Oct. 2, 2005

130 These are the days when Birds come back

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "130" by Emily Dickinson . Public Domain.


These are the days when Birds come back—
A very few—a Bird or two—
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old—old sophistries of June—
A blue and gold mistake

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee—
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro' the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

Oh Sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join

Thy sacred emblems to partake—
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of King Richard III (1452) born in Northhamptonshire, England. He was the last English king to die in the battlefield. He reigned for only two years. He died in the Battle of Bosworth, which ended the War of the Roses.

It's the birthday of Nat Turner, born in Virginia (1800). He was the slave who led a revolt in Southampton, Virginia in August 1831. He started preaching at clandestine meetings of slaves. He had a vision in August 1831 in which the sun appeared bluish green that convinced him that the hour for the revolt was at hand. And a week later, he and a group of slaves took up arms and killed about 55 whites. He was captured and executed.

Most of what we know about him comes from the book The Confessions of Nat Turner, in which a man named Thomas Gray records Turner's life story from conversations they had.

It's the birthday of Mohandas K. Gandhi, born in Gujarat, India 1869. He was educated in British schools, earned a law degree in London. He was in South Africa on business when he was pushed off a train because he wouldn't give up his seat for a white person, and that single act helped to make Gandhi politically active. He fought against anti-Indian legislation in South Africa, returned to India, and quickly became the leader of the Indian Campaign for Home Rule, which was finally granted to India in 1947.

It's the birthday of the poet Wallace Stevens, born in Reading, Pennsylvania (1879). He was one of the few great writers to work in corporate America. He was an executive for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. He worked his way up to vice president. Almost nobody at the office knew that he was a poet, even after he became famous in the literary world. Stevens said, "I'm sure that most people here in Hartford know nothing about the poetry, and I'm equally sure that I don't want them to know because once they know, they don't seem to get over it. I mean that once they know, they never think of you as anything but a poet and, after all, one is inevitably much more complicated than that."

He woke up early, read for a few hours, and then composed his poems in his head while he walked to work. His wife didn't want him to publish anything, but he finally came out with a collection in 1923, Harmonium, which got almost no critical attention, though eventually it came to be seen as one of the most accomplished poetry debuts in literary history, including his famous poems, "Sunday Morning," and "Peter Quince at the Clavier," and "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Stevens was so disappointed in the reception of his first book that he stopped writing poetry for almost a decade. But he eventually started up again and published many more books, including Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction (1942), The Auroras of Autumn (1947), and An Ordinary Evening in New Haven (1950).

Wallace Stevens said, "It is not every day that the world arranges itself in a poem."

It's the birthday of Julius Henry Marx, Groucho Marx, born in New York City (1890), who said, "Marriage is a wonderful institution. That is, if you like living in an institution."

It's the birthday of Graham Greene, born in Hertfordshire, England (1904). He wrote just 500 words per day, often stopped writing in the middle of a sentence when he'd reached his quota but ended up publishing over 30 books.

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