Aug. 24, 2005

To Daffodils

by Robert Herrick

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Poem: "To Daffodils" by Robert Herrick. Reprinted with permission.

To Daffodils

Fair daffodils, we weep to see
   You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
   Has not attained his noon.
          Stay, stay
      Until the hasting day
          Has run
      But to the evensong;
And, having prayed together, we
      Will go with you along.
We have short time to stay as you,
   We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
   As you, or anything.
          We die
      As your hours do, and dry
      Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
      Ne'er to be found again.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the poet Robert Herrick, born in London (1591), who gave us the lines:

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying."

It's the birthday of a woman who made one of the great literary comebacks of the 20th Century, the English novelist Jean Rhys, born in Dominica, in the West Indies (1894). She published several novels, including one entitled Good Morning, Midnight. It came out in 1939.

She stopped writing during World War II and vanished from public life. Many of her readers assumed that she had died. And then in 1958, the BBC decided to make a movie of that novel. They put out an ad, asking for information about Jean Rhys, and she responded and was inspired to start writing again. And in 1966, 27 years after her previous novel, she published Wide Sargasso Sea.

It's the birthday of short story writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1899). His mother was a translator. She translated many English and American writers into Spanish including Hawthorne, Woolf and Melville. And Borges was encouraged to read English from an early age. He fell in love with Dickens, Twain, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

He studied in Europe, moved back to Argentina, and got a job in a library. He worked his way up to be director of the National Library of Buenos Aires. He was able to do his work in just one hour every morning so he could spend the rest of his day wandering through the stacks and reading and writing.

It's the birthday of the novelist A.S. Byatt, born Antonia Susan Drabble, in Sheffield, England (1936). She grew up in a literary family. For 25 years she worked as a teacher. She was a mother. She wrote a few novels on the side, none of which sold well. Finally, when she was 48 years old, she quit her job, devoted herself to writing, and the result was her novel Possession, which came out in 1990. It won the Booker Prize and became a bestseller in Great Britain and the United States.

It's the birthday of the novelist Oscar Hijuelos, born in New York City (1951). His novel The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1989. It's the story of the Castillo brothers who came from Cuba to the United States to become jazz musicians. Hijuelos grew up playing in bands himself, and he said he tried to make his novel improvisational, like a series of songs. His novel A Simple Habana Melody came out a couple of years ago.

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