Monday, August 04, 2008

Wonderful World

I subscribe to Garrison Keillor's daily "The Writer's Almanac." It begins with a poem and then lists out several key events in literary history. Today is a special day for three reasons according to Keillor, but it's also special to me because it's my parents' 56th wedding anniversary!

It's the birthday of the Romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley, (books by this author) born in Sussex, England (1792). He died before the age of 30, but he gave us many masterpieces, including "The Cloud," "To a Skylark," and "Prometheus Unbound." Shelley was the author I researched years ago in college for my first trip to Europe, a Literary Study Tour that earned me 6 hours of college credit and a serious addiction to foreign travel. I still have an affinity for this rebellious and creative spirit who appealed to me all those years ago.

It's the birthday of Knut Hamsun, (books by this author) born in Lom, Norway (1859). He was considered one of the great Scandinavian novelists of all time. He had almost no formal schooling. As a boy he became an indentured servant to his uncle. He escaped at the age of 14, went to the United States, and found a job as a streetcar operator in Chicago. He was very poor. He wore newspapers under his clothes to keep warm in the winter in Chicago. He went back to Norway and wrote his early novels that made him famous, including Mysteries and Hunger in 1890. I got acquainted with Hamsun in the Oslo Airport three summers ago when we were waiting to board our plane to go home after two weeks traveling through southern Norway. I still had some money to "get rid" of, and purchased Namsun's book The Woman at the Pump with that money. It's an interesting ready!

It's the birthday of Louis Armstrong, born in New Orleans (1901) in a poor section of town known as "The Battlefield." When he was six years old, he and three other boys formed a vocal quartet and sang on street corners for tips. A family of Russian Jewish immigrants, the Karnofskys, hired young Louis to work on their junk wagon, and he bought his first cornet with the money that the family loaned him. He was 12 years old when he was sent to a reform school as a juvenile delinquent, and that was where he learned to play the cornet. One of our church organists is a fantastic musician who, at one time, played with jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert. He often injects tight jazz harmonies into his playing, making his already good playing that much more interesting. This past week at church, he played one of my favorite pieces for the children's offering the Louis Armstrong made favorite: What a Wonderful World. I was already planning to share it at some point this week. Now, discovering today that it's Armstrong's birthday, it seems appropriate to share it today. Enjoy!

I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see 'em bloom for me and for you.
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, clouds of white,
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights.
And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin' how do you do?
They're really sayin' I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.

1 comment:

ellen b. said...

Happy Anniversary to your parents! It was great to read about Louis Armstrong and that is a great song..."WHAT a wonderful world!"