Dec. 1, 2003

Now the Day is Over

by Sabine Baring-Gould

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Poem: "Now the Day is Over," by Sabine Baring-Gould

Now the Day is Over

Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Now the darkness gathers,
Stars begin to peep,
Birds and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep.

Jesu, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With thy tenderest blessing
May our eyelids close.

Grant to little children
Visions bright of thee;
Guard the sailors tossing
On the deep blue sea.

Comfort every sufferer
Watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil
From their sin restrain.

Through the long night-watches
May thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure and fresh and sinless
In thy holy eyes.

Glory to the Father,
Glory to the Son,
And to thee, blest Spirit,
Whilst all ages run.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of director and screenwriter Woody Allen, born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn (1935). He started writing one-liners for gossip columns when he was 15 years old. During college, he wrote jokes for Bob Hope, and he later did standup in Greenwich Village cafťs. The first movie he directed was What's Up, Tiger Lily (1966). His big breakthrough was Annie Hall, which won four Academy Awards in 1977, including Best Director and Best Picture. Allen said, "Itís not that Iím afraid to die, I just donít want to be there when it happens."

It's the birthday of American detective novelist Rex Stout, born in Noblesville, Indiana (1886). He wrote over 70 novels, and 46 of them featured Nero Wolfe, an eccentric detective who weighs almost 300 pounds. Wolfe drinks liters of beer each day, grows orchids, and wears yellow silk pajamas. He solves mysteries with the help of his sidekick Archie Goodwin, who does most of the legwork for Wolfe because Wolfe doesn't like to leave his house.

Stout wrote articles and stories for magazines for almost thirty years before he wrote his first Nero Wolfe novel at the age of 48. It was called Fer-de-Lance, and it was published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1934. It was a huge success, and Stout went on to write another Wolfe novel almost every year.

It's the birthday of popular novelist Rex Beach, born in Atwood, Michigan (1877). He was living in Chicago and studying law when he heard about the Gold Rush in Alaska. He quit school and went off to the Klondike to search for gold. He looked for five years, but didn't find any. Back in Chicago, he found a job selling bricks and cement. One day, a friend of his from Alaska told him that he'd just sold a story about the Gold Rush for ten dollars. Beach later recalled, "There was an empty desk where we were standing. I snagged a chair and wrote." His adventure novels were bestsellers in the early 1900s, including The Spoilers (1906) and The Barrier (1908). Beach was one of the first writers to sell the rights of many of his novels to Hollywood and make big profits from the movie adaptations.

It was on this day in 1860 that the first installment of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations appeared in the magazine All the Year Round. Dickens had founded All the Year Round the previous year, and whenever he published one of his novels in the magazine it sold very well. But in the fall of 1860, he was serializing a novel called A Day's Ride, by Charles Lever, and sales of the magazine were dropping. Dickens had just gotten the idea for a long story about a young boy who meets an escaped convict and grows up to find out that the convict has been his secret benefactor. He was going to publish it in monthly installments in a different magazine, but he decided to write shorter chapters and publish it in All the Year Round to try to boost sales. Dickens was getting old, and while he wrote Great Expectations he suffered from facial neuralgia, asthma, pain in his side, and insomnia. He had recently separated from his wife and was having an affair with a twenty-year-old actress. But he wrote obsessively, every day, to meet the weekly deadlines and revive the sales of his magazine. His plan worked: a few chapters of Great Expectations were published weekly from December 1, 1860 through August 3, 1861, and about a hundred thousand copies of his magazine were sold each week. It has remained one of Dickens' most popular novels.

It was on this day in 1589 that Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene was registered for publication. The poem tells a long, complex story full of knights, princesses, castles, dragons, and enchanted bowers. Spenser had planned to divide the poem into 12 books, with each book featuring a different knight. Each knight would represent a different virtue, such as holiness or chastity, and King Arthur would appear in each book, representing the complete man. Spenser said the purpose of the poem was "to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline." But he only finished the first six books. Still, it's one of the longest poems in the English language.

Spenser started writing the poem around 1580. About five years later, he took a position in the royal government that sent him to Ireland, where he supervised English colonization. His job was demanding, but he found inspiration in the Irish countryside and worked on The Faerie Queene as often as he could, in his spare time. By 1589, he had finished the first three books. Sir Walter Raleigh visited him in Ireland, read the poem, and liked it so much that he persuaded Spenser to come back to England to get it published.

The Faerie Queene was a big hit in England, partly because it was full of praise for Queen Elizabeth and Protestantism. John Milton liked the poem because of its moral lessons. Two hundred years later, English Romantic poets like John Keats and Samuel Taylor Coleridge admired The Faerie Queene for its beautiful, intricate rhyming patterns and its rich story. Today, it's considered one of the greatest poems ever written in English.

The first Canto of The Faerie Queene begins:
A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Y cladd in mightie armes and siluer shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,
The cruell markes of many' a bloudy fielde . . .

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