Jul. 13, 2000

Piazza di Spagna, Early Morning

by Richard Wilbur

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 13 July 2000

"Piazza Di Spagna, Early Morning," by Richard Wilbur, from Things of This World (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).

It's the birthday of toy inventor Erno Rubik, born in Budapest (1944). He invented Rubik's cube, which was widely popular in the 1980s. It consists of 26 variously colored smaller cubes: 3 rows of 3 on each of the larger cube's 6 sides. Of 43 quintillion possible combinations, there is only one setting that makes all six sides the same color.

In 1939 on this day, Frank Sinatra made his first record, with the Harry James Band: "From the Bottom of My Heart." James had heard him at a club in Teaneck, New Jersey-where Sinatra was head waiter and sang for $15 a week.

It's the birthday of playwright and poet Wole Soyinka, born in Abeokuta, Nigeria (1934)-the first black African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1986).

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright David (Malcolm) Storey, born in Wakefield, Yorkshire (1933). He wrote 7 novels before This Sporting Life (1960) found a publisher.

It's the birthday of editor Charles Scribner, Jr., born in Quogue, Long Island (1921). He succeeded his father, in 1952, as chief of the family publishing house, and was Ernest Hemingway's editor at the close of Hemingway's career.

Today is the birthday of art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, born into London's aristocracy (1903), and widely known for his television series Civilisation (1969).

In 1798 on this day, poet William Wordsworth took a walking tour of the Wye Valley and visited ancient Tintern Abbey for the second time-this time with his sister Dorothy. After he and Dorothy inspected the ruins, they walked a few more miles and then Wordsworth stopped to make up his famous poem, which includes the lines,

" I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity."

It's the birthday of "the peasant poet" John Clare, born in Helpston, England (1793). His early books of verse were quite popular in England, and he became famous: patrons gave him money; curious sightseers visited his cottage; and he was taken to London to meet Coleridge, Hazlitt and Lamb. But then he fell out of fashion. He was an alcoholic, he was poor, he had seven children to support--and then he went mad. He spent the last 23 years of his life in a mental asylum, where he wrote his very best poems.

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




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