Oct. 28, 2006
The Lady's-Maid's Song
Poem: "The Lady's-Maid's Song" by John Hollander, from Selected Poetry. © Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission.
The Lady's-Maid's Song
When Adam found his rib was gone
He cursed and sighed and cried and swore
And looked with cold resentment on
The creature God had used it for.
All love's delights were quickly spent
And soon his sorrows multiplied:
He learned to blame his discontent
On something stolen from his side.
And so in every age we find
Each Jack, destroying every Joan,
Divides and conquers womankind
In vengeance for his missing bone.
By day he spins out quaint conceits
With gossip, flattery, and song,
But then at night, between the sheets,
He wrongs the girl to right the wrong.
Though shoulder, bosom, lip, and knee
Are praised in every kind of art,
Here is love's true anatomy:
His rib is gone; he'll have her heart.
So women bear the debt alone
And live eternally distressed,
For though we throw the dog his bone
He wants it back with interest.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the mystery novelist Anne Perry, (books by this author) born in Juliet Marion Hulme in London (1938). She is the creator of a series of popular mystery novels that take place in Victorian England, including The Cater Street Hangman (1979) and Pentecost Alley (1996). She's also one of the few mystery novelists ever to have been convicted of murder herself.
As a teenager, while under the influence of an experimental medication for a respiratory ailment, she helped a friend murder the friend's mother. The two 15-year-old girls were caught and convicted of murder, and the case became one of the most notorious in New Zealand criminal history. Perry became the youngest inmate in a woman's prison that had the reputation as the toughest in the country. She served her time, and upon release, changed her name and moved to England where she began writing mysteries. Even after she became a successful novelist, no one but her closest family and friends knew anything about her past.
But just as her 20th book Traitors Gate (1995) was about to be released, she was contacted by a journalist who had tracked her down at tied her to that original murder trial. She seriously considered going into hiding, away from the public scrutiny, but decided against it. Instead, she immediately called and visited all her neighbors, friends, and colleagues and told them the truth about her past, and even went on her book tour. She said, "In some way perhaps it was the last step as far as healing is concerned. Because I'm finding that now practically everybody in the world knows who I really amand they still like me."
It's the birthday of British satirist Evelyn Waugh, (books by this author) born in London (1903). He didn't do well in school, and he left Oxford without receiving a degree. He tried working as a teacher, but he got fired from three schools in two years. He said, "I was from the first an obvious dud." He was seriously in debt, without a job, and had just been rejected by the girl he liked, when he decided to drown himself in the ocean. He wrote a suicide note and jumped in the sea, but before he got very far, he was stung by a jellyfish. He scrambled back to shore, tore up his suicide note, and decided to give life a second chance.
He didn't know what else to do, so he wrote a novel about a young teacher at a private school where the other teachers are all drunks, child molesters, and escaped convicts; and the mother of one student is running an international prostitution ring. His publishers forced him to preface the book with a disclaimer that said, "Please bear in mind throughout that it is meant to be funny." The novel Decline and Fall was published in 1928, and it was a big success.
Waugh went on to write many more novels, including A Handful of Dust (1934), and several books of travel writing such as Waugh in Abyssinia (1936) and Mexico: An Object Lesson (1939).
It's the birthday of poet John Hollander, (books by this author) born in New York City (1929). He went to Columbia University, where his teachers included Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling, and one of his classmates was Allen Ginsberg. He said, "It was perhaps the most exciting moment in history to be at an American university."He supported himself writing liner notes for classical music albums, learned to play a variety of medieval musical instruments, and then went back to school to get his Ph.D. in literature. He's worked as a teacher ever since, writing poetry on the side.
His collection Picture Window came out in 2004.
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