Wednesday

Oct. 1, 2008

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

"Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" by William Wordsworth. Public domain. From The Collected Works of William Wordsworth. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Tim O'Brien, (books by this author) born in Worthington, Minnesota (1946), who was drafted to fight in Vietnam the summer he graduated from college. He said, "Even when I was getting on the plane for boot camp, I couldn't believe any of it was happening to me, someone who hated Boy Scouts and bugs and rifles." But it gave him something to write about. By the end of his tour in Vietnam, he had published several articles in newspapers, and those articles got him a job at The Washington Post. He published a memoir called If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973). He said he likes writing war stories because, he said, "In a war story there is a built-in life-and-death importance, one that a writer would have to construct otherwise. When you start a story saying, 'It was a hot day,' and you know it's a war story, the hot day has all sorts of reverberations that wouldn't be there if it were set on a beach in Miami."

His book The Things They Carried (1990) is a series of linked short stories. The title story is one of the most anthologized short stories in contemporary American literature. It begins: "First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending."

It's the birthday of Jimmy Carter, (books by this author) born in Plains, Georgia (1924). He took over the family peanut farm after his father died in 1953, and he expanded the farm into a fertilizer business, a farm supply business, and a peanut-shelling plant. He got interested in politics after he refused to join a citizens' group that opposed the integration of schools. He became the governor of Georgia, and then the 39th president of the United States in 1977. Carter said he wanted to end what he called "the imperial presidency." He walked down Pennsylvania Avenue for his inauguration, often wore informal clothes at official appearances, and sold the presidential yacht. Jimmy Carter said, "A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity."

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

 









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