Thursday

Jul. 15, 1999

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: July 15, 1999

Poem: "Pied Beauty," by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

In England today is celebrated as St. Swithin's Day, the day about which this poem was written: St. Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain, For 40 days it will remain; St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair, for 40 days, 'twill rain nea mair.

It's the birthday of philosopher/linguist Jacques Derrida [deh-ree-DAH], born in el Biar, Algeria (1930)—a leading light of the post-structuralist movement. Distrusting the search for meaning, the yearning for certainty, he analyzes texts ("deconstructs" texts) to show their alternative meanings.

It's the birthday of playwright-turned-director Ann Jellicoe, born in Yorkshire, England (1927), author of The Knack and The Sport of My Mad Mother (1958).

Today is the birthday of biochemist Bruce Merrifield, born in Fort Worth (1921), who was awarded the 1984 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for devising a simple, ingenious technique for synthesizing 'polypeptides' (chains of amino acids) in predetermined order. His process has greatly aided research on hormones and enzymes, and helped produce insulin.

Today is the 80th birthday of novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch, born in Dublin (1919), writer of many comic and macabre novels: A Severed Head (1961), The Black Prince (1973), The Message to the Planet (1989), and the subject of a book by her husband, John Bayley, an account of her decline into Alzheimer's and old age: Elegy for Iris (1999).

It's the birthday of adventure writer (Ralph) Hammond Innes, born in Horsham, Sussex (1913). Author of many best-selling swashbucklers, including The White South (1949) and The Wreck of the 'Mary Deare' (1956).

Today is the birthday of songwriter Dorothy Fields, born in Allenhurst, New Jersey (1905)—who wrote many songs, including "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," and "On the Sunny Side of the Street."

On this day in 1869, in Paris, margarine was patented by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. His concoction was the only entry in a contest organized by Napoleon III for "a suitable substance to replace butter for the Navy and the less prosperous classes."

It's the birthday of America's first saint, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, born in Lombardy, Italy (1850). She was sent west by Pope Leo the 13th to help poor Italian immigrants in the slums of the United States.

It's the birthday of painter Rembrandt van Rijn [vahn RINE], born in Leiden [LIE- duhn], Holland (1606). In "The Night Watch," a huge group portrait representing a number of militiamen, the models paid to be included, those in front paying a higher rate than the dim figures behind.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »