Friday

Mar. 16, 2001

The Snowman

by Wallace Stevens

FRIDAY, 16 March 2001
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Poem: "The Snow Man," by Wallace Stevens, from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf).

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
to regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

On this day in 1850, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was published in Boston by the publishing house of Ticknor, Reed and Fields. Priced at 75 cents, it sold 6,000 copies in its first printing. Hawthorne earned $450 from it—by far the most he'd made from any book in his 22 years of writing. Although it made him famous and lifted him out of debt, it also made him unpopular in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1827 on this date, the first black newspaper in the United States was founded—Freedom's Journal, produced on Varick Street in what is now Lower Manhattan, in New York City. Its editors were John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish.

On this day in 1798, the first inoculation against smallpox was performed by doctor Edward Jenner in Gloucestershire, England. He had noticed that dairy workers infected with the relatively mild disease cowpox seemed to be immune to the far deadlier disease of smallpox. Taking some matter from a cowpox infection, he inoculated a 5-year-old boy named John Baker. Two months later, when the doctor inoculated the boy with smallpox, the youngster failed to develop the disease. As fearsome as smallpox was, there was great resistance to Jenner's discovery: it wasn't until nine years after Jenner's first experiment that any nation made the smallpox vaccination compulsory.

It's the birthday of our fourth President, James Madison, born in Port Conway, Virginia (1751). Madison managed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, arguing for a strong central government. He later served as Jefferson's Secretary of State, and the two worked well together in spite of their differences. In 1808 Madison succeeded Jefferson and continued his policies. He was the smallest man ever to serve as President, standing five-feet-four inches tall, and weighing a hundred pounds.

(Instapaper)

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