Monday

Feb. 2, 2009

'Faith' is a fine invention...

by Emily Dickinson

I like a look of Agony...

by Emily Dickinson

"Faith" is a fine invention...

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentleman can see—
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

I like a look of Agony...

I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it's true—
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe—

The Eyes glaze once—and that is Death—
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.

"'Faith' is a fine invention..." and "I like a look of agony..." by Emily Dickinson. Public domain. (buy now)

Today we celebrate three holidays, all of them from the same source.

February 2nd is a "cross-quarter" day in the solar calendar, which means that it falls exactly between a solstice and an equinox.

It's the ancient Celtic celebration of Imbolc, in honor of Brigit, the goddess of fire, poetry, healing, and childbirth. Brigit brings the healing power of the sun back to the world on Imbolc, a day that carries the first promise of spring. Imbolc comes from the Old Irish i mbolg, meaning "in the belly," because this is the time when ewes became pregnant to deliver spring lambs.

The Christians took over the Celtic celebration and made February 2nd into a Christian holiday, Candlemas Day. Candlemas Day celebrates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple exactly 40 days after Christmas.

There are many old sayings about today — about the emergence of animals from their winter dens and omens that predict the season ahead. One English saying goes:

If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
But if Candlemas day bring clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and won't come again.

There was a tradition in many European countries of watching animals — especially badgers — to see how they acted on this day. If they returned to their dens, it meant that there was still a long winter ahead.

German immigrants in Pennsylvania found that there weren't a lot of badgers in America, but there were a lot of groundhogs, so the holiday evolved into Groundhog Day. The first reference to Groundhog Day is from 1841, in the diary of a storekeeper in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. He wrote: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks' nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

It was on this day in 1922 that the novel Ulysses was published. And today is also the birthday of its author: James Joyce, (books by this author) born in Rathgar, Ireland, just outside Dublin, in 1882. Besides Ulysses, he only wrote three other books: Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), and Finnegans Wake (1939).

When James Joyce was 22 years old, he met Nora Barnacle, a beautiful chambermaid in a hotel. He fell in love with her, and they left Ireland together. He spent the rest of his life living away from Ireland but writing about it.

Joyce decided to write a novel about one day in Dublin. He chose the day that he and Nora had gone on their first date: June 16, 1904, which he called "Bloomsday" because the main character of his novel was named Leopold Bloom.

It took Joyce seven years to finish the novel, and then he couldn't find a publisher. People thought it was too experimental, or too obscene. Finally his friend Sylvia Beach, who owned Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris, said that she would publish it herself. And she did.

It is the birthday of poet and novelist James Dickey, (books by this author) born in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1923. He's most famous for his novel Deliverance (1970), which was also made into a movie. But his first love was poetry.

James Dickey said, "A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning."

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

 









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