Dec. 16, 2001

410 The first Day's Night had come

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "The first Day's Night had come," by Emily Dickinson from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Little Brown and Company).

The first Day's Night had come

The first Day's Night had come—
And grateful that a thing
So terrible—had been endured—
I told my Soul to sing—

She said her Strings were snapt—
Her Bow—to Atoms blown—
And so to mend her—gave me work
Until another Morn—

And then—a Day as huge
As Yesterdays in pairs,
Unrolled its horror in my face—
Until it blocked my eyes—

My Brain—begun to laugh—
I mumbled—like a fool—
And tho' 'tis Years ago—that Day—
My Brain keeps giggling—still.

And Something's odd—within—
That person that I was—
And this One—do not feel the same—
Could it be Madness—this?

It's the birthday of anthropologist Margaret Mead, born in Philadelphia (1901). She studied at Columbia University with the renowned anthropologist Franz Boas, who encouraged her to do an anthropological study of adolescent girls. She ended up going to Samoa, where her research yielded the book Coming of Age in Samoa (1928). The book was widely read both by scholars and by the general public and inspired a generation of young women to study anthropology.

It's the birthday of English playwright and composer Sir Noël Coward, born in Teddington, England (1899). He is best known for his comedies Private Lives (1930), Design for Living (1933) and Blithe Spirit (1941). Blithe Spirit, a comedy about spiritualism, premiered in London during the height of the air raids in WWII. Coward wrote of the opening night: "The audience had to walk across planks laid over the rubble caused by a recent air raid to see a light comedy about death." The play went on to break box office records with a run of nearly 2,000 performances.

It's the birthday of Jane Austen, born in Steventon, England (1775). As a girl, she wrote spoofs of popular sentimental fiction and took part in private theatricals staged in a local barn. She finished writing her first novel, a parody called Love and Friendship, when she was 14. In 1797, her father sent a London publisher the manuscript of Pride and Prejudice, only to have it rejected by return of post. After her father's death in 1805, she settled with her mother and sister in the village of Chawton, where at her own expense she published both Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813). It was also at Chawton that she wrote her last three novels: Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1816) and Persuasion (1818).

On this day in 1773, from 30 to 60 colonists dressed up as Indians and threw 10,000 pounds worth of tea into Boston Harbor in an incident that became known as the Boston Tea Party. The action was in protest of an act of Parliament that granted a monopoly in the American tea trade to the East India Company. When he heard about it back in London, Samuel Johnson quipped, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

It's the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, born in Bonn, Germany (1770). His grandfather and father were both musicians. He studied briefly with Mozart and Haydn. It was in Vienna that he became famous, both as a composer and as a pianist. But at the height of his success as a performer, in 1800, he began to realize that he was going deaf. He was tempted to take his own life, but said: "Only Art held me back; for, ah, it seemed unthinkable for me to leave the world forever before I had produced all I felt called upon to produce." What he produced were some of the greatest musical masterpieces of his or any age, including nine monumental symphonies, 17 string quartets, and 32 piano sonatas.

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