Jan. 1, 2004

The Sunlight on the Garden

by Louis MacNeice

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Poem: "The Sunlight on the Garden," by Louis MacNeice, from Collected Poems (Faber & Faber).

The Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.
Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.
The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is New Year's Day. On this day in Georgia, black-eyed peas and turnip greens are eaten for good luck. In the mid-19th century, it was a day for calling: a gentleman was obliged to pay a visit to every lady of his acquaintance. Formal dress was worn and at each house there was a table filled with cakes, preserves, wine, oysters and hot coffee. The Vietnamese believe that the first visitor on New Year's Day brings either good or bad luck, so you should invite someone very respected to visit.

It's the birthday of cartoonist B. Kliban, born in Connecticut (1935). He once drew a cartoon in which a man is walking along the street with a walking stick and a cravat and shades, accompanied by two beautiful women, while a policeman kicks people out of the way, shouting, "Out of the way, you swine. A cartoonist is coming!"

It's the birthday of playwright Joe Orton, born in Leicester, England (1933). He wrote Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1964), Loot (1965), and What the Butler Saw (1969). He was murdered in his prime by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, who then committed suicide.

It's the birthday of J. D. Salinger, born in New York City (1919). He grew up in a well-to-do family living on Park Avenue. His father was an importer of kosher cheese. He went to prep school, was drafted into the Army and took part in the invasion of Normandy. His comrades considered him to be very brave. He came back to New York and started publishing stories in Story magazine, the Saturday Evening Post, Esquire and The New Yorker. His first novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951), was an immediate success and still sells about a quarter million copies a year.

It's the birthday of E. M. Forster, born in London (1879). He's the author of A Room with a View (1908), Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924). He wrote his five most important novels before he was forty.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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