker throughout his entire adult life. He was diagnosed with a malignant lung tumor in 1966. He died on December 15, 1966 of acute circulatory collapse.

His last words were scribbled on a piece of paper – “Kurt Russell.” The significance of this remains a mystery, even to Russell himself.

5. John Adams: “ Thomas Jefferson survives.”

John Adams (1735-1826) was the second president of the United States. He issued this statement about the destiny of the United States less than a month before he died:

My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.”

Adams passed away on July 4, 1826- the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After being told it was the Fourth of July, Adams responded, “It is a great day. It is a good day.” It is reported that his last words were “Jefferson survives,” although he did not know that Jefferson died earlier that day. 

6. This is the last of earth! I am content.
~~ John Quincy Adams, US President, d. February 21, 1848

7. Dimebag Darrell:”Van Halen!”

Dimebag Darrell (1966-2004) was an American musician and virtuoso guitarist, known for being a member of the bands Pantera and Damageplan.He was shot and killed by a gunman named Nathan Gale while on stage during a Damageplan performance.

8. Kit Carson:“I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili.”  

Kit Carson(1809-1868) is known as a famous American frontiersman. In this video, you’ll get an in-depth look at his life and his involvement in settling America’s frontier. He may have said this instead: “Goodbye doctor, adios compadre.”

9. Louisa May Alcott: “Is it not meningitis?”

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was an American novelist, best known for penning Little Women. She was a prolific writer and wrote until her death in 1888. Initially she and other biographers thought her death was caused by mercury poisoning, because during her Civil War service she contracted typhoid fever and was treated with a compound that contained mercury. However, more recent studies have found that she probably suffered from an autoimmune disease, leading to her death after a stroke. She passed away at the age of 55 in Boston.

10. Simon Bolivar: “Damn it! How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”   

Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) was a famous South American political and military leader. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 47 in 1830.

11. Queen Marie Antoinette :

After she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner as she went to the guillotine the Queen said this:“Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.”

12. J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan: “I can’t sleep”

13. Humphrey Bogart: “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”

14. Dominique Bouhours, famous French grammarian: “I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct.”

15. Joan Crawford to her housekeeper who began to pray aloud, “Dammit…Don’t you dare ask God to help me”.

16. Aleister Crowley – famous occultist: “I am perplexed. Satan Get Out.”

17. Carl Panzram, serial killer, shortly before he was executed by hanging : “Hurry up, you Hoosier bastard, I could kill ten men while you’re fooling around!”

18. Saki: “Put out the bloody cigarette!”

Saki said this to a fellow officer while in a trench during World War One, for fear the smoke would give away their positions. He was then shot by a German sniper who had heard the remark.

Mary Surratt,: Please don’t let me fall.

Mary Surratt for her role in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln was hanged. She was the first woman executed by the United States federal government.

19. Voltaire when asked by a priest to renounce Satan, “ Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.

20. Salvador Dali:“where is my clock?”  

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter, famous for works like “The Persistence of Memory” (1931) and “Swans Reflecting Elephants” (1937).

In 1980, Dali’s health took a turn for the worse when he started to develop Parkinson-like symptoms that caused his right hand to shake uncontrollably. In addition, his wife allegedly had been dosing him with dangerous cocktails of unprescribed medication that damaged his nervous system.After his wife died he lost much of his will to live, deliberately dehydrating himself to put himself in a state of “suspended animation.” He died on January 23, 1989 of heart failure.

21.Nostradamus: “You will not find me alive at sunrise.”

Nostradamus(1503-1566) was a French apothecary and seer, whose published prophecies became famous worldwide. Born Michel de Nostradame, he worked as an apothecary despite being expelled from university in 1529.

He lived while the plague was prominent in Europe. His wife and two children were killed by the plague, and afterwards he traveled Italy with a doctor to try and treat people of the disease. By 1550 he had moved away from medicine and more towards the occult, publishing several almanacs and becoming interested in prophecy.

Nostradamus had gout, which by 1566 turned to edema. He reportedly told his secretary Jean de Chavigny the famous last words: The next morning he was found dead next to his bed and a bench.

22. General William Erskine, after he jumped from a window in Lisbon, Portugal in 1813. “Now why did I do that?”

Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!” James French, a convicted murderer, was sentenced to the electric chair. He shouted these words to members of the press who were to witness his execution.

23. “Bugger Bognor.”

Said by: King George V whose physician had suggested that he relax at his seaside palace in Bognor Regis.

24. “It’s stopped.”

Said by: Joseph Henry Green, upon checking his own pulse.

25. LSD, 100 micrograms I.M.

Said by: Aldous Huxley (Author) to his wife. She obliged and he was injected twice before his death.


“I am still alive!
” Stabbed to death by his own guards – (as reported by Roman historian Tacitus)
~~ Gaius Caligula, Roman Emperor, d.41 AD

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Don’t be fooled to believe news media as true account of history. History is something else. Democracy after fall of Moammar was big news. Arab Spring gave way to something else and the situation in Libya is neither here nor there. Similarly in Egypt  those who wanted a decent life free from want and repression threw Mubarak regime. What did it bring but worse situation than before that the army had to step in. This cannot be history?

History is what people make despite what big money or grandiose Ideas throw about. Arab Spring and Friends of Syria trying to get their control over the Middle East have only created more mess. History is what people make from their needs and dream.

During the Crusades were ‘Jihadists’ or assassins organized by Old Man of the Mountains ( a classmate of Omar Khayyam). But Mongol invasion was a flood that cleared all. Where are they? We people are still here.

History can be compared to a mighty river of perennial supply into which the Crusades, Moslem empires, Mongol invasion,Black death are so many names or stones dropped. No sign of them. What of those great movers or shakers king of kings who carved their name in blood? They are all names written in water.

Water drops circulate between land and the air and keep the river running. History is movement of people and has nothing to do with ideas.

We need not be unduly concerned nor be impatient to change order of things either by violence or by thoughts of glory. Do not be concerned of violence that grips parts of the world. It isn’t history in itself but motion of peoples exerting to find their level.

It is foolhardy to think one can either by good intentions or force make history stop for him. Violence will be met with violence and peace shall keep peace neither realizing what other was all about.

We people shall make our homes as best and those who are cast out of their homes shall yet find their home. History clears way for us.


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The Isles of Greece! The isles of Greece

Wherefore this amnesia, drunk from Lethe?

Have you forgotten the warrior race

Whose swords smote down kings and forthwith

‘Here be warriors that knew no fear’

Went thus message post-haste far an’ near?

Sparta led and the hordes of foes

Before their tight phalanxes melted:

In Athens no less brave were demos

Before whose iron resolve tyrants fled.

Spartan or rich in tastes at best

Were men who deemed their own lives least.

What service has the Turks bestowed

That you let your blood and honor

Be trod and your wives as slaves sold?

Martyrs for faith in Asia minor

Lay forgotten as of no value.

For a slave race this’s nothing new.

Spare me your woes with Euro bail-out

Or the Golden Dawn spawn’d from hell.

How slaves for long living on hand-out

Are undone is a sad chronicle:

A land of slaves shall ne’er regain

Unless Greece unlearn past as one.


Original Version

THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!

Where burning Sappho loved and sung,

Where grew the arts of war and peace,—

Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!

Eternal summer gilds them yet,

But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,

The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,

Have found the fame your shores refuse;

Their place of birth alone is mute

To sounds which echo further west

Than your sires’ “Islands of the Blest.”


Place me on Sunium’s marble steep—

Where nothing, save the waves and I,

May hear our mutual murmurs sweep:

There, swan-like, let me sing and die;

A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—

Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

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