Feb. 14, 2014

Poor But Honest

by Anonymous

She was poor, but she was honest,
   Victim of the squire's whim:
First he loved her, then he left her,
   And she lost her honest name.

Then she ran away to London,
   For to hide her grief and shame;
There she met another squire,
   And she lost her name again.

See her riding in her carriage,
   In the Park and all so gay:
All the nibs and nobby persons
   Come to pass the time of day.

See the little old-world village
   Where her aged parents live,
Drinking the champagne she sends them;
   But they never can forgive.

In the rich man's arms she flutters,
   Like a bird with broken wing:
First he loved her, then he left her,
   And she hasn't got a ring.

See him in the splendid mansion,
   Entertaining with the best,
While the girl that he has ruined,
   Entertains a sordid guest.

See him in the House of Commons,
   Making laws to put down crime,
While the victim of his passions
   Trails her way through mud and slime.

Standing on the bridge at midnight,
   She says: 'Farewell, blighted Love.'
There's a scream, a splash-Good Heavens!
   What is she a-doing of?

Then they drag her from the river,
   Water from her clothes they wrang,
For they thought that she was drownded;
   But the corpse got up and sang:

'It's the same the whole world over;
   It's the poor that gets the blame,
It's the rich that get the pleasure.
   Isn't it a blooming shame?'

"Poor But Honest" by Anonymous. Public domain.

Today is Valentine's Day, the day on which we celebrate love. The holiday was named in part for an early Christian priest, St. Valentine, who was martyred for his beliefs on this day in about 270 A.D. According to legend, the priest fell in love with his jailer's daughter, and just before his execution, he wrote her a love letter signed, "from your Valentine."

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest opened in London (books by this author). He wrote the first draft in just 21 days, the fastest he'd ever written anything. The play tells the story of a man named Jack Worthing who pretends to have a younger brother named Earnest. Jack uses the imaginary Earnest as an excuse for getting out of all kinds of situations, and even pretends to be Earnest when that suits his purposes. At the same time, Jack's friend Algernon Moncrieff also begins impersonating the imaginary Earnest. When two women fall in love with Jack and Algernon, they both think they are in love with a man named Earnest. It comes out in the end that Jack and Algernon are themselves actually long-lost brothers.

Wilde said that The Importance of Being Earnest expressed his philosophy that "we should treat all the trivial things of life very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality." To a friend he wrote that The Importance of Being Earnest was "a trivial play ... written by a butterfly for butterflies." But it was his greatest success. The actor who played Algernon Moncrieff later said, "In my 53 years of acting, I never remember a greater triumph than the first night of The Importance of Being Earnest."

Wilde showed up at a rehearsal for the play a few days before the opening, wearing his trademark green carnation pinned onto a three-piece maroon suit. After watching the actors for a few minutes he said: "Yes, it is quite a good play. I remember I wrote one very like it myself, but it was even more brilliant than this."

It's the birthday of comedian Jack Benny, born Benjamin Kubelsky, in Waukegan, Illinois (1894), the son of a saloonkeeper. A violin prodigy, he hoped for a concert career, but by 17 was playing in vaudeville, where he discovered he was not only musical, but also very funny. His NBC radio program, The Jack Benny Show, began in 1932 and ran weekly for 23 years. His onstage character was a sour, exceedingly stingy person, a remarkably awful violin player, and perpetually 39 years old.

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




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