May 5, 2001
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Poem: "Blue Girls," by John Crowe Ransom, from Selected Poems (Random House).
Twirling your blue skirts, travelling the sward
Under the towers of your seminary,
Go listen to your teachers old and contrary
Without believing a word.
Tie the white fillets then about your hair
And think no more of what will come to pass
Than bluebirds that go walking on the grass
And chattering on the air.
Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail;
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish
Beauty which all our power shall never establish,
It is so frail.
For I could tell you a story which is true;
I know a woman with a terrible tongue,
Blear eyes fallen from blue,
All her perfections tarnished yet it is not long
Since she was lovelier than any of you.
Today is Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, a national holiday that celebrates the Battle of Puebla (1862), in which Mexican forces defeated French invaders against overwhelming odds.
It's the birthday of Carlos Baker, born in Biddeford, Maine (1909), best known for his work Ernest Hemingway: a Life Story (1969).
It's the birthday of journalist Richard H. Rovere, born in Jersey City, New Jersey (1915). He was a writer for many years for The New Yorker, and author of the book Senator Joe McCarthy (1959).
It's the birthday of novelist, poet, and playwright Christopher Morley, born in Haverford, Pennsylvania (1890). He wrote many books that were popular in the '20s and '30s, the most successful of which was Kitty Foyle (1939).
It's the birthday of journalist Nelly Bly, born Elizabeth Cochran, in Cochran Mills, Pennsylvania (1867). She worked for Joseph Pulitzer at the New York World, where she pretended to be insane and got herself committed to the public asylum on Blackwell's Island so that she could write an exposé about it. She wrote many other such exposés.
It's the birthday of Karl Marx, born in Trier, Germany (1818). He was expelled from Germany for his radical beliefs, and went off to Paris. In Paris he met Frederich Engels, the son of a prosperous textile manufacturer, and with him wrote the Communist Manifesto (1848). Then he was expelled from France, and eventually settled in London. He spent most of his time at the British Museum, doing research for what would be his magnum opus, Das Kapital (1867). He liked to go to the pub with friends, he was attracted to aristocratic women, he enjoyed going to health spas, and he loved to take walks with his three daughters and tell them stories. When he would announce that it was time to go in, the girls would say, "No, Papa, tell another mile!"
It's the birthday of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, born in Copenhagen (1813). He wrote complicated philosophical works, some of which he published under pseudonyms so that he could attack them himself later. His books include Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (1843) and The Sickness Unto Death (1849).
"There are many people who reach their conclusions about life like schoolboys; they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book without having worked out the sum for themselves."
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