May 10, 2002

1053 It was a quiet way --

by Emily Dickinson

FRIDAY, 10 MAY 2002
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: "It was a quiet way," by Emily Dickinson.

It was a quiet way

It was a quiet way-
He asked if I was his-
I made no answer of the Tongue
But answer of the Eyes-
And then He bore me on
Before this mortal noise
With swiftness, as of Chariots
And distance, as of Wheels.
This World did drop away
As Acres from the feet
Of one that leaneth from Balloon
Upon an Ether street.
The Gulf behind was not,
The Continents were new-
Eternity it was before
Eternity was due.
No Seasons were to us-
It was not Night nor Morn-
But Sunrise stopped upon the place
And fastened it in Dawn.

It's the birthday of American playwright Arthur Kopit, born in New York (1937). He grew up in the suburbs on Long Island, and described himself later as "the victim of a healthy family life." He wrote Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Bad. He began a novel, but abandoned it and went on to write several more plays, including Indians (1968) and Wings (1978).

It's the birthday of British romance writer Barbara Taylor Bradford, born in Leeds, England (1933). Her novels, mostly about wildly successful businesswomen, have sold in 88 countries and 26 languages. None of them has ever gone out of print. She sold her first short story while she was still in grammar school; the magazine paid her ten shillings and sixpence. After quitting school at sixteen, she worked on Fleet Street as a reporter for nine years, then met the producer Robert Bradford on a blind date and came to the United States with him in 1966. Her first novel, A Woman of Substance, was written after she'd thrown four other novels away. Its sales eventually surpassed three million. "I didn't have a message. I wasn't saying: 'You too can be in a boardroom.' I was just wanting to tell a good story about Cinderella getting up out of the ashes."

It's the birthday of Maybelle Carter, born in Scott County, Virginia (1909). As the guitarist for the original Carter Family, she created the "Carter Scratch," a flat-picking style which plays the melody in the bass and strums the rhythm in the treble. In 1927, when she was eighteen years old, she traveled twenty-five miles with her cousin Sara and her brother-in-law A.P. to record for the impressario Ralph Peer of Victor Records. The group was an immediate sensation; it was the first time anybody had combined the close harmony of church singing with front-porch-picking instrumentals. The group dominated the radio airwaves for more than a decade, performing hundreds of songs collected and arranged by A.P., including "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "Wabash Canonball," Keep on the Sunny Side," and "Wildwood Flower."

It's the birthday of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth, born in Basel (1886). He spent the ten years from 1911 to 1921 as a pastor in a small Swiss village, where he became convinced that nineteenth-century Christianity had little to offer his parishioners. His own theological work stressed the inability of reason to reveal anything about religious truth, the difference between written scripture and the experience of revelation, and the absolute otherness of God. "Religion is the human attempt to enter into communion with God on human terms," he wrote. He lost his seat at the University of Bonn in 1935 when he refused to take an unconditional oath of allegiance to Hitler. He spent the rest of the war resisting the Nazi regime, and he spoke and wrote about social causes until his death in 1968.

It's the birthday of physician and freethinker Charles Knowlton, born in Templeton, Massachusetts (1800). In 1832, Knowlton published the country's first informative pamphlet about birth control, which he called The Fruits of Philosophy: or The Private Companion of Young Married People. He was jailed and fined for offending public taste. His book was published in Britain two years later, and, after selling quietly for several decades, became the subject of a famous trial in 1877, in which the public prosecutor declared it a "dirty, filthy book." The distributors were acquitted, and the book's sales soared from one thousand copies a year to two hundred and fifty thousand copies a year.

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