Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
She Was a Phantom of Delight
by William Wordsworth
She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleam’d upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as star of twilight fair;
Like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly plann’d
To warm, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.
“She Was a Phantom of Delight” by William Wordsworth. Public domain. (buy now)
On this date in 1929, the Graf Zeppelin airship took off from Lakehurst, New Jersey, on a round-the-world flight. It was the first such flight by a passenger aircraft. The trip was partially funded by media mogul William Randolph Hearst; he covered half the cost in exchange for exclusive media rights in the United States and Britain. There were 61 passengers and crew on the historic flight: 60 men and one woman. Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, a journalist, covered the flight for Hearst. She was also the first woman to fly around the world. The trip from Lakehurst to Lakehurst took just over 21 days, including stops.
Graf Zeppelin had a remarkable nine-year career. Before its round-the-world trip, it was also the first commercial passenger flight across the Atlantic Ocean. It flew more than a million miles, safely carried 34,000 passengers, flew a scientific mission over the North Pole. But the age of the giant dirigibles came to an end when Graf Zeppelin‘s sister ship, the Hindenburg, went up in flames in 1937.
It was on this day in 1818 that poet John Keats (books by this author) set sail to London after a six-week walking tour through northern England, Scotland, and Ireland. He and a friend had walked more than 600 miles.
Keats and his friend Charles Brown set off in June. Keats wrote to a friend: “I have many reasons for going wonder-ways: to make my winter chair free from spleen, to enlarge my vision, to escape disquisitions on poetry and Kingston-criticism, to promote digestion and economize shoe leather. I’ll have leather buttons and belt, and if Brown hold his mind, ‘over the hills we go.’ If my books will keep me to it, then will I take all Europe in turn, and see the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them.”
Keats had spent his life in London. He had never been out of southern England, and had never seen a mountain. Keats was determined to travel light, and he packed a knapsack with a shirt, stockings, a nightcap, towels, a brush and comb, snuff, and one book: a translation of Dante. He had good shoes and a walking stick. Keats and Brown were often mistaken for traveling salesmen.
The two friends set off from Lancaster, and from there they walked through England’s Lake District. Keats went to pay his respects to the famous William Wordsworth, but Wordsworth was not at home, and Keats felt betrayed when he learned that Wordsworth was off campaigning for a conservative politician. Wordsworth’s house, Rydal Mount, was already a tourist attraction and fancier than Keats had imagined. Keats left a note and the men continued walking. Keats felt better after seeing Dove Cottage, the small home where Wordsworth had written most of his great poems earlier in his career.
As they continued north, Keats was amazed at the bleak landscape of mountains and moors. He thought it was beautiful but unsettling. As he walked, he discovered that he was moved by people more than scenery. On June 29, they set off walking at 4 a.m., hiked up the mountain Skiddaw, from which they could see all the way to the Irish Sea and Scotland, and continued to the town of Ireby, where they saw a performance of traditional dancing. Keats wrote: “There was as fine a row of boys and girls as you ever saw; some beautiful faces, and one exquisite mouth. I never felt so near the glory of patriotism, the glory of making, by any means, a country happier. This is what I like better than scenery.”
Keats was unimpressed by the food on their trip. He wrote in a letter: “We dined yesterday on dirty bacon dirtier eggs and dirtiest Potatoes with a slice of Salmon.” In Scotland they subsisted almost entirely on oatcakes and whiskey — Keats hated the oatcakes but enjoyed the whiskey. Also in Scotland, Keats made a pilgrimage to Alloway, the birthplace of the poet Robert Burns. He thought the Ayrshire countryside was stunning, and declared that the River Doon was “the sweetest river I ever saw.” He stood on the Brig o’ Doon, a bridge Burns wrote about in his poems, and enjoyed a large pinch of snuff. He found Burns’s Cottage and drank whiskey with the custodian, who told Keats countless stories about Burns and would not stop talking (or drinking) while Keats wrote a sonnet. Keats could only understand a few words the custodian said, and described him as “a mahogany-faced old jackass.”
Keats and Brown continued through Scotland, with a brief detour into Northern Ireland. They averaged 10 miles a day, but that included days of rest, and many days they walked 20 miles or more. On August 2, they hiked to the top of Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in the British Isles. Keats’s health had been questionable before the trip, and now he had developed a bad cold — the strenuous exercise through damp bogs made things worse. A doctor advised him to quit the walking tour, so on this day in 1818 he headed back to London, while Brown continued on walking another 1,200 miles. In a one-year span following the walking tour, Keats wrote “Hyperion,” “The Eve of St. Agnes,” “To Autumn,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale.” Keats died of tuberculosis less than three years after his walking tour.
It’s the birthday of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (books by this author), born in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1896. She’s best known for her book The Yearling (1938), which was the best-selling novel in America in 1938 and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.
It’s the birthday of poet Sara Teasdale (books by this author), born in St. Louis (1884). She grew up in a wealthy family. Her parents paid for the publication of her first book, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems (1907). She received enough positive feedback to continue writing, and she eventually became a well-loved poet. Her collection Rivers to the Sea (1915) was a best-seller, and Love Songs (1917) won several major awards, including the award that would become known as the Pulitzer Prize.
Despite her success, Teasdale remained insecure and convinced that she was frail. Her marriage to a wealthy St. Louis businessman fell apart. In 1931, an old suitor, the poet Vachel Lindsay, killed himself. Teasdale was devastated. In 1933, she committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills; later that year her collection Strange Victory was published.