Oct. 25, 2001

Sonnet 37: As a decrepit father takes delight

by William Shakespeare

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Poem: "Sonnet 37," by William Shakespeare.

Sonnet 37

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by fortune's dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed
And by a part of all thy glory live.
    Look, what is best, that best I wish in thee:
    This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

It's the birthday of novelist Anne Tyler, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1941).  Tyler spent her childhood and college years in North Carolina, but has become best-known for her novels about eccentric characters living in Baltimore. Baltimore is the setting for many of her best-known novels, including Searching for Caleb (1975) and The Accidental Tourist (1985).  Her 11th novel, Breathing Lessons, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  She said: "My interest is character.  The real joy of writing is how people can surprise you."

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Harold Brodkey, born in Alton, Illinois (1930).  He began working on his first novel in 1962, and over the next 32 years became famous for not publishing it.  For years, the novel, The Runaway Soul, appeared in his publisher's catalogue, only to be withdrawn as he continued to work on it in his cork-lined, Upper West Side apartment.  "Publishing would interfere with working on it," he said.

It's the birthday of poet John Berryman, born in McAlester, Oklahoma (1914). As an undergraduate at Columbia, he ran for class office and participated on the track team, until a class with Mark Van Doren made him decide to devote himself to poetry. In 1954, he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota, and in 1956 established his reputation as a major American poet with the publication of his Homage to Mistress Bradstreet.  His other collections include His Toy, His Dream, His Rest (1969) and 77 Dream Songs (1965), which won the Pulitzer Prize.

On this day in 1854, 650 members of an English light cavalry brigade made a heroic and ill-fated charge against a Russian artillery post at Balaklava.  Two-thirds of the British force was killed or wounded in the charge, which was immortalized in Tennyson's poem  "The Charge of the Light Brigade":

Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered.
Into the jaws of death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred…

Today is St. Crispin's Day, dedicated to the patron saint of shoemakers, who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Maximian on this date in 287 A.D.  St. Crispin and his brother St. Crispinian lived at Soisson in France, where they preached during the day and supported themselves by making shoes at night.  It was on St. Crispin's Day in 1415 that English troops, commanded by King Henry V, engaged the French army near the village of Agincourt in France.  Despite being outnumbered nearly six to one, the English pulled off one of the most brilliant victories in English military history.  In Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth, King Henry addresses his troops on the eve of battle with a memorable speech:

This story shall the good man tell his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispin's day.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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