December 30, 2014

Should auld acquaintance (or old lyrics) be forgot…


Contrary to what you sometimes hear, Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns (1759-1796) didn’t create the song “Auld Lang Syne.”

And, Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo didn’t start the tradition of singing the song at New Year’s Eve parties.

However, Burns did flesh out and popularize the lyrics of the song as we know it today (or, at least, kind of know it) in a poem he wrote in 1788.

And, Lombardo did popularize the tradition of playing and singing “Auld Lang Syne” (or, at least, trying to sing it) after counting down the final seconds to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

As explained by The Burns Encyclopedia, Burns based his poem on a traditional Scottish air (i.e., song) that he loved.

He kept some existing phrases, including “Auld lang syne” and “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,” then adapted and added to them, creating the lyrics of the version of the song that became famous worldwide.

Of course, since many of those words are in an old Scots dialect, few people can either remember or understand most of them.

The literal English translation of the phrase “Auld lang syne” is “old long since,” which means something like “old days long gone by” or, more simply put, “old days” or “old times.”

The basic gist of the famous first verse and chorus is that one should remember and think kindly about old times and old friends — and toast them with a drink.

In Scotland, the tradition of singing the song on various sentimental, ceremonial and holiday occasions dates back to before Burns’ time.

By the late 1800s, after Burns’ poem made the song familiar in other parts of the world, it was common for people in many English-speaking countries to sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve.

Mentions of this custom appear in old newsclips that date back to long before Guy Lombardo became associated with it. But he and his band did help cement the tradition into American culture.

According to most sources, Lombardo and The Royal Canadians first played “Auld Lang Syne” after the countdown to midnight on December 31, 1929 at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York City. (Technically, it was January 1, 1930.)

They continued to perform the song on New Year’s programs that were broadcast live from New York, first on radio and then on television, until 1976 (the year before Lombardo died).

If you’d like to try to sing along when the song is played this New Year’s and need some help, the lyrics that come from Robert Burns’ poem are below.

The Wikipedia entry about “Auld Lang Syne” has a phonetic pronunciation guide for the Scots words in case you’re interested. Even if you’re sober, you’ll probably sound drunk when you try to pronounce them.

Cheers and Happy New Year from ThisDayinQuotes.com!

“Auld Lang Syne”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

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Related listening and reading…

 

December 18, 2014

“Politics is not an exact science,” said Bismark. But is it an art?


On this date in 1863, the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismark made a famous remark about politics to members of the Prussian parliament.

“Politics is not an exact science,” he said, on December 18, 1863.

At the time, Bismark was serving as right hand man and Minister-President for Prussian King William I, who faced occasional challenges to his policies from Prussian legislators.

When legislators balked at the King’s proposal for more military spending in December 1863, Bismark told them: 

“An assembly of three hundred and fifty members cannot, nowadays, in the last resort, direct the policy of a great power...Politics is not an exact science...I am not afraid of democracy; if I were, I should give up the game. If the House refuses to vote supplies, we must take them where we can find them.”

The Prussian legislators were not convinced.

They refused to approve the King’s military funding proposal.

So, Bismark — a tough “statesman” known for his belief that state policy should be carried out “through blood and iron” when needed — had the King dissolve the Prussian parliament.

Problem solved.

In 1867, as Bismark was overseeing the unification of Prussia and other formerly separate German states into the German Empire, he uttered an oft-quoted variation on his earlier remark when he said: Politics is the art of the possible.”

Then, in 1884, in a speech to the German parliament as the Imperial Chancellor, Bismark made yet another famous comment about politics: Politics is not a science...but an art.”

Most of us would probably agree that politics is not a science, especially not an exact one.

But I doubt if many people would call what happens in the U.S. Congress or their state legislatures an art — unless they’re talking about the Surrealism genre.

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Related reading…

December 01, 2014

The “shocking” quote by Dr. Joycelyn Elders that got her fired by Pres. Bill Clinton…


Dr. Joycelyn Elders endured a lot on her rise to becoming the first African American to be appointed Surgeon General of the United States.

