Jul. 25, 2003

Sweet Content

by Thomas Dekker

FRIDAY, 25 JULY 2003
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"Sweet Content," by Thomas Dekker.

Sweet Content

Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers,
      O sweet content!
Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplexed?
      O punishment!
Dost thou laugh to see how fools are vexed
To add to golden numbers, golden numbers?
O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
    Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
    Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny, hey nonny nonny!

Canst drink the waters of the crisped spring?
      O sweet content!
Swimm'st thou in wealth, yet sink'st in thine own tears?
      O punishment!
Then he that patiently want's burden bears
No burden bears, but is a king, a king!
O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
    Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
    Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny, hey nonny nonny!

Literary Notes:

It was on this day in 1978 that the first "test-tube" baby, Louise Brown, was born in a hospital in Oldham, England. By the time she celebrated her twenty-first birthday in 1999, over 300,000 women across the world had conceived by in vitro fertilization. Louise Brown now works as a nurse in a nursery.

It was on this day in 1965 that Bob Dylan performed for the first time with electric guitars at the Newport Folk Festival. At the time, most fans of folk music thought that it had to be played on acoustic instruments to remain authentic. Dylan walked on stage that day, dressed all in black, and began playing rock and roll. The first song Dylan sang was "Maggie's Farm," with the lyrics,

"Well I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They say, 'Sing while you slave,' and I just get bored.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more."

It's the birthday of the painter Maxfield Parrish, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1870). During the early twentieth century, he was one of the most popular commercial artists in the United States. He is known for his paintings of dreamlike landscapes full of attractive young women. He had actually wanted to be a carpenter, and he spent most of his life building additions onto his small cottage. By the time he died it had fifteen bedrooms and five bathrooms.

It's the birthday of Elias Canetti, born in Russe, Bulgaria (1905). He is best known for his novel The Tower of Babel (1935). He fled the Nazis and lived in England during World War II, and spent years writing a work of nonfiction about mobs called Crowds and Power (1960), which is considered his masterpiece.

It was on this day in 1897 that the novelist Jack London left for the Klondike to join the gold rush. He was only twenty-one and had been struggling to survive in California, working as a sailor and an oyster pirate. Early in July 1897, a ship had arrived in San Francisco from the Klondike carrying more than a million dollars worth of gold. London got his stepsister to mortgage her house and loan him the money for the voyage. To get to the Klondike, London and the other prospectors had to climb the infamous Chilkoot Pass. Because he had brought so much equipment, London had to make about twenty trips for every mile he covered, carrying a little more of his equipment with every trip. Winter came before London could look for gold. He spent the winter in an abandoned fur trader's cabin the size of a tool shed, living on beans and bread. He wrote of that winter, "[It was] a world of silence and immobility. Nothing stirred. The Yukon slept under a coat of ice three feet thick." He read the books he'd brought with him, including Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost, and he carved his name in the wall, "Jack London, writer/miner." In the spring, London realized that all the good claims had already been made. Instead of looking for gold, he talked to everyone he could and soaked up all their stories. He went on to write about his experiences in books like The Son of the Wolf (1900) and Call of the Wild (1903) and became one of the most popular writers of his time.

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