Tuesday

Dec. 28, 1999

Rhapsody for a Good Night

by David Lee

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: December 28, 1999

Poem: "Rhapsody for the Good Night" by David Lee from A Legacy of Shadows published by Copper Canyon Press.

It was on this day in 1973 that the first volume of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's book THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO was published in Paris. It was an expose of the Soviet prison system, and was a combination of memoir and history based on Solzhenitsyn's own eight-year incarceration there. The word, Gulag, is an acronym for the agency that ran the camps, and Solzhenitsyn meant the word Archipelago as a metaphor for the camps that were scattered throughout the USSR like a chain of islands. "The Kolyma was the greatest and most famous island, the pole of ferocity of that amazing country of Gulag, which, though scattered in an archipelago geographically, was, in the psychological sense, fused into a continent, an almost invisible, almost imperceptible country." The remaining two volumes came out over the next two years, but by then Solzhenitsyn had been arrested; and in February, 1974 he was exiled. He settled in the States for 20 years, then returned to Russia.

It was on this day in Paris, 1897, that Edmond Rostand's play CYRANO DE BERGERAC premiered: the story of a swashbuckling 17th-century Parisian poet who believes no woman could ever love him because of his huge nose. From afar, he falls in love with the beautiful young Roxanne, but graciously decides to help his rival Christian woo her; Cyrano writes touching love poems and letters to Roxanne, then gives them to Christian to pass off as his own. When Christian is killed in battle, Cyrano stays quiet for years about his love for Roxanne, and only as Cyrano is dying — when he recites to Roxanne a letter he'd written her years earlier — that she realizes it was his words, and thus him, that she really fell in love with. "Roxane, adieu! I soon must die! This very night, beloved; and I Feel my soul heavy with love untold. My heart has been yours in every beat! Here, dying, and there, in the land on high, I am he who loved, who loves you, I."

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