She was born in 1933, the daughter of a poor sharecropper in a segregated community in rural Arkansas.

As a child, she had to balance working in the cotton fields with attending an all-black elementary school 13 miles away. But she studied hard, made it through high school, and earned a scholarship to Philander Smith College, an all-black college in Little Rock.

After graduating, Elders served for several years in the United States Army’s Women’s Medical Specialist Corps. In 1956, she entered the Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill, where she was the only black student and was required to eat in a separate dining room with the cleaning staff.

Elders persevered, obtained her M.D. degree in 1960, then a Masters in biochemistry in 1967. She became a respected professor, an expert in pediatric endocrinology and a pioneering researcher in childhood growth problems and juvenile diabetes.

In 1987, Dr. Elders became the Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, where her efforts led to major increases in early childhood screenings and immunizations.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her as the US Surgeon General. Like many Surgeon Generals before her, Dr. Elders was outspoken on the need to address current health-related issues, such as the growing AIDS epidemic.

On December 1, 1994, she was a featured speaker at the United Nations-sponsored World AIDS Day conference in New York City.

In a Q&A session after her formal remarks, a conference participant asked her if it might be possible to reduce the spread of AIDS through “more explicit discussion...of masturbation,” as an alternative to heterosexual or homosexual sex.

Dr. Elders answered:

“I think that is something that is a part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught.”

Her remark generated a firestorm of criticism by Christian groups, Clinton’s Republican critics and even some Democrats.

Elders was already controversial for speaking out in support of sex education, birth control and legalization of marijuana.

And, by God, how could anyone not be shocked and offended by someone who suggested publicly that masturbation exists and that maybe people should get some factual information about it to counter all the myths and misinformation they hear when they’re growing up?  

It was almost as shocking as if she’d said something crazy like: it might be OK for Presidents to have secret sexual affairs with young White House interns.

President Clinton, who would soon be having a secret sexual affair with a young White House intern, decided that Dr. Elders’ remark about masturbation was causing too much media frenzy.

So, Clinton fired her. Technically speaking, he demanded her resignation. Of course, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta told the press she would have been fired if she had not resigned.

Panetta explained somberly: “There have been too many areas where the President does not agree with her views. This is just one too many.”

A few years later, Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky created a much bigger media frenzy and almost caused Clinton to get fired as president by means of impeachment.

In light of all that, his decision to axe Dr. Elders over a fairly mild and now forgotten quote seems like an even lower blow than it did at the time. (So to speak.)

On the positive side, Elders went on to have a successful post-Clinton career as a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a popular speaker on the lecture circuit, speaking against teen pregnancy and in favor of birth control.

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Related reading…

November 30, 2014

The odd links between “Louie Louie” and Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe At Any Speed”...


It’s truly odd, but true: the renowned rock song “Louie Louie” and the history-making book about car safety by Ralph Nader, titled Unsafe At Any Speed, are connected by both a quote and by a date.

“Louie Louie” was written in 1955 by the pioneering American R&B singer and songwriter Richard Berry (1935-1997).

In a nod to the popularity Calypso music was enjoying in the mid-1950s, Berry gave “Louie Louie” a Caribbean flavor by writing the lyrics in an island-style patois.

It’s basically a love song.

A Jamaican sailor explains to some guy named Louie that he misses his girlfriend. He can’t wait to sail home, take his “fine little girl” in his arms and tell her “I never leave again.” In the chorus he says dolefully: “Louie Louie, me gotta go.” (As in, go home.)

Berry recorded “Louie Louie” with his group the Pharaohs in 1957. Their version was a modest regional hit in the Northwest, where it became a popular party song covered by many local rock bands.

One of those bands was a group of white kids from Portland, Oregon who called themselves The Kingsmen. They made a raucous, poorly-recorded version of the song in 1963.

It was released in May and entered Billboard’s Top 40 singles chart on November 30, 1963.

