Jan. 26, 2001

A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 26 January 2001

Poem: "A noiseless, patient spider," by Walt Whitman.

A noiseless patient spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect

Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

It's the birthday of playwright Christopher Hampton, born on Fayal Island in the Azores (1946), the son of a marine engineer. He was the first resident playwright for the Royal Court Theater in London. His finest play is considered to be Tales from Hollywood (1982), but he had his greatest commercial success with an adaptation of the French play Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985), which was a huge hit on both stage and screen.

On this day in 1934, the Apollo Theater opened in Harlem. It had been built nearly 20 years before as the whites-only New Burlesque Theater; but in 1930s, it was transformed into a 1,400-seat vaudeville house called the Apollo. The venue helped launch the careers of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Jules Feiffer, born in New York City (1929). His "Feiffer" comic strip has run in the Village Voice since 1956.

On this day in 1918, President Herbert Hoover called for Americans to help the War Effort by observing "Meatless Mondays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays," substituting fish and vegetables for beef and bread. Within a year, the U.S. was able to double food shipments to war victims and European allies.

On this day in 1907, John Millington Synge's dark comedy, "Playboy of the Western World," incited a riot at its premiere at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Crowds of Irish nationalists came to see the play, and were outraged by things such as the use of the word "shift" (a kind of nightgown or slip), believing that it implied that an Irish woman was unchaste. They objected to the Irish characters' rough language as a slur on Ireland and its people. For the rest of its initial run, the play was performed before angry crowds. Armed with tin trumpets and noisemakers, protesters came to each night's performance and raised a ruckus in order to drown out the words they disliked.

It's the birthday of painter Kees van Dongen, born in Holland (1877). He was a key member of the Fauves, the art movement called "Wild Beasts" because they distorted forms and used wild, exuberant color. Van Dongen used emerald green and intense pure reds and oranges; he painted skin tones of mauve and shadows of apple green while creating his portraits of down and out characters.

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