Aug. 31, 2002

Robinson Crusoe's Story

by Charles E. Carryl

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Poem: "Robinson Crusoe's Story," by Charles E. Carryl.

Robinson Crusoe's Story

          THE night was thick and hazy
          When the "Piccadilly Daisy"
Carried down the crew and captain in the sea;
          And I think the water drowned 'em;
          For they never, never found 'em,
And I know they didn't come ashore with me.

          Oh! 'twas very sad and lonely
          When I found myself the only
Population on this cultivated shore;
          But I've made a little tavern
          In a rocky little cavern,
And I sit and watch for people at the door.

          I spent no time in looking
          For a girl to do my cooking,
As I'm quite a clever hand at making stews;
          But I had that fellow Friday,
          Just to keep the tavern tidy,
And to put a Sunday polish on my shoes.

          I have a little garden
          That I'm cultivating lard in,
As the things I eat are rather tough and dry;
          For I live on toasted lizards,
          Prickly pears, and parrot gizzards,
And I'm really very fond of beetle-pie.

          I sometimes seek diversion
          In a family excursion
With the few domestic animals you see;
          And we take along a carrot
          As refreshment for the parrot,
And a little can of jungleberry tea.

          Then we gather as we travel,
          Bits of moss and dirty gravel,
And we chip off little specimens of stone;
          And we carry home as prizes
          Funny bugs, of handy sizes,
Just to give the day a scientific tone.

          If the roads are wet and muddy
          We remain at home and study, -
For the Goat is very clever at a sum, -
          And the Dog, instead of fighting,
          Studies ornamental writing,
While the Cat is taking lessons on the drum.

          We retire at eleven,
          And we rise again at seven;
And I wish to call attention, as I close,
          To the fact that all the scholars
          Are correct about their collars,
And particular in turning out their toes.

On this day in 1941, the Russian poet Maria Tsvetayeva (sometimes Marina) committed suicide in Yelabuga, a remote village in the Soviet Union. She had lived with her husband in Paris for many years, but their roots in Imperial Russia made them suspect even among émigrés. When they re-entered Stalin's Soviet Union, they were immediately arrested. Her husband was shot, and she was sent to the countryside with her son. Her savings dwindled, and on the day she realized she had just enough money left for one loaf of bread, she hung herself. The poet Boris Pasternak had helped her pack just before she was ordered to leave; when he heard the news, he realized she must have used the rope he had given her to tie around her suitcase.

It's the birthday of William Saroyan, born in Fresno, California (1908). He's the author of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934) and The Human Comedy (1943). In 1939 he won both the Drama Critic's Circle award and the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Time of Your Life.

It's the birthday of William Shawn, born in Chicago (1907). He was editor-in-chief of The New Yorker magazine from 1952 until 1987, "the last of the great line editors." Four days before he died, Shawn had lunch with Lillian Ross, who showed him a book cover blurb and asked if he would check it. "He took out the mechanical pencil he always carried in his inside jacket pocket, and…made his characteristically neat proofreading marks on a sentence that said 'the book remains as fresh and unique as ever.' He changed it to read, 'remains unique and as fresh as ever. There are no degrees of uniqueness,' Mr. Shawn said politely."

On this day in 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his famous "American Scholar" address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard. He told the students to think for themselves rather than absorb thought, to create rather than repeat, and not to look to Europe for cultural models. He said: "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe…We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds. The study of letters shall be no longer a name for pity, for doubt, and for sensual indulgence…A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."

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




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