The fuzziness of the recording and the garbled attempt at Jamaican patois by The Kingsmen’s lead singer, Jack Ely, made the lyrics notoriously hard to understand. Nonetheless, their catchy cover version was a huge hit, selling over a million copies.

By 1964, “Louie Louie” was being gleefully sung by teenagers nationwide, often using salacious Mondegreen variations of the words.

The actual lyrics as written by Berry and slightly altered by Ely are not overtly sexual. But many “dirty” versions were made up and spread.

For example, in the original lyrics the second verse starts with: “Three nights and days we sailed the sea. / Me think of girl constantly.”

In raunchified versions, those words were turned into things like: “Each night at ten, I lay her again / I f--k my girl all kinds of ways.”

It was soon rumored that the hard-to-understand lyrics on The Kingsmen record were themselves obscene. This caused much moral harrumphing by parents, the press, politicians and bureaucrats.

Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh declared the record to be “pornographic” and banned it from the state’s airwaves. (And he was a liberal Democrat!) Some radio stations in other states also banned it.

The FCC and FBI conducted official investigations — at taxpayers’ expense — to try to decipher the muffled words on The Kingsmen’s hit single to determine if it should be banned nationwide.

Federal investigators grilled Richard Berry and Jack Ely and listened intently to the Kingsmen record played forward and backward at various speeds, including 33 rpm, 45 rpm and 78 rpm.

In February 1964, one exasperated FCC official uttered what became a legendary rock history quote when he reported:

       “We found the record to be unintelligible at any speed.”

Around that same time in 1964, lawyer Ralph Nader was working as an advisor to a U.S. Senate subcommittee that was investigating car safety (or, more accurately. the general lack of safety features in cars built at the time).

Armed with the knowledge he gained from that work, Nader wrote a shocking book on the subject. He titled it Unsafe at Any Speed.

It became a bestseller, gave Nader his initial fame as an industry gadfly and led to many improvements in car safety we now take for granted, such as seat belts and anti-lock brakes.

The similarity between Nader’s book title and the FCC official’s quote about “Louie Louie” suggests that Ralph was either aware of the FCC quote — or blissfully unaware that his title was an ironic echo of “unintelligible at any speed.”

What makes the connection even odder is the fact that Unsafe At Any Sped was published on November 30, 1965, exactly two years to the day after The Kingsmen’s recording of “Louie Louie” entered the Billboard Top 40.

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Further reading and listening…

November 26, 2014

“For every creature of God is good.”


Under a federal law passed by Congress in 1942, the date for Thanksgiving in the United States varies from year to year. It’s the fourth Thursday of the month.

But the anniversary of the first official Thanksgiving set by federal decree in our country is November 26th.

In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation that made November 26, 1789 the first Thanksgiving Day designated as such by our national government.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches nowadays, I often think of one of our family dogs who died unexpectedly before Thanksgiving in 2009, from a genetic autoimmune problem that could not be fixed.

Her name was Boojie.

She was a beautiful, sweet-natured Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.

My wife and I loved her dearly and her passing left a hole in our hearts that lasted a long time. (Since partially filled by another beautiful Wheaten Terrier we named Barbie Boo.)

I am not a religious person. But I do believe that we all can have feelings that might be called “spiritual” or “religious.”

The bonds I’ve had with dogs like Boojie and other animals come closest to giving me such feelings.

The word thanksgiving was popularized in English by the Bible, in which it is used many times. My favorite Bible verse using this word is in Timothy 4:4, which says (in the King James version):

       “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.”

On this November 26th, I dedicate my post and that quotation to Boojie.

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Related reading…

November 19, 2014

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – and Lord Buckley’s “hip translation” . . .


On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a brief speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the dedication of a cemetery for the Union soldiers who had died in that bloody Civil War battle four months earlier.

Lincoln’s remarks came to be known as “The Gettysburg Address.”

It’s his best known speech and includes two of his most famous quotes.

