Mar. 16, 2003


by Galway Kinnell

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Poem: "Crying," by Galway Kinnell from Three Books (Houghton Mifflin).


Crying only a little bit
is no use. You must cry
until your pillow is soaked!
Then you can get up and laugh.
Then you can jump in the shower
and splash-splash-splash!
Then you can throw open your window
and, "Ha ha! ha ha!"
And if people say, "Hey
what's going on up there?"
"Ha ha!" sing back, "Happiness
was hiding in the last tear!
I wept it! Ha ha!"

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of musician and composer William Henry Monk, born in London (1823). He was an English organist, and he was the music director of St. Matthias Church for nearly forty years. He edited the standard hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern, which sold, over the years, 60 million copies. He also wrote the hymn "Eventide," better known today as "Abide with Me."

It's the birthday of painter Rosa Bonheur, born in Bordeaux France, (1822). Her father was a painter who taught her himself, sending her to the Louvre to draw. She became fascinated with the idea of painting and sculpting animals. By the time she reached adulthood she had a menagerie of her own, including a sheep, which she kept out on the balcony of her family's sixth-floor apartment. She wore men's clothes, smoked tobacco in public, and rode astride instead of sidesaddle. She showed paintings at the Paris Salon every year; the huge, twelve-by-seven canvas "The Horse Fair" was taken to Queen Victoria for a private viewing; even Buffalo Bill was an admirer. She received a steady stream of commissions for most of her life, and made enough money not to have to worry about it.

It's the birthday of physicist Georg Ohm, born in Erlangen, Bavaria (1787). He dreamed of teaching at the University of Munich. He started experimenting with electromagnetic force, making all his own wire for his work in various thicknesses and lengths, and using mathematics to analyze his results. In 1827 he published the book for which he is best known, The Galvanic Circuit, Investigated Mathematically. In it he set out the relationships he had found between electric current, resistance, and voltage.

It's the birthday of the fourth president of the United States, James Madison, born in Port Conway, Virginia (1751). As a delegate to the Continental Congress, he made a careful study of all the governments in Europe. He called for a Constitutional Convention in 1787, and put forward the first draft of a plan for the new government. He also made detailed notes during the Convention, now the only remaining record of the proceedings. He wrote 29 of the newspaper articles now called The Federalist Papers, written as a kind of public relations move to explain the Constitution to the electorate. Madison was less able as a President than as a political theorist. The War of 1812 brought the country almost to its knees; the British sacked Washington, and Madison watched the White House burn from a nearby hill.

It's the birthday of astronomer Caroline Herschel, born in Hanover, Germany (1750). A bout of typhus fever when she was ten stunted her growth; she never grew any taller than four foot three. Her parents assured her that she was too odd-looking ever to hope to marry anyone, and urged her to direct her aspirations elsewhere. Her brother William, who was an organist, had moved to England to find work, and he brought her there and supported her studies. She learned music, English and mathematics, and she began to make a name for herself as a singer. But William had already gotten interested in astronomy, and enlisted her help as he mapped the heavens. He became the royal court astronomer, and eventually she too received a salary directly from the King for her work as William's assistant. After he died she went back to Germany and went on making observations and calculations; no errors have ever been found in her notes. She catalogued twenty-five hundred nebulae and discovered eight comets. She died at the age of ninety-seven.

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