February 6, 2018 – Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays & Other Literary History
Today is Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. It’s the birthday of singer/songwriter Bob Marley, playwright Christopher Marlowe, and writer Lothar-Günther Buchheim. Also on this day in 1952 Princess Elizabeth became Queen of England. Emma Lazarus’ “Work” is our poem for today. Thank you for reading, listening to, and sharing Bidwell Hollow.
Today is the birthday of the United States’ third Vice President, Aaron Burr. Burr was born in Newark, NJ in 1756.
Burr served in the Revolutionary War and the U.S. Senate. He then ran as Thomas Jefferson’s Vice Presidential Candidate in the election of 1796. By this time, Burr had developed a political rivalry with U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton opposed Burr’s candidacy. At that time, the two candidates receiving the most electoral votes became President and Vice President. Burr came in fifth, with John Adams and Jefferson winning as President and Vice President.
Burr succeeded in getting elected Vice President in 1800, but his feud with Hamilton escalated. Finally, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. And, on the morning of July 11, 1804, near Weehawken, NJ, Burr shot and killed Hamilton.
The states of New York and New Jersey filed murder charges against Burr. But Burr served out his term as Vice President. He was never prosecuted for Hamilton’s death.
In his later years, Burr attempted to set up a new country in Louisiana Territory and, when that didn’t work out, in Spanish America. That plan, too, didn’t materialize and Burr was tried for treason.
He was acquitted, but the public had turned against him. He lived in self-imposed exile for a time in England before living out the rest of his days in New York.
Burr has more recently come to attention through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, “Hamilton.” In 2016 the actor who played Burr in the production, Leslie Odom Jr., won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.
Today is also the birthday of singer/songwriter Bob Marley (affiliate link), born in 1946 in Nine Miles, Jamaica.
Marley’s career started when he formed the vocal group the Wailers in 1963. By the late 1960s, Marley had joined the religious sect Rastafarianism. The rest of the Wailers followed suit, and the belief system influenced their music.
Throughout the 1970s Marley’s music gained attention outside of Jamaica. He helped introduce reggae to the Western world. He also became one of the first rock stars to come from a developing country.
Many of the songs Marley wrote featured protest lyrics set to melodic, looping rhythms. His songwriting credits include “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Get Up Stand Up.”
Marley began his first U.S. tour in 1980. But after collapsing while jogging in New York City, he was diagnosed with cancer.
Bob Marley died eight months later at 36 years old. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Also born today, in Weimar, Germany in 1918, was Lothar-Günther Buchheim (affiliate link). He’s best known for his book, “Das Boot” (1973). It’s an autobiographical novel about a patrol he did on a German submarine, U-96, during World War II.
Buchheim was a propaganda writer for Nazi Germany. He volunteered in 1940 to join the crew of U-96 as it patrolled the North Atlantic. Buchheim’s job was to write about the experience and pair his writing with photographs.
Thirty years after riding in U-96, Buchheim mined the experience for “Das Boot.” The story follows the crew of a German submarine as they seek out British supply ships to sink while avoiding being sunk themselves. The book became a bestseller.
A film based on the novel, “Das Boot,” came out in 1981. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the movie received six Oscar nominations. And it appears on many lists of the best World War II movies of all time.
Elizabeth Becomes Queen
Today in 1952 Princess Elizabeth Alexandra May became Elizabeth, Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom and Other Commonwealth Realms.
Elizabeth’s father, King George VI died of lung cancer while Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were in Kenya. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the next day that Elizabeth learned of her father’s passing, and that she was now Queen of England.
The queen and Philip returned to London, where Prime Minister Winston Churchill greeted them at the airport.
Elizabeth’s reign now enters its 66th year, the longest ever reign for a British monarch.
It’s also the birthday of playwright Christopher Marlowe (affiliate link).
Marlowe was born in 1564 in Canterbury, England. He was in London, writing for the theater, by 1587.
Marlowe made a name for himself with Tamburlaine the Great. It’s a play based on the 14th-century central-Asian conqueror Timur. Written with one part, the play proved popular enough that Marlowe wrote the second part as a sequel.
Today Marlowe’s appreciated for establishing blank verse as a standard form of poetry. Blank verse is non-rhyming verse often written in iambic pentameter.
Marlowe was long rumored as a collaborator with William Shakespeare. And, for the first time, the 2016 New Oxford Shakespeare Edition gave Marlowe co-writing credit on Shakespeare’s three “Henry VI” plays, parts 1, 2, and 3.
Yet life is not a vision nor a prayer,
But stubborn work; she may not shun her task.
After the first compassion, none will spare
Her portion and her work achieved, to ask.
She pleads for respite,—she will come ere long
When, resting by the roadside, she is strong.
Nay, for the hurrying throng of passers-by
Will crush her with their onward-rolling stream.
Much must be done before the brief light die;
She may not loiter, rapt in the vain dream.
With unused trembling hands, and faltering feet,
She staggers forth, her lot assigned to meet.
But when she fills her days with duties done,
Strange vigor comes, she is restored to health.
New aims, new interests rise with each new sun,
And life still holds for her unbounded wealth.
All that seemed hard and toilsome now proves small,
And naught may daunt her,—she hath strength for all.
– Emma Lazarus, Public Domain