Feb. 1, 2001

254 "Hope" is the thing with feathers

by Emily Dickinson

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 1 February 2001

Poem: "'Hope' is the thing with feathers," by Emily Dickinson.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops-at all—

And sweetest??in the Gale??is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb-Of Me.

On this day in 1884, the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published, covering the words from A to Ant. Sir James Murray, the editor, thought it would take eleven years to finish the project—but it ended up taking 43.

It's the birthday of aviator and author Charles Nordhoff, born in London, England (1887). He was a pilot in World War I; after the war he went to Paris, where he met another pilot named James Norman Hall. Together they wrote several novels, the most famous of which was Mutiny on the Bounty (1932).

It's the birthday of American film director John Ford, born Sean Aloysius Feeney, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine (1895), the youngest child of Irish immigrants. He went to Hollywood, worked in set construction, did some stunt work, and then began directing pictures: The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Quiet Man (1952), and many others.

It's the birthday of poet and playwright Langston Hughes, born in Joplin, Missouri (1902). He went to Harlem in 1924, and became one of the writers associated with Harlem Renaissance. He lived on East 127th Street, which has been renamed "Langston Hughes Place."

It's the birthday of humorist S(idney) J(oseph) Perelman, born in Brooklyn, New York (1904), and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He wanted to be a cartoonist, and he drew for the college humor magazine at Brown University. His captions got longer and longer, until they eventually replaced the art. He wrote for the early Marx Brothers films—"Monkey Business"(1931) and "Horse Feathers" (1932)—but was never taken with Hollywood. He called it, "A dreary industrial town controlled by hoodlums of enormous wealth, the ethical sense of a pack of jackals and taste so degraded that it befouled everything it touched." He's best known for his satirical articles in the New Yorker, collected in books such as Westward Ha! (1948), and Baby It's Cold Inside (1970).

It's the birthday of Scottish novelist Muriel Spark, born in Edinburgh (1918), and educated in James Gillespie's School for Girls, which later formed the basis for her most famous novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). Her latest book is Aiding and Abetting (2000).

It's the birthday of novelist Reynolds Price, born in Macon, North Carolina (1933). He's the author of A Long and Happy Life (1962), Kate Vaiden (1986), and a memoir called A Whole New Life (1994).

It's the anniversary of the first sit-in: on this day in 1960, four students from The Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina, began a sit-in protest at a Greensboro lunch counter after being refused service because they were black.

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