He loves his country best
who strives to make it best.
– Robert Ingersoll, humanist
Robert Browning born on May 7, 1812 in Camberwell, a middle-class suburb of London. He was the only son of Robert Browning, a clerk in the Bank of England, and a devoutly religious German-Scotch mother, Sarah Anna Wiedemann Browning, who loved music. Browning’s father had amassed a personal library of some 6,000 volumes, many of them collections of arcane lore and historical anecdotes that the poet plundered for poetic material, including the source of “The Pied Piper.”
Browning has come to be regarded as a major Victorian poet, and his approach to dramatic monologue has influenced countless poets for almost a century. However, he is at least as famous for falling in love with Elizabeth Barrett, who began writing poetry at age 11, but by age 15, was suffering from intense head and spinal pain, and remained in frail health for the rest of her life. They met in 1845. She was six years his senior, and living as a semi-invalid in her father’s house. They wrote to each other frequently, and the romance led to their marriage in 1846 and a journey to Italy for Elizabeth’s health. Her domineering father disapproved of the marriage and disinherited Elizabeth.
After a promising start, Browning’s reputation as a poet suffered under harsh criticism, and interest in his work faded as the Brownings remained in Italy. It wasn’t until he returned to England after Elizabeth’s death in 1861 that his work began to be re-evaluated.
“Home-Thoughts, from Abroad” was written during the years they spent in Italy. To read this poem by Robert Browning click:
Na Hye-sok was born on April 28, 1896; pioneering Korean feminist, author, poet, journalist, and the first professional woman painter in Korea, who used the pseudonym Jeongwol. Her short story, Kyonghul (1918), about a woman’s self-discovery, is considered the first feminist work in Korean literature. After her husband divorced her for infidelity while they were living in Paris, her reputation was ruined when she published A Divorce Confession, which challenged male dominance and repression of women’s sexuality in Korean society. Unable to sell her writing or her paintings, she spent her last years living on the charity of Buddhist monasteries. Her paintings are now highly regarded and sell for thousands of dollars, but it is difficult to authenticate her later work, and a number of fakes have appeared on the market.
To read her poem “The Doll’s House” click:
Cecil Day Lewis born on April 27, 1904 in Ballintubbert, Ireland; British poet who was UK Poet Laureate from 1968 until his death in 1972. His mother died when he was two years old, and he was brought up in London by his father and an aunt. During WWII, he worked as a publications editor in the Ministry of Information, an institution satirized by George Orwell in his dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four, although the book was equally based on Orwell’s experiences at the BBC. After the war, Day-Lewis became a lecturer at Cambridge University, and published his lectures in The Poetic Image in 1947. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1951 to 1956, and the Norton Professor at Harvard (1962-1963). He published a dozen collections of poetry, four collections of essays, translations of Virgil, and a number of novels, including a private detective mystery series under the pen name Nicolas Blake. Day Lewis died at age 68 from pancreatic cancer in May 1972. Daniel Day-Lewis is his son.
To read “A Hard Frost” by Cecil Day Lewis click:
Marriage is falling in love over and over again – always with the same person.
This will not be my usual Monday post. My husband and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this week.
We only had a one-night honeymoon when we got married, so each year since (except during the Covid lockdown), we’ve taken a few days to go away together, another chapter of our “never-ending” honeymoon.
Most little girls daydream about getting married, and some stage mock weddings with dolls, pets, or friends. I was not one of those little girls. It was never “When I get married” – it was always “If I ever do get married.”
The one thing I said about a wedding was that if I was to get married, I’d wear the antique red silk Chinese wedding outfit which had been a high school graduation gift to my mother from family friends who had traveled to China in the 1920s. She had never worn these exotic clothes, but kept them because they were a valuable gift from people she remembered fondly.
I was always fascinated by the intricate embroidery. No photograph could ever convey the richness of the details or depth of the color.
By the time I turned 30, I was convinced that I never would get married. And then, someone came into my life – at the wrong time for both of us. We became friends, and after the events we worked on together ended, we’d make occasional phone calls to keep in touch. My rocky relationship ended, and then his marriage did. I invited him to dinner to commiserate.
Three years later, when we got married, no one was more surprised than I was. There was very little that was traditional about our wedding – but every choice we made together meant something to both of us.
And just as I always said, that if – I did indeed wear the red silk.
To read my poem “Red Silk” click:
Louise Glück born on April 22, 1943, in New York City and grew up on Long Island; American poet and essayist; winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Wild Iris; Library of Congress Special Bicentennial Consultant (2000-2002) and Poet Laureate (2003-2004); and 2014 National Book Award (Poetry) for Faithful and Virtuous Night. In 2020, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her father was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant who helped invent and market the X-Acto Knife. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University without graduating from either school. In her mid-twenties, she published her poetry collection Firstborn to mixed reviews. Glück has since published over a dozen collections which have been heaped with honors.
To read Louise Glück’s poem “Nostos” click: