Friday

Aug. 6, 2004

A House in Hampstead

by Anna Wickham

FRIDAY, 6 AUGUST, 2004
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Poem: "A House in Hampstead" by Anna Wickham, from Poems for Gardeners © Virago Press, 2003.

A House in Hampstead

My house is damp as damp can be,
It stands on London clay.
And if I move unthinkingly
It shakes in a most alarming way,
Mayhap it will all come down on me
One day.
But through the window I can see
The most enchanting apple—tree.
In spring—time, there are daffodils
And primroses on little hills,
And high within my apple—tree
A blackbird comes and sings to me;
On the black branch he sits and sings
Of birds and nests and eggs and things.
I can't remember as I hear
That old grey London lies so near.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the artist Andy Warhol, born Andrew Warhola, in Pennsylvania (1928). His father was a Czechoslovakian immigrant and a coal miner. His mother was extremely protective, and she let him spend all his time as a child drawing copies of Maybelline advertisements. He got a job as an advertising illustrator in New York City in the 1950's, but he wanted to be a serious artist. One day, he got the idea to start painting pictures of advertisements, movie stars, and other popular images. He made silk-screen pictures of Campbell's soup cans and sculptures of Brillo detergent boxes, and his style became known as Pop Art and made him famous. He called his art studio "The Factory" and he turned out as many as 80 multiple-image prints a day. He founded the celebrity magazine Interview, hosted a cable talk show called Andy Warhol's TV, and created a nightclub called the Plastic Exploding Inevitable. He also made movies, including a six-hour movie of a person sleeping called "Sleep." Though he was surrounded by hard-partying rock stars and artists, he lived with his mother until her death in 1973, and went to a Catholic mass almost every Sunday.


It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Tennyson, born in Lincolnshire, England (1809). He's remembered form such poems as In Memoriam (1850) and Idylls of the King (1859). Tennyson lived at a time when authors like Charles Dickens were turning the novel into the most popular form of literature, and he was one of the last poets who could sell as many books as a novelist. Nearly every literate household owned at least one copy of his poetry. He was also one of the last poets of an era when poets wrote for the spoken voice. In Tennyson's day, poetry was meant to be read aloud among groups of people, as a form of parlor entertainment, like karaoke. He was a friend of Queen Victoria, and he wrote public poems for England, including "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" (1852) and "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854), that became unofficial national anthems. At the age of seventy-five, he was offered a lordship in honor of his poetry. It was the first time in history that any Englishman had ever been given a title for literary achievement alone. And that is why we now call him Alfred Lord Tennyson.


It was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in warfare, and only the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. The attack led to the end of World War II. The Allies sent a message to Japan on July 26 that said, "We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces...The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." Japan rejected the terms of surrender after one day of debate. Secretary of War Henry Stimson cabled Truman to ask for permission to use the bomb, and Truman cabled back, "Suggestion approved. Release when ready." On August 5, the bomb was loaded onto a specially designed B-29 bomber. The bomb was called "Little Boy," because it was the smaller of two devices that had been made. It contained 2.2 pounds of uranium.

The bomb was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 AM. It exploded 1900 feet above the ground. Capt Robert Lewis watched the explosion from his cockpit, and wrote in his journal, "My God, what have we done?"

The temperature on the ground directly under the explosion reached 7200 degrees Fahrenheit. The flames of the explosion traveled seven miles in 30 seconds. The blast of light burned permanent shadows into the sides of buildings and on the ground. Survivors foraging for food in vegetable gardens later that day dug up potatoes that had been baked in the soil. More than three quarters of the city's buildings were destroyed. About eighty-thousand people died instantly, and sixty thousand more would die from their injuries in the coming months. World War II ended slightly more than a week after the bomb was dropped.

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