Mar. 18, 2005

Eve Speaks to Adam

by John Milton

FRIDAY, 18 MARCH, 2005
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Poem: (Eve speaks to Adam) from Paradise Lost by John Milton. Reprinted with permission.

(Eve speaks to Adam)

With thee conversing I forget all time,
All seasons and their change, all please alike.
Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the sun
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
Glistering with dew; fragrant the fertile earth
After soft showers; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful evening mild, then silent night
With this her solemn bird and this fair moon,
And these the gems of heav'n, her starry train:
But neither breath of morn when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds, nor rising sun
On this delightful land, nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glistering with dew, nor fragrance after showers,
Nor grateful evening mild, nor silent night
With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon,
Or glittering starlight without thee is sweet.

Literary and Historical Notes:

The Tornado of 1925 began in southern Missouri and hurdled the Mississippi River, tearing through Indiana and Illinois in three hours. The tornado followed the path of a slight ridge, home to several small mining towns. Many of these towns were completely destroyed, and others, like Murphysboro, suffered heavy damages.

A group of men were working in the mines 500 feet below the town of West Frankfort, Illinois. They were aware of anything unusual on the surface, until the electricity went out. Then they climbed out of the mines through a shaft, and when they reached the surface, the men found their homes heavily damaged or totally destroyed, many of their family members missing.

Nearly 700 people were killed in the tornado, and another 2,000 were injured. Claude Wisely, owner of Murphysboro's greenhouse, lost everything. Florists from across the region sent flowers to Murphysboro by the trainload for all the funerals the small town was to hold.

It's the birthday of John Updike, born in Shillington, Pennsylvania (1932). He is known as the author of the Rabbit series, following the story of one man's life over the course of several novels. But Updike has published nearly 30 novels and short story collections, and he has won two Pulitzer Prizes.

Updike was encouraged by his mother to begin writing because he was shy. After college, Updike joined the staff of the New Yorker as a regular contributor. He still publishes stories with them today.

John Updike said, "Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better."

It's the birthday of the poet Wilfred Owen, born in Oswestry, Shropshire, England (1893). He is well-known as a poet of World War I, but Owen's poetry was not published in his own lifetime. Owen was raised in an evangelical home, and though he rejected many of these beliefs, they are themes in his poetry.

Owen's life changed during World War I when he took leave from his teaching job in France to visit a war hospital. He was so moved by the experience that he resolved to become an officer in the British military. Owen said, "I came out in order to help these boys—directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can." Owen did not actually spend that much time on the war front, only a total of five weeks, but these weeks shaped his poetry.

Owen suffered shellshock and was sent to a hospital near Edinburgh, where he met the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who had been severely injured. Sassoon encouraged Owen to publish his poetry after the war, but it was Sassoon who published a collection of Owen's poems in 1924.

On November 11, 1918, the bells were ringing in Owen's hometown, signifying the end of the war, the signing of the Armistice. The day also brought a telegram to the parents of Wilfred Owen, informing them that their son had been killed one week before in a German machine gun attack during one of the final battles of World War I.

It's the birthday of George Plimpton, born in New York City (1927). He is known as the founder of the Paris Review, and for being a "participatory journalist." Plimpton believed that journalists and nonfiction writers should do more than simply observe; he believed they should immerse themselves in whatever they covered, and know it from the inside out. He was known as a famous practical joker, and this sometimes overlapped with his journalism helped turn him into a New York icon.

Plimpton was inspired as a boy by the exploits of Paul Gallico, a sports journalist who believed so much in participatory journalism that he fought the legendary boxer Jack Dempsey. In 1959, Plimpton imitated his hero when he fought Archie Moore. Plimpton cried when Moore bloodied his nose, and he said it was a "sympathetic response."

Plimpton tried his hand at many sports. He liked to compete against the very best, and then write books about it. He pitched against a team of Major League All-Stars, inducing Willie Mays, and lost a tennis match to Pancho Gonzalez. Plimpton spent one evening as a goaltender for the Boston Bruins, and played one game as a third-string quarterback for the Detroit Lions. He lost a golf match to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, despite an 18 handicap.

In 1997, Plimpton appeared at amateur night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, famous for its outspoken and opinionated audiences. When Plimpton was asked what he was going to play, he replied, "The piano." Plimpton charmed the crowd with an original, improvised composition he called "Opus No. 1." He won second prize.

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