Saturday

Jul. 13, 2002

Summer

by John Clare

SATURDAY, 13 JULY 2002
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Poem
: "Summer," by John Clare.

Summer

Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover's breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.

The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May,
The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day,
And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest
In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover's breast;
I'll lean upon her breast and I'll whisper in her ear
That I cannot get a wink o'sleep for thinking of my dear;
I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away
Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.


It's the birthday of Nobel Prize winning Nigerian novelist Wole Soyinka, born in Abeokuta, Nigeria (1934). In 1986, he became the first African writer, and the first black writer of any nationality, to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He wrote in English and in Yoruba, and his other works include the plays Madmen and Specialists (1971) and Death and the King's Horseman (1975), and the novel The Interpreters (1965).

It's the birthday of English art critic and writer Sir Kenneth Clark, born in London England (1903). As the neglected son of wealthy parents, he consoled himself by developing a taste for art. He studied at Oxford, traveled in Italy, and came home in 1929 to publish his first book, The Gothic Revival. He soon found himself named keeper of the fine art department at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, and, at the age of thirty, the director of the National Gallery of Art. He reached a huge audience as the host and collaborator of the BBC television series, Civilisation, broadcast in this country on public television. His other books include The Romantic Rebellion (1973) and What is a Masterpiece? (1981).

It's the birthday of Russian short story writer Isaac Babel, born in Odessa, Ukraine (1894). He began writing short stories when he was fifteen, spent a few years after graduation in St. Petersburg, then returned to Odessa to write the works for which he's remembered today: the short stories collected in Tales of Odessa (1931), and the novel Red Cavalry (1926). The novel is narrated by a Jewish cavalry officer assigned to a regiment of anti-Semitic Cossacks. In 1939, Babel was arrested on charges of anti-Soviet activity. He was tried, convicted, and executed on January 27, 1940. He said: "There is no iron that can enter the human heart with such stupefying effect, as a period placed at just the right moment."

On this day in 1798, the poet William Wordsworth visited the ruins of Tintern Abbey and was inspired to write his famous Ode, "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey."

It's the birthday of English poet John Clare, born in Helpston, Nottinghamshire, England (1793). His father was a farmer. He was only able to attend school for three months a year; the rest of the time was spent tending his father's sheep and geese. At twelve, he left school all together, and went to work as a farm laborer. In his spare time, he studied nature and wrote poetry. In 1820, he published a book of poetry, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, by "John Clare, a Nottinghamshire peasant." The book made him famous, and brought him introductions to London literary society. Two more books of poetry followed: The Village Minstrel (1821) and The Shepherd's Calendar (1827). In the years that followed, he began to suffer from mental illness. In June 1837, he was committed to a mental asylum in Epping Forest. He spent the last twenty years of his life in another asylum, where he continued to write poetry. In his autobiographical poem "The Peasant Poet," he wrote:
       
       And everything his eyes surveyed-
       The insects I' the brake-
       Were creatures God almighty made;
       He loved them for His sake.
       A silent man in life's affairs,
       A thinker from a Boy,
       A Peasant in his daily cares-
       The Poet in his joy.



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