Today in History: Dec. 12

Guglielmo Marconi reported the successful reception of the first transatlantic radio signal on this date in 1901. He had built a station in Cornwall, the far southwest of England, and then traveled to Canada, to a far eastern point in Newfoundland called Signal Hill. (In the photo at top, Marconi is seen on the left directing his associates as they raise a kite with an antenna attached. They are atop Signal Hill.)

The message, three repeated clicks, which is Morse code for the letter S, was sent from the Cornwall transmitter at an appointed time, and, at that appointed time, something—one click or was it three? You heard it, too, right?—something was heard at Signal Hill. At the time of the transmission, the entire route was in sunlight.
Read More

Today in History: May 7

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony received its premiere on this date in 1824 at Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna.

By now Beethoven was totally deaf, yet he continued to lead performances of his work as a sort of side conductor; he kept what he thought was the correct tempo and he followed along with the printed score. For this performance, the musicians respectfully ignored him and watched the chief conductor, Michael Umlauf. It was to be Beethoven’s first appearance on stage in a dozen years. (More after the jump …)
Read More

Pippa’s Song

The year’s at the spring
       And day’s at the morn;
       Morning’s at seven;
       The hillside’s dew-pearled;
       The lark’s on the wing;
       The snail’s on the thorn:
       God’s in His heaven—
       All’s right with the world!
—Robert Browning, “Pippa’s Song” from his verse play “Pippa Passes”

Robert Browning‘s long poem, “Pippa Passes,” published in 1841, is a verse drama, which means it was not written with the intention of any person staging a performance of it, and life ever since has fulfilled that lack of intention. The poem-as-play has not been performed by any notable theater company in more than a century. “Pippa Passes” is remembered for two things. Well, three things.

For one, it is remembered for not being remembered, for not living on in culture’s memory at all, even though at the time critics were quick to count it among Browning’s masterworks. Also, it is remembered because Browning accidentally used a vulgarity in it because he thought the slang word he used referred to a part of a nun’s habit. This was pointed out to him in his lifetime, and even though he made emendations in 1849 and 1863, he chose not to correct the one glaring one, and insisted that if he did not know it was a vulgarity, how was it a vulgarity?

Last, one line from it, a single line, lives on to this day as an expression we might hear more than once every day: “God’s in His heaven/All’s right with the world.” Young Pippa sings it.

(Shall I discuss the vulgarity below the fold?)
Read More

Pippa’s Song

The year’s at the spring
       And day’s at the morn;
       Morning’s at seven;
       The hillside’s dew-pearled;
       The lark’s on the wing;
       The snail’s on the thorn:
       God’s in His heaven—
       All’s right with the world!
—Robert Browning, “Pippa’s Song” from his verse play “Pippa Passes”

Robert Browning‘s long poem, “Pippa Passes,” published in 1841, is a verse drama, which means it was not written with the intention of any person staging a performance of it, and life ever since has fulfilled that lack of intention. The poem-as-play has not been performed by any notable theater company in more than a century. “Pippa Passes” is remembered for two things. Well, three things.

For one, it is remembered for not being remembered, for not living on in culture’s memory at all, even though at the time critics were quick to count it among Browning’s masterworks. Also, it is remembered because Browning accidentally used a vulgarity in it because he thought the slang word he used referred to a part of a nun’s habit. This was pointed out to him in his lifetime, and even though he made emendations in 1849 and 1863, he chose not to correct the one glaring one, and insisted that if he did not know it was a vulgarity, how was it a vulgarity?

Last, one line from it, a single line, lives on to this day as an expression we might hear more than once every day: “God’s in His heaven/All’s right with the world.” Young Pippa sings it.

(Shall I discuss the vulgarity below the fold?)
Read More

Song of Myself

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
 
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
 
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
 
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
—Section 1, “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman, 1855

By the end of his life in 1892, Walt Whitman had published eight revised editions (eight or so; there is some debate on this matter) of his major volume of poems, “Leaves of Grass,” culminating in a ninth edition, what he himself called the “deathbed edition.”

“L. of G. at last complete—after 33 y’rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old,” he wrote a friend. He was only 72 when he died, but with his white beard and self-presentation as a man who had existed for the entire country’s history, he seemed older.

It all started on the 4th of July. On this date 160 years ago, Whitman published the first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” a book that contained twelve poems, each without a name, and starting with the opener, a poem that became known over time as “Song of Myself.”
Read More

Song of Myself

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
 
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
 
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
 
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
—Section 1, “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman, 1855

By the end of his life in 1892, Walt Whitman had published eight revised editions (eight or so; there is some debate on this matter) of his major volume of poems, “Leaves of Grass,” culminating in a ninth edition, what he himself called the “deathbed edition.”

