It’s Wednesday, December 28, 2016: just two days before the end of Koynezaa—the holiday celebrating a Jewish boy with the initials JC born at the end of the year. It’s also National Candy Day, which I’ve already celebrated with a piece of chocolate. Indulge: there must be lots of goodies left over from Christmas! Finally, it’s the third day of Kwanzaa, another weeklong holiday.
On this day in 1836, Spain signed a treaty recognizing the independence of Mexico. And in 1879, the Great Tay Bridge Disaster took place, in which a Scottish bridge collapsed (after a storm) when a train was crossing it, killing everyone aboard: about 75 people. The event was memorialized by perhaps the worst published poet in history, William McGonagall (another Scot, 1825-1902), whose great epic, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” ends with these stirring lines:
It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
If you have a chance, read some of McGonagall’s other poems. To my mind, his only close rival in poetic badness was the American writer Julia A. Moore, whose masterpiece, “Little Libbie,” never fails to bring me to tears of mirth in its last four stanzas. On this day in 1895, the commercial cinema made its debut when The Lumière brothers showed a film in Paris to a paying audience. And, in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
Notables born on this day include Woodrow Wilson (1856), Arthur Eddington (1882), John von Neumann (1903), Stan Lee (1922), Kary Mullis (1944), and Denzel Washington (1954). Those who died on this day include Maurice Ravel (1937), Sam Peckinpah (1984), Clayton Moore (“The Lone Ranger’; 1999), and Susan Sontag (2004). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the beasts are being visited by Marta, the daughter of Elzbieta (and stepfather The Other Andrzej), who are in turn the staff of Leon. Hili and Cyrus vie for Marta’s attention:
Hili: Pushing your head for patting when I’m being patted is illegal.Cyrus: Kiss my nose.
Hili: Podsuwanie twojego łba, kiedy ja jestem głaskana jest nielegalne.
Cyrus: Pocałuj psa w nos.