May 7, 2000

Broadcast Date: SUNDAY: May 7, 2000

Poem: "Now," by Robert Browning (1812-1889).

On this day in 1954 THE FRENCH WERE DEFEATED AT THE BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU in Vietnam, 180 miles west of Hanoi. Nearly all the 16,000 French troops in the garrison were killed. The humiliating defeat was assumed at the time to be the end the Indochina War. But President Eisenhower wasted no time in announcing that the United States would prevent a Communist takeover of Southeast Asia.

In 1945 on this date, GERMANY SURRENDERED TO THE ALLIES at 2:41 a.m., Paris time, in General Dwight Eisenhowerís headquarters, a small schoolhouse in Reims, northern France. Hitler had killed himself a week earlier; Mussolini had been caught and shot by partisans. Three months later, the Japanese surrendered and World War Two finally ended.

Itís the birthday of poet JENNY JOSEPH, born in Birmingham, England (1932), author of children's books and many collections of poetry. Her best-known poem is called "Warning." It's the one that begins, "When I am an old Woman I shall wear purple."

Itís the birthday of novelist and screenwriter RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA, born in Cologne, Germany (1927). She married an Indian architect, then lived in India for 24 years and wrote novels about that country, including Heat and Dust (1974, Booker Prize). Among her film scripts for producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory are adaptations of Henry Jamesís novel The Bostonians (1984) and of E.M. Forsterís A Room With A View (1986 Academy Award) and Howardís End (1992).

Itís the birthday of composer PETER ILICH TCHAIKOVSKY, born in Vatkinsk, Russia (1840). He was thought to have died of cholera after drinking contaminated water, but scholars now claim he committed suicide rather than let his homosexuality be revealed.

Itís the birthday of composer JOHANNES BRAHMS, born in Hamburg, Germany (1833). He was proud of the fact that he never married, and never wrote an opera.

Itís the birthday of poet ROBERT BROWNING born in London (1812). After a correspondence with poet Elizabeth Barrett, an invalid confined to a darkened room by her tyrannical father, the two poets finally met in 1845. She was 39; he had just turned 33. They eloped (to escape her father, who wouldnít allow any of his grown children to marry), and their 16-year marriage was the happiest literary match on record. When she died in Florence in 1861, Browning returned to London and gave himself up to grief for 2 full years (he never could bear to return to Florence) writing nothing, doing nothing but mourn until he decided that for their soní s sake he had to revive. His greatest poetry was still ahead of him.

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