Oct. 21, 2002

315 He fumbles at your Soul

by Emily Dickinson

435 Much Madness is divinest Sense

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "He fumbles at your Soul," and "Much Madness is divinest Sense," by Emily Dickinson.

He fumbles at your Soul

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on-
He stuns you by degrees-
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers-further heard-
Then nearer-Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten-
Your Brain-to bubble Cool-
That scalps your naked Soul-

When Winds take Forests in their Paws-
The Universe-is still-

Much Madness is divinest Sense

Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much Sense-the starkest Madness-
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent-and you are sane-
Demur-you're straightway dangerous-
And handled with a Chain-

It's the birthday of science-fiction writer Ursula LeGuin, born in Berkeley, California (1929), known best for her novels The Left Hand of Darkness (1970) and The Dispossessed (1974). She said, "My advice to young writers is, if you can't marry money, at least don't marry envy."

It's the birthday of Italian songwriter (lyricist) Giuseppe Giacosa, born in Turin, Italy (1847), co-librettist of three of Puccini's most popular operas, La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly.

It's the birthday of the legendary science fiction writer Edmond Hamilton, born in Ohio in 1904. He's considered the father of the "space opera" (adventure stories set in outer space-spaceships and rayguns), and the first person to write about interstellar travel and friendly aliens. In all, he wrote over 300 stories, 32 of them novel-length. He said, "…you're always encouraged, not by good stories, but by bad stories - you say, 'I can do that well,' and you start tapping it out."

It's the birthday of inventor, industrialist, and writer Alfred Nobel, born on this day in Stockholm in 1833. Nobel wrote poems, two novels, and sometimes wrote as many as twenty letters a day. He also published a tragic play in the final months of his life, called Nemesis. Alfred was embarrassed by his father, who was a self-taught architect and engineer. One morning in 1837, a detonation from the backyard shook the house and drew the neighbors out. Alfred's father (Immanual) was trying to develop a successful explosive to use in mining and construction. The neighbors gathered around, angry and scared, and shouted at Immanual, telling him he was crazy. Alfred witnessed the whole thing -- the angry neighbors threatening his father, the ridicule. From then on, he was determined to compensate for his parents' isolation (their "strangeness") from the rest of society by working for the rest of his life for the benefit of mankind. In his will, he said that the interest his estate generated should be divided into 5 parts every year and those 5 parts should be given as prizes to "those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." One part was given "to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency."

It was on this day in 1976 that the author Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He said, "You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write."

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




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