Mar. 19, 2002

435 Much Madness is divinest Sense

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "Much Madness is divinest Sense," and "This is my letter to the World," by Emily Dickinson.

Much Madness is divinest Sense

Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much Sense-the starkest Madness-
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent-and you are sane-
Demur-you're straightway dangerous-
And handled with a Chain-

This is my letter to the World

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me-
The simple News that Nature told-
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see-
For love of Her-Sweet-countrymen-
Judge tenderly-of Me

March 19 is the feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary. He's the patron saint of cabinet-makers, carpenters, and fathers.

Ever since 1776, St. Joseph's Day has also been the day the swallows return to the old mission of San Juan Capistrano-halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

It was on this date in 1963 that Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds opened.

It's the birthday of Philip Roth, born in Newark, New Jersey (1933). His first book was Goodbye, Columbus (1959); his breakthrough novel Portnoy's Complaint (1969) infuriated many readers, but Roth claimed not to be upset by this as he shared the feelings of his hero Portnoy, who tells his analyst, "Doctor, doctor, what do you say, LET'S PUT THE ID BACK IN YID!" The book was Roth's take on how Kafka's work might have turned out if it had been written by the Marx Brothers.

It's the birthday of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, born in Fort Worth (1930). He bought an alto sax when he was 14, and learned to play from a book-which led to his unorthodox fingering.

It's the birthday of author Irving Wallace, born in Chicago (1916). He is the author of The Prize (1962), The Man (1964), and The Chapman Report (1960).

It's the birthday of cowboy painter Charles M. Russell, born in St. Louis (1864). At 16 he moved to Montana and became a cowboy-then began to paint other cowboys, as well as American Indians and Western landscapes.

It's the birthday of politician William Jennings Bryan, born in Salem, Illinois (1860). He moved to Nebraska as a young man, entered politics, and was elected to Congress. He spoke at the 1896 Democratic national convention in favor of free coinage of silver, and his "Cross of Gold" speech took the convention by storm and won him the nomination. He ran in 1896, and again in 1908; then, in 1912, he locked up the nomination for Woodrow Wilson, who appointed him Secretary of State.

It's the birthday of scholar Sir Richard Burton, born in Torquay, Devonshire, England (1821). An inveterate traveler, he was a master of 25 languages who translated many works of literature into English, including unexpurgated versions of The Arabian Nights (1888), The Kama Sutra (1883), and The Perfumed Garden (1886).

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




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