Dec. 16, 2005


by Allen Ginsberg

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Poem: "Song" by Allen Ginsberg from Collected Poems 1947-1980. © Harper Collins. Reprinted with permission.


The weight of the world
            is love.
Under the burden
            of solitude,
under the burden
            of dissatisfaction

            the weight,
the weight we carry
            is love.

Who can deny?
            In dreams
it touches
            the body,
in thought
a miracle,
            in imagination
            till born
in human—

looks out of the heart
            burning with purity-
for the burden of life
            is love,
but we carry the weight
and so must rest
in the arms of love
            at last,
must rest in the arms
            of love.

No rest
            without love,
no sleep
            without dreams
of love—
            be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
            or machines,
the final wish
            is love
—cannot be bitter,
            cannot deny,
cannot withhold
            if denied:

the weight is too heavy

            —must give
for no return
            as thought
is given
            in solitude
in all the excellence
            of its excess.

The warm bodies
            shine together
in the darkness,
            the hand moves
to the center
            of the flesh,
the skin trembles
            in happiness
and the soul comes
            joyful to the eye—

yes, yes,
            that's what
I wanted,
            I always wanted,
I always wanted,
            to return
to the body
            where I was born.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Sir Noël Coward, born in Teddington, England (1899). He wrote Private Lives (1930), and Blithe Spirit (1941). He had many successes during the thirties, but when the war started and London was under air attack, the British weren't in the mood for frothy entertainment. Coward wrote Blithe Sprit, a darker comedy about a man whose second wife is done in by the ghost of his first; it ran for nearly two thousand performances. The program said, "If an air raid warning be received during the performance, the audience will be informed from the stage... [T]hose desiring to leave the theatre may do so, but the performance will continue."

It's the birthday of science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick, born in Chicago (1928). Since his death in 1982, many of his novels and short stories have been made into movies, including Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990) and Minority Report (2002).

It's the birthday of the science fiction novelist Arthur C. Clarke, born in Somerset, England (1917). He's the author of many science fiction novels, including Childhood's End (1953), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Rendezvous with Rama (1973).

It's the birthday of Jane Austen, born in Steventon, Hampshire, England (1775). She is the only novelist who published before Charles Dickens whose books still sell thousands of copies every year. All of her novels have been made into movies at least once in the last ten years.

She is best known for her novels about women yearning to get married, including Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813). But she never got married herself. She didn't seem to mind the single life. In her letters, she often wrote about the many women she knew suffering from and often dying from childbirth. Of her niece, who had just gotten pregnant for the second time, she wrote, "Poor animal, she will be worn out before she's thirty." In another letter, she wrote, "Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright—I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband."

She spent most of her life relatively poor and dependent on her older brothers. She decided to try publishing fiction in order to get herself some money. She wrote on a table in the family drawing room.

Austen's first published novel was Sense and Sensibility (1811), the story of the Dashwood sisters, the sensible and proper Elinor Dashwood and her more romantic younger sister Marianne, who are kicked out of their house with their mother when their father dies, and have to struggle to find marriageable husbands.

Austen's first two books, Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813) were great successes in her lifetime, but after that her readers grew less enthusiastic. Neither Mansfield Park (1814) nor Emma (1816), were as popular.

It was only after her death that she became one of the most popular novelists from the 19th century. After the First World War, Jane Austen novels were prescribed to shell-shocked English soldiers for therapy, because the psychologists found that Austen helped them recover their sense of the world they'd known before the war.

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