Feb. 11, 2002

She Walks in Beauty

by George Gordon Byron

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Poem: "She Walks in Beauty," by George Gordon, Lord Byron.

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

It's the feast day of St. Caedmon, the first poet known to compose in English. He was a shepherd who was so embarrassed by his poor singing voice that he used to excuse himself from feasts when he thought he might have to take a turn singing. After doing so one evening, he went out to sleep in the stable. He dreamed a voice said to him, "Caedmon, sing something to me. Sing the beginning of created things." And he did-in verses he'd never heard before. He remembered them when he awoke, and added more. He showed them to the abbess of the local monastery, and the abbess urged him to take holy vows, as he had obviously been given a gift by God.

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Roy Fuller, born in Oldham, Lancashire, England (1912). He wrote thirty-one volumes of poetry, including Owls and Artificers (1971) and Professors and Gods (1973).

It's the birthday of screenwriter Philip Dunne, born in New York City (1908). He wrote 36 films, including How Green Was My Valley and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and directed ten others. He was one of the founders of the Screen Writers Guild.

It's the birthday of physicist Leo Szilard, born in Budapest, Hungary (1898). In 1939, a few years after coming to America, knowing that German scientists had discovered nuclear fission, he drafted the famous letter that Albert Einstein sent to President Roosevelt advocating the development of an atomic bomb. Three years later, in the Manhattan Project, he and Enrico Fermi oversaw the first nuclear chain reaction. "We turned the switch and saw the flashes," he wrote later. "We watched them for a little while and then we switched everything off and went home. That night there was no doubt in my mind that the world was headed for grief." In 1961, he published a book of satirical fantasies on the misuse of science called The Voice of the Dolphin, and the following year he founded the Council for a Livable World, a lobbying group for arms control.

It's the birthday of Thomas Alva Edison, born in Milan, Ohio (1847). His favorite invention was the phonograph, but he didn't see any use for it and put it away for ten years. He also invented the means of showing motion pictures; the stock ticker; and, though he didn't invent the incandescent light bulb, he perfected it and made its widespread use practical. Within three years of perfecting the light bulb, he had invented the generating, switching and transmitting devices necessary to use it on a large scale, and was operating the world's first power station.

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