Feb. 22, 2002

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Poem: "Spring," by Edna St. Vincent Millay from Collected Poems (Harper Collins).


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

It's the birthday of humorist and cartoonist Edward Gorey, born in Chicago, Illinois (1925). He's known for his macabre pen and ink drawings and stories such as The Gashlycrumb Tinies which included the lines:

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs
B is for Basil assaulted by bears…
U is for Uma who slipped down a drain
V is for Victor squashed under a train.

It's the birthday of novelist, playwright, and short-story writer Jane Bowles, born in New York City (1917). She suffered from depression and drank heavily, so she didn't publish a great deal. Her best known work is probably her play In the Summer House (1953).

It's the birthday of writer Seán O'Faoláin, born in Cork, Ireland (1900). He's known especially for his short stories about Ireland's working class, and for his early novels: A Nest of Simple Folk (1933) and Bird Alone (1936).

It's the birthday of writer Meridel Le Sueur, born in Murray, Iowa (1900). She was an icon of feminist, left-wing fiction for books such as Harvest (1977) and Ripening (1982).

It's the birthday of poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay, born in Rockland, Maine (1892). She was as famous for her bohemian lifestyle in Greenwich Village as for her work. Millay was the author of the famous lines: "My candle burns at both ends / It will not last the night / But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends / It gives a lovely light." She wrote steadily until her death in 1950 at her home in upstate New York, called Steepletop, now a National Historic Landmark. Since 1973, it has housed the Millay Colony for the Arts, a retreat for writers and composers.

It's the birthday of the first editor of the Atlantic Monthly, poet and critic James Russell Lowell, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1819).

It's the birthday of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, born in Danzig, Prussia-now Gdansk, Poland (1788). He was a rival of Hegel's, and wrote works refuting Hegel's philosophy. Schopenhauer believed that we live in a world of continual strife and that the "will," our inner nature, inevitably leads to pain and suffering unless we are able to renounce desire and assume an attitude of resignation. He was a great influence on the literature of Thomas Mann, the music of Richard Wagner, and the psychology of Sigmund Freud.

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