Aug. 6, 2005
In Memorium (excerpt)
Poem: excerpts from "In Memoriam" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Public Domain
excerpts from In Memoriam
Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,
A hand that can be clasped no more
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.
He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.
Love is and was my Lord and King,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.
Love is and was my King and Lord,
And will be, though as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompassed by his faithful guard,
And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.
Literary and Historical Notes:
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 used in combat, only the second time that one had been exploded. It was an attack which led to the end of World War II.
It's the birthday of the man who discovered penicillin, the Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming, born in Lochfield in Ayr, Scotland (1881). In 1928, he noticed that one culture of Staphylococcus bacteria had been accidentally contaminated by a green mold called Penicillium notatum, and around the mold there was a circle where the bacteria could not grow.
Sir Alexander Fleming once said, "A good gulp of hot whiskey at bedtimeit's not very scientific, but it helps."
It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Tennyson, born in Lincolnshire, England (1809), who gave us such long poems as In Memoriam and Idylls of the King. At the height of his career, he was one of the most famous men in England.
Tennyson loved poetry, and wrote almost nothing else. He never wrote an essay or a review. He kept a diary, wrote no memoir, and wrote no autobiography at all. He hated writing letters.
He lived at a time when authors such as Dickens, others 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 English household of people who could read owned at least one copy of Tennyson.
He was a friend of Queen Victoria, wrote public poems, including the "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" and "Charge of the Light Brigade" in 1854. He lived with his wife Emily on the Isle of Wight in a big secluded house. He took long walks along the chalk cliffs overlooking the sea, composing his poems.
In 1864, he published Enoch Arden, which had the largest sales of any book during his lifetime, more than 40,000 copies on publication. He was followed in the streets by his admirers. Tourists came all the way to the Isle of Wight to line up at the walls of his country estate.
At the age of 75, he was offered a lordship in honor of his poetry, the first time any Englishman had been given a title for literary achievement alone. And that is why we now call him Alfred Lord Tennyson.
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