Jan. 12, 2006

Venetian Air

by Thomas Moore

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Poem: "Venetian Air," by Thomas Moore.

Venetian Air

Row gently here, my gondolier; so softly wake the tide,
That not an ear on earth may hear, but hers to whom we glide.
Had Heaven but tongues to speak, as well as starry eyes to see,
Oh! think what tales 'twould have to tell of wandering youths
    like me!
Now rest thee here, my gondolier; hush, hush, for up I go,
To climb yon light balcòny's height, while thou keep'st watch
Ah! did we take for Heaven above but half such pains as we
Take day and night for woman's love, what angels we should

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Walter Mosley, born in the Watts section of Los Angeles (1952). His novels, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990), A Red Death (1991), and White Butterfly (1992) are all set in Los Angeles in the 1950s, featuring the black detective Easy (Ezekiel) Rawlins. Mosley considers his mysteries character-driven, not plot-driven, and the character, of course, is the detective. His other books include Walkin' the Dog (2000), and the science fiction novel Blue Light (2000).

It's the birthday of American poet and publisher A. D. (Allan Davis) Winans, born in San Francisco (1936). In 1971 he founded Second Coming Press, which made a name for itself by publishing the poetry of Charles Bukowski and other beat writers.

It's the birthday of writer John Griffith (Jack) London, born in San Francisco (1876). By the age of 14, he was supporting his family by raiding oyster beds and selling the stolen oysters to markets in San Francisco. As a teenager, he went to sea on a seal-hunting vessel, and, in 1897, he set out for Alaska in search of gold. Instead, he found a range of experiences which he crafted into stories. His first big success came in 1903, with the publication of The Call of the Wild. It was followed by The Sea Wolf (1904), White Fang (1906) and the autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1909). He wrote fast and drank hard and managed to spend most of the money he earned as the highest-paid writer in the United States as quickly as he got it. He bought a ranch in California and built a huge mansion on the property. Late in his life, London said: "I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three of four hundred acres to my magnificent estate." Nonetheless, he considered himself a socialist.

It's the birthday of American painter John Singer Sargent, born in Florence, Italy (1856), the son of American expatriates. He spent most of his life in Europe—in Paris and London—and created a sensation in 1884 when his portrait of a famous Parisian beauty, "Madame X," was shown at the Paris Salon and shocked many people with its eroticism. He was one of the great portrait painters of Edwardian high society in England. In 1910, however, Sargent gave up portrait painting and began concentrating on murals and landscapes, including a mural for the Boston Public Library.

It's the birthday of French writer Charles Perrault, born in Paris (1628). A lawyer, a poet, and critic, he's best known for the collection of fairy tales which he called Tales of Mother Goose (1697), including such famous stories as "Little Red Riding Hood," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Cinderella."

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