Oct. 8, 2005

There was a man of double deed

by Anonymous

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Poem: "There was a man of double deed" by Anonymous. Traditional.

There was a man of double deed

There was a man of double deed
Sowed his garden full of seed.
When the seed began to grow,
'Twas like a garden full of snow;
When the snow began to melt,
'Twas like a ship without a bell;
When the ship began to sail,
'Twas like a bird without a tail;
When the bird began to fly,
'Twas like an eagle in the sky;
When the sky began to roar,
'Twas like a lion at the door;
When the door began to crack,
'Twas like a stick across my back;
When my back began to smart,
'Twas like a penknife in my heart;
When my heart began to bleed,
'Twas death and death and death indeed.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, October 8, 1871. The 335,000 people in Chicago woke up to a warm, sunny day after three months of drought. Around 8:45 in the evening, the great fire broke out at a barn on the west side. The fire traveled quickly. By midnight it had jumped the Chicago River. It was traveling northeast and up river, traveling up to 30 miles an hour at times. There were high winds that sent burning planks soaring for hundreds of yards through the air. People were running out of their houses, running north, taking their cats, and their dogs with them. By the next morning, the heart of the business district was in flames and by the 10th, more than three square miles were completely destroyed.

Nearly 300 people died. The rebuilding began almost immediately. And two years after the fire, the value of real estate in Chicago had gone up from what it had been before the fire. By 1880, the population had risen to 500,000, and then it more than doubled by the turn of the century.

On the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, the worst natural fire in history occurred around a lumbering town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It ruined more than a million acres of forest and killed about 1,500 people. There is a mass grave in town where 350 unidentified bodies were buried.

It's the birthday of Frank Herbert, the science fiction author, born in Tacoma, Washington (1920). He was a very early member of the environmentalist movement. His masterpiece was Dune, published in 1965, about a desert planet where people survive only because they've learned to conserve and recycle water.

It's the birthday of the comic book writer Harvey Pekar, born in Cleveland (1939). He is the creator of the American Splendor comic book series. He was a file clerk at a VA hospital and a record collector, and through record collecting, he met the comic book artist R. Crumb. Pekar complained that comic books were all about superheroes or monsters. Nobody wrote comic books about real people. So he set out to write a comic book about his own life and R. Crumb agreed to do the illustrations. The first issue came out in 1976. Pekar wrote about every aspect of his life, his job, his friends, meeting his wife and marrying her, their difficulties as a couple, and going through cancer treatment.

Harvey Pekar said, "I wanted to write literature that pushed people into their lives rather than helping people escape from them."

It's the birthday of one of the best selling children's book authors of all time, R.L. Stine, Robert Lawrence Stine, born in Bexley, Ohio (1943). He is the creator of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series of horror novels for young people. His Fear Street series was the first modern book series for children that sold equally well to both boys and girls.

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