Aug. 25, 2013

The End

by Victoria Redel

At the end of the marriage they lay down on their big, exhausted bed.
It was crowded with all the men and women they had ever loved.

Of course their fathers and mothers were there and a boy in uniform
she'd kissed on a stairwell. His first wife spooned her first husband.

Ridiculous Affair held hands with Stupendous Infatuation.
There was a racket of dreaming and, though both were tired

from the difficult end and in need of sleep, neither could sleep,
so they began telling each other the long, good story of their love.

She was wearing the red dress. The white boat hitched to the wood dock
filled with rainwater. The swans were again teaching the young to fly.

The story went out to nice dinners, took summer holidays, and by the time
they were done, the old loves rolled over in a jumble on the floor,

and, because this is what they knew to do well with one another,
they made love, and then without thinking it was the last time, said,

I love you, and fell asleep under the heavy, blue coverlet.

"The End" by Victoria Redel, from Woman Without Umbrella. © Four Way Books, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, born in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1918). When he was 40, he became the youngest musical director ever in charge of the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein wrote scores for many musicals, including On the Town and West Side Story, as well as symphonies and scores for ballets.

And it's the birthday of the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria, or "Mad Ludwig" or "The Swan King," as he was called, born near Munich (1845). When he was 15 years old, Ludwig attended the opera Lohengrin, by the composer Richard Wagner, and he was smitten. His father died when he was 18, and Ludwig became king. Soon after being crowned, Ludwig asked that Wagner be brought to his court. After meeting Ludwig, Wagner wrote: "Alas, he is so handsome and intelligent, so splendid, and so full of soul, that I tremble lest his life should dissolve like a fleeting dream of the gods in this vulgar world." Ludwig offered to be Wagner's patron, to relieve his many debts, and to set him up in a beautiful villa.

As Ludwig showered gifts, praise, and attention on the composer, his Bavarian subjects grew increasingly resentful. Finally, Ludwig's advisers told him he had no choice but to tell Wagner to leave Bavaria. On the day Wagner left, the local newspaper wrote: "The news that Richard Wagner has been ordered to leave Bavaria ran through the city the day before yesterday like wildfire, which is enough in itself to show the extent and the depth of the agitation that the man has aroused by his behavior [...] in spite of all the previous denials, Wagner has tried to exploit our youthful monarch's favor, even going so far as to influence him in matters of state." Wagner moved to Switzerland, where Ludwig paid his rent.

During his reign, Ludwig remained a patron of the arts — theater, music, and architecture. He designed and paid for intricate, fairy-tale castles up in the mountains, and he personally oversaw every detail of the design, layout, and decorating. He became increasingly less involved in politics, and he declined to attend large social events. He was well liked by average Bavarians — he enjoyed touring around the country, visiting people and handing out gifts. But his ministers wanted Ludwig gone. They commissioned a medical report to declare that Ludwig was insane and unfit to rule. He was taken into custody at a castle, and the next day, he and one of the doctors went on a walk around the lake there; the doctor asked his servants not to follow them. The men never returned, and both were found dead in the shallow water near the shore of the lake.

It's the birthday of novelist Martin Amis (books by this author), born in Oxford, England (1949). He's written many novels: Money (1984), London Fields (1989), The Pregnant Widow (2010), and Lionel Asbo: State of England (2012). He's also the son of Kingsley Amis, who wrote Lucky Jim (1954).

Amis' father didn't really encourage him to write, but Amis felt having a famous writer as a father made it easier to get published. "That's the deal," he said. "After that, you're on your own, you're just another idiot out there who is going to get plucked to death like anyone else."

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




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