Jun. 10, 2003

Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart

by William Shakespeare

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Poem: "Sonnet 109," by Shakespeare.

Sonnet 109

O never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seemed my flame to qualify.
As easy might I from myself depart,
As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie.
That is my home of love; if I have ranged
Like him that travels I return again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reigned
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stained
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good-
      For nothing this wide universe I call,
      Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of French painter Gustave Courbet, born in Ornans, France in 1819. He painted gritty pictures of small-town funerals and hardworking peasants at a time when everyone else was busy painting naked Venuses and prancing wood nymphs.

It's the birthday of children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1928. He's the man who wrote the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are (1964), about a young boy named Max who imagines a community of scary monsters in a faraway land. Maurice Sendak said, "You cannot write for children. . . . They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them."

It's the birthday of Terence Rattigan, born in London in 1911, a popular British playwright in the 1940s and '50s. He's the author of the plays French Without Tears (1936), Flare Path (1942), and The Winslow Boy (1946), among many others. He said, "A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute."

It's the birthday of American writer Nat Hentoff, born in Boston in 1925. He's written novels, biographies, books about jazz, children's books, and countless political columns about the Bill of Rights. He's been defending American's constitutional rights ever since he was a little boy, when he spoke out for the local butcher who sold non-kosher meat.

It's the birthday of American fiction writer James Salter, born James Horowitz in New York City in 1925. He went to West Point and became a fighter pilot in the Korean War, and used the experience as a basis for his first two novels, The Hunters (1956) and The Arm of Flesh (1961).

It's the birthday of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow, born in Lachine, Quebec in 1915 to Russian immigrants. He's the author of The Adventures of Augie March (1954), Seize the Day (1956), Humboldt's Gift (1975), and his latest novel Ravelstein, published in 2000. He grew up in Chicago, where he would later set the action of many of his novels. He was a marine in World War II and afterwards spent two years traveling through Europe and writing his first novel, The Adventures of Augie March. He wrote it in cafes and on trains and subways. He said, "I began to write in all places, in all postures, at all times of the day and night. It rushed out of me. I was turned on like a hydrant in summer." The novel was an immediate success and established Bellow as one of the great writers of his generation. It begins, "I am an American, Chicago born-Chicago, that somber city-and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent." Bellow later said, "The people of Chicago are very proud of their wickedness." His father was not happy with Bellow's decision to become a writer. He said, "You write and then you erase. You call that a profession?" His brothers pursued more conventional careers, and Bellow once said, "All I started out to do was show up my brothers."

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