Apr. 30, 2006

Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now

by A. E. Housman

SUNDAY, 30 APRIL, 2006
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Poem: "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" by A.E. Housman. Public domain. (buy now)

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1789 that George Washington (books by this author) was sworn in as the first President of the United States of America.

The inauguration was held in New York City. Washington was reluctant to be inaugurated at all. He had very little experience as a politician, and he worried that he might be a complete failure as a president. He said, "I feel like a culprit who is going to the place of his execution."

He hoped to make a quiet entry into New York, with little ceremony. Instead, his weeklong journey from Virginia to New York became a giant parade, with crowds of people cheering him as he passed through each town on his route. In preparation for his arrival, portraits of Washington were posted all over New York City. Washington had to take a barge across the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. A boat next to his was filled with musicians, but none of the music was audible over the sound of cannons being fired from the shore. Washington's barge landed at the foot of Wall Street on the East River, and the procession marched up Wall Street, turned on to Pearl Street, and then Cherry Street, where Washington arrived at the new Presidential Residence.

The inauguration ceremony was performed on the balcony of Federal Hall a few days later, on this day in 1789. Thousands of people gathered in the streets to watch Washington take the oath of office.

Many people had speculated about what he would wear: a military uniform or the clothes of a king. Instead, Washington wore a plain brown suit made with cloth from a mill in Connecticut. He took the oath, walked back inside the Federal Hall, and addressed the Senate chamber with one of the shortest inaugural speeches in American history, just 1200 words long.

The Bible he swore on is still owned by the order of the Masons in New York City, and several other presidents have used it at their own inaugurations, including Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and both Presidents Bush.

It was on this day in 1939 that the New York World's Fair opened to the public. Planners built the fairground on Flushing Meadows, which had been a garbage dump. Many recent inventions were marketed at the fair, including television, long-distance telephone service, air conditioners, refrigerators, FM radio, fluorescent lighting, washing machines and dishwashers. There were dioramas showing model utopian cities of the future, where everyone would soon have fax machines and videophones.

Unfortunately, most Americans couldn't afford to go to the fair, and those who did wouldn't be able to afford the new inventions until after World War II.

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Willie Nelson, (books by this author) born in the small farming community of Abbott, Texas (1933). He was raised by his grandparents and aunts during the Great Depression, and earned his keep by picking cotton. In 1959 he wrote "Night Life," a song that was eventually recorded by more than seventy artists and sold over thirty million copies. He went to Nashville to become a recording artist but he grew increasingly frustrated by the music industry, went back to Texas and started recording his own albums.

In 1975, he recorded Red Headed Stranger, a concept album about a preacher on the run after murdering his wife and her new lover. At the time, many country singers were backed by orchestras and backup singers, but Nelson recorded the album with just his acoustic guitar and a few other instruments. No one thought it would be a hit, but it sold millions of copies, and inspired a revival of traditional country music.

It's the birthday of poet, critic and nature writer Annie Dillard, (books by this author) born Ann Doak in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). She's the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), The Writing Life (1989), and For the Time Being (1999).

It's the birthday of John Crowe Ransom, born in Pulaski, Tennessee (1888). He was one of the first people to argue that American schools should be teaching American literature, not just European, and that students should be reading modern poetry, not just the classics.

John Crowe Ransom wrote:

"God have mercy on the sinner
Who must write with no dinner,
No gravy and no grub,
No pewter and no pub.
No belly and no bowels,
Only consonants and vowels."

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




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