Nov. 28, 2004

The Garden of Love

by William Blake

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Poem: "The Garden of Love" by William Blake. Reprinted with permission.

The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I had never seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of the Chapel were shut,
And 'Thou shalt not' writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore;

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of writer Rita Mae Brown, born in Hanover, Pennsylvania (1944), best known for her novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, which has sold well over a million copies. It's been described as a lesbian coming-of-age story, but Brown refuses to be typecast. "Next time anybody calls me a lesbian writer, I'm going to knock their teeth in. I'm a writer and I'm a woman and I'm from the South and I'm alive, and that is that."

It's the birthday of songwriter and film composer Randy Newman, born in Los Angeles (1943).

It's the birthday of music producer Berry Gordy, Jr., the founder of Motown Records, born in Detroit, Michigan (1929). He went to work on an assembly line, writing songs in his head to relieve the monotony.

On this day in 1925, the program that would become the Grand Ole Opry debuted in Nashville, Tennessee. The show was called "The WSM Barn Dance."

It's the birthday of writer Nancy Mitford, born in London (1904), the oldest daughter of Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, known to his children as "Old Subhuman." Two of her sisters were outspoken admirers of Adolph Hitler in 1930s; another sister, Jessica, became a muckraking journalist whose best-known book is The American Way of Death. Nancy was a member of London's society set of the 1920s, and was known for her sharp wit. She wrote The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, Noblesse Oblige, and books on Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV and Frederick the Great.

It's the birthday of theater critic Brooks Atkinson, born in Melrose, Massachusetts (1894). He became a book reviewer for the New York Times when he was 28, and the full-time drama critic three years later. Over the next decade he became an important reviewer whose opinion could make or break a Broadway production. He was famous for his fairness and objectivity, refusing to read out-of-town reviews before seeing a show himself, and resisting friendships with actors and directors. His overriding criterion for every play was whether it provided enjoyment for the audience.

It's the birthday of poet and artist William Blake, born in London (1757). When he was 25, he married an illiterate girl named Catherine Boucher, who was a devoted wife, although she once remarked, "I have very little of Mr. Blake's company. He is always in Paradise." A friend once dropped by to find them sitting in their garden, naked, reciting passages from Paradise Lost. "Come in!" cried Blake. "It's only Adam and Eve, you know!" Blake and his wife printed and bound his books, including Songs of Innocence and Experience.

On his deathbed at the age of 69, he said, "Kate, you have been a good wife, I will draw your portrait." He drew for an hour, loudly sang what she called "songs of joy and triumph," then died gently.

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




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