Friday

Feb. 22, 2008

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

"Lament" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Reprinted with permission of Elizabeth Barnett / Millay Society.

Ten Things You Never Knew about George Washington, born on this day in 1732:

  1. His dentures carved from a hippopotamus tusk. They were drilled with a hole to fit over Washington's one remaining tooth, and they rubbed against his natural tooth in such a way that Washington was in constant pain, and so he used an alcoholic solution infused with opium.

  2. By the time he reached 30, he had survived malaria, smallpox, pleurisy, dysentery. He was fired at on two separate occasions — and in one of them, his horse was shot out from under him and four bullets punctured his coat. He also fell off a raft into an icy river and nearly drowned.

  3. During the last night of his life, a doctor friend came over to perform an emergency tracheotomy on Washington. Arriving too late, the doctor tried to resurrect Washington by thawing him in cold water, then wrapping him in blankets and rubbing him in order to activate blood vessels, then opening his trachea to inflate his lungs with air, and then transfusing blood from a lamb into him.

  4. He enjoyed playing cards, hunting foxes and ducks, fishing, cockfighting, horse racing, boat racing, and dancing. He bred hound dogs and gave them names like "Sweet Lips" and "Tarter."

  5. His favorite foods included mashed potatoes with coconut, string beans with mushrooms, cream of peanut soup, salt cod, and pineapples.

  6. He snored very loudly.

  7. He did not wear a powdered wig, as was fashionable at the time. Instead, he powdered his own red-brown hair.

  8. Washington had a speech impediment and was not good at spelling. He would often mix up i's and e's when speaking and in writing.

  9. There are 33 counties, seven mountains, nine colleges, and 121 post offices named after Washington.

  10. He delivered the shortest inaugural address ever. It was only 133 words long and took 90 seconds to deliver.

It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, (books by this author) born in Rockland, Maine (1892). Her middle name came from a hospital - St. Vincent in New York - where one of her uncles was saved from death immediately before her birth.

Her parents divorced when she was little and she and her two sisters moved constantly with their mother. Throughout their moves, her mother always carried along a trunk full of classic literature, including the works of Shakespeare and John Milton, which she often read aloud to her daughters.

Edna was in high school when she entered a poetry contest and wrote a poem - "Renascence" - which she recited at a poetry reading, and a woman in the audience was so impressed that she paid Edna's way to go to Vassar College.

She was a rebellious student at Vassar, then moved to New York City, where she lived in Greenwich Village and had numerous love affairs with both women and men. Edmund Wilson thought she was almost "supernaturally beautiful." He proposed marriage and never got over the rejection.

In her poem "First Fig" she wrote: My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

And in "Second Fig," "Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: / Come see my shining palace built upon the sand!"

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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