Saturday

Jan. 8, 2011

Blow, Blow, thou Winter Wind

by Anonymous

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude, as man's ingratitude.
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy teeth are not so sharp,
Although thy breath be rude, although thy breath be rude.

My faithful friends draw nigh
And look us in the eye
It is a wealthy man who has good friends like you.
Through darkness, cold, and snow,
Wherever you may go,
You bear my friendship true, you bear my friendship true.

Now warm these gentle folk
With maple, birch, and oak
And turn you front and back to feel the cheerful blaze
And be of cheerful mind
And bless the wintertime
Its calm and starry nights and bright and silent days

There are angels hovering round
To carry the tidings home
To the new Jerusalem
The shepherds came with joy
The sheep and cows stood near
The child lay asleep

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind," by Anonymous. Public domain. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1790 that the first State of the Union Address in American history took place. George Washington delivered it in New York City, which was the capital of the U.S. at the time. He spoke before the Senate and House of Representatives, giving a fairly short speech, about the equivalent of three single-spaced typewritten pages.

He began the speech with the good news that North Carolina was joining the Union. He said that countries around the world seemed to be showing increasing good will toward the young American government, that the "respectability" of their revolutionary government was growing, and that the "peace and plenty" with which America was blessed should be considered good omens that the nation would be prosperous.

And in this speech, which he gave 221 years ago today, George Washington talked about the dilemma of protecting the borders, about the need for immigration reform, about how important it was for the nation to support scientific development, and about setting up national higher education. Washington ended his speech with a plea that Congress cooperate with him for the good of the American people. The words he used were these:

"Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives:
... The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.”

It's the birthday of (Margaret) Storm Jameson, (books by this author) born in Whitby, Yorkshire, England (1891), who in her 95 and one-half years wrote more than 45 novels. They were popular in England in the first half of the 20th century. After a book called The Pot Boils (1919), she wrote a trilogy of novels based on her own family of Yorkshire shipbuilders. These books, The Lovely Ship, The Voyage Home, and A Richer Dust, were published in 1932 as The Triumph of Time: A Trilogy.

She traveled extensively around Europe, adored France, and spent a lot of time during the course of World War II helping writers exiled from Germany and Eastern Europe find safe places to live. She wrote in her autobiography: "Writing is only my second nature. ... I would rather run around the world, looking at it, than write."

After the war she came to the States for a brief teaching stint at the University of Pittsburgh. She wasn't very fond of America in general, but she really loved the city of Pittsburgh — which surprised many of her American colleagues. She said that Pittsburgh was a "splendid city" and said that it reminded her of Europe. And she liked the people there.

She married the writer Guy Chapman. He said that the first time he met her, "she was wearing a heavy coat over a faded pink knitted dress, and a hat which did not suit her. ... She was rather lovely, with long cool grubby fingers, and she held herself badly: she made me think of a well-bred foal, unbroken and enchantingly awkward. Something she said at that first meeting, I forget what, made me laugh with pure pleasure."

Margaret Storm Jameson's novels include The Pitiful Wife (1923), Lady Susan and Life: An Indiscretion (1924), That Was Yesterday (1932), The Single Heart (1932), Love in Winter (1935), Delicate Monster (1937), The World Ends (1937), The Captain's Wife (1939), and Hear Singing: A Fantasy in C Major (1942).

Her advice to young aspiring novelists: wait until your "early 30s" until attempting to write a novel. She said that it was important not to wait too long, "not so long that the terrible sharpness of young senses — like the sharpness of sensual excitement which makes a traveler's first moments in a foreign country worth more to him in insight and emotion than a year's stay — had lost their acuteness, but long enough to be able to see … with a margin of detachment."

She said, "Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed."

From the archives:

It's the birthday of physicist Stephen Hawking, (books by this author) born in Oxford, England, in 1942. He was at Cambridge, working on his Ph.D., when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. He spent a few months brooding over it, and then realized that he might as well be productive, since he was still alive and doing all right. So he focused his research on the mysterious astronomical objects known as black holes, and he developed new theories about how they function and what role they might have played in the origin of the universe. Stephen Hawking has spent his life pursuing a Theory of Everything. He said: "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all." He wrote a book for non-science readers, called A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988).

It's the birthday of the poet Francisco González Bocanegra, (books by this author) born in 1824 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. In November of 1853, the president of Mexico announced a nationwide contest to write the lyrics for the national anthem. But even though he was a poet, Bocanegra wasn't interested in the contest. So his fiancée, Guadalupe, locked him in a bedroom at the back of her parents' house and told him that she wouldn't open the door until he had written the lyrics. Four hours later, he had written 10 verses to "Mexicanos, al Grito de Guerra" ("Mexicans, at the Cry of Battle"). He pushed the paper under the door, his fiancée let him out, he submitted the poem, and it won the contest by unanimous vote. A shortened version of it is still used today as the national anthem.

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

 









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