“L. of G. at last complete—after 33 y’rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old,” he wrote a friend. He was only 72 when he died, but with his white beard and self-presentation as a man who had existed for the entire country’s history, he seemed older.

It all started on the 4th of July. On this date 160 years ago, Whitman published the first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” a book that contained twelve poems, each without a name, and starting with the opener, a poem that became known over time as “Song of Myself.”
Read More

Bring Back the ABCs

About fifteen years ago, give or take, some friends and I started exchanging by email these twenty-six-word-long prose-poems which one of us took to calling “abecedarians,” because that is what they are called.

In Merriam-Webster, an abecedarian (noun) is a novice learning the rudiments, the beginning steps, of something. (How does one learn the alphabet?) My friends and I were turning an adjective into a noun: an “abecedarian sequence” is a set of things arranged alphabetically; we were writing abecedarians, twenty-six word paragraphs that sometimes almost meant something. It was our own invention.

(Actually it was not. Robert Pinsky, the former poet laureate, wrote an ABC poem, appropriately called “ABC”:

Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

 
Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

 
Sweet time unafflicted,
Various world:
X=your zenith.

And he found a terrible solution to the X Challenge, which confronts every pursuer of the perfect abecedarian. “X=your zenith.” Oh, sweet honey and the rock, that’s awful, but most of them are.

As my friend John, who started the thing off, wrote, “They are awfully fun to speed-write stream of consciously while at work or elsewhere.” Yes, at work. At the time, I was creating instruction manuals that had parts labeled A, B, and C on our illustrations (one had so many parts that it went around the alphabet and even used AA, BB, CC), so I could claim my abecedarians as work-related research.

Here are a few, which all date from spring 2001 and my work email account:

Alan’s bountiful charms developed even further God’s handiwork. “It justifies knives, leaving me nearly … oh, perfect. Questions? Rotten stuff, that ugliness.” Vigorously wiggles. “XXX!’ (Youth’s zenith.)

 
I have not included my friends’ offerings because they ought to be under their copyright, should they wish to ever use them. All of these are mine.
 

A bistro coffee (decaf) eventually forces growing humility: “It’s just Kona.” Let me notice our position: “Quality really sucks. Totally.” Underlined violently. Wow. Xed-out of your Zagats.
 
“Alright, boisterous Charles, dedicated event financier, go have imagined justice, Korean laughter. Man no open parapets! Question revolutions solving truth! Until vile wishes X-tend, Yours, Zebediah.”
 
Another behemoth cooed delightedly, elevating Father Gordon H. Ionesco’s jowls kinkily. “Lovely monster.” “Next opinion?” pressed Questa Rodriguez-Sanchez, totally unimpressed Vice-Warden. “X- X- X-” yammered Zionist.
 
Ambient balloons clownishly detour eccentric focaccia; gorgeous Hellespont invokes judicious knowledge; lovely millionaire Newton optimistically predicts qualm-free results, sending trivial ultimatums violently wandering; “‘xtraordinary,” yawns Zeus.
 
August Browning captures Dardanelles easily from Germany. He insists jokingly kangaroos leave momentarily; nodding openly, primly querying “Really? So they …”, urging Victor Watson: “X-coordinate! You Zed!”
 
A broken cut developed easily from goring hunters into juicy Kosciusko-less millions now, or perpetually, quelling righteous salves thick under victory while xaviering your zoo.
 
All boyos consider donuts easy food, guessing heavy-duty, intelligent judges know leisure-time munching no-way offers possible questions re: sluggish, tortoise-like, useless, vitamins, where X-Street’s youths zip by.

The abecedarian pieces filled my email world for a couple of months, with even my mother and sister joining the fray. According to my email account (my Yahoo mail, which is no longer my main email, but I keep it active as it is a historical record of fifteen-plus years of historical records), I attempted to revive the phenomenon five years later, which is now almost nine years ago. There were no takers. The abecedarian moment had been a flash in the pan.

One final piece of history: Some who are students of religion will remember that there was once a sect of Anabaptists in 16th Century Germany who called themselves “Abecedarians.” The Anabaptists did not call themselves this term, which roughly translates from Greek as people who “baptize twice.” They were ridiculed and worse, persecuted, for baptizing adults who had been baptized in infancy, but that was their point: Infants can not confess their faith, so they are not candidates for true baptism. Belief comes from within and baptism is for those who can understand. The Abecedarians took this further and held that all human knowledge is an impediment to being saved, that to even know the letters of the alphabet is to consciously block God’s word from the human heart. Hence their name.

A new one:

About Butch Cassidy Don English found good heightened information: Just knowing lies makes not one person quite really sated. Try under “Violence,” William Xavier. Yours, Zara

____________________________________________
The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 13, 2014, asks, “Write down the letters of the ABC. For each one, choose a word that begins with that letter. Now, write a post about anything—using all the words you’ve selected.”

