Apr. 3, 1998

249 Wild Nights -- Wild Nights!

by Emily Dickinson


by Emily Dickinson


by Emily Dickinson


Today's Reading: "Bequest," "Apotheosis" and "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!" by Emily Dickinson.

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD AND ZELDA SAYRE got married on this date in 1920, at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. He was 24, handsome, rich and famous from the success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, and a collection of short stories called Flappers and Philosophers, in which Zelda was the flapper and he the philosopher. It was the Roaring 20s, the Jazz Age, and he and Zelda were the toast of the town; they threw a huge wedding reception at the Biltmore Hotel in New York and nearly trashed the place before the management asked them to leave.

It's the birthday in Columbus, Georgia, 1888, of MA RAINEY, the "mother of the blues." Her real name was Gertrude Pridgett and she started singing as a girl in church, and made her debut in a talent contest at 12 at the Columbus Opera House. In 1904 she hit the road, performing in tent shows, levee camps, and cabarets across the South singing this new style of music, the blues. She formed a song-and-dance team with her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. Her heyday was in the 20s when her tours took her north, into the Midwest, and down into Mexico. By that time, she and Pa Rainey had split up and she had her own group, the Georgia Jazz Band, and recorded over 90 songs, a lot of which she wrote herself. Songs like Bo-weavil Blues, Moonshine Blues, and Yonder Come the Blues.

It's the birthday in 1837, Roxbury, New York, of the nature writer, JOHN BURROUGHS. He worked as a clerk in Washington for several years, but in his mid-30s gave it up for a fruit farm in the Hudson River Valley in Ulster County, New York where he spent most of the rest of his life writing. He studied Thoreau and Emerson and perfected the art of the nature essay. He was prolific at it: publishing 25 books in 25 years. Most nature writers up until that time gave animals human personality characteristics to make them more interesting for readers; Burroughs said nature is fascinating enough all by itself and didn't need any humanizing. "We see little of how the woods and wayside places swarm with life. Turn over a stone in the fields and behold the consternation beneath it ants, slugs, bugs, worms, spiders all objecting to the full light of day, not because their deeds are evil, but because the instinct of self-preservation prompts this course. As I write these sentences, a chipmunk, who has his den in the bank by the roadside nearby, is very busy storing up some half-ripe currants which grew on a bush a few yards away. Of course the currants will ferment and rot, but that consideration does not disturb him; the seeds will keep, and they are what he is after. How closely every crack and corner of nature is packed with life!"

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