Jan. 23, 2004


by Felicia Dorothea Hemans

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Poem: "Casabianca," by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.


The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
    Shone round him o'er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud, though childlike form.

The flames roll'd on — he would not go
    Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

He call'd aloud: — "Say, Father, say
    If yet my task is done!"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

"Speak, Father!" once again he cried
    "If I may yet be gone!"
And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames roll'd on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair,
And look'd from that lone post of death,
    In still, yet brave despair.

And shouted but one more aloud,
    "My Father! must I stay?"
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud
    The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
    They caught the flag on high,
And stream'd above the gallant child,
    Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound —
    The boy — oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
    With fragments strew'd the sea! —

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
    That well had borne their part,
But the noblest thing which perish'd there
    Was that young faithful heart.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of French novelist and essayist Stendhal, born Marie-Henri Beyle in Grenoble, France (1783). He hated his father, called his hometown "the capital of pettiness", and fled to Paris as soon as he could. He was disappointed in Paris, though. The streets were muddy and he caught a sickness that made his hair fall out. He wore a toupee for the rest of his life. To get out of Paris, he enlisted in Napoleon's army and participated in the invasion of Italy and later the failed invasion of Russia. After leaving military service, he contributed to journals and periodicals using dozens of pseudonyms, including William Crocodile, Old Hummums, and Stendhal. He was obsessed with the idea of secret identities, and even signed personal letters with false names. In 1818, he fell in love with the wife of a Polish officer. After she had rebuffed his advances, he trailed her for days across Italy, disguising himself by wearing a pair of green spectacles. When she finally caught him and accused him of following her, he said it was fate that had brought them together. She didn't believe him, and left Italy soon after. In despair, he moved back to Paris and produced the book-length essay On Love (1822). He published his first novel, Armance (1827) five years later, when he was 44. He went on to write his masterpieces—The Red and the Black (1830), about the social classes, professions, politics, and manners of early 19th century France; and The Charterhouse of Parma (1839). He said, "It is better to have a prosaic husband and to take a romantic lover."

It's the birthday of poet Louis Zukofsky, born on the Lower East Side of New York City (1904). He said, "Everything should be as simple as it can be . . . not simpler."

It's the birthday of jazz guitarist Django Reinhard, born Jean Baptiste Reinhardt, in Liberchies, Belgium (1910). He formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with violinist Stephane Grappelli and quickly became internationally known as one of the very few major European jazz musicians.

It's the birthday of painter Edouard Manet, born in Paris (1832). He's known for his controversial paintings such as "Luncheon on the Grass", which shows two clothed men and a nude woman sitting on the grass by a stream. His work was harshly received by the critics of his day, but the younger painters who were strongly influenced by his work started the movement that became known as Impressionism.

It's the birthday of French actress Jeanne Moreau, born in Paris (1928). She's best known for the roles she played in French New Wave movies like Jules and Jim (1962) and The Bride Wore Black (1968).

It's the birthday of actor Humphrey Bogart, born in New York City (1899). He was expelled from Massachusetts' Phillips Academy and immediately joined the Navy to fight in World War I, serving as a ship's gunner. One day, while roughhousing on the ship's wooden stairway, he tripped and fell, and a splinter became lodged in his upper lip; the result was a scar, as well as partial paralysis of the lip, resulting in the tight-set mouth and lisp that became one of his most distinctive onscreen qualities.

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




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