Jul. 10, 2002
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Poem: Some clerihews.
Sir Humphrey Davy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.
The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.
The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque.
I doubt if King John
Was a sine qua non.
I could rather imagine it
Of any other Plantagenet.
Seldom troubled a dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod.
Cecil B. De Mille
Rather against his will,
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of 'The Wars of the Roses.'
Was too grand for hotel work.
He informed a maid
That he was monarch of all he surveyed.
Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews.
It's the birthday of short story writer Alice Munro, born in Wingham, Ontario, Canada (1931). Her collections of stories include Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You (1973), The Moons of Jupiter (1982), The Progress of Love (1986), and Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001).
It's the birthday of novelist and television writer Earl Hamner, Jr., born in Schuyler, Virginia (1923). He's the author of seven novels, one of which, The Homecoming (1970), he adapted in the following year for a CBS television movie of the same name. The movie version gave rise to the successful CBS television series, The Waltons. The characters in the movie and television series were largely based on Hamner's own family in rural Virginia.
It's the birthday of French novelist Marcel Proust, born in Paris, France (1871). He was a sensitive, neurotic, and asthmatic youth who know early on he wanted to be a writer. The death of his mother in 1905 was such a shock to his system that he retreated into his room for two years. The room was lined with cork to keep out noise, the windows were tightly shut, and he spent most of his time in bed, writing. When he emerged from his room in 1907, he had notes and drafts for the novel that would keep him busy for the rest of his life, A la recherche du temps perdu, which was published between 1913 and 1927. Marcel Proust wrote: "All the great things we know have come to us from neurotics. It is they who have founded religions and created great works of art."
It's the birthday of novelist and biographer Albert Bigelow Paine, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts (1861). He was the biographer of Mark Twain and lived with him for four years while writing his book, Mark Twain, a Biography (1912). He also wrote several novels and numerous children's stories.
It's the birthday of Protestant reformer John Calvin, born in Noyon, France (1509). During a government crack-down on religious reform, he left Paris for Basel, Switzerland. There, he studied theology and began work on his most important book, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. The first edition was published in 1536, and earned him a reputation among Protestant reformers. He ended up in Geneva, Switzerland, where he drew up "ecclesiastical ordinances" for the religious governance of Geneva. His brand of Protestantism, which became known as Calvinism, combined a belief in predestination with strong religious control of the state. It was especially influential among the Puritans in the New England colonies. John Calvin wrote: "Our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness."
It's the birthday of British writer Edmund
Clerihew Bentley, born in London, England (1875). He first achieved
fame for his 1913 mystery novel, Trent's Last Case, which he wrote as
a reaction against the prevailing conventions of detective fiction. Unlike the
infallible Sherlock Holmes, Bentley's detective, Philip Trent, bungles his cases
and comes up with ingenious solutions that turn out to be completely wrong.
Bentley also became known as the inventor of a new form of verse, the "clerihew,"
which he introduced in his 1905 book, Biography for Beginners. A clerihew
is made up of two rhyming couplets, the first rhyme provided by the name of
a famous person. For example:
George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.
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