Sep. 30, 2000

Lunar Landscapes

by W. S. Merwin

Broadcast date: SATURDAY, 30 September 2000

"Lunar Landscape," by W. S. Merwin, from Travels (Alfred A. Knopf).

It's the Feast Day of St. Jerome, the patron saint of scholars and librarians. Jerome was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in the year 347. After a dream in which he was rebuked by a divine judge, he resolved to devote himself to the study of scripture, fled into the desert, and began learning Hebrew. His Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate, was completed in 385, and was adopted by the Catholic church as its authorized text in 1546.

It's the birthday of poet, translator, and environmental activist W.S. (William Stanley) Merwin, born in New York City (1927). After graduating from Princeton, he lived for a year on the Spanish island of Majorca, where he tutored the son of poet Robert Graves. His first book of poems, A Mask for Janus, was published in 1952; a later collection, The Carrier of Ladders, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. He has translated Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish poetry, as well as Dante's Purgatorio.

It's the birthday of the British composer and pianist Donald Swann, born in Wales (1923).

It's the birthday of the Scots novelist and mystery writer Michael Innes, the pseudonym of J.I.M. (John Innes Mackintosh) Stewart, born in Edinburgh (1906). He wrote numerous novels and stories under his own name, but is best known for the mysteries and broadcast scripts written under his pseudonym, many of them featuring John Appleby, the gentleman detective.

It's the birthday of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., born in Philadelphia (1861). He moved to Chicago and began selling baking powder, offering chewing gum as a premium, and decided to concentrate on the gum when it proved to be more popular than the baking powder. He founded the Wrigley's manufacturing company, and, for many years, Wrigley's Spearmint Gum was one of the most heavily advertised products in the United States. Wrigley's headquarters building in Chicago is one of that city's architectural landmarks.

On this date in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's last opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), was given its premiere in Vienna, with the composer conducting. Mozart had put the finishing touches on the score just two days earlier. The piece, written with librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, drew large crowds. But Mozart was ill. A friend wrote that "he was pale and his expression was sad." His melancholy deepened in the weeks following the premiere, and he grew weaker. In mid-November, he grew gravely ill, and he died on December 5.

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