Aug. 6, 2002

Crossing the Bar

by Alfred Tennyson

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Poem: "Crossing the Bar," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
          And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
          When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
          Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
          Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
          And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
          When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
          The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
          When I have crost the bar.

Today is the traditional date of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The story of the Transfiguration is told in the first three Gospels. Mark writes: "Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white... And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, and they were talking with Jesus."

It was on this day in 1945 that a U.S. B29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The uranium fission bomb created an explosion equivalent to twenty thousand tons of TNT. Sixty percent of the city was destroyed, and about eighty thousand people were killed by the blast. Many more people would suffer the effects of radiation in the years to come.

It's the birthday of poet Diane di Prima, born in Brooklyn, New York (1934). In the Fifties, she lived in Greenwich Village and became part of the circle of poets known as the Beats. In 1965, she moved to upstate New York, where she was part of Timothy Leary's psychedelic community. Then it was on to California to live in a commune, study Zen, and raise a family. Along the way, she became known as the most important female Beat poet. Her many books of poetry include Loba (1978), and Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems (1990). She also wrote Memoirs of a Beatnik (1969).

It's the birthday of Pop artist Andy Warhol, born Andrew Warhola, somewhere in Pennsylvania (1928). The son of an immigrant coal miner from Czechoslovakia, he went to school in Pittsburgh, then moved to New York City, where he started his career as a commercial illustrator. He started painting in the 1950s, and burst on the scene in 1962 with an exhibit in Los Angeles that featured his famous silk-screen image of a Campbell's soup can.

It's the birthday of American historian Richard Hofstadter, born in Buffalo, New York (1916). He wrote thirteen books, two of which won the Pulitzer Prize for history: The Age of Reform (1955) and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1964).

It's the birthday of the great Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England (1809). He was the fourth of twelve children and grew up in an isolated rectory in Lincolnshire. He was unhappy at school and his father was an alcoholic, so young Alfred took refuge from his unhappiness in writing. He went on to Cambridge, where he began to make a name for himself as a poet. While he was there, he published his first book of poetry, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830). His closest friend was a young man named Arthur Hallam. Hallam's sudden death in 1832 sent Tennyson into a depression, out of which came some of his most famous works, including "Morte d'Arthur" and In Memoriam (1850). In Memoriam was a huge success, and led Queen Victoria to appoint Tennyson the Poet Laureate. His later works include The Idylls of the King (1859), The Holy Grail and Other Poems (1870) and Tiresias and Other Poems. (1885). Among his most famous individual poems are "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854) and "Crossing the Bar" (1889), which Tennyson requested be placed at the end of all editions of his poems.

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