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+
Down By the Salley Gardens
by William Butler Yeats
Down by the salley gardens
my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.
In a field by the river
my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
and now am full of tears.
“Down By the Salley Gardens” by William Butler Yeats. Public Domain. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of French novelist Alexandre Dumas (books by this author), born in Villers-Cotterêts, France (1802). He wrote swashbuckling adventure novels like The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844).
It’s the birthday of English poet and novelist Robert Graves (books by this author), born in Wimbledon in 1895. He wrote more than 120 books, including historical fiction like I, Claudius (1934), about the Roman Empire; and The Golden Fleece (1944), about Hercules. His research of mythology for The Golden Fleece led him to write a controversial book, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948). In it, he argues for throwing off the old patriarchal gods and relying on a divine female deity for inspiration.
It’s the birthday of Anglican clergyman and hymn writer John Newton (books by this author), born in London (1725). His father was a ship’s captain, and his pious mother died when he was seven years old, so he accompanied his father to sea. He once tried to desert the Royal Navy, and was publicly flogged and demoted. Later, another ship traded him as cargo, and he became the servant of an African slave dealer. He ended up a captain, and he carried cargo between Europe, the sugar plantations of the West Indies, and Africa’s slave coast in the Transatlantic slave trade.
In 1748, he had a spiritual conversion on a journey back to England. He almost drowned in a terrible storm, but he prayed to God, and the ship did not sink. After that, he stopped gambling and drinking, and he married a girl he had loved for many years.
Newton was ordained as a minister. He gave up the slave trade entirely, and later in his life he became an outspoken abolitionist. In his best-selling pamphlet Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade (1788), he described the fatal conditions of the slave ships he had captained. By this time, Newton was a well-known preacher and writer of hymns, and the public listened to him. In 1805, the 80-year-old Newton went completely blind, but he didn’t stop working. The slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in March of 1807; Newton died that December.
Today, he is best remembered for his hymns, which include “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” and “Amazing Grace.”
The ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu was rediscovered by an American archaeologist on this day in 1911. Perched on the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes, the complex was built about 500 years ago, at the height of the Inca Empire. The city is made up of about 200 buildings, including temples, houses, and baths, and it’s roughly divided into an agricultural sector and an urban sector. Its many levels are connected by 3,000 steps, and there are sophisticated irrigation channels and fountains to distribute water. The stone blocks that form the structures were shaped using hard river rocks alone, without the use of steel or iron chisels, and they fit so tightly together that a knife blade can’t be slipped between them.
One secret to the site’s preservation is its terrace system. The terraces provided ample places to grow crops, and they also helped the city cope with the heavy annual rainfall by providing a drainage system. The bottom layer of each terrace consisted of the stone bits that were chipped away during construction of the buildings. On top of that layer were smaller stone chips, and sand, and then topsoil. Excess water could drain down through these layers and be channeled away; without the terraces, mudslides would have carried Machu Picchu down the mountain long ago. The terraces also provide some protection against invasion, as their structure slows down any enemy’s progress toward the mountaintop.
It’s believed that Machu Picchu was built to be a resort or estate for Incan nobility, although it may also have been a religious site. It was abandoned after a hundred years, at the time of the Spanish conquest. It’s not clear why the Inca left, though, because there’s no evidence that Spanish conquerors ever found the site. It’s possible that an epidemic of smallpox, carried by the Spanish, wiped out the population.
Scholar Hiram Bingham was in Peru in search of the lost Incan capital, Vitcos. As he traveled down the Urubamba River valley, Bingham would ask locals if they knew of any ruins in the area. One day, a farmer told Bingham about a ruined city on top of one of the nearby mountains, and offered to serve as a guide. As Bingham and his party drew close to the site, they were surprised to see families living in the area and farming on some of the lower terraces of Machu Picchu. One of the children, an 11-year-old boy named Pablo, guided Bingham’s party the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. Eager to push on and find more ruins, Bingham didn’t take the time to get a really good look at it, but he returned the following year, and his team spent four months clearing away vegetation and beginning to restore the buildings. Bingham helped himself to several artifacts, which he took back to Yale with him, much to the displeasure of the Peruvian government and people. Today, there is still a residential dorm on Yale’s Old Campus named after Bingham. Finally, in 2010, the Peruvian government successfully petitioned President Obama for the return of the artifacts.
Near the end of his life, Bingham wrote an account of his discovery: Lost City of the Incas (1948). He embellished his tale in many ways, exaggerating how long it took him to get to the ruin, how treacherous the trails were, how thick the jungle was, and how remote the site was from any established settlements. Bingham’s son Alfred later cut his father’s tall tale down to a more manageable size: armed with letters that his father wrote to his mother in 1911, Alfred Bingham clarified that his father’s journey took about an hour and a half, on fairly modern and well-traveled roads through a populous farming community.
The so-called lost city was never lost to the locals, but Bingham was one of the first outsiders to see it. And it’s certainly no secret these days — hundreds of thousands of people visit Machu Picchu every year. It’s one of the largest tourist attractions in South America, and all the traffic and nearby construction has been taking a toll on the site.
It’s the birthday of Zelda Fitzgerald (books by this author), born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama (1900). She met F. Scott Fitzgerald at one of the military dances when he was stationed in Montgomery. He stood out from the crowd, wearing his Brooks Brothers uniform and his cream-colored boots. Zelda said, “He smelled like new goods.” He told her that she looked like the heroine in the novel he was writing.
They went on their first date on this day, her birthday, in 1918. Years later, in a letter to Scott, she wrote: “The night you gave me my birthday party … you were a young Lieutenant and I was a fragrant phantom, wasn’t I? And it was a radiant night, a night of soft conspiracy and the trees agreed that it was all going to be for the best.”
It was on this day in 1847 that the Mormon leader Brigham Young led his people into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. He was leading a group of Mormons from Illinois to find a new settlement in the West where they might not be bothered. Brigham Young had gotten sick during the journey and was being carried prostrate in a wagon. But when they reached the edge of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, the wagon stopped as it came to a natural lookout point. According to legend, Brigham Young was able to describe the scene below without looking. Then he sat up and looked out at the valley and said, “This is the right place. Drive on.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®