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GAY WISDOM for Daily Living…

from White Crane a magazine exploring
Gay wisdom & culture

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1826 STEPHEN FOSTER, American composer, born (d: 1864); Like Yankee Doodle, the composer Stephen Foster was born on the Fourth of July. His list of sentimental down-home hits—”Oh Susanna,” “Old Folks At Home,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” Jeannie with The Light Brown Hair,” and “Old Black Joe”—make the jingoistic George M. Cohan appear strident and un-American by comparison. Flag-waving or no, what made fireworks go off for this star-spangled tunesmith was another composer – George Cooper, a handsome young man who is best known today for his “Sweet Genevieve,” a song perhaps best sung as a barbershop quartet, when drunk. So taken was Foster with sweet George Cooper that he abandoned his wife and family to run away with him. So, as you put out the bunting to celebrate the glorious Fourth, think of Stephen Foster, grand old American composer, “gwine to Lusiana” with George Cooper, not a banjo, on his knee.


1855 – On this day in 1855, WALT WHITMAN published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The first edition consisted of 12 poems, and was published anonymously; Whitman set much of the type himself, and paid for its printing. Over his lifetime, he published eight more editions, adding poems each time; there were 122 new poems in the third edition alone (1860-61), and the final “death-bed edition,” published in 1891, contained almost 400. The first edition received several glowing — and anonymous — reviews in New York newspapers. Most of them were written by Whitman himself. The praise was unstinting: “An American bard at last!” One legitimate mention by popular columnist Fanny Fern called the collection daring and fresh. Emerson felt it was “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed.” This wasn’t a universal opinion, however; many called it filth, and poet John Greenleaf Whittier threw his copy into the fire.


1965ECHO (East Coast Homophile Organizations) protestors picket Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Independence Day




The 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass contained a preface, which was left out of subsequent editions, and in it he wrote:

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”



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