Oct. 19, 2013

On Another's Sorrow

by William Blake

Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd.

Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear—
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small birds grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear—

And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infants tear.

And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away.
O! no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy maker is not by.
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy maker is not near.

O! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan

"On Another's Sorrow" by William Blake, from The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. © Doubleday, 1988. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1873 that the first set of football rules were drafted in America. The rules were written by representatives from three universities: Yale, Rutgers, and Princeton.

Beginning in the early 19th century, different "mob football" games became common on college campuses. They all had different rules, but they had in common two teams, each with a big mob of players trying to advance a ball toward the other side. Most versions resembled some combination of soccer and rugby. Dartmouth's was called "Old Division football," Princeton's was called "ballown," and boys in prep school were playing something called "the Boston game." In the early 1860s, both Harvard and Princeton actually banned these games on their campuses because they were so violent, and many other universities followed suit. But the games' popularity continued to grow outside of college campuses, and by the end of the decade, the games were back at the universities.

The first official intercollegiate football game was in November of 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton. The universities had decided that they would just play by the rules of whichever team was hosting, so in this case, they played at Rutgers according to the Rutgers rules, and Rutgers won. A week later, they played again at Princeton with Princeton's rules, and this time Princeton won. For the next few years, that was how games went — the rules according to the home team.

Princeton decided that something needed to be done so that all teams could play by the same basic rules. They invited Rutgers, Columbia, Yale, and Harvard to join them in forming an intercollegiate league and standardizing rules. Harvard refused to join the league because it wanted to continue playing by its own rules, and Columbia failed to show up for the meeting; but on this day in 1873, representatives from the other three universities met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City.

They came up with 12 rules that everyone could agree on. The rules included: six goals were needed to win a game, or a lead of two goals; there would be one referee and two judges; and no one could throw or carry the ball. Columbia agreed by these rules, and four games were played according to the new rules in the remainder of 1873.

In October of 1887, a professor at Princeton (and college football fan) named Alexander Johnston published an article in Century magazine called "The American Game of Foot-Ball." He praised the sport's accessibility, pointing out that only wealthy young men can purchase a horse for polo, or the equipment for rowing, but that anyone can join a football team. He illustrates the emphasis on team playing rather than individual playing, and explains how important it is for the moral development of young men. And he compares the strategy and camaraderie to that of the military, but with a far happier outcome. He wrote: "To him who really likes the game, and who understands its possible influence on the development of Americans, the excitement, the cheers, the blowing of horns, and the ebb and flow of the game, count for little. There is, instead of them, a feeling of thankfulness; [...] a satisfaction in knowing that this outdoor game is doing for our college-bred men, in a more peaceful way, what the experiences of war did for so many of their predecessors in 1861-65, in its inculcation of the lesson that bad temper is an element quite foreign to open, manly contest."

Today is the anniversary of the surrender that ended the American Revolutionary War, in Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. George Washington had had a difficult spring. His troops were low on supplies and food, their clothing was in shreds, and there had been a steady stream of desertions from his ranks.

By summer, Washington had only a few thousand troops camped at West Point, New York. The British expected Washington to attack New York City, which he had been planning to do for most of the spring. But when he learned that the British forces under the control of Lord Cornwallis were building a naval base on the Yorktown Peninsula in Virginia, he decided impulsively to march his army from New York to Virginia, in the hopes of trapping Cornwallis and capturing his army.

Washington's plan was one of his boldest moves of the entire war — moving his army 400 miles in order to catch his enemy by surprise. He had to march his troops toward New York City first, in order to scare the British into hunkering down for an attack. Then he quickly moved south.

Washington's men and their French allies marched every day from 2:00 a.m. until it grew too hot to continue. It was a hot summer, and on one day, more than 400 men passed out from the heat. Few armies in history had ever moved so far so fast. Lord Cornwallis learned of Washington's approach before he arrived, but Cornwallis chose not to flee, because he thought his troops would be evacuated by the British navy. He didn't realize that the British ships had already been routed by a French fleet from the south. So in the early weeks of October, he watched as Washington's troops surrounded the city and began a siege. After several days of bombarding the city with gun and cannon fire, Washington received word that Cornwallis would surrender. Washington requested that the British march out of the city to give up their arms, and the surrender began at 2:00 a.m. on this day in 1881. The one soldier who didn't surrender was Cornwallis himself. Instead, he sent his sword with his second-in-command to be offered to the French general, signifying that the British had been defeated by the French, not the Americans.

In didn't matter though. England didn't have enough money to raise another army, and they appealed to America for peace. Two years later, the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the war was officially over.

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