Today is Friday, March 23, 2018. It’s the birthday of New Zealand writer Frank Sargeson. It’s also the birthday of poet Gary Whitehead. And on this date in 1743, Handel’s “Messiah” made its London premiere. We appreciate your ongoing support and reading of Bidwell Hollow. Let us know if you have a suggestion for how we can improve. Happy Friday.
After reading Sherwood Anderson, Frank Sargeson (affiliate link) knew what he wanted to do.
Sargeson wanted to use New Zealand English in his writing, the way that Sherwood used American dialect in his. The result made Sargeson one of the most well-known New Zealand writers.
He wrote short stories, with his first collection, “Conversations with My Uncle, and Other Sketches,” publishing in 1936. A second volume of stories followed in 1940. Then a novella in 1946 that Sargeson expanded into a novel three years later, titled “I Saw in My Dream.”
Sargeson published work into the 1980s.
Along with writing, Sargeson focused on helping New Zealand literature establish its roots. He felt New Zealand’s written works needed to divorce from the country’s colonial past.
To that end, Sargeson nurtured younger New Zealand writers. And today a fellowship in Sargeson’s honor provides financial support for New Zealand writers.
The Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship started in 1987, five years after Frank Sargeson passed away.
“Messiah” premieres in London
On this date in 1743, George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” (affiliate link) made its London debut. The premiere took place at what’s now called the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
The first performance of the oratorio occurred the previous year in Dublin. By then, Handel and his work were already well known. Seven hundred people packed into Dublin’s Musick Hall to hear “Messiah.”
The composition is in three parts. It follows the life of Christ from birth to resurrection. The famous “Hallelujah Chorus” is at the end of the second part.
King George II attended “Messiah’s” London premiere. He reportedly stood during the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Thus beginning a tradition that continues still today.
Except now Handel’s “Messiah” is more often performed around Christmas than Easter, the holiday for which Handel composed the piece.
It’s the birthday of poet Gary Whitehead (affiliate link). He was born in Pawtucket, RI, in 1965.
Whitehead’s the creator of three poetry collections, including 2013’s “A Glossary of Chickens.” His poems have also appeared in The New Yorker.
Whitehead’s received several awards, including two Galway Kinnell Poetry Prizes.
Along with writing poetry, Whitehead creates crosswords. Newspapers such as The New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times have published his crosswords.
He was a boy when first we met;
His eyes were mixed of dew and fire,
And on his candid brow was set
The sweetness of a chaste desire:
But in his veins the pulses beat
Of passion, waiting for its wing,
As ardent veins of summer heat
Throb through the innocence of spring.
As manhood came, his stature grew,
And fiercer burned his restless eyes,
Until I trembled, as he drew
From wedded hearts their young disguise.
Like wind-fed flame his ardor rose,
And brought, like flame, a stormy rain:
In tumult, sweeter than repose,
He tossed the souls of joy and pain.
So many years of absence change!
I knew him not when he returned:
His step was slow, his brow was strange,
His quiet eye no longer burned.
When at my heart I heard his knock,
No voice within his right confessed:
I could not venture to unlock
Its chambers to an alien guest.
Then, at the threshold, spent and worn
With fruitless travel, down he lay:
And I beheld the gleams of morn
On his reviving beauty play.
I knelt, and kissed his holy lips,
I washed his feet with pious care;
And from my life the long eclipse
Drew off; and left his sunshine there.
He burns no more with youthful fire;
He melts no more in foolish tears;
Serene and sweet, his eyes inspire
The steady faith of balanced years.
His folded wings no longer thrill,
But in some peaceful flight of prayer:
He nestles in my heart so still,
I scarcely feel his presence there.
O Love, that stern probation o’er,
Thy calmer blessing is secure!
Thy beauteous feet shall stray no more,
Thy peace and patience shall endure!
The lightest wind deflowers the rose,
The rainbow with the sun departs,
But thou art centred in repose,
And rooted in my heart of hearts!
– Bayard Taylor (1825-1878), Public Domain