Nov. 22, 2001

a poem

by Henry Howard

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Poem: A poem by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

Martial, the things for to attain
The happy life be these, I find:
The riches left, not got with pain;
The fruitful ground; the quiet mind:
The equal friend; no grudge nor strife;
No charge of rule nor governance;
Without disease the healthful life;
The household of continuance:
The mean diet, no delicate fare;
Wisdom joined with simplicity;
The night discharged of all care,
Where wine may bear no sovereignty;
The chaste wife wise, without debate;
Such sleeps as may beguile the night;
Contented with thine own estate,
Neither wish Death nor fear his might.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. It's a day of feasting and football, a day of parades and family gatherings. But above all, it's a day of thankfulness for blessings and for deliverance from trials. The first official proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued by the town council of Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1676, and set aside the twentieth of June of that year as "a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for his Goodness and Favour" in the midst of the hardships of founding a home in the New World.

Today is also the Feast of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. According to legend, she was betrothed against her will to a pagan named Valerian. At the altar, she sang to God in her heart, drowning out the music of the pagan wedding anthem. She converted her bridegroom to Christianity, and after he was baptized, an angel came down and crowned Cecilia with roses and lilies.

It's the birthday of English director Sir Peter Hall, born in Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk, England (1930). In 1954, one year out of Cambridge, he became the director of the Arts Theater in London, where he staged the London premier of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, and brought the plays of Eugene Ionesco to the English stage for the first time. In 1960, he became the managing director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he formed a close association with the playwright Harold Pinter.

It's the birthday of the French writer André Paul-Guillaume Gide, born in Paris (1869). Throughout his life, he was torn between the morality of his strict Protestant upbringing and his urge for freedom and sensuality. He wrote his first book when he was 21. Shortly afterward, he visited North Africa, where he met Oscar Wilde, who urged him to acknowledge his suppressed homosexuality. Gide's most famous books are The Immoralist (1902) and The Counterfeiters (1926).

It's the birthday of English novelist George Robert Gissing, born in Wakefield, Yorkshire (1857). After a brilliant college career, he spent most of his life in unhappiness and near poverty. In his greatest novel, New Grub Street (1891), he writes about life of the writer whose higher literary ambitions are set aside in order to scrape out a living.

It's the birthday of English novelist Mary Ann Evans, better known as George Eliot, born in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire (1819). When she was 24, she announced to her father that she would no longer go to church. Soon afterward, she became intimate with a much older man, R. H. Brabant, who was working on a book which he claimed would dispose of the supernatural element in religion. She and Brabant read Greek together, and took long walks on which they discussed theology. The friendship was broken off when Mrs. Brabant became jealous, and young Mary Ann left in humiliation. Brabant's book on religion was never written, but he became the model for the ineffectual scholar Mr. Casaubon in the novel Middlemarch (1872). Evans began to write novels under the name George Eliot. Her first long novel was Adam Bede (1859), followed by The Mill on the Floss (186), Silas Marner (1861), and Middlemarch. Middlemarch ends with these words: "the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

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