One is the opening sentence:

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The other the closing line, which contains the oft-cited phrase: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

As noted by many sources, Lincoln appears to have based his memorable of/by/for the people line on words used in a sermon by the abolitionist preacher Theodore Parker.

During the early months of the Civil War, Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon gave the president a book of Parker’s sermons and speeches. It included a sermon titled “The Effect of Slavery on the American People,” which Parker delivered at the Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on July 4, 1858.

In that, Parker said: “Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.”

According to Herndon, Lincoln marked that sentence in pencil in the book before he wrote the Gettysburg Address.

Parker had used similar words in earlier sermons and speeches.

For example, in a speech he gave in Boston on May 29, 1850, he defined democracy as “a government of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people.” However, the of/for/by the people formulation was not coined by Parker.

Scholars have found several of/by/for the people quotations that predate Parker’s.

In the decades since 1863, there have been countless other uses and variations inspired by the Gettysburg Address. (See this post on my Quote/Counterquote site for some examples.)

My own favorite adaptation of Lincoln’s address is the hipster version done by the late, great Richard Buckley, aka Lord Buckley.

Buckley performed as a vaudeville-style comedian from the late 1920s to the late 1940s.

Starting in 1947 and throughout the 1950s, he performed as the character “Lord Buckley,” an ultra-cool hepcat who told wild stories and recited poems using the hipster slang of black jazz musicians and beatniks.

In 1956, HIP Records released a recording of Buckley doing his “hip translation” of the Gettysburg Address. It’s included on a CD issued by Rhino in 1993 titled His Royal Hipness: Lord Buckley.

As I write this, there’s a copy you can listen to on YouTube.

Lord Buckley made it clear in his introductory remarks that, although his version is humorous, he had great respect for Lincoln and he believed Lincoln would have been able to appreciate it.

I agree. So, to honor two of my favorite orators, here in a historic side-by-side “appearance” are President Abraham Lincoln, reciting the Gettysburg Address, and Lord Buckley reciting his hip translation...



Abraham Lincoln:
The Gettysburg Address***
 


Lord Buckley:
The hip translation…
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Four big hits and seven licks ago, our before-daddies swung forth, upon this sweet groovy land a swingin’, stompin’, jumpin’, blowin’, wailin’ new nation, hip to the cool groove of liberty and solid sent with the ace lick dat all the studs, chicks, cats and kitties – red, white, or blue – is created level in front. In straight talk, the same, dig what I mean?

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.

Now we are hung with a king-size main-day civil drag, soundin’ of whether that nation or any up-there nation, so hip and so solid sent can stay with it all the way.

We are met here on a great battlefield of that war.

We’s here to dig this chop-beatin’ session on the site of the worst jazz blown in the entire issue – Gettys-mother-burg.

We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

We have stomped out here to turn on a small soil stash of the before-mentioned hassle site, as a final sweet sod pad for those who laid it down and left it there, so that this jumpin’ happy beat might blow forevermore.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. And we all dig that this is the straightest lick ever dug.

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

But diggin’ it harder from afar, we cannot take no wailin’ bows, we cannot mellow, we cannot put down the stamp of the Nazz on this sweet sod, ‘cause the strong non-stop studs, both diggin’ it and dug under it, who hassled here have mellowed it with such a wild mad beat that we can hear it, but we can't touch it.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. Now the world cats will short dig, you hear what I say, short dig nor long stash in their wigs what we is beatin’ our chops around here, but it never can successively shade what they vanced here.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.

It is for us, the swingin’, to pick up the dues of these fine studs who cut out here and fly it through to Endsville. It is hipper for us to be signifyin’ to the glorious gig that we can’t miss with all these bulgin’ eyes.
That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

***NOTE: There are
five written versions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, with slight wording variations among them. The version above is from the “Hay Copy,” stored in The Library of Congress. Some scholars believe it is the version Lincoln used, but this is not known with certainty.

That from all these A-stamp studs we double our love kick, to that righteous ride for which these cats hard sounded the last 'nth bong of the bell of their bell. That we here want it stuck up straight for all to dig that these departed studs shall not have split in vain; that this nation, under the great swingin’ Nazz, shall ring up a whopper of endless Mardi Gras, and that the Big Law of you straights, by you studs, and for you kitties, shall not be scratched from the big race.”

