Happy birthday to William S. Burroughs (February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997), writer, painter, spoken word performer, and all-around weirdo.
Spent some time last week in Jackson at the Cathead Distillery (the only one in the state since Prohibition) helping to promote The Mississippi Encyclopedia, a 1,600-page scholarly reference work compiled over the past six years by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss and published by the University of Mississippi Press.
Of the 1,400 entries, I managed to contribute a few on military history subjects. The signing at Cathead was hard work, broken up by excellent beer and spirits, but it was an honor to converse and share space with some 30 other contributors including some of the best authors in the South– present company excluded.
I also got to watch a Mississippi Braves game from afar and see what 375 oak barrels of aging bourbon looks like, which is always a treat.
In other news, as the summer progresses, the hibiscus plants and cherry tomato bushes in the garden are working overtime.
Nonetheless, bring on winter. It’s friggin hot.
On this day in 1939, William Butler Yeats breathed his last breath. His last words, while living in France were, “If I die bury me up there [at Roquebrune cemetery] and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in [County] Sligo.”
Well, the War broke out and they had to put off the re-interment a while, but in Sept. 1948 the Flower-class corvette LÉ Macha (01) of the Irish Navy escorted the poet’s remains from France to Drumcliffe, County Sligo, for reburial, taken aboard after a funeral march from Nice to the ship with band, trumpeters and military honors from a company of French Chasseurs Alpins troops.
As a tribute, my favorite work of the great Irishman.
Sailing to Byzantium
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
Also, the 295-foot Samuel Beckett-class offshore patrol vessel LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63), is the newest addition to the Irish Naval Service, who treasure a tradition of naming their warships after poets.
I remember watching Twilight Zone and Night Gallery reruns as a kid and thinking to myself of host Rod Serling, as he quietly smoked his cigarette in his MIB style suit, thin tie peaking out of his jacket like an exclamation point, “This guy is the very embodiment of self-confidence.”
Courtesy of Blank on Blank, here is a 1963 interview with the master as he dishes on good science fiction, Kamikazes, leaping out of a C-47 in WWII, and the inevitability of growing older and finding the road behind you slowing being erased.