Sep. 14, 2002

Sonnet: Rarely, Rarely Comest Thou, Spirit of Delight

by Gavin Ewart

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Poem: "Sonnet: 'Rarely, Rarely Comest Thou, Spirit of Delight,'" by Gavin Ewart from Selected Poems 1933-1988 (New Directions).

Sonnet: 'Rarely, Rarely Comest Thou, Spirit of Delight'

So you come into the kitchen one morning
(the only room with cat-flap access)
and you find the larger cat, covered in blood, on a chair
and patches of blood on the chair and the floor.
His left foreleg is limp, he can't move it
from the wrist, as it were. A car, a tom-cat?
A dog, or even a suburban fox?
Pathetic, when you stroke him he still gives a very faint purr.

He limps about, on drugs. Two weeks, the damaged nerve is healing.
Our Alleluias go up. Because we're there and see it
it's like the end of a famine in Ethiopia-
more real, for us! The genuine rejoicing
that shakes a people at the end of a war-
crowds drinking, singing, splashing in the fountains!

It was on this day that Napoleon's Grande Armée entered Moscow in 1812, only to find that the city had been evacuated.

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner. He composed them while he watched, from the British ship on which he had been detained, the U.S. flag survive a British attack.

It's the birthday of Hal Wallis, born in Chicago, Illinois (1899). He produced The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.

It's the birthday of the drama critic Eric Bentley, born in Bolton, Lancashire, England (1916). He was a champion and translator of Bertolt Brecht's plays.

It's the birthday of Ivan Klima, born in Prague (1931). He wrote Waiting for Dark, Waiting for Light, Love and Garbage, and many other novels. His parents were Jewish, and as a result he spent three years in a Nazi camp during the Second World War. He studied literature at university and went on to edit an intellectual, weekly newspaper in Prague, and eventually became a successful playwright and novelist. In 1970, his play, The Castle, about a society that survives by murdering its own people, was considered too radical and was banned until 1990. He couldn't publish anything in Prague, so he was forced to take many odd jobs, including an ambulance driver, a messenger, and a land surveyor. He also published underground, or "samizdat," editions of his writing; they were made with small, bound pages of airmail paper and lie yellowed and silver-thin on his bookshelf still. In his book The Spirit of Prague, he talks about the censorship of literature and culture in Prague during communism. He says, "It was not just the intellectuals, however, or the creators who were disappointed, it was also the receivers, the audience."

It's the birthday of Ivan Pavlov, born in Russia (1849). His family wanted him to be a priest, like his father. But while in seminary he became inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin, and headed for the University of St. Petersburg to pursue science. The study that made him famous began as an experiment to see the relationship between salivation and the action of the stomach during the process of digestion. He trained dogs to lie still while he experimented on them. By chance during his study, he discovered that he could stimulate the salivation process in his dog subjects by ringing a bell that he had conditioned the dog to associate with receiving food, even when food did not in fact accompany the bell.

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




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