May 2, 2006

Ode: Intimations of Immortality (excerpt)

by William Wordsworth

TUESDAY, 2 MAY, 2006
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Poem: "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" by William Wordsworth. Public domain. (buy now)

from Ode: Incarnations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
          The earth, and every common sight
                  To me did seem
          Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it has been of yore;—
                  Turn wheresoe'er I may,
                  By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more!
          The rainbow comes and goes,
          And lovely is the rose;
          The moon doth with delight
    Look round her when the heavens are bare;
          Waters on a starry night
          Are beautiful and fair;
    The sunshine is a glorious birth;
    But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1611 that the first edition of the King James Bible was published in England. It was produced during a particularly chaotic period for England. An epidemic of the black plague had struck London so severely that the year before work began on the King James Bible, 30,000 Londoners had died of the plague. At the same time, Puritans in the country were beginning to agitate against the monarchy as a form of government. And a group of underground Catholics were plotting to assassinate the king.

King James I thought that a new translation of the Bible might help hold the country together. There had been several English translations of the Bible already, and each English version of the Bible had different proponents. King James wanted a Bible that would become the definitive version, a Bible that all English people could read together.

King James assembled a committee of fifty-four of the best linguists in the country. They believed that the most important quality of the translation would be that it sound right, since it would be read aloud in churches. So when the committee would gather, each man read his verses aloud to be judged and revised by the other men.

The translators also deliberately used old-fashioned language. At the time they were working on the Bible, words like "thou" and "sayeth" had already gone out of fashion. Some scholars believe that the translators wanted to give the sense that the language in the Bible came from long ago and far away.

The first edition came out on this day in 1611, but for decades, most people preferred the Puritan Geneva Bible, because of its plainer language. It was only after England went through a civil war that the King James Bible came into fashion. People were nostalgic for the period before the war and they saw the King James Bible as an artifact of that simpler time. The King James version went on to become the English symbol of God and country, and it influenced the way writers have used the English language for hundreds of years.

It's the birthday of Dr. Benjamin Spock, (books by this author) born in New Haven, Connecticut (1903). His Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946) was a best-seller during the period after World War II, when parents across America were raising the Baby Boom generation. Dr. Spock encouraged parents to be affectionate and he also encouraged them to follow their own instincts. The first sentence of his book was, "You know more than you think you do."

It's the birthday of lyricist Lorenz Hart, born in New York City (1895). He's famous for writing the lyrics to songs like "Blue Moon" (1934), "My Funny Valentine" (1937), and "The Lady Is a Tramp" (1937).

As a young man in his twenties, he was drifting around, writing verse in his spare time, when someone introduced him to a teenage composer named Richard Rodgers. They worked on a series of amateur musical comedies together, but their future didn't seem promising. Rodgers was just about to give up on music and go into the underwear business when their show The Garrick Gaieties (1925) became a huge success. They went on to write several successful musicals together, including Connecticut Yankee (1927), The Boys From Syracuse (1938), and Pal Joey (1940).

Lorenz Hart wrote,
"Blue moon,
you saw me standing alone
without a dream in my heart
without a love on my own."

It was on this day in 1945 that the Soviet Union announced the fall of Berlin. The Soviet forces employed for the invasion constituted the largest concentration of military power ever assembled on the planet. Those forces included 2.5 million troops, 7,500 aircraft, 6,250 tanks, and 41,600 guns.

The Soviet troops had free reign to commit atrocities against the German people, and by the time the Soviet troops approached Berlin, the city was almost defenseless. The last line of the defense was a group of several thousand senior citizens and young boys from the Hitler Youth. Some of the boys were sent into battle with anti-tank grenades tied to their bicycles.

Hitler monitored the situation from his underground bunker. He had no way to track enemy movements, so he ordered his officers to dial telephone numbers from the phone book, at random, to reach households in suburban areas of Berlin. When people began to answer the phones by speaking in Russian, Hitler knew that the city had been breached.

Just before the city had been officially captured, Hitler arranged for his marriage in the underground bunker to his mistress, Eva Braun. They committed suicide the next day. Word got out among the government staff that Hitler was dead. When Soviet troops burst into the office of the German Chancellery, the city's central government building, they found staff members drunk on wine, listening to jazz records.

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




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