Friday

Jan. 23, 2004

Casabianca

by Felicia Dorothea Hemans

FRIDAY, 23 JANUARY, 2004
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Casabianca," by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.

Casabianca

The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
    Shone round him o'er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud, though childlike form.

The flames roll'd on — he would not go
    Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

He call'd aloud: — "Say, Father, say
    If yet my task is done!"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

"Speak, Father!" once again he cried
    "If I may yet be gone!"
And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames roll'd on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair,
And look'd from that lone post of death,
    In still, yet brave despair.

And shouted but one more aloud,
    "My Father! must I stay?"
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud
    The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
    They caught the flag on high,
And stream'd above the gallant child,
    Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound —
    The boy — oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
    With fragments strew'd the sea! —

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
    That well had borne their part,
But the noblest thing which perish'd there
    Was that young faithful heart.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of French novelist and essayist Stendhal, born Marie-Henri Beyle in Grenoble, France (1783). He hated his father, called his hometown "the capital of pettiness", and fled to Paris as soon as he could. He was disappointed in Paris, though. The streets were muddy and he caught a sickness that made his hair fall out. He wore a toupee for the rest of his life. To get out of Paris, he enlisted in Napoleon's army and participated in the invasion of Italy and later the failed invasion of Russia. After leaving military service, he contributed to journals and periodicals using dozens of pseudonyms, including William Crocodile, Old Hummums, and Stendhal. He was obsessed with the idea of secret identities, and even signed personal letters with false names. In 1818, he fell in love with the wife of a Polish officer. After she had rebuffed his advances, he trailed her for days across Italy, disguising himself by wearing a pair of green spectacles. When she finally caught him and accused him of following her, he said it was fate that had brought them together. She didn't believe him, and left Italy soon after. In despair, he moved back to Paris and produced the book-length essay On Love (1822). He published his first novel, Armance (1827) five years later, when he was 44. He went on to write his masterpieces—The Red and the Black (1830), about the social classes, professions, politics, and manners of early 19th century France; and The Charterhouse of Parma (1839). He said, "It is better to have a prosaic husband and to take a romantic lover."


It's the birthday of poet Louis Zukofsky, born on the Lower East Side of New York City (1904). He said, "Everything should be as simple as it can be . . . not simpler."


It's the birthday of jazz guitarist Django Reinhard, born Jean Baptiste Reinhardt, in Liberchies, Belgium (1910). He formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with violinist Stephane Grappelli and quickly became internationally known as one of the very few major European jazz musicians.


It's the birthday of painter Edouard Manet, born in Paris (1832). He's known for his controversial paintings such as "Luncheon on the Grass", which shows two clothed men and a nude woman sitting on the grass by a stream. His work was harshly received by the critics of his day, but the younger painters who were strongly influenced by his work started the movement that became known as Impressionism.


It's the birthday of French actress Jeanne Moreau, born in Paris (1928). She's best known for the roles she played in French New Wave movies like Jules and Jim (1962) and The Bride Wore Black (1968).


It's the birthday of actor Humphrey Bogart, born in New York City (1899). He was expelled from Massachusetts' Phillips Academy and immediately joined the Navy to fight in World War I, serving as a ship's gunner. One day, while roughhousing on the ship's wooden stairway, he tripped and fell, and a splinter became lodged in his upper lip; the result was a scar, as well as partial paralysis of the lip, resulting in the tight-set mouth and lisp that became one of his most distinctive onscreen qualities.

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 »