Friday

Jul. 27, 2001

Franklin Hyde, Who caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle

by Hilaire Belloc

FRIDAY, 27 JULY 2001
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Poem: "Franklin Hyde, Who caroused in Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle," by Hilaire Belloc, from The Penguin Book of Nonsense Verse (Penguin Books).

Franklin Hyde, Who Caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle

His Uncle came on Franklin Hyde
Carousing in the Dirt.
He Shook him hard from Side to Side
And
Hit him till it Hurt,

Exclaiming, with a Final Thud,
'Take that! Abandoned Boy!
For Playing with Disgusting Mud
As though it were a Toy!'

     Moral
From Franklin Hyde's adventure, learn
To pass your Leisure Time
In Cleanly Merriment, and turn
From Mud and Ooze and Slime
And every form of Nastiness—
But, on the other Hand,
Children in ordinary Dress
May always play with Sand.

On this day in 1953, in Panmunjom, the Korean War was finally brought to a close after two years of negotiations. The election of Dwight Eisenhower and the death of Joseph Stalin helped the process to its completion.

It's the birthday of novelist Bharati Mukherjee, born in Calcutta in 1940, an Indian-born American writer who attended college in both countries. Her books include The Tiger's Daughter, Wife, and several collections of short stories. She said, "I feel there are people born to be Americans. By American I mean an intensity of spirit and a quality of desire. I feel American in a very fundamental way, whether Americans see me that way or not."

On this day in 1921, at the University of Toronto, physiologists Frederick Banting and Charles Best, his assistant, isolated the hormone insulin, later used to control diabetes.

It's the birthday of New York chronicler Joseph (Quincy) Mitchell, born in Iona, North Carolina, in 1908. He went to New York City and worked at The New Yorker magazine, where he wrote about ordinary people: the Fulton Fish Market, the clammers of Long Island, and the oystermen of Staten Island. He wrote about gin-mill owners, con artists, a flea-circus operator, and Joseph Ferdinand Gould, "Professor Seagull," who claimed to know how to understand seagulls, and said he had translated the poetry of Longfellow into their language. Of the service at McSorley's Saloon in the East Village, Mitchell wrote in 1940: "It is a drowsy place; the bartenders never make a needless move, the customers nurse their mugs of ale, and the three clocks on the walls have not been in agreement for many years. The backbone of the clientele is a rapidly thinning group of crusty old men, predominantly Irish, who have been drinking there since they were youths and now have a proprietary feeling about the place."

It's the birthday of the master of light verse Hilaire (Joseph-Pierre) Belloc, born in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France in 1870 to a French lawyer father and an English mother; he became a naturalized British subject in 1902. Although he wrote graceful, lucid essays on some of the thorniest issues of the Edwardian era, he is remembered today for his nonsensical verse for children: The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (published in 1896) and Cautionary Tales (published in 1907). Here's an excerpt from one of his poems: "Matilda told such dreadful lies/It made one gasp and stretch one's eyes;/Her aunt, who, from her earliest youth,/Had kept a strict regard for truth,/Attempted to believe Matilda:/The effort very nearly killed her."

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas the Younger born in Paris in 1824. He was the illegitimate son of the author of the same name, who wrote The Three Musketeers. Young Alexandre wrote the play Camille, on which Giuseppe Verdi based his opera, La Traviata.

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