Mar. 21, 2003

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"Dog," by Lawrence Ferlinghetti from San Francisco Poems (City Lights Foundation).


The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn't hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit's Tower
and past Congressman Doyle of the Unamerican Committee
He's afraid of Coit's Tower
but he's not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog's life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
          democratic dog
engaged in real
        free enterprise
with something to say
            about ontology
something to say
        about reality
                and how to see it
                  and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
            at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
        his picture taken
            for Victor Records
      listening for
          His Master's Voice
    and looking
        like a living questionmark
              into the
            great gramophone
          of puzzling existence
      with its wondrous hollow horn
        which always seems
just about to spout forth

      some Victorious answer

        to everything

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, born in Eisenach, in central Germany (1685). Born into a gifted musical family, although orphaned at nine, Bach was devoted to music from childhood and would sometimes walk miles to hear the organ played in distant churches. When he grew up, he worked as a court organist, cantor, and church music director. He did not travel widely, and did not pander to the popular taste. In fact, much of the popular and critical musical opinion in his time considered his music to be overly conservative, heavy, antiquated, and inordinately complex. Bach did, however, enjoy a reputation among musicians as an organ virtuoso and a master of improvisation. But it wasn't until a half century after his death that his great works were rediscovered: St. John's Passion (1723), St. Matthew's Passion (1729), Mass in B Minor (1733-38) and his Christmas oratorio.

It's the birthday of American poet Phyllis McGinley, born in Ontario, Oregon (1905). She won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poems, Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades (1960).

It's the birthday of English theatrical director Peter Brook, born in London (1925). He had a long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His Shakespeare productions include Measure for Measure (1950), Titus Andronicus (1955), King Lear (1962), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1970).

On this day in 1556, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake for treason and heresy in the reign of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I. Cranmer advocated the translation of the Bible into simple, clear English. He wrote the preface to the Great Bible (1540), sometimes called "Cranmer's Bible," and he is responsible for much of The Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1552), which contains the most famous examples of his sonorous prose.

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