Jun. 22, 2005

The Bracelet: To Julia

by Robert Herrick

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Poem: "The Bracelet: To Julia" by Robert Herrick. Public Domain.

The Bracelet: To Julia

Why I tie about thy wrist,
Julia, this silken twist;
For what other reason is 't
But to show thee how, in part, Thou my pretty captive art?
But thy bond-slave is my heart:
'Tis but silk that bindeth thee,
Knap the thread and thou art free;
But 'tis otherwise with me:
—I am bound and fast bound, so
That from thee I cannot go;
If I could, I would not so.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1944 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the G.I. Bill of Rights, one of the most important pieces of legislation of the modern era. It did not receive much press attention at the time—the newspapers were busy reporting on the Allied invasion of Europe.

The G.I. Bill passed in part because of the tragic experience of veterans of the First World War. Many of them had lost their jobs and become homeless. They had been promised a bonus when they reached retirement age, but many worried they'd never live that long. A group went to Washington, D.C. to demand their bonuses early. They had to be driven out of the city with tanks and tear gas.

Economists in the '40s were predicting a postwar depression, and politicians were terrified of the idea of nine million unemployed veterans wandering the country. So they wrote the G.I. Bill to guarantee unemployment benefits for a year. A congressional committee threw in the idea that veterans should get money to go to college if they wanted to. Many presidents of some of the most prestigious universities thought it was a terrible idea.

Even the supporters of the bill didn't think that many G.I.s would really want to go to college. But about a million veterans applied for the money within the first year after the war. Ultimately, 2.2 million veterans used the money to get a higher education, many of them the first members of their families to go to college.

Before the war, about 10 percent of Americans had gone to college. After the war, that figure rose to about 50 percent. And contrary to most expectations, the grade point averages at most colleges went up with the influx of veterans. Dropout rates went way down. Professors at the time said the veterans were the most serious students they'd ever seen. The cost to the government was about $5 1/2 billion, but the result was to spur one of the great economic booms in American history.

One of those who went to college on the G.I. Bill was born on this day—Joseph Papp, the theater producer, born in Brooklyn (1921). He was in the Navy during World War II. He went to the Actors Lab Theatre in Hollywood on the G.I. Bill and founded the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954.

It's the birthday of novelist Dan Brown, born in Exeter, New Hampshire (1964). He was the author of one of the best selling books in recent memory, The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003. It's about a Harvard professor who investigates the murder of a curator at the Louvre and finds many of the clues in paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Dan Brown's first novel was Digital Fortress, followed by Angels & Demons and Deception Point, three novels which sold about 20,000 copies combined.

He got the idea for The Da Vinci Code when he heard about some conspiracy theories about secret messages in Da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper. The book combines conspiracy theories about a monastic order called the Knights Templar, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Holy Grail. The book has gone through more than 50 printings. There are now almost 25 million copies of it in print.

It has sparked a lot of controversy, especially in the Catholic Church, because the book argues that much of what we hold to be true about Christianity was actually decided at a single meeting of bishops in Nicea in Turkey in the year 325.

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