Wednesday

Mar. 14, 2001

Requiescat

by Oscar Wilde

WEDNESDAY, 14 March 2001
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Requiescat," by Oscar Wilde, from The Portable Oscar Wilde (Penguin Books).

Tread lightly, she is near
    Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
    The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
    Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
    Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
    She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
    Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
    Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone
    She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear
    Lyre or sonnet
All my life's buried here,
    Heap earth upon it.

On this day in 1939, John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath was published—the story of the Joad family, farmers from Oklahoma, who leave the Dust Bowl for a new life in California. The hero of the book, Tom Joad, gives this speech:

"Well, maybe like Casy says, a fellow ain't got a soul of his own, but only a piece of a big one... Then it don't matter. Then I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere, wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there."

It's the birthday of novelist John Wain, born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England (1925)—one of Britain's 'Angry Young Men' of the 1950s. His first novel was Hurry on Down (1953).

It's the birthday of playwright Horton Foote, born in Wharton, Texas (1916)—author of many plays set in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas. They include Wharton Dance (1940), The Trip to Bountiful (1953), The Traveling Lady (1954), and The Road to the Graveyard (1985).

It's the birthday of bookseller Sylvia Beach, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887), the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. She fell in love with France at the age of 14 when her father was sent to Paris to preach to American students. In her thirties she founded the Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare & Company (1919), at number 12, rue de l'Odeon—a store that sold English-language books. Besides selling books, Beach also published them: she brought out the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922. The store was shut down by the Nazis in 1941.

In 1885 on this date, Gilbert and Sullivan's opera The Mikado had its London premiere, opening with Nanki-Poo's famous song: "A wandering minstrel I—/ A thing of shreds and patches/ Of ballads, songs and snatches/ And dreamy lullaby..."

Karl Marx died on this day in 1883, in London. London had been his home since 1849, after he'd been expelled from his native Prussia, then from France and then Belgium. In England he lived in poverty, spending his days reading and writing at the British Museum and publishing the first volume of Das Kapital.

It's the birthday of Albert Einstein, born in Ulm, Germany (1879). Inspired by his Uncle Jakob, he took up mathematics, but was at best a mediocre student. Later, while working as an examiner in the Swiss Patents Office, he wrote scientific papers in his spare time: first he published his "Special Theory of Relativity" (1905); and then his "General Theory of Relativity" (1916).

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 »