Aug. 30, 2004

The Sorrow of Love

by William Butler Yeats

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Poem: "The Sorrow of Love" by W.B. Yeats, from Collected Works of W.B. Yeats Volume 1 © Scribner. Reprinted with permission.

The Sorrow of Love

The quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves,
The full round moon and the star-laden sky,
And the loud song of the ever-singing leaves,
Had hid away earth's old and weary cry.

And then you came with those red mournful lips,
And with you came the whole of the world's tears,
And all the trouble of her laboring ships,
And all the trouble of her myriad years.

And now the sparrows warring in the eaves,
The curd-pale moon, the white stars in the sky,
And the loud chaunting of the unquiet leaves,
Are shaken with earth's old and weary cry.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born Mary Godwin in London, England (1797). She was only nineteen years old in the summer of 1816, when she went with her husband, Percy B. Shelley, to stay in a lakeside cottage in Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron. One rainy night, after reading a German book of ghost stories, Byron suggested that they all write their own horror stories. Everyone else wrote a story within the next day, but Mary took almost a week. Finally, she wrote an early version of a story about a scientist who fashions a monstrous being out of dead bodies, only to have that monster destroy his family.

The story began, "It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils ... the rain pattered dismally against the pains, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs."

Mary Shelley turned the story into a novel and Frankenstein was published in 1818. There has been at least one cinematic version of Frankenstein in almost every decade of the 20th century. Thomas A Edison produced the first version in 1910, and spin-offs have included, Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), Young Frankenstein (1974), and Frankenstein Sings (1995).

Mary Shelley said, "My dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed—my dearest pleasure when free."

It's the birthday of physicist Ernest Rutherford, born in Spring Grove, New Zealand (1871). He was one of the first scientists to study nuclear energy, before scientists actually knew what it was. He discovered that radioactivity is caused by particles breaking apart and releasing pieces of themselves.

At the time, scientists believed that atoms were indestructible, and they thought that Rutherford's research was wrongheaded. But his ideas eventually caught on. He also discovered that atoms are made of a nucleus that is surrounded by electrons. He believed that physics was the most important science.

He said, "All science is either physics or stamp collecting." In 1908, he won the Nobel Prize not for Physics but for Chemistry.

It's the birthday of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1943). When he was a kid, his older brother became obsessed with cartoons. Crumb wanted to be a fine artist, but his older brother forced him to draw cartoons instead of regular pictures. For years, he and his brother produced hundreds of comic books about a character they invented named "Fritz the Cat."

He got a job with the American Greetings Corporation drawing funny pictures for cards. His boss was always telling him that his pictures were too grotesque, and he had to make them cuter. At the same time, he developed a style of cartoon in which cute animal characters get involved in violent, grotesque situations.

In the late 1960s he moved to San Francisco and began illustrating rock concert posters and album covers and one of the pictures he drew popularized the phrase "Keep on truckin'." He began publishing comic books in 1968, and he sold his own books out of a baby carriage on Haight-Ashbury. His were among the first so-called "underground comics," aimed at adults rather than children, which addressed sex, racism, absurdity, and alienation. After developing a cult following, he published a series of collections of his comics including R. Crumb's Carloads o'Comics (1976) and Complete Crumb: Mr. Sixties (1989).

For most of his life, Crumb has worn a fedora hat and business suits from the 1930s. He only listens to old blues and jazz records and watches black and white television. Crumb said, "[We] must thank the gods for art, those of us who have been fortunate enough to stumble onto this means of venting our craziness, our meanness, our towering disgust."

It's the birthday of political humorist Molly Ivins, born in Monterey, California (1944). She has been a political columnist in Texas for many years, and has published several collections of her columns, including You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You: Politics in the Clinton Years (1998). She calls herself a pathological optimist, and believes that politics is not depressing but entertaining. Her most recent book is Bushwacked: Life in George's W. Bush's America (2003).

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