Jul. 21, 2001


by Willa Cather

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Poem: "L'Envoi," by Willa Cather.


Where are the loves that we have loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.
No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.
No matter when or how love did befall,
'Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.
No matter whose the eyes that I would keep
Near in the dark, 'tis in the eyes of Sleep
That I must look and look forever more,
When once I am alone, and shut the door.

It's the birthday of American novelist, poet, and teacher John Gardner, born in Batavia, New York, in 1933. He was an active writer from childhood on, but had prospered in an academic career long before his first novel, Grendel, which relates the Beowulf epic from the monster's point of view, was published in 1971. More novels followed, including The Sunlight Dialogues, and October Light. In 1978 he published the book On Moral Fiction, which defends traditional literary forms. He was killed in 1981 when his motorcycle ran off the road near his home in the Pennsylvania countryside. John Gardner, who said: "All modern art is tinny, commercial, and immoral. Let a state of total war be declared, not between art and society, but between the age-old enemies, real and fake."

It's the birthday of American short-story writer, novelist, and adventurer Ernest Hemingway, born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899. He attended public school there and spent summers with his family on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan. After high school he took a job as a reporter in Kansas City. A year later, when the United States entered WWI, he volunteered but was rejected because of a bad eye. Despite this, he managed to see action as an ambulance driver on the Austro-Italian front and was wounded there. This experience, and that of his subsequent hospitalization in Milan, formed the basis of his popular novel A Farewell to Arms. He spent much of his adult life abroad, based in Paris, where he wrote The Sun Also Rises, and at an estate outside of Havana, Cuba. As he was becoming famous as a writer, he was also becoming famous as an adventurer and sportsman. His glorious exploits in hunting, fishing, and bull-fighting all over the globe were reported on by Life and Esquire magazines. After WWII, he made a literary comeback with his short novel The Old Man in the Sea, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. After 1960, he suffered from severe depression and was hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he underwent shock therapy. About the treatment, he said: "What is the sense in ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure, but we lost the patient. It's a bum turn, a hotch, terrible."

It's the birthday of American poet Hart Crane, born in Garrettsville, Ohio, in 1899. He is best known for his long poem The Bridge, which uses the Brooklyn Bridge as its central image.

It was on this day in the year 1403 that the Battle of Shewsbury was fought, in which King Henry IV of England defeated and killed Sir Henry Percy, known as Hotspur. The conflict is revisited in Shakespeare's play Henry the Fourth, Part One. Hotspur is a principal character in the play, ambitious, but sympathetic. He says: "O Gentlemen, the time of life is short! To spend that shortness basely were too long if life did ride upon a dial's point, still ending at the arrival of an hour."

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