Oct. 16, 2001

Shady Grove

by American folk song

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: An American folk tune called "Shady Grove."

Shady Grove

Peaches in the summertime,
Apples in the fall,
If I can't get the girl I love,
Won't have none at all.

Wish I had a banjo string
Made of golden twine,
And every tune I'd pick on it —
Is 'I wish that girl were mine.'

Fly around, my blue-eyed girl,
Fly around, my daisy,
Fly around, my blue-eyed girl,
Nearly drive me crazy.

Shady grove, my true love,
Shady grove I know,
Shady grove, my true love,
I'm bound for the shady grove.

The blue-collar Irish bard of the borough of Queens, Jimmy Breslin, is 71 today, born in Jamaica, New York. He started out as a copy boy and sportswriter, then columnist, for the New York Journal American, the Herald Tribune, the Post, Daily News, and Newsday. He is a novelist whose work includes World Without End, a story about an Irish cop, Dermot Davey, who visits the mother country and comes up against the troubles in Northern Ireland. Table Money is a novel about the sandhogs, Irishmen who dug the tunnels that bring water to New York City. He also wrote a couple of memoirs, including I Want To Thank My Brain For Remembering Me, about the author's near-death experience undergoing surgery to repair a brain aneurysm.

It's the birthday of Germany's greatest novelist, Gunter Grass, in Danzig, 1927, famous for his novel of 1959, Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), which was followed by Hundejahre (Dog Years) and other books. In 1995, four years before he received the Nobel Prize, he caused a great controversy in Germany with his novel, Ein Weites Feld (A Wide Field), in which he was critical of German reunification, portraying greedy tycoons of the West taking over the people's property of the East. He thought that a united Germany would be a danger to the world.

It's the birthday of playwright Eugene O'Neill, born to a theatrical family, in a Broadway hotel in New York, 1888. He dropped out of Princeton after a year to go to sea for six years. He came down with tuberculosis, spent six months in a sanitarium in Connecticut, where he began to write plays. The Provincetown Players did his one-act Bound East for Cardiff in 1916, and four years later his first full-length play, Beyond the Horizon, opened on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize. He was a ferocious worker and turned out 20 long plays, some of them double or triple length, between 1920 and 1943, including The Hairy Ape, The Emperor Jones, Desire Under the Elms, Stranger Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra, Ah Wilderness, and Long Day's Journey Into Night.

It's Oscar Wilde's birthday, born Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde, in Dublin in 1854. He established himself in literary London in the 1880s, a witty and flamboyant character dressed in velvet jacket and trousers and black silk stockings. In 1882, he made a year-long lecture tour of the U.S., exhorting people to love beauty and art, and then a lecture tour of Britain, on his impressions of America. In the 1890s, he published The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel, and his hit plays, A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windermere's Fan, and The Importance of Being Earnest. He was convicted of sodomy, after a romance with the Marquess of Queensbury's son, and sent to Reading prison for two years. On his release in 1897, bankrupt, he went to France, where George Bernard Shaw said he maintained "an unconquerable gaiety of soul" until, in 1900, he died of acute meningitis brought on by an ear infection. Oscar Wilde, who said, "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about."

The lexicographer Noah Webster was born today, in West Hartford, in 1758. His great work, the American Dictionary of the English Language, came out in 1828 with 70,000 entries. Webster was a busy man: He also wrote a standard medical text, a History of Pestilential Diseases, helped found Amherst College, and served in the Massachusetts legislature. After he died, his dictionary was put out by the Merriam Company, but his name went into the public domain and today Webster's is a synonym for dictionary.

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