Nov. 10, 1998

419 We grow accustomed to the Dark

by Emily Dickinson


Today's Reading: Emily Dickinson, "We Grow Accustomed to the Dark."

It's the anniversary of the SINKING OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD, in 1975, Lake Superior, off Whitefish Point of the upper peninsula of Michigan. The ship was loaded with ore and had sailed out of Superior, Wisconsin when it ran into a heavy storm and broke in two. Twenty-nine crew members were lost.

It's the birthday of poet VACHEL LINDSAY, born in Springfield, Illinois, 1879. Some of his most popular poems: "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight," "The Congo," and "General William Booth Enters into Heaven" — which were part of his 1912 collection Rhymes To Be Traded For Bread.

It's the birthday of PATRICK HENRY PEARSE, the turn-of-the-century Irish republican leader and newspaper editor, born in Dublin, 1879. On April 24, 1916, Easter Monday in Dublin, he proclaimed the formation of the Irish Republic — an uprising crushed by the British military a few days later, and Pearse was executed by a firing squad for leading it.

It's the anniversary of the publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's book-length poem, SONG OF HIAWATHA, published in 1855 in Boston. Longfellow had been working on Hiawatha since June the year before, and he based it on legends of the Ojibway of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the upper peninsula of Michigan. He read about them in a book by the explorer Henry Schoolcraft, who'd married a Wisconsin Ojibway named The Woman of the Sound Which the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky. She gave Schoolcraft most of the material, and this in turn inspired Longfellow to write the poem. Hiawatha was the first poem in the U.S. to win a big audience: within a month, 10,000 copies had been sold; 30,000 within a year and a half.

It's the birthday of the leader of the Reformation, MARTIN LUTHER, born 1483, at Eisleben in east-central Germany. In 1517, Luther nailed his 95 THESES on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, beginning the Protestant Reformation. He was angry that Rome was selling indulgences, which were assurances of forgiven sin. Luther's theses, in part, said the pope had no authority to forgive sin, and that believers are justified only through faith.

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