Thursday

Nov. 23, 2000

The Wild Swans At Coole

by William Butler Yeats

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 23 November 2000

Poem: “The Wild Swans at Coole,” by William Butler Yeats.

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Today is Thanksgiving Day, first celebrated by the Pilgrims and ninety Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth, Massachusetts in early December 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first year in the colony. Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday more than 200 years later, in October of 1863. The proclamation, made by President Abraham Lincoln, was the result of a long and untiring campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the third Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. This was changed to the fourth Thursday in November by a joint proclamation of Congress in 1941.           

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place today along Broadway in New York City. The parade began in the 1920s when employees of the department store marched down Broadway from 145th Street to 34th Street to celebrate the American holiday. Giant helium-filled balloons depicting cartoon characters became a parade tradition in 1927

Another Thanksgiving tradition is football. When the Intercollegiate Football Association was formed in 1876, it set its championship game for Thanksgiving Day. By 1893, football was so firmly a part of Thanksgiving Day holiday, that the New York Herald could complain on its editorial page: “Thanksgiving Day is no longer a solemn festival to God for mercies given.… It is a holiday granted by the State and the Nation to see a game of football.”

On this day in 1903, the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso made his debut in the United States, singing the role of the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

It’s the birthday of the silent Marx Brother, Adolph Arthur “Harpo” Marx, born in New York City (1888).

On this day in 1874, Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd was first published, by Smith, Elder, and Company in London. The novel, which had earlier been serialized in Cornhill Magazine, was Hardy’s first great success as a novelist.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »