Mar. 23, 2014

Young Blondes

by Gavin Ewart

A religious poem

Young blondes are tempting me day and night.
Young blondes in dreams trouble my restless sight.

With curly heads they rampage through my thoughts,
Full-bosomed in their sweaters and their shorts.

Or lie sunbathing on an impossible beach
Naked, aloof, continually out of reach.

On the mind's promenade, above the rocks,
Young blondes go sauntering by in cotton frocks

Or flatter cameras with their negligent poses
Or drenched in moonlight gather midnight roses.

While I am eating, smoking, working, talking
Through long romantic gardens they are walking.

Protect me, Lord, from these desires of flesh,
Keep me from evil, in Thy pastures fresh,

So that I may not fall, by lakes or ponds,
Into such sinful thoughts about young blondes!

"Young Blondes" by Gavin Ewart from Selected Poems. © New Directions, 1986. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Juan Gris, born José Victoriano González in Madrid (1887). Gris studied engineering in Madrid but soon abandoned it for art. At 19, he moved to Paris and rented the apartment right next to Pablo Picasso's. He befriended fellow artists Henri Matisse and Georges Braque, and made a living by selling illustrations to various Parisian journals, before shifting his focus to painting in 1910. His technique eventually helped create Cubism, the radical artistic style that was coming into prevalence at the time.

It's the birthday of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, born in Tokyo, Japan (1910). His film Rashomon (1951) won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award for best foreign-language film, making it the first Japanese film to attract international acclaim. Kurosawa is known for his adaptations of Western literary classics into films with Japanese settings. Hakuchi (1951) is based on Dostoevsky's novel The Idiot (1869); Kumonosu-jo (The Throne of Blood, 1957) was adapted from Shakespeare's Macbeth; and his masterpiece Ran (Chaos, 1985) recasts King Lear in 16th-century Japan.

Many current directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas, are admirers of Kurosawa's bold visual style and helped the director get funding for his later films. Lucas said he lifted the plot of Star Wars from the Kurosawa epic, Hidden Fortress (1958).

It's the birthday of Fannie Merritt Farmer (books by this author), born in Boston (1857). She published the first cookbook in American history that used precise cooking instructions and level measurements. Her cookbook was filled with recipes and also advice on how to set a table, scald milk, cream butter, and remove stains. At first, all the publishers turned her down because they thought all these recipes and techniques were things that young women could learn from their mothers. But Fannie Farmer finally got her cookbook published, and it was an enormous success.

It was on this day in 1743, that George Frideric Handel's oratorio "Messiah" had its London premiere. Handel had spent most of his career writing operas in Germany and Italy, but in 1711 he opened one of his operas in London and it became a blockbuster, selling out the Queen's Theatre for 15 performances. But the problem for Handel was that traditional opera was going out of style in England. Critics began to attack his work as too extravagant and full of operatic clichés. He produced a series of operas in the 1730s that had smaller and smaller audiences until finally his theater closed. He had a stroke and decided to take a break from composing. Most people thought his career as a composer was over.

But instead of giving up, Handel decided to turn his attention to the oratorio, a musical form that was like a religious opera, which told biblical stories in the form of music. In the summer of 1741, he began work on a new oratorio called "The Messiah." For 25 days, he worked almost without any breaks, often skipping his meals and staying up all night. When he finished, he said, "I think God has visited me ... I think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself."

The first performance of "The Messiah" was at a charity concert in Dublin. It got great reviews, but Handel wasn't satisfied with it, and he spent almost another year revising parts of the score. It finally had its London premiere in the audience of the king on this day in 1743. The audience was overwhelmed by the performance.

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




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