Nov. 22, 2007

As You Like It

by William Shakespeare

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "As You Like It, II. vii." by William Shakespeare , from As You Like It. Public Domain. (buy now)

As You Like It

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Thanksgiving Day, the day Americans express gratitude for their good fortune by eating one of the biggest meals of the year. As early as 1621, the Puritan colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts, set aside a day of thanks for a bountiful harvest. On October 3, 1789, President George Washington proclaimed the 26th of that November the first national Thanksgiving Day under the Constitution. On October 3, 1863, in the wake of victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln decided to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November national Thanksgiving Day. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set Thanksgiving Day as the fourth Thursday of November, and in 1941, Congress made it official.

It's the birthday of the novelist George Eliot, (books by this author) born Mary Ann Evans in Warwickshire, England (1819), who spent the first 30 years of her life living in a small market town with her father. She took care of the house after her mother died, but her father encouraged her education and let her burn up thousands of candles reading late into the night. She read books by Montaigne, Shakespeare, Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, and many others and eventually learned to read Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Hebrew.

But when her father died, Eliot suddenly had to find a way to make a living. She was already a spinster by society standards, probably unable to find a husband, so she used her language skills to translate a book of German theology, and the man who published her translation was so impressed that he invited her to London and gave her an editing job at the Westminster Review. Within three years of her father's death, she had gone from a life of household chores and late-night reading to an editorship at one of the leading journals in London.

Most of the men Eliot met in London were amazed by her brilliance, but when she got too close, they often brushed her off, because she was not an attractive woman. Henry James once described her as, "[A] great horse-faced blue-stocking." But a man named George Henry Lewes fell in love with her mind. They never got married, because he could not by law divorce his first wife, but they lived together for the rest of their lives, and it was he who suggested she try writing fiction. Her first full-length novel, Adam Bede (1859), was an overnight success, and everyone began to speculate about who this George Eliot was. Charles Dickens was one of the few people to guess that the author might be a woman. She eventually did reveal her identity, but she kept the pen name.

Her masterpiece was her second-to-last novel, Middlemarch (1871), which is a portrait of a market town like the one she grew up in, and tells the story of an idealistic young woman named Dorothea Brooke, who hopes to become a social reformer, and a doctor named Tertius Lydgate, who hopes to become a famous scientist. But both get caught in terrible marriages. After Middlemarch came out, thousands of women wrote letters to Eliot saying that she had described their lives, asking for her advice in their marriages and careers.

Virginia Woolf wrote, "Middlemarch is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." Emily Dickinson wrote, "What do I think of Middlemarch? What do I think of glory?"

It was about 12:30 p.m. on this day in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. It was the only successful assassination of an American president carried out in the last hundred years, and the only presidential assassination ever caught on film. Almost every American alive at the time remembers where they were when they heard the news.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested 90 minutes after the murder. He'd been working at the Texas School Book Depository, which overlooked the plaza where Kennedy had been shot. Two days after his arrest, Oswald was being transferred to jail, in front of TV cameras, when a local nightclub owner named Jack Ruby pulled out a gun and shot him, perhaps the only time in American history that a man was murdered on live television.

Chief Justice Earl Warren presided over a presidential commission to investigate the assassination and whether there was some broader conspiracy. After 25,000 FBI interviews, 1,500 Secret Service interviews, and the testimony of 552 witnesses who appeared before the commission itself, the conclusion was that Oswald acted alone. But today, more than half of all Americans believe there was some larger conspiracy.

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 Jeffrey Harrison 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 »