Nov. 29, 2001

Love-Songs, At Once Tender and Informative

by Samuel Hoffenstein

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Poem: Some lines from the "Love-Songs, At Once Tender and Informative," by Samuel Hoffenstein from Poems In Praise of Practically Nothing (Horace Liveright).

Love-Songs, At Once Tender and Informative

She gave me her heart—
Oh, the sweetness of it!
She gave me her hand—
The petiteness of it!

She gave me herself—
Oh, the wonder of it!
I have her myself—
Oh, the blunder of it!

If you love me, as I love you,
We'll both be friendly and untrue.

Your little hands,
Your little feet,
Your little mouth—
Oh, God, how sweet!

Your little nose,
Your little ears,
Your eyes, that shed
Such little tears!

Your little voice,
So soft and kind;
Your little soul,
Your little mind!

The lady of my heart is one
Who has no peer beneath the sun;
But mortal truths have mortal sequels—
Beneath the moon I know her equals.

When I took you for my own,
You stood 'mong women all alone;
When I let the magic go,
You stood with women in a row.

It's the birthday of C.S. Lewis, Clive Staples Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898, a great Christian thinker and writer of theological works, then of science fiction novels, and later of popular children's books including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the other six tales in the "Chronicles of Narnia." Lewis studied at Oxford and later became a tutor and lecturer there for more than 20 years. In 1933, he befriended J. R. R. Tolkien, a devout Roman Catholic, and from their discussions Lewis gained a deep passion for Christianity—he became a devout Christian and began writing important works like The Pilgrim's Recess: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity and later, The Screwtape Letters. In 1950 Lewis received a letter from an American fan named Joy Davidman who had converted to Christianity from Judaism because of reading The Screwtape Letters. It was the start of a long and friendly correspondence between the two, which eventually ended in their marriage. They married primarily because it was the only way she could renew her visa and continue to live in England, but when she was diagnosed with bone cancer, the trauma drew the couple together in love. Lewis wrote to a friend that "It's funny having at 59 the kind of happiness most men have in their 20s." They redid the marriage ceremony, this time at Joy's bedside, and prepared for her to die. But she didn't for a while—she went into a surprising remission and the two lived happily together until her death in 1960. To deal with his grief, Lewis wrote, under a pseudonym, A Grief Observed.

It's the birthday of the author Louisa May Alcott, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832. She began to write, hoping to contribute to her family financially, but nothing was widely successful until she was asked to write a book for girls, an offer she accepted only because she needed the money. The book was Little Women, in which she based the character Jo on herself and the other characters on her mother and sisters.

It's the birthday of Madeleine L'Engle, born in Manhattan in 1918. She is best known for her novels The Small Rain, Meet the Austins, and A Wrinkle in Time.

It's the birthday of Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1797. He wrote 75 operas in Italian and French, including the popular Lucia di Lammermore, most of which were overshadowed by the works of his more critically acclaimed contemporaries, Rossini and Verdi. Donizetti's career was cut short by syphilis, from which he suffered a long and painful decline into insanity and paralysis.

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