Jul. 31, 2002

Sonnet 138: When my love swears that she is made of truth

by William Shakespeare

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Poem: Sonnet 138, "When my love swears that she is made of truth," by William Shakespeare.

Sonnet 138, "When my love swears that she is made of truth"

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,

Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
Oh, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
                Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
                And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

On this day in 1944, the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery disappeared while flying reconnaissance for the Allies. He's remembered as the author of children's classic The Little Prince, but all his other books-Night Flight (1931), Wind, Sand and Stars (1939), Flight to Arras (1942)-were about his life as a pilot. After the Nazi invasion of France, he heard about a company of men using Lockheed P-38's to photograph enemy installations, and he tried to enlist. The age limit for the company was thirty-five, and pilots had to be in top physical condition. Saint-Exupery was forty-three and in constant pain from an old injury, but he pestered and wheedled, and they finally admitted him. On the morning of his final mission, he took off at quarter to nine, and was supposed to return with an hour's worth of fuel left at one-thirty. He didn't return, and by two-thirty, the men on the ground knew he was gone. His plane was never found.

It's the birthday of William J. Bennett, born in Brooklyn (1943). He served as Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and as the drug czar (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy) under George Bush. He has built a publishing career on educational reform, and on the idea that moral education needs to be reintroduced into children's lives. He's the author of sixteen books, including The Book of Virtues (1993) and The Children's Book of Virtues (1995). The Book of Virtues alone has sold close to three million copies, and has been made into an animated television series.

It's the birthday of Primo Levi born in Turin, Italy (1919). He worked as a chemist for most of his life. During the Second World War he fought with the Italian resistance and was taken to Auschwitz. He started a memoir about his experiences as soon as he made his way home. If This is a Man was published in 1947.

On this day in 1703, Daniel Defoe was pilloried for publishing the satirical pamphlet The Shortest Way with the Dissenters. At the time, the Tory government in England made life difficult for Protestants who refused to join the Church of England, called "dissenters." In his pamphlet, Defoe-who was a dissenter himself-posed as a Tory churchman, and said that halfway measures were a waste of time; the best thing would be simply to slaughter all the dissenters wholesale. Some of the Tories thought the suggestion was perfectly sound, and both sides were outraged when it was revealed to be a satire.

On this day in 1566 the Dominican friar Bartolome de las Casas died in Seville. His birthdate is not known. When he was eighteen he set sail with Columbus and helped conquer Cuba. He owned an estate, employed Indians as laborers, and made his fortune. But one Sunday he heard a priest speak out against the way the Spanish treated the Indians. "Are they not also human?" the priest asked. Eventually, de las Casas left his estate, let his laborers go and became a Dominican friar. He spent the rest of his life writing about the effects of the Spanish conquest on the Indians of the New World. His book The Destruction of the Indies (1542) describes their systematic enslavement and slaughter. He wrote: "The insatiable greed and overweening ambition of the Christians knows no bounds; the land is fertile and rich, the inhabitants simple, forbearing and submissive. The Spaniards have shown not the slightest consideration for these people, treating them (and I speak from first-hand experience, having been there from the outset) not as brute animals-indeed, I would to God they had shown them the consideration they afforded their animals-so much as piles of dung in the middle of the road."

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