Feb. 2, 2001


by Edward Thomas

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 2 February 2001

Poem: "Aspens," by Edward Thomas.


All day and night, save winter, every weather,
Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop,
The aspens at the cross-roads talk together
Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.

Out of the blacksmith's cavern comes the ringing
Of hammer, shoe, and anvil; out of the inn
The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing—
The sounds that for these fifty years have been.

The whisper of the aspens is not drowned,
And over lightness pane and footless road,
Empty as sky, with every other sound
Not ceasing, calls their ghosts from their abode,

A silent smithy, a silent inn, nor fails
In the bare moonlight or the thick furred gloom,
In tempest or the night of nightingales,
To turn the cross-roads to a ghostly room.

And it would be the same were no house near.
Over all sorts of weather, men, and times,
Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear
But need not listen, more than to my rhymes.

Whatever wind blows, while they and I have leaves
WE cannot other than an aspen be
That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves,
Or so men think who like a different tree.

Today is Groundhog Day in the United States. Called "Candlemas Day" in many countries, the rhyme is: "If Candlemas is fair and clear, there'll be two winters in the year."

It's the birthday of poet and children's writer Judith Viorst, born in Newark, New Jersey (1931). She's the author of It's Hard to Be Hip over Thirty and Other Tragedies of Married Life (1968), How Did I Get to Be Forty and Other Atrocities (1976), Necessary Losses (1986).

It's the birthday of novelist Ayn Rand, born in St. Petersburg, Russia (1905). She's the author of The Fountainhead (1943), Atlas Shrugged (1957), and other books. She once said, "Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think."

It's the birthday of poet and writer William Rose Benét (1886), born in Brooklyn, New York. He edited The Oxford Anthology of American Literature (1938) and The Reader's Encyclopedia.(1948); and he's the author of Man Possessed (1927) and other books.

It's James Joyce's birthday—born James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, in Dublin (1882), the son of John, a tax collector. He graduated from University College and left Ireland for Paris with Nora Barnacle when he was 21. He wrote a short story collection, Dubliners (1904), before starting work on his autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). He went on to write Ulysses, which took him seven years to write; it was promptly banned as obscene in Britain and the United States, but it's now at the head of Modern Library's list of 100 Greatest Books of the 20th century. His book Finnegan's Wake (1939) took seventeen years of planning, writing, and revising. Joyce died after surgery on a perforated ulcer when he was 58 years old.

"For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."

"It is not my fault that the odour of ash pits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking glass."

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




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