Aug. 4, 2008

My Sweetest Lesbia

by Thomas Campion

My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
Let us not weigh them. Heaven's great lamps do dive
Into their west, and straight again revive,
But soon as once set is our little light,
Then must we sleep one ever-during night.

If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be;
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
Unless alarm came from the camp of love.
But fools do live, and waste their little light,
And seek with pain their ever-during night.

When timely death my life and fortune ends,
Let not my hearse be vexed with mourning friends,
But let all lovers, rich in triumph, come
And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb;
And Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
And crown with love my ever-during night.

"My Sweetest Lesbia" by Thomas Campion from The Poetical Works of Thomas Campion © Kessinger Publishing, LLC., 1900. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley, (books by this author) born in Sussex, England (1792). He died before the age of 30, but he gave us many masterpieces, including "The Cloud," "To a Skylark," and "Prometheus Unbound."

It's the birthday of Knut Hamsun, (books by this author) born in Lom, Norway (1859). He was considered one of the great Scandinavian novelists of all time. He had almost no formal schooling. As a boy he became an indentured servant to his uncle. He escaped at the age of 14, went to the United States, and found a job as a streetcar operator in Chicago. He was very poor. He wore newspapers under his clothes to keep warm in the winter in Chicago. He went back to Norway and wrote his early novels that made him famous, including Mysteries and Hunger in 1890.

It's the birthday of Louis Armstrong, born in New Orleans (1901) in a poor section of town known as "The Battlefield." When he was six years old, he and three other boys formed a vocal quartet and sang on street corners for tips.

A family of Russian Jewish immigrants, the Karnofskys, hired young Louis to work on their junk wagon, and he bought his first cornet with the money that the family loaned him. He was 12 years old when he was sent to a reform school as a juvenile delinquent, and that was where he learned to play the cornet.

It's the birthday of the crime writer Dennis Lehane, (books by this author) born in Dorchester, Massachusetts (1965). He grew up in a poor Irish neighborhood that he once described as "[a place] cramped with corner stores, small playgrounds, and butcher shops. ... Days, the mothers searched the papers for coupons. Nights, the fathers went to bars. You knew everyone; nobody ever left. ... My mother and father were Irish immigrants with a sense that life was hard and unfair and you just tried your best."

Dennis Lehane was one of the few kids in the neighborhood who went to college. He got a master's degree in a creative writing program and studied the work of Raymond Carver and Walker Percy. He tried his hand at writing literary short stories, but he'd grown up reading mysteries and crime fiction. And so he decided to try writing a mystery novel for fun. It came out in 1994, A Drink Before the War. It did all right. He went on writing, but he had to support himself as a valet in a parking garage and as a chauffeur.

In 2001, he came out with a novel, a story based on his own neighborhood, about a murder that affects three men who've grown up there. The book was Mystic River, which got great reviews and became his first major best seller. Clint Eastwood went on to make it into a movie in 2003.

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