Jan. 30, 2006

Up in the Morning Early

by Robert Burns

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Poem: "Up in the Morning Early" by Robert Burns. Public Domain.

Up in the Morning Early

Up in the morning's no' for me,
  Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are coverd wi' snaw,
  I'm sure it's winter fairly.

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to wast,
      The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill's I hear the blast,
      I'm sure it's winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
      A' day they fare but sparely;
And lang's the night frae e'en to morn,
      I'm sure it's winter fairly.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of historian and author Barbara Tuchman, born Barbara Wertheim in New York City (1912). She's best known for her book The Guns of August (1962), a history of the outbreak of World War I. When she was just two years old, she took a trip with her parents on a boat on the Mediterranean and she and her parents watched from their boat as a British warship and two German ships exchanged fire. It was one of the earliest naval battles of World War I.

Out of college her father got her an office job at The Nation magazine, clipping articles, but she eventually worked her way up to writing articles for the magazine and became a foreign correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War and the events in Europe leading up to World War II. And then she got married and had kids, and since she no longer had time to travel the world as a journalist she began to write history.

The first few works of history she wrote were about somewhat obscure topics and they didn't receive much attention. But then she decided to write about a much larger topic: the events leading up to the start of World War I. She said the book would be about "the chasm between our world and a world that died forever."

She said her number one rule as a writer of history was, "Above all, discard the irrelevant."

It's the birthday of the 32nd president of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born in Hyde Park, New York (1882). He was the only president to be elected to four terms. He was also the first president to regularly address the nation over the radio through weekly speeches he called "fireside chats."

And he was the first president to set up a Presidential Library. Other presidents, including George Washington, had considered setting up libraries of their personal papers but none ever got around to actually doing it until Roosevelt did. Roosevelt's decision to create a library of his personal papers was based in part on the fact that he made the presidency more powerful than any president before him. He also had a closer relationship with the American people than most presidents before him. Herbert Hoover had received about 400 letters a day from ordinary Americans. Franklin Roosevelt received about 4000 a day.

Another reason Roosevelt chose to create his own Presidential Library was that he was a lifelong collector and he didn't want to break his collection up. He had a collection of more than a million stamps in 150 matching albums; he collected coins; medals; 1,200 naval prints and paintings, and more than 200 model ships; armies of miniature donkeys, elephants, pigs; and political cartoons. He kept numerous stuffed birds and birding guides, walking sticks, Christmas cards and 37 leather-bound volumes filled with photographs of naval vessels. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library would eventually contain more than 16 million pages of personal and official papers.

It's the birthday of humorist and novelist (Frank) Gelett Burgess, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1866). He wrote more than thirty-five books of fiction and nonfiction, but he's best known for his poem, "I never Saw a Purple Cow; / I never Hope to See One; / But I can Tell you, Anyhow, / I'd rather See than Be One."

Burgess had a habit of making up new words to make fun of people's quirks. His best-known term is the much-used word "blurb," which he defined as "self-praise; to make a noise like a publisher." Burgess said, "If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead."

It is the birthday of poet and novelist Richard Gary Brautigan, born in Tacoma, Washington (1935). He moved south to San Francisco where he became involved with the Beat Movement. In the summer of 1961 he camped with his wife and young daughter in Idaho's Stanley Basin. He spent his days hiking and wrote Trout Fishing in America (1967), his best-known work, on a portable typewriter while sitting alongside the many trout streams.

It's the birthday of Australian-born novelist and short-story writer Shirley Hazzard, born in Sydney, Australia (1931). She's best known for her novel The Transit of Venus (1980).

It is the birthday of theatrical producer and director, Harold 'Hal' Prince, born in New York City (1928). His first big hit was a musical version of Richard Bissell's novel, 7 1/2 Cents renamed The Pajama Game (1954).

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




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