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November 12, 2014

The genesis of “the Almighty Dollar” – from Genesis to Washington Irving...


The word almighty, used in connection with God, appears 57 times in the King James Version of the Bible.

Starting in the Book of Genesis, God is variously referred to as “the Almighty God,” “God Almighty” and, most often, simply as “the Almighty.”

The English idiom “the almighty dollar,” which is commonly used to mock the worship of wealth and money, does not come from the Bible.

It was coined in 1836 by the American author Washington Irving, whose best known works include the short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.”

There is an earlier, similar term. In 1616, the English playwright and poet Ben Jonson used the term “almighty gold” in his poem “Epistle to Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland.”

But the more familiar “almighty dollar” first appeared in a travel story Irving wrote about a steamboat trip he took through the Louisiana bayous.

The story, titled “The Creole Village,” was originally published in the November 12, 1836 issue of Knickerbocker Magazine.

Irving was impressed by the laid back lifestyle of the Creole people who lived in Louisiana’s bayou country and by how unconcerned they seemed (at least to him) about making or having money.

He wrote in his travel piece:

“The inhabitants, moreover, have none of that eagerness for gain and rage for improvement which keep our people continually on the move...In a word, the almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, seems to have no genuine devotees in these peculiar villages; and unless some of its missionaries penetrate there, and erect banking houses and other pious shrines, there is no knowing how long the inhabitants may remain in their present state of contented poverty.”

Near the end of the piece, Irving opined:

“As we swept away from the shore, I cast back a wistful eye upon the moss-grown roofs and ancient elms of the village, and prayed that the inhabitants might long retain their happy ignorance, their absence of all enterprise and improvement, their respect for the fiddle, and their contempt for the almighty dollar.”

I suspect this romantic vision overestimated how content the locals were to be poor.

Of course, in 1855, when “The Creole Village” was included in a collection of his stories called Wolfert’s Roost, Irving made it clear that he had meant no offense — to the almighty dollar, that is.

In a satirical footnote in that book (later included in larger Irving anthologies like The Crayon Miscellany), Irving wrote:

“This phrase [the almighty dollar], used for the first time in this sketch, has since passed into current circulation, and by some has been questioned as savoring of irreverence. The author, therefore, owes it to his orthodoxy to declare that no irreverence was intended even to the dollar itself; which he is aware is daily becoming more and more an object of worship.”

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November 10, 2014

The Top 10 Quotes about and by US Marines…


November 10th is the official birthday of the United States Marines, which were established by the Second Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War, on November 10, 1775.

So, today, I’d like to salute the US Marine Corps by listing the 10 most famous quotations about and by Marines.

1. “From the Halls of Montezuma,
       To the Shores of Tripoli;
       We fight our country's battles
       On the land as on the sea;
[changed to “In the air, on land, and sea” in 1942]
       First to fight for right and freedom
       And to keep our honor clean;
       We are proud to claim the title
       Of United States Marine.”
              Lyrics from “The Marines’ Hymn”
              Penned in the mid-1800s by an anonymous writer
              Copyrighted by the United States Marine Corps on August 19, 1891
              (All three verses and the history of the song are
posted here.)

2. “Semper Fidelis” (“Always Faithful”) 
              Official motto of the US Marine Corps 
              Adopted in 1883. (Often shortened to “Semper fi!”)            

3. “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live for ever?” 
              Attributed to Marine Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly 
              Comment to his men at the
Battle of Belleau Wood, June 1918

4. “Retreat, hell! We just got here.” 
              Attributed to Marine Captain Lloyd S. Williams 
              Reply when a French colonel ordered him to have the US 5th Marine Division retreat at Belleau Wood on June 1, 1918.

