Nov. 18, 2002

The Summer Ends

by Wendell Berry

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Poem: "The Summer Ends," by Wendell Berry from A Timbered Choir (Counterpoint).


The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth's green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.

It's the birthday of writer Clarence Day, born in New York City, New York (1874). He wrote several collections of humorous essays, but gained popularity when he authored the satirical portrait of his own Victorian family household in Life with Father (1935).

It's the birthday of advice columnist Dorothy Dix, born in Montgomery County, Tennessee (1861). She wrote for the New York Journal, where she reached sixty million readers and advised them to: "Live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us."

It's the birthday of botanist Asa Gray, born in Oneida Country, New York (1810). His most famous work, Gray's Manual of Botany, remains, in successive editions, a standard work on the subject.

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (1939). She spent most of her childhood living in a research station in the cold north of Quebec with her entomologist father. In the North, there were no theaters and the radio did not work well. She became a writer in a split minute of transformation. She thought that in order to become an author of any importance she would have to give up all hope of enjoying a happy family life. She would have to become mysterious and aloof, sickly and enigmatic, living in a garret, contracting, dressing in black, smoking cigarettes, drinking absinthe, living in an attic painted black and having lovers whom, she said, "I would discard in appropriate ways, though I drew the line at bloodshed. (I was, after all, a nice Canadian girl.)" She was best known for her novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985). She said, "Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté."

It's the birthday of lyricist Johnny Mercer, born in Savannah, Georgia (1909). His first professional song, "Out of Breath and Scared to Death of You," was featured in the revue Garrick Gaieties in 1930. In 1942, he founded Capitol Records with two partners. In 1946, with Mercer serving as president, the company sold 42 million records, one-sixth of the total record sales in the United States. Capitol was also the first record company to provide disk jockeys with free promotional records.

It's the birthday of playwright and humorist Sir W[illiam] S[chwenk] Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan, born in London, England (1836). It was 1870 when he met composer Arthur Sullivan. They started working together the following year and produced a series of hits including H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzanze (1879), Patience (1881), The Gondoliers (1889) and others.

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