Jun. 11, 2001

The Moon-Goddess

by Ben Jonson

MONDAY, 11 JUNE 2001
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Poem: "The Moon-Goddess," by Ben Johnson.

The Moon-Goddess

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
  Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
  State in wonted manner keep:
      Hesperus entreats thy light,
      Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
   Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
   Heaven to clear when day did close:
       Bless us then with wished sight,
       Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
   And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
   Space to breath, how short soever:
       Thou that mak'st a day of night—
       Goddess excellently bright.   

It's the birthday of novelist Allan Gurganus, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1947. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard an aircraft carrier, and afterward attended the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he took a course from the novelist John Cheever. Cheever sent one of Gurganus' stories, Minor Heroism, to the New Yorker, which promptly published it. Soon after, he wrote his first novel, his big novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, and 718 pages were published in 1989.

It's the birthday of playwright and actor Athol Fugard, born in Middleburg, in Cape Province, South Africa, in 1932. The character Harold in his play "Master Harold" ... and the Boys was Fugard himself.

It's the birthday of novelist William Styron, born in Newport News, Virginia, in 1925. As a boy, he went to the library to get books for his mother, who was bedridden. Awed by all of the writing in them, he taught himself to read when he was just five. He started writing short stories at the age of 13. He got a job as a manuscript reader at McGraw-Hill, but was fired, and wrote: "At the age of 22 I had such pure hopes in my ability to write, not just a respectable novel, but a novel that would be completely out of the ordinary, that when I left the McGraw-Hill Building for the last time I felt the exultancy of a man just released from slavery and ready to set the universe on fire." It took him two and a half years to write his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, which came out in 1951.

It's the birthday of the critic Irving Howe, born in New York City's East Bronx in 1920. He graduated from City College at 20, started writing essays, and founded a magazine for the "moderate left" called Dissent. His best-known book was World of Our Fathers, which came out in 1976 and is a history of Eastern European immigration to America. When a woman criticized calling the book World of Our Fathers and not World of Our Fathers and Our Mothers, Irving Howe said, "World of Our Fathers is a title. World of Our Fathers and Our Mothers is a speech."

It's the birthday of the short-story writer Mary Lavin, born in East Walpole, Massachusetts, in 1912. Her mother took her back to Ireland, and there she got her education and came out with her first collection of stories, Tales from Bective Bridge, in 1942.

It's the birthday of the Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata born in Osaka in 1899. He is best known for his novel Snow Country. He also wrote The Sound of the Mountain and A Thousand Cranes. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968.

It's the birthday of the poet and playwright Ben Jonson, born in London in 1572. He became an actor and playwright when he was 22 years old, and when he was quite young, he killed another actor in a duel, and was arrested and indicted for manslaughter. He was very nearly hanged, but his ability to read and write saved him. He is the author of Every Man in His Humor, Volpone, The Alchemist, and other plays and poems.

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