May 1, 2002
To a Singer
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Poem: "To A Singer," by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
To A Singer
My soul is an enchanted boat,
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing
And thine doth like an angel sit
Beside the helm conducting it,
Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
It seems to float ever, for ever,
Upon that many-winding river,
Between mountains, woods, abysses,
A paradise of wildernesses!
Till, like one in slumber bound,
Bourne to the ocean, I float down, around,
Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound.
Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions
In music's most serene dominions;
Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven,
And we sail on, away, afar,
Without a course, without a star,
But by the instinct of sweet music driven;
Till through Elysian garden islets
By thee, most beautiful of pilots,
Where never mortal pinnace glided,
The boat of my desire is guided:
Realms where the air we breathe is love,
Which in the winds on the waves doth move,
Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above.
Today is May
Day, one of the oldest holidays on the calendar. The ancient Romans
celebrated it with a festival of thanksgiving to the flower goddess, Flora -
they scattered flower petals in the streets. The Celts built bonfires to ward
off evil spirits. In medieval England, whole villages would turn out to go "a-maying,"
paying homage to their local May Queen, and dancing around a maypole. Women
rose before sunrise to wash their faces with dew, which they believed would
beautify their skin.
It's the birthday of writer Bobbie
Ann Mason, born in Mayfield, Kentucky (1940). She wrote her doctoral
dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov. By the time she finished it, she said, "I
was so sick of reading about the alienated hero of superior sensibility that
I thought I would write about just the opposite." She set out to write
about rural western Kentucky, and the farmers and workers living there. Her
first book was Shiloh and Other Stories (1981); her other books include
Feather Crowns (1993), and Clear Springs (1999), a memoir.
It's the birthday of novelist Joseph
Heller, born in Coney Island, Brooklyn (1923). He was a bombardier in
World War II, and he drew on that experience in the writing of his great novel
Catch-22 (1961). Word of mouth made it a cult favorite, and then the
nation's growing opposition to the Vietnam War made it a success. It was a dark,
funny book about the craziness of war. When someone told him that he had never
written anything as good as Catch-22, he replied, "Who has?"
It's the birthday of writer Niccolò
Tucci, born in Lugano, Switzerland (1908). He wrote stories for The New
Yorker magazine, and three autobiographical novels in English, including
Before My Time (1962) and The Sun and the Moon (1971). He also
edited a collection of Italian fairy tales.
It's the birthday of French philosopher
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, born near Auvergne (1881). He entered the Jesuit
order, was ordained, and received a doctorate in paleontology from the Sorbonne
(1922). He's best known for his book The Phenomenon of Man (1955; translated
into English 1959).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®