Mar. 26, 2008
Neither Out Far Nor In Deep
It's the birthday of poet Alfred Edward Housman A.E. Housman born in Worcestershire, England (1859), (books by this author) who worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in London for 10 years as he wrote the poems for which we know him today, including "When I was one-and-twenty / I heard a wise man say, 'Give crowns and pounds and guineas / But not your heart away.'"; and "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now / Is hung with bloom along the bough."
It's the birthday of mythologist Joseph Campbell, (books by this author) born in New York City (1904). When he was a young boy, he was taken to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden, and it prompted him to become fascinated with Native American culture. He read all he could on it; after working his way through the children's section at the public library, he turned to reports from the Bureau of Ethnology. Later, when reading the medieval stories of King Arthur, he noticed similarities with Native American stories. In 1949, he published a monumental study of mythology called The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which traced the common theme of the spiritual quest in myth.
All sorts of writers found the book valuable for their own work, including the poet Robert Bly and the filmmaker George Lucas, who said that without it, he would never have been able to write Star Wars.
It's the birthday of Tennessee Williams, (books by this author) born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi (1911), author of more than 24 full-length plays, including Pulitzer Prize winners A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955).
He said, "I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really." And, "A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace."
It was on this day in 1920 that This Side of Paradise was published, launching 23-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald to fame and fortune.
It's the birthday of Robert Frost, (books by this author) born in San Francisco (1874). He cultivated the image of a rural New England poet with a pleasant disposition, but Frost's personal life was full of tragedy and he suffered from dark depressions.
He graduated from high school at the top of his class but dropped out of Dartmouth after a semester and tried to convince his high school co-valedictorian, Elinor White, to marry him immediately. She refused and insisted on finishing college first. They did marry after she graduated, and it was a union that would be filled with losses and feelings of alienation. Their first son died from cholera at age three; Frost blamed himself for not calling a doctor earlier and believed that God was punishing him for it. His health declined, and his wife became depressed. In 1907, they had a daughter who died three days after birth, and a few years later Elinor had a miscarriage. Within a couple years, his sister Jeanie died in a mental hospital, and his daughter Marjorie, of whom he was extremely fond, was hospitalized with tuberculosis. Marjorie died a slow death after getting married and giving birth, and a few years later, Frost's wife died from heart failure. His adult son, Carol, had become increasingly distraught, and Frost went to visit him and to talk him out of suicide. Thinking the crisis had passed, he returned home, and shortly afterward his son shot himself. He also had to commit his daughter Irma to a mental hospital.
And through all of this, Robert Frost still became one of the most famous poets in the United States. He said, "A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching out toward expression, an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word."
And, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®