Saturday

Aug. 31, 2002

Robinson Crusoe's Story

by Charles E. Carryl

SATURDAY, 31 AUGUST 2002
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Robinson Crusoe's Story," by Charles E. Carryl.

Robinson Crusoe's Story

          THE night was thick and hazy
          When the "Piccadilly Daisy"
Carried down the crew and captain in the sea;
          And I think the water drowned 'em;
          For they never, never found 'em,
And I know they didn't come ashore with me.

          Oh! 'twas very sad and lonely
          When I found myself the only
Population on this cultivated shore;
          But I've made a little tavern
          In a rocky little cavern,
And I sit and watch for people at the door.

          I spent no time in looking
          For a girl to do my cooking,
As I'm quite a clever hand at making stews;
          But I had that fellow Friday,
          Just to keep the tavern tidy,
And to put a Sunday polish on my shoes.

          I have a little garden
          That I'm cultivating lard in,
As the things I eat are rather tough and dry;
          For I live on toasted lizards,
          Prickly pears, and parrot gizzards,
And I'm really very fond of beetle-pie.

          I sometimes seek diversion
          In a family excursion
With the few domestic animals you see;
          And we take along a carrot
          As refreshment for the parrot,
And a little can of jungleberry tea.

          Then we gather as we travel,
          Bits of moss and dirty gravel,
And we chip off little specimens of stone;
          And we carry home as prizes
          Funny bugs, of handy sizes,
Just to give the day a scientific tone.

          If the roads are wet and muddy
          We remain at home and study, -
For the Goat is very clever at a sum, -
          And the Dog, instead of fighting,
          Studies ornamental writing,
While the Cat is taking lessons on the drum.

          We retire at eleven,
          And we rise again at seven;
And I wish to call attention, as I close,
          To the fact that all the scholars
          Are correct about their collars,
And particular in turning out their toes.


On this day in 1941, the Russian poet Maria Tsvetayeva (sometimes Marina) committed suicide in Yelabuga, a remote village in the Soviet Union. She had lived with her husband in Paris for many years, but their roots in Imperial Russia made them suspect even among émigrés. When they re-entered Stalin's Soviet Union, they were immediately arrested. Her husband was shot, and she was sent to the countryside with her son. Her savings dwindled, and on the day she realized she had just enough money left for one loaf of bread, she hung herself. The poet Boris Pasternak had helped her pack just before she was ordered to leave; when he heard the news, he realized she must have used the rope he had given her to tie around her suitcase.

It's the birthday of William Saroyan, born in Fresno, California (1908). He's the author of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934) and The Human Comedy (1943). In 1939 he won both the Drama Critic's Circle award and the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Time of Your Life.

It's the birthday of William Shawn, born in Chicago (1907). He was editor-in-chief of The New Yorker magazine from 1952 until 1987, "the last of the great line editors." Four days before he died, Shawn had lunch with Lillian Ross, who showed him a book cover blurb and asked if he would check it. "He took out the mechanical pencil he always carried in his inside jacket pocket, and…made his characteristically neat proofreading marks on a sentence that said 'the book remains as fresh and unique as ever.' He changed it to read, 'remains unique and as fresh as ever. There are no degrees of uniqueness,' Mr. Shawn said politely."

On this day in 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his famous "American Scholar" address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard. He told the students to think for themselves rather than absorb thought, to create rather than repeat, and not to look to Europe for cultural models. He said: "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe…We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds. The study of letters shall be no longer a name for pity, for doubt, and for sensual indulgence…A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."


Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »