Mar. 20, 2008

Holy Thursday

by William Blake

'Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,
Grey-headed beadles walk'd before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames' waters flow.

O what a multitude they seem'd, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

"Holy Thursday: 'Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean " by William Blake. Public Domain.

Today is the first day of spring, the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth is tilted on its axis, so as it travels around the Sun each pole is sometimes tilted towards the Sun and sometimes tilted away. It is this tilt that causes the seasons, as well as the shortening and lengthening of daylight hours. On this day, the north and south poles are equally distant from the sun, so we will have almost exactly the same amount of daytime as nighttime.

Emily Dickinson said, "A little Madness in the Spring / Is wholesome even for the King."

On this day in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was published. (books by this author) Beecher Stowe, an abolitionist, wrote the novel shortly after the Fugitive Slave Law — a law requiring that free states help capture fugitive slaves — was passed. The law was deeply upsetting to Beecher Stowe, and she wrote in a letter to her sister that she would use her literary talents "to make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is."

It is the birthday of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, (books by this author) born in 1828 in Skien, Norway. Ibsen's parents were relatively well off until his father's business failed. This brought hardships to the family and made Ibsen's father a deeply bitter man. Subsequently, the effect of poverty on families became one of the themes Ibsen would explore in his plays.

When Ibsen was 17, he got a domestic servant pregnant. This event also inspired themes that would recur in his plays: youthful sins, secrets, and mistaken paternity.

Ibsen went to Oslo to enroll at the university; but he failed his entrance exams, so instead, he became an assistant stage manager at the Norwegian Theater at Bergen. It was his job to compose and produce an original drama each year. This position helped him learn how to revise material and create dramatic interest for the audience and actors. On the other hand, the job did not allow him to write what he wanted to; instead, he had to write dramatizations of Viking sagas and Norse myths.

In 1864, Ibsen was awarded a stipend by the Norwegian government. The next 27 years he spent living away from Norway, writing plays that would transform the theater. These plays included Peer Gynt (1867), A Doll's House (1879), Ghosts (1881), An Enemy of the People (1882), The Wild Duck (1884), and Hedda Gabler (1890).

Ibsen returned to Norway in 1891, where he wrote his final four plays. By this time, his plays had changed the landscape of theater. They featured only one or two locations instead of multiple sets, five or six characters instead of an excessive cast, heroes that were middle- or working-class rather than kings or queens, and complicated protagonists who were neither all good nor all evil.

It is the birthday of beloved children's television host Fred Rogers, born in 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

In 1962, Rogers earned a divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and he was ordained by the Presbyterian Church. Rogers continued his work in television, appearing on camera for the first time in 1963 on his new show, Misterogers, which was aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This show would evolve into Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which was seen nationally for the first time in 1968.

The show, which began with Rogers singing "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and changing into sneakers and a cardigan, would go on to become the longest-running show on PBS. The program featured themes like feeling good about yourself, getting along with others, and handling fears. Rogers wrote more than 200 songs for the show. The last episode was taped in December 2000.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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