Apr. 1, 2001

Provide, Provide

by Robert Frost

SUNDAY, 1 April 2001

Poem: "Provide, Provide," by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Holt, Rinehart and Winston).

Provide, Provide

Today is April Fools' Day, the day when pranks can be played on unsuspecting persons. In 1760, an English almanac carried these lines:

The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day,
But why the people call it so,
Nor I nor they themselves do know.

It's the birthday of novelist Milan Kundera, born in Brno, Czechoslovakia (1929) — a jazz musician who turned to writing. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968), he was stripped of his teaching positions, his books were banned, and he was thrown out of the Communist Party. In 1975 he moved to France, where he wrote The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and other books.

"I learned the value of humor during the time of Stalinist terror. I could always recognize a person who was not a Stalinist, a person whom I needn't fear, by the way he smiled. A sense of humor was a trustworthy sign of recognition. Ever since, I have been terrified by a world that is losing its sense of humor."

It's the birthday of blues singer Alberta Hunter, born in Memphis, Tennessee (1895). She had a big career, singing with Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, and others. Then, for twenty years, she dropped out of music and became a nurse. She worked as a scrub nurse at a hospital on Roosevelt Island, until, at the age of 80, she made a comeback.

It's the birthday of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia (1873). When he was only 19, his Prelude in C Sharp Minor was a tremendous success — throughout his life, it was his only piece audiences always demanded that he play. His Symphony # 1 was not well received when it was premiered in St. Petersburg (1897), and he fell into despair which was only cured by hypnosis. Rachmaninoff dedicated his Piano Concerto # 2 to his hypnotist, and it became one of the best-loved piano concertos of the 20th century.

It's the birthday of dramatist Edmond Rostand, born in Marseilles, France (1868) — whose most popular play was Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), the story of a nobleman who, despite his great heart and many gifts, feels no woman can ever love him because of his enormous nose.

It's the birthday of physician and biologist William Harvey, born in Folkestone, Kent, England (1578) — the man who discovered that blood circulated in a closed system of the body.

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




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