Oct. 24, 2001

Hunter's Sabbath: Hippocratic

by Sydney Lea

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Poem: "Hunter's Sabbath: Hippocratic," by Sydney Lea from To The Bone (University of Illinois Press).

Hunter's Sabbath: Hippocratic

the gauzy lichen here    took years
to mask this granite     patient earth
I know I will not save nor cure
invading         yet today my path
as often will be hare's and deer's
and cat's          described by scat and track
thin trail out         thin trail back
that I may leave     no greater scar
than they incise     on scarp and peak
in easy passing     unpursued
nor greater wound     than weather makes
in any less than     fevered mood
today I will not prey     nor storm
my way may do     no earthly good
but let it do at least     no harm

On this date in 1929, prices collapsed on the New York Stock Exchange in a massive sell-off of stocks.  Later in the day, six major banking institutions, led by the firm of J.P. Morgan and Company, put up $40 million apiece to steady the market. The action by the banks held off a Stock Market crash for another five days.

It's the birthday of English-born American poet Denise Levertov, born in Ilford, Essex (1923).  She became a U.S. citizen in 1955, and during the 1960s began to write poems that voiced her opposition to the war in Vietnam. She said: "If poets are inspired to write about their political concerns, that is good ... And you can't make a good poem out of opinion and good intentions."  Her books of poetry include Relearning the Alphabet (1970), Footprints (1972), Candles in Babylon (1982), and Breathing the Water (1987).  She also had a sense of humor.  When asked what she would choose as her epitaph, she said: "She knew how to cure the hiccups."

The first transcontinental telegraph line began operation on this date in 1861, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Johnson Field, in California, sent a message to President Abraham Lincoln, in Washington, D.C.  It cost the general public $6 to send 10 words from San Francisco to New York, and 75 cents for each additional word.  The telegraph line was so successful that it quickly put the Pony Express out of business.

It's the birthday of American writer and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, born in Newport, New Hampshire (1788). She wrote a novel, Northwood (1827), and was soon asked to edit the Lady's Magazine, which later became known as Godey's Lady's Book. Hale was also a poet, best known as the writer of the popular children's rhyme, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (1830). Hale was also a tireless worker for women's rights, campaigning for equal access to education and fair wages for women.  She organized the first day nursery in the United States, advocated public playgrounds, promoted the radical idea that women could become public school teachers, and was instrumental in founding Vassar College for women.  She also mounted a successful campaign to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday.

It's the birthday of Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, born in Delft, Netherlands (1632).  At 16, he was sent off to Amsterdam to learn the cloth trade.  Six years later, he returned to Delft as a draper.  In his work as a draper, he used a magnifying glass to count the number of threads per inch in a piece of cloth. This led him to become interested in lenses, and to experiment with grinding his own lenses and with observing objects through a microscope.  He became the first scientist to observe bacteria and protozoa.

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