Apr. 7, 2001

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth

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Poem: "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802," by William Wordsworth.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Today is the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins at sundown with a Seder dinner: an eight-day celebration of the delivery of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Donald Barthelme, born in Philadelphia (1931), a writer, from the early 60s on, for the New Yorker magazine. He's the author of Come Back Dr. Caligari (1964), Snow White (1967), The Dead Father (1975) and other books.

It's the birthday of singer Billie Holiday, born in Baltimore (1915), who wrote about her life in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956). She started out singing in Harlem, in little clubs: Mexico's, The Hot Cha Cha Club, and the Shim Sham Club. Then she was discovered by jazz promoter and producer John Hammond, who arranged for her to record with Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Ben Webster and Roy Elldridge.

It's the birthday of journalist and radio broadcaster Walter Winchell, born in New York City (1897). At one time he was the most widely read and listened to columnist in the world, with a radio broadcast that started out with the words, "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America—from border to border and coast to coast, and all the ships at sea."

It's the birthday of author Marjory Stoneham Douglas, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1890), a lifelong crusader for the preservation of the Florida Everglades. In her environmental classic, The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), she wrote, "There are no other Everglades in the world, the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose . . . It is a river of grass."

It's the birthday of baseball player and manager John J. McGraw, born in Truxton New York (1873). He was the manager of the New York Giants for 30 years, and his nickname was "Little Napoleon."

It's the birthday of the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, born in Cumberland, England (1770). He had the ability to compose from memory, even long poems, such "Tintern Abbey," which was composed entirely in his head during a long walk with his sister one afternoon.

"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity."

"These people in the senseless hurry of their idle lives do not read books, they merely snatch a glance at them that they may talk about them. And even if this were not so, never forget what I believe was observed by Coleridge, that every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great or original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished."

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