Oct. 22, 2004
Sonnet 28: How can I then return in happy plight
A Drinking Song
Poem: "A Drinking Song" by W. B. Yeats, from Responsibilities and Other Poems © 1916. Reprinted with permission.
"Sonnet No.29" by William Shakespeare, from The Sonnets © Little, Brown. Reprinted with permission.
A Drinking Song
WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heav'n with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the true-crime writer Ann Rule, born Ann Stackhouse in Lowell, Michigan (1935). She first became interested in crime spending the summers with her grandparents. Her grandfather was the local sheriff and her grandparents' house was connected to the police station and town jail. Her grandmother cooked meals for the prisoners, and Ann Rule got to bring them their trays of food. She often wondered what their crimes had been, and how it was that children like herself could grow up to become criminals. By the time she was eight, she had decided to become a police officer.
She joined the police force in Seattle, Washington. But even though she loved her job, she had to quit after a year because her eyesight was deteriorating. Since she couldn't fight crimes as a police officer any more, she began to write about crime for True Detective magazine.
Around the same time, she volunteered at a suicide hotline center and met a young, charming law student named Ted Bundy. They often worked alone together until 3:00 in the morning and he always walked her to her car. Her marriage was breaking up at the time, and she found herself telling everything to Bundy. She said, "He was one of those rare people who listen with full attention...you could tell him things you might never tell anyone else."
In 1975, she signed a contract to write a book about a series of unsolved murders in Seattle, and while she was writing it she learned that the main suspect for the murders was Ted Bundy, the man she'd found so charming.
Bundy was eventually arrested for the murders of more than 30 women in five states. Rule had a hard time believing that her friend could actually commit the crimes he'd been charged with, and she found that no one else could believe it either. Bundy was loved by nearly everyone who knew him. By the time he was arrested he had become chairman of the Seattle Crime Prevention Council and had even been considered a rising political star in the State of Washington.
When Rule finally saw the conclusive evidence that her friend was guilty, she was horrified. She did extensive research into Bundy's background, and found that most of his victims had resembled his ex-girlfriend, who'd turned down his proposal of marriage. Rule spent about three months writing almost non-stop, describing her friendship with Bundy and his subsequent trial. The result was her book The Stranger Beside Me (1980), which became one of the best-selling true crime novels ever written.
She's gone on to write many more best-selling books of true crime literature, including Small Sacrifices (1987) and Bitter Harvest (1997).
She said, "I like to write about a special kind of personality; someone whom nobody would imagine to be a killer. Successful, intelligent, charming, attractive, often wealthy, and sometimes with every appearance of love in their lives...someone who shows an excellent false face to the world."
It's the birthday of the novelist Doris Lessing, born in Kermanshah, Persia, which is now Iran (1919). She's the author of many novels, including The Golden Notebook (1962) and The Sweetest Dream (2002).
Her father was a former captain in the British army who had lost a leg in World War I. Her mother was a nurse whose first love, a doctor, had died in the war. Lessing grew up feeling as though both her parents were full of regrets left over from that war.
In her autobiography, she wrote, "There was something like a dark gray cloud, like poison gas, over my early childhood... I felt the struggling panicky need to escape, with a nervous aversion to where I have just stood, as if something there might blow up or drag me down by the heel."
When she was still just a girl, her father moved the family to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, hoping to grow rich by farming tobacco and prospecting for gold. The plan didn't work, and the family lived a hard life in a mud and thatch house, sleeping under mosquito nets. Her father would stand outside their home for hours, shaking his fist at the sky, shouting that everyone in Africa was mad. Lessing would fall asleep at night to the sound of her mother playing Chopin on their piano against the thudding of the tom-toms from the village down the hill.
Lessing dropped out of high school after a year and moved to South Africa, where she supported herself working in a dress shop and writing advertising jingles for a furniture store. She also began to read all the classics: Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, D. H. Lawrence and others, and she began to write. She also became involved with a group of leftist revolutionaries who believed that the European colonization of Africa was an injustice to the African people.
After World War II, Lessing was finally able to emigrate to England, to get away from all the racism and oppression in Africa. By that time, she was a divorced single mother still struggling to establish herself as a writer. But she said, "I had sticking power, which is just as important as literary talent. I just got on with the work. And I think there are such things as writing animals. I simply have to write."
She finally published her first novel The Grass is Singing (1950) about a white woman in Southern Rhodesia who has an affair with her African house servant. It got great reviews in England and helped to influence opinion against colonialism in Africa. It also got her banned from Southern Rhodesia because of her political views. She was unable to visit the country until 1980, after which minority rule was ended. She wrote a book about returning there: African Laughter: four Visits to Zimbabwe (1992), in which she described the almost total destruction of the wildlife and landscape that she remembered from her childhood.
Doris Lessing said, "The fact is, I don't live anywhere. I never have since I left that first house."
It's the birthday of the humorist and columnist John Gould, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1908). He was an essayist and columnist who spent sixty years writing a weekly dispatch from his farm in Maine for the Christian Science Monitor. His column is believed to be the longest running column ever in a U.S. newspaper. He wrote about his neighbors and family, the three-tined fork, the origin of the molasses cookie, his father's bees, telephone solicitors, and the battle of Gettysburg.
He was the son of a railway postal clerk whose family moved to Maine when he was ten years old. He started contributing stories to local newspapers when he was still in elementary school. His first published story was about a cat who knew how to ring a doorbell. He always believed good stories were more important than facts, so he frequently retold local tall tales as though they were true. He once wrote about a man who kept a trout for a pet, trained it to live on land, and played games with it in his shack.
He wrote more than 30 books, including Farmer Takes a Wife (1945), a best-seller about his marriage to a city girl from Arlington, Massachusetts, and The Fastest Hound Dog in the State of Maine (1953) about his dog.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®