Sep. 23, 2006

To Daffodils

by Robert Herrick

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Poem: "To Daffadills" by Robert Herrick. Public domain. (buy now)

To Daffadills

Faire Daffadills, we weep to see
         You haste away so soone:
As yet the early-rising Sun
     Has not attain'd his Noone.
                           Stay, stay,
           Untill the hasting day
                              Has run
           But to the Even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
           Will goe with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
           We have as short a Spring;
As quick a growth to meet Decay,
           As you, or any thing
                      We die,
     As your hours doe, and drie
           Like to the Summeres raine;
Or as the pearles of Mornings dew,
Ne'er to be found again.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day in 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned to St. Louis from their westward expedition to the Pacific Coast. Few people had expected their return. There were various rumors afloat that the whole party had been killed, or that they'd been captured by the Mexicans and forced into slave labor. But they reached St. Louis on this day in 1806, and almost a thousand residents of the city stood on the banks of the river to watch their arrival. They were welcomed by cheers, gunfire salutes, and ringing bells.

They carried with them the first tentative maps of the American West and the most detailed journals ever kept of an exploratory expedition, with notes on the events of every single day of their journey. Their report of what they discovered filled Americans with excitement about the West, and launched a flood of expansion across the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

Today is the day that Greeks celebrate the birthday of the tragic poet Euripides, (books by this author) who is believed to have been born near Athens in 480 B.C. Of the three poets of Greek tragedy whose plays survive, Euripides' plays survive in the greatest number. He probably wrote 92 plays that ancient people knew of, and 19 of them have been preserved.

Compared to other tragedians, Euripides portrayed the gods as much more petty and uncaring, and he made his characters more human, flawed, and fully rounded. He was also one of the first writers to treat women as major characters in his plays. He's best known for his tragedy Medea (431 B.C.), about a woman who murders her own sons to get back at the husband who left her.

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, born in Freehold, New Jersey (1949). He was a working-class kid, his father taking odd jobs, his mother working as a secretary to support the family. He didn't do well in school, and people thought he was weird because he didn't seem to have any ambition for anything. Then one day, he saw Elvis Presley perform on TV and that inspired him to scrape together 18 dollars to buy a battered second-hand guitar.

Springsteen was the leader of a series of hard-rock bands with names like the Rogues, the Castiles, the Steel Mill, and Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom. He played his early gigs at private parties, firemen's balls, trailer parks, prisons, state mental hospitals, a rollerdrome, and even a shopping center parking lot.

It's the birthday of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, born in Hamlet, North Carolina (1926). He played the tenor saxophone because he believed Charlie Parker had exhausted the possibilities of the alto saxophone. He got his big break when Miles Davis hired him in the mid-1950s, and he played on Davis's masterpiece Kind of Blue (1959).

He had spent most of his life addicted to heroin, but just two years before he died he finally kicked the habit and got religion. He wrote and recorded the album A Love Supreme (1964) as a way of expressing his new faith, and that album is now generally considered his masterpiece.

And it's the birthday of singer Ray Charles, born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia (1930). They called him the "Father of Soul." He first got national attention in the mid-1950s with his performance of "I Got A Woman," which fused rhythm and blues, gospel, and jazz.

On this day in 1939, Sigmund Freud (books by this author) died in his study in Hampstead, London. He had undergone 33 operations for cancer of the palate and the jaw, and was in constant pain. His daughter Anna had laid aside her work to nurse him. He had difficulty hearing and speaking; finally, he could no longer eat. His doctor, Max Schur, came to see him, and Freud grasped him by the hand. "My dear Schur," he said, "you remember our first talk. You promised to help me when I could no longer carry on. It is only torture now, and it has no longer any sense." Schur gave Freud a third of a grain of morphine; he fell into a coma, and died 36 hours later.

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