5. “The Marines have landed, and the situation is well in hand.” 
              American journalist Richard Harding Davis 
              Cablegram announcing the Marines’ 1935 landing in Panama

6. “Gung ho.” 
              Motto adopted by Marine
Lt. Col. Evans Fordyce Carlson and his “Raiders” 
              Popularized by articles about Carlson’s Raiders during World War II 
              In Chinese, the term means “work together”

7. “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
              U.S. Navy Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) 
              Communiqué sent on March 16, 1945  
              Announcing and saluting the victory of the US Marines at Iwo Jima
              Engraved on the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial
in Arlington National Cemetery

8. “We're looking for a few good men.” 
              US Marines recruiting slogan  
              Created around 1970 by adman Warren Pfaff (1929-2004) 
              Based on the 1776 poster headline: “Looking for a few good men to serve as Marines.”

9. “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.”  
              A more recent Marine recruiting slogan, adopted around 2007  
              Voted into Madison Avenue’s Advertising Walk of Fame in 2007

10. “In space, no one can hear you scream – unless it’s the battle cry of the United States Marines!”
              Marine Sgt. Major Frank Bougus (played by R. Lee Ermey
              In the debut episode of the science fiction TV series
Space: Above and Beyond (1995)

OK, that last one is not exactly a famous quote. But it’s a favorite of mine.

I’m a big fan of both the United States Marines and of Space: Above and Beyond, in which future Leathernecks fight to protect Earth from aliens.

If we ever do face a war with aliens, I expect US Marines will be there risking their lives for us on the front lines, as always.

Semper Fi!

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November 03, 2014

The bridge between the living and the dead . . .


The Bridge of San Luis Rey is the second novel by the great American writer Thornton Wilder (1897- 1975).

The first edition of the book was published by the Albert & Charles Boni company on November 3, 1927.

It’s set in Peru in the year 1714.

Early in the novel, on July 20, 1714, five people crossing an old bridge are killed when the bridge suddenly collapses.

A Franciscan monk named Brother Juniper happens to witness this tragedy. He wonders “Why did this happen to those five?” 

There must be some reason, he thinks:

If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.

Brother Juniper spends years compiling facts that might somehow answer his questions.

He talks to family members and friends of the victims, who came from various backgrounds and levels of society. He records what he learns and thinks in a series notebooks.

Ultimately, he spends six years “knocking at all the doors in Lima, asking thousands of questions,
filling scores of notebooks.”
These are collected into one huge book.

The middle chapters of the novel tell us about the lives of the five people who were killed when the bridge collapsed.

They include:

     - Doña María, a wealthy noblewoman who is estranged from her daughter Clara;

     - Pepita a young woman who was raised in an orphanage run by the Abbess Madre María del Pilar and then essentially adopted by Doña María, partly to fill the void left when Clara left Peru and went to Spain;

     - Esteban, a young man haunted by the death of his twin brother Manuel;

     - "Uncle" Pio, the former manager of the famous actress Camila Perichole, whose career ended when she was disfigured by smallpox; and,

     - Jaime, Camila’s son, who was traveling with Pio because Camila asked him to take care of the boy.

In the final part of the novel, we learn that Brother Juniper’s book was brought to the attention of Catholic Church officials and they convicted him of heresy for seeming to question or try to justify the mysterious ways of God.

They burn the book – along with Brother Juniper.

In the final pages of the novel, we learn that Camila has come to Lima to help the Abbess take care of sick people at her convent. By coincidence, Doña María’s daughter Clara has come to visit the Abbess.

Clara looks around at the desperately poor and sick people there. Then she ponders the lives of the five who died when the Bridge of San Luis Rey collapsed. She thinks:

“Even now…almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita, but myself. Camila alone remembers her Uncle Pio and her son; this woman, her mother. But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love.”

Finally, Clara comes to an oft-quoted conclusion; the famous quote that is the last line of the novel:

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

As a snotty young high school kid in the 1960s, I wasn’t really moved by The Bridge of San Luis Rey or its famous quotation.

Today, as an older and hopefully wiser married man, father and grandfather, I am.

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