Nov. 6, 2005

Light Shining out of Darkness

by William Cowper

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Light Shining out of Darkness" by William Cowper. Reprinted with permission from Hallelujah: The Poetry of Classic Hymns. Copyright © 2005 by Anna Marlis Burgard, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA.

Light Shining out of Darkness

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the man who founded The New Yorker magazine, Harold Ross, born in Aspen, Colorado (1892). His father worked in the mining business, and the family had to move from Colorado to Utah when the silver beds ran dry. Ross said he got interested in the newspaper business when he found out that journalists got to go on police patrols and ride fire engines. He ran away from home when he was sixteen and began riding the rails around the country, working at various newspapers from New Orleans to California.

In the 1920's, Ross worked in the New York City publishing industry and became friends with many of the important artists of the time. He began to lunch with a group of bohemian writers, including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Edna Ferber. They met for meals at New York's Algonquin Hotel on West Forty-fifth Street. They called themselves "The Vicious Circle," because they loved to gossip and attack the Puritan values of American society. Ross came up with the idea for a magazine about American life, written in the same witty tone of the group's discussions.

Ross raised money from a friend whose father had made a fortune in yeast, and on February 21, 1925, the first issue of The New Yorker hit the stands. Ross said, "The New Yorker starts with a declaration of serious purpose but will not be too serious in executing it."

It's the birthday of novelist James Jones, born in Robinson, Illinois (1921). He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1939. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii On December 7, 1941, when it was bombed by the Japanese. He went on to fight in the battle of Guadalcanal, where he was wounded, earning the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

He kept a journal while he was in the Army, and when he got home from the war, he wrote a novel about the experience of disillusioned veterans. It was rejected by all the major publishing houses, but the editor Maxwell Perkins liked a scene from the novel and told him to expand it. He spent five years expanding that scene, and it became the novel From Here to Eternity (1951), the story of a soldier's life in the years leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

It was on this day in 1860 that Abraham Lincoln was elected for his first term as President of the United States. Before that Lincoln's only experience in national politics had been a single term as a Congressional Representative and two unsuccessful runs for Senator. He had only one year of formal schooling and no administrative experience. Newspapers called him a "third-rate Western lawyer."

He was nominated for president largely on the basis of the series of debates he'd had with Stephen A. Douglas in the Senate race of 1858. Lincoln lost the election for Senator, but on the basis of his national prominence, he became a presidential candidate for the election of 1860. There were three other men who might have gotten the Republican nomination that year, all of whom were better known, better educated, and more experienced than Lincoln. Lincoln only had the upper hand because he was from the swing state of Illinois. It also helped that the Republican Convention was held in Chicago that year. Lincoln's campaign operatives arranged it so that Illinois railroads would offer special rates for train rides to the convention, thereby flooding it with Lincoln supporters.

Once he got the nomination, Lincoln basically laid low until the election. His strategy was to let the opposition tear itself apart without stirring up any controversy of his own. And the strategy worked. Lincoln's main rival for the presidency was his former senatorial rival Stephen A. Douglas, who was running as a Democrat. But the southern Democrats broke off and nominated their own candidate, John C. Breckinridge. Lincoln wound up winning only 40 percent of the popular vote, but he won in the Electoral College, even though he didn't receive a single electoral vote from a southern state.

The southern states took his election as a sign that slavery would be abolished, and before he even had a chance to take the oath of office, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas all seceded from the Union. By the time Lincoln was getting ready to leave Springfield for Washington, there had been multiple threats on his life. Before he left Illinois, he told a group of journalists, "Well, boys, your troubles are over now; mine have just begun."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show