Aug. 7, 2001

My Heart Leaps Up

by William Wordsworth

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Poem: lines from "My Heart Leaps Up," by William Wordsworth.

My Heart Leaps Up

My heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
    Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

It's the birthday of writer Anne Fadiman, born in New York City (1953). Her father was an editor, her mother was a journalist, and her whole family loved books: she called them "Bibliolatrous" in her book of essays Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.

It's the birthday of reed player Rahsaan Roland Kirk, born in Columbus, Ohio (1936). Blinded soon after birth, he took up tenor saxophone and flute. He took the name Rahsaan and toured with bassist Charlie Mingus before forming his own group. Kirk could play three different saxes at the same time, producing three-part harmony, and was especially known for his improvisations.

On this day in 1934, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that the government could neither ban nor confiscate copies of the novel Ulysses, by James Joyce. The court pointed out that if that book could be banned for its erotic passages, so could Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and parts of the Odyssey.

It's the birthday of filmmaker Nicholas Ray (Raymond Nicholas Kienzle), born in Galesville, Wisconsin (1911). He grew up in La Crosse, studied theater at the University of Chicago, studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at the architect's Taliesin art colony in Wisconsin, then moved to Hollywood to become a director. He made a number of pictures in the '40s and '50s focusing on disaffected loners in such films as Knock on Any Door (1949), In a Lonely Place (1950), Johnny Guitar (1954), and Rebel Without a Cause (1955). He made his last picture, 55 Days at Peking, in 1963; after that, project after project failed to materialize. Ray's personal motto, "I'm a stranger here myself," was used as the title for a documentary on his life, made in 1974. Ray said, "There is no formula for success. But there is a formula for failure, and that is to try to please everybody."

It's the birthday of paleontologist Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey, born in a village eight miles from Nairobi, Kenya (1903). The son of British missionaries to the Kikuyu tribe, he grew up with Kikuyu children, and at 13 and a half was initiated into manhood by tribal rite and was given the name Son of the Sparrow Hawk. He went to England for college, but returned to Africa with his wife, Mary, to do archeological work. They concentrated on the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania, and on July 17, 1959, made a remarkable discovery: They found 400 bits of the skull of a man almost 1.75 million years old. Leakey estimated that the family of man was more than 19 million years old, much older than had been previously thought, and they placed the origins of man in Africa, rather than Asia.

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