* * * *
Please subscribe to The Gad About Town on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thegadabouttown

Bring Back the ABCs

About fifteen years ago, give or take one or two more or lesses, some friends and I started exchanging by email these twenty-six-word-long prose-poems which one of us took to calling “abecedarians,” because that is what they are called.

In Merriam-Webster, an abecedarian (noun) is a novice learning the rudiments, the beginning steps, of something. (How does one learn the alphabet?) My friends and I were turning an adjective into a noun: an “abecedarian sequence” is a set of things arranged alphabetically; we were writing abecedarians, twenty-six word paragraphs that sometimes almost meant something. It was our own invention.

(Actually it was not. Robert Pinsky, the former poet laureate, wrote an ABC poem, appropriately called “ABC”:

Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unafflicted,
Various world:
X=your zenith.

And he found a terrible solution to the X Challenge, which confronts every pursuer of the perfect abecedarian. “X=your zenith.” Oh, sweet honey and the rock, that’s awful.)

As my friend John, who started the thing off, wrote, “They are awfully fun to speed-write stream of consciously while at work or elsewhere.” Yes, at work. At the time, I was creating instruction manuals that had parts labeled A, B, and C on our illustrations (one had so many parts that it went around the alphabet and even used AA, BB, CC), so I could claim my abecedarians as work-related research.

Here are a few, which all date from spring 2001 and my work email account: Alan’s bountiful charms developed even further God’s handiwork. “It justifies knives, leaving me nearly … oh, perfect. Questions? Rotten stuff, that ugliness.” Vigorously wiggles. “XXX!’ (Youth’s zenith.)

I have not included my friends’ offerings because they ought to be under their copyright, should they wish to ever use them. All of these are mine.

A bistro coffee (decaf) eventually forces growing humility: “It’s just Kona.” Let me notice our position: “Quality really sucks. Totally.” Underlined violently. Wow. Xed-out of your Zagats.

“Alright, boisterous Charles, dedicated event financier, go have imagined justice, Korean laughter. Man no open parapets! Question revolutions solving truth! Until vile wishes X-tend, Yours, Zebediah.”

Another behemoth cooed delightedly, elevating Father Gordon H. Ionesco’s jowls kinkily. “Lovely monster.” “Next opinion?” pressed Questa Rodriguez-Sanchez, totally unimpressed Vice-Warden. “X- X- X-” yammered Zionist.

Ambient balloons clownishly detour eccentric focaccia; gorgeous Hellespont invokes judicious knowledge; lovely millionaire Newton optimistically predicts qualm-free results, sending trivial ultimatums violently wandering; “‘xtraordinary,” yawns Zeus.

August Browning captures Dardanelles easily from Germany. He insists jokingly kangaroos leave momentarily; nodding openly, primly querying “Really? So they …”, urging Victor Watson: “X-coordinate! You Zed!”

A broken cut developed easily from goring hunters into juicy Kosciusko-less millions now, or perpetually, quelling righteous salves thick under victory while xaviering your zoo.

All boyos consider donuts easy food, guessing heavy-duty, intelligent judges know leisure-time munching no-way offers possible questions re: sluggish, tortoise-like, useless, vitamins, where X-Street’s youths zip by.

The abecedarian pieces filled my email world for a couple of months, with even my mother and sister joining the fray. According to my email account (my Yahoo mail, which is no longer my main email, but I keep it active as it is a historical record of fifteen-plus years of historical records), I attempted to revive the phenomenon five years later, which is now almost nine years ago. There were no takers. The abecedarian moment had been a flash in the pan.

One final piece of history: Some who are students of religion will remember that there was once a sect of Anabaptists in 16th Century Germany who called themselves “Abecedarians.” The Anabaptists did not call themselves this term, which roughly translates from Greek as people who “baptize twice.” They were ridiculed and worse, persecuted, for baptizing adults who had been baptized in infancy, but that was their point: Infants can not confess their faith, so they are not candidates for true baptism. Belief comes from within and baptism is for those who can understand. The Abecedarians took this further and held that all human knowledge is an impediment to being saved, that to even know the letters of the alphabet is to consciously block God’s word from the human heart. Hence their name.

A new one:

About Butch Cassidy Don English found good heightened information: Just knowing lies makes not one person quite really sated. Try under “Violence,” William Xavier. Yours, Zara

____________________________________________
The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 13 asks, “Write down the letters of the ABC. For each one, choose a word that begins with that letter. Now, write a post about anything—using all the words you’ve selected.”

* * * *
Please subscribe to The Gad About Town on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thegadabouttown