Literary Daybook, Jan. 28

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.



the Salon Books Editors
January 29, 2002 1:00AM (UTC)

Today in fiction

On Jan. 28, 1983, Betsy gives birth to a baby boy.
-- "The Stallion" (1996)
by Harold Robbins

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
occurred? Send it to fictiondays@yahoo.com.

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Today in Literary History

On this day in 1939, William Butler Yeats died in France, at the age of 74. Five months before his death, Yeats wrote "Under Ben Bulben," a poem described as "his poetical last will and testament" for its powerful restatement of his mystical belief in gyre-history and reincarnation and Ireland:

"A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst man has to fear.
Though grave-diggers' toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong.
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again."

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He pledges Irish poets to "Sing whatever is well made," from "The holiness of monks, and after/To porter-drinkers randy laughter ... That we in coming days may be/Still the indomitable Irishry." And he concludes with his own burial instructions -- in the Drumcliff churchyard of his ancestors, under the shadow of Ben Bulben mountain where he spent much of his youth -- and with his own epitaph:

"No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"

WWII caused Yeats to be first buried in France; in 1948 he was reinterred according to his wishes.

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-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," e-mail Steve King.


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