Nov. 10, 2001

Leaves of Grass (excerpt)

by Walt Whitman

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Poem: Lines from "Leaves of Grass," by Walt Whitman.

Leaves of Grass

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men, and all so friendly,
Twenty-eight years of womanly life, and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-
    ninth and bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glistened with wet, it ran from
    their long hair,
Little streams passed all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also passed over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies swell
    to the sun…they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and
    bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

It's the birthday of poet and critic Karl Shapiro, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1913). His second wartime volume, V-Letter and Other Poems, won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize. From 1946 to 1947 he served as Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress, a position that is now called the United States Poet Laureate.

It's the birthday of poet Vachel Lindsay, born in Springfield, Illinois (1879), whose mission in life was to spread what he called "the gospel of beauty," hoping for the redemption of mankind through art. Lindsay made several walking trips across the country, giving recitals and lectures and selling copies of his poems. He gained fame with his 1913 poem "General Booth Enters into Heaven," a tribute to the founder of the Salvation Army, which was published in Poetry magazine. He also became famous for his style of reciting his poems; he would rock on his feet and pump his arms as he shouted and sang his poems.

It's the birthday of educator and reformer Samuel Howe, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1801). He is best remembered for his work with the blind and disabled. In 1832 he started a school in father's house with six pupils. Howe ran the school, originally called the New England Asylum for the Blind, and later known as the Perkins Institution, for 44 years. He also became known for the education of Laura Bridgman, who was both blind and deaf. He traveled the country fighting for better public schools, for improved education for the disabled, for humanitarian care of the insane, and for prison reform. He was married to Julia Ward Howe, who wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Both were ardent abolitionists, and together they edited the anti-slavery paper, The Commonwealth.

It's the birthday of poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich von Schiller, born in Marbach, Germany (1759). While studying, Schiller wrote his first play, The Robbers (1782). It is a stirring protest against convention and corruption in high places. Schiller then turned to historical studies and, for the next 10 years, wrote two major works: The Revolt of the Netherlands (1788) and A History of the Thirty Years War (1793). In 1785 he wrote the hymn Ode to Joy, which Beethoven later used for the choral movement of his Ninth Symphony. During the next several years, Schiller produced his most mature works, including Mary Stuart (1800), The Maid of Orleans (1801), and William Tell (1804). For more than a century after his death, he remained Germany's favorite playwright.

It's the birthday of essayist, playwright, and poet Oliver Goldsmith, born in Kilkenny Ireland (1730). "Deserted Village" (1770), considered by many his poetic masterpiece, focuses on the economic difficulties of rural life, and the dangers of luxury. It remains one of the most quoted poems in the English language. In 1766, Goldsmith published his only novel, The Vicar of Wakefield. For the next several years, however, he concentrated on writing plays, and in 1773 produced his most famous work, She Stoops to Conquer.

In 1969 on this day, Sesame Street premiered on television.

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