Jul. 7, 2003

Sonnet 27: Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed

by William Shakespeare

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Poem: "Sonnet 27," by Shakespeare.

Sonnet 27

Weary with toil, I haste to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tir'd;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body's work's expir'd:
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo, thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of Sherlock Holmes' fictional sidekick, Dr. Watson, born in 1852. And on this day in 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes books, died. Sherlock Holmes said, "You have a grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion."

It's the birthday of the Baseball Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, born Leroy Robert Paige in Mobile, Alabama (1906). He became a legend during his years in the Negro Leagues, and he was finally allowed to enter the Majors in 1948, after the color barrier was relaxed. But he faced the best Major League players in exhibition games before that. In Hollywood in 1934 he won a spectacular game -- 1-0 in 13 innings-against the pitcher Dizzy Dean, who had won 30 games that year for the St. Louis Cardinals. He said, "I use my single windup, my double windup, my triple windup, my hesitation windup, my no windup. I also use my step-n-pitch-it, my submariner, my sidearmer, and my bat dodger. Man's got to do what he's got to do."

It's the birthday of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, born in Kaliste, Bohemia (1860). During his lifetime he was a world-famous conductor and interpreter of literature, but his own music was not well liked. His work was ignored for 50 years after his death. He could hum tunes before he could walk, and he repeated local peasant songs after just one hearing. When he was three he got an accordion, and learned to play his favorite military marches. When he was six he wrote his first piece: Polka with Introductory Funeral March, for piano. Mahler was a superstitious person. When he wrote his Tragic Symphony, No. 6 in 1904 it originally built up to three loud blows with a large hammer. Mahler said these blows foreshadowed three bad things that happened to him later, in 1907: he was asked to resign from the Vienna Opera, his three-year-old daughter died, and he was diagnosed with a fatal heart disease. He came to the United States in 1907 to conduct the Metropolitan Opera, and later, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, but he wasn't popular in New York. He called the Philharmonic "the true American orchestra -- without talent and phlegmatic;" he replaced two thirds of its 100 musicians because he thought they were incompetent. The board of directors complained about the music he programmed for concerts, and he left New York without finishing the 1911 season and went back to Vienna, where he died that year. He said, "If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music."

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Robert A(nson) Heinlein, born in Butler, Missouri (1907). He's the author of the cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), a novel about a boy who is born during the first manned mission to Mars, is raised by Martians before he returns to earth, starts a church, and preaches free love. The book broke barriers for science fiction writers; it opened the bestsellers lists to their work.

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