Mar. 31, 2001


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

SATURDAY, 31 March 2001
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Poem: "Mutability," by Percy Bysshe Shelley.


The flower that smiles today
         Tomorrow dies;
All that we wish to stay,
         Tempts and then flies.
What is this world's delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
    Brief even as bright.

Virtue, how frail it is!
         Friendship how rare!
Love, how it sells poor bliss
         For proud despair!
But we, though soon they fall,
Survive their joy and all
    Which ours we call.

Whilst skies are blue and bright,
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
         Make glad the day,
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou - and from thy sleep
    Then wake to weep.

It's the birthday of the founder of modern philosophy, the French philosopher René Descartes, born in Touraine, France (1596). His most famous single statement was, "I think, therefore I am."

It's the birthday of poet Andrew Marvell, born in Yorkshire, England (1621). He's the author of the poem "To His Coy Mistress," which includes the lines:

"Had we but world enough and time
This coyness, Lady, were no crime...
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity."

It's the birthday of writer Nikolai Gogol, born in Sorochinsk, Russia (1809). He's best known for his play, The Inspector General (1836), and for his novel, Dead Souls (1842).

In 1836 on this date, Charles Dickens began publishing his first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. It was meant to be a series of captions for the cartoons of Robert Seymour — but the writing was so funny that readers wanted more.

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Octavio Paz, born in Mexico City (1914), best known for The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950).

It's the birthday of novelist John Fowles, born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England (1926). His first novel, The Collector (1963), describes a shy man who uses his windfall profits from gambling to kidnap a young woman and keep her captive. He's also known for The Magus (1965) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969).

In 1930 on this date, the Motion Picture Code was accepted by Hollywood producers. The Code wasn't enforced much until the mid-thirties, when Mae West started making pictures and saying things like, "When I'm good I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better," and, "Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before." The Code mandated such things as that only twin beds could be shown in a bedroom, and no kiss could last longer than three seconds.

It's the birthday of novelist John Jakes, born in Chicago (1932). He turned out over 50 books in genres as varied as science fiction, children's literature, and suspense, before coming out with his American Bicentennial series which was a huge success in the 1970s. He followed that series with a Civil War trilogy of novels.

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Marge Piercy, born in Detroit (1936), to working-class parents during the Depression. She was the first member of her family to go to college. Much of her writing concerns economic, sexual, and racial inequality. Her first novel was Going Down Fast (1969). Her poetry collections include Circles on the Water (1982), and The Art of Blessing the Day (1999).

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