Mar. 26, 1998

The Fear of God

by Robert Frost


Today's Reading: "The Fear of God" by Robert Frost from THE POETRY OF ROBERT FROST, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

It was on this day in 1969 that JOHN KENNEDY TOOLE, a New Orleans writer, committed suicide at the age of 32. A few years later his mother discovered a typed manuscript in a cardboard box in his room. A Confederacy of Dunces, TOOLE'S comic novel about New Orleans low-lifes, became a best-seller and won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize.

JONAS SALK announced his vaccine against polio on this day in 1953. SALK was working at the University of Pittsburgh when he hit upon the technique of injecting dead polio cells into the body to jumpstart an immunity against the disease. SALK first experimented with the vaccine on himself - saying, You wouldn't do unto others that which you wouldn't do unto yourself.

Radio comedian BOB ELLIOT, of the team Bob and Ray, was born on this day in 1923. He started off as a disc jockey at his hometown station of WHDH, Boston. Ray Goulding read the news for his show and eventually the two got their own daily comedy program. Bob and Ray were stars in the 1950s, with their characters like Wally Ballou, Mary McGoon, the detective Mr. Trace, and Charles the Poet.

It was on this day in 1920 that F. SCOTT FITZGERALD's first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published. He was only 24, and his story about post-World War I disillusionment in America made him an immediate celebrity. His The Great Gatsby followed five years later.

The playwright THOMAS LANIER WILLIAMS was born on this day in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi. At the age of 28 he moved to New Orleans and adopted his college nick-name, Tennessee. TENNESSEE WILLIAMS. He worked as a shoe salesman and a theater usher before he hit it big with his 1944 play The Glass Menagerie. A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof won him Pulitzer Prizes in 1947 and 1955.

"The Voice of New England" - poet ROBERT FROST - was born on this day in 1874 in San Francisco. At the age of 10, FROST moved with his mother to Massachusetts and spent most of the rest of his life in Vermont and New Hampshire. FROST tried farming for a while, but said he was too lazy for it. He turned to teaching and writing poetry. His best-known poems were written around the First World War and include, The Road Not Taken, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, The Death of the Hired Man, and Birches.

It's the birthday in 1859 of English poet A.E. Housman. He never really thought of himself as a poet, but rather a scholar, a specialist in ancient Latin. But his A Shropshire Lad, a collection of poems published in 1896 on the passing of youth, made him a household name in England.

BEETHOVEN died in Vienna on this day in 1827. 20,000 people crammed the streets of Vienna to watch his funeral procession. He was completely deaf the last decade of his life, and never heard some of his greatest compositions like The Choral Symphony, the last five string quartets, or his masterpiece, Missa Solemnis. Though he was beloved for his music, he was a notoriously lousy tenant: neighbors complained about the noise he'd make, and he had to move house 12 times in his last 13 years.

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