Dec. 5, 2004

Of the Stones of the Place

by Robert Frost


Poem: "Of the Stones of the Place," by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost © Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Reprinted with permission.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's Walt Disney's birthday, born in Chicago (1901), the creator of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and a cast of other cartoon characters.

On this day in 1932, Albert Einstein was granted a travel visa which allowed him to come to the United States.

Prohibition came to an end on this day in 1933. After fourteen years, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which had prohibited all liquor, was finally repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment.

It's the birthday of Joan Didion, the novelist and essayist, born in Sacramento, California, 1934. Didion is the author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), Play It as It Lays (1970), Salvador (1983), and other books.

It's the birthday of author and journalist, Calvin Trillin, born in Kansas City, Missouri (1935). Trillin attended Yale, and, in 1963, became a staff writer for The New Yorker. Trillin's wife, children, and parents are often the subject of his lighthearted reflections. His books, such as Travels with Alice (a travel journal of a European tour taken with his wife), and Family Man (a celebration of Trillin's life as a son, father, and husband), are hysterical and touching accounts of the world as Trillin sees it. His father, Abe, ran a restaurant, and often wrote humorous aphorisms for the menu: "Don't sigh, Eat Pie." When asked what his late father would have wanted for him in this life, Trillin responded with the following: "He thought any American boy could grow up to be president, so there was some presidential pressure. His fall-back position was that I not be a ward of the county."

On this day in 1791, Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Vienna at the age of 35. Mozart first became ill during a trip to Prague in 1787: he suffered unexplainable fevers, chills, and arthritis-like pains. From this point on his health did not improve, though he continued to work steadily. Following an unproductive and turbulent year in 1790, Mozart sunk into a severe depression, and suffered anxiety about his finances and flagging popularity. A month before he died, he become so ill he was confined to bed, and worked there on a commissioned requiem mass for the wife of Count Von Walsegg-Stuppach. Speculation about Mozart's illness abounds: the official cause of death in 1791 was listed as severe miliary fever, but was later changed to rheumatic inflammatory fever. Other theories have included Schoenlein-Henoch syndrome, and a severe emotional illness known as cyclothymic disorder. Some even suspect poisoning by his fellow composer and arch-rival Antonio Salieri. Mozart was buried in a common grave in Vienna, and his requiem composition was completed later by Joseph Eybler and the composer Suessmayr.

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