Dec. 31, 2000

Elegy (excerpt)

by Thomas Gray

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 31 December 2000

Poem: lines from "Elegy," by Thomas Gray.

The curfew tolls the knells of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree's shade
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Today is New Year's Eve, also known as St. Sylvester's Day in Europe.

It's the birthday of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, born in Buczacz, Poland (1908). After surviving concentration camps, he became the hunter of war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann.

It's the birthday of Broadway composer Jule Styne, born in the East End section of London (1905). He's best known for having written the score for the musical Gypsy (1959).

It's the birthday of violinist Nathan Milstein, born in Odessa, Ukraine (1904).

On this day in 1903, the Iroquois Theater fire took place in Chicago, with a death toll that made it the worst single-structure fire in American history. A matinee audience was engulfed in flames when the stage caught fire and the asbestos safety curtain failed to work. 500 people were burned to death or died of smoke inhalation.

It's the birthday of General George C(atlett) Marshall, born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania (1880). As U.S. Army Chief of Staff during World War Two, he lobbied for a cross-Channel invasion as opposed to the 'Mediterranean strategy' favored by the British. Later, as Secretary of State under Harry Truman, he advocated the European Recovery Program, commonly known as the Marshall Plan.

It's the birthday of painter Henri Matisse, born in Le Cateau, France (1869). His family wanted him to go into law, but he took up painting instead. With his friends André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, he spent the summer of 1905 painting in the Riviera town of Collioure. Matisse commented later: "We were at that time like children in the face of nature and we let our temperaments speak. We rejected imitative colors and found that with pure colors we obtained stronger reactions." They showed their work in Paris; the public was appalled by such crude 'daubs;' a critic ridiculed the painters as 'fauves,' or 'wild untamed beasts.' They took the insult 'Fauve' for the name of their new school of painting.

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




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