Nov. 25, 2001

Down in the Valley

by Old American Song

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Poem: An old American song, "Down in the Valley."

Down in the Valley

Down in the valley, valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.
    Hear the wind blow, love, hear the wind blow,
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

If you don't love me, love whom you please,
But throw your arms round me, give my heart ease.
    Give my heart ease, dear, give my heart ease.
    Throw your arms round me, give my heart ease.

Down in the valley, walking between,
Telling our story, here's what it sings:
    Here's what it sings, dear, here's what it sings,
    Telling our story, here's what it sings:

Roses of sunshine, vi'lets of dew,
Angels in heaven knows I love you,
    Knows I love you, dear, knows I love you,
    Angels in heaven knows I love you.

Build me a castle forty feet high,
So I can see her as she goes by,
    As she goes by, dear, as she goes by,
    So I can see her as she goes by.

Bird in a cage, love, bird in a cage,
Dying for freedom, ever a slave;
    Ever a slave, dear, ever a slave,
    Dying for freedom, ever a slave.

Write me a letter, send it by mail,
And back it in care of the Birmingham jail.
    Birmingham jail, love, Birmingham jail,
    And back it in care of the Birmingham jail.

It's the birthday of memoirist Lars Eighner, born in Corpus Christi, Texas (1948). In 1987, he left his job as an attendant in a Texas mental hospital and hit the road with his dog, Lizbeth. It was the beginning of three years of homelessness. Along the way, he found an old typewriter in a dumpster and began to write about what it was like to be homeless in America. The essays began to appear in The Threepenny Review, and in 1993 were published in book form as Travels with Lizbeth.

It's the birthday of playwright Shelagh Delaney, born in Salford, Lancashire, England (1939), best known for her play A Taste of Honey (1958), a play about teenage pregnancy and working-class life in England's industrial north.

It's the birthday of popular self-help author Gail Sheehy, born in Mamaroneck, New York (1937). She's best known for her books about the stages of life, the most famous being Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life (1976).

It's the birthday of physician and writer Lewis Thomas, born in Flushing, New York (1913). He's best known for his collections of essays on biology and medicine, many of them originally appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine. His first collection was The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974). His later collections include The Medusa and the Snail (1979) and The Fragile Species (1992). Thomas writes: "There is a tendency for living things to join up, establish linkages, live inside each other, return to earlier arrangements, get along whenever possible. This is the way of the world .... The whole dear notion of one's own self-marvelous old free-willed, free-enterprising, autonomous, independent, isolated island of a Self—is a myth."

It's the birthday of P. D. (Philip Dey) Eastman, born in Amherst, Massachusetts (1909). He started out in the story department at the Walt Disney Studios and later moved to Warner Brothers and United Productions of America, where he helped develop the cartoon character, Mr. Magoo. In the late1950s, he began to write and illustrate children's books. His second book, the classic Are You My Mother? (1960), sold over a million copies when it was first published.

It's the birthday of British publisher Leonard Woolf, born in London (1880). After graduating from Cambridge in 1903, he entered the Colonial Service and was posted to Ceylon. He served there until 1911, when he returned to England and fell in with a group of literary Cambridge friends who were known as the "Bloomsbury" group. The group included a young writer named Virginia Stephen, who became Virginia Woolf. They were married in 1912, and until her suicide in 1941 he devoted much of his time to nursing her through periods of mental instability. He also wrote novels and books on international relations, which helped lay the foundations for the United Nations. In 1917, he and his wife founded the Hogarth Press, a remarkable small press, which published works by E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, and Virginia Woolf herself. After his wife's death, he kept the press going and began to work on his five-volume autobiography, which appeared between 1960 and 1969, the year of his death. He wrote: "I never worry, because I am saved by a feeling that in the end nothing matters."

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