Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 1
Will you. Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. This week. The fertile 20 Carl Sandburg Samuel Hoffenstein. He Cummings Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway by sharing aloud the writings of our country past and present. We can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in the contemporary world. Listen to the land is produced by station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now here is your host and narrator Richard us Burdick.
Drum on your drums about your banjos SOB on the long cool winding saxophones. Go to it. Oh jazz man. Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy tin pans. Let your trombone Susan go to shit with the slippery sandpaper moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome tree tops moan soft like you wanted somebody terrible cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle cop bang bang you jazzman bang altogether drums traps banjos horns tin cans. Make two people fight on the top of a stairway and scratch each other's eyes in the clinch tumbling down the stairs. Can the rest stuff. Now a Mississippi steamboat pushes up the night river and the Green Lanterns calling to the high soft stars. A red moon rides on the humps of the lone River Hills. Go to it Dodo jazz man.
And the voice of Carl Sandburg calls the turn on this week's theme which is Jim Peter has told you is the fertile 20s Sandburg's poem which opened this week's program was jazz Fantasia the 20s are commonly referred to as the jazz age and perhaps rightly so. But it's a foolishly inadequate title. It was a decade of hip flasks the Charleston bobbed hair cynicism coupé philosophy. Every day in every way I'm getting better and better. An age of release after the strain of the First World War and to America was undergoing new growing pains at the time. We were coming out of adolescence and a youth always a difficult period but the 20s were more than just rec room coats and hip flasks and speakeasies. They were one of the most fertile periods in American literature comparable to the New England period in the late 1800s. The manners the mores and the attitudes of a period
are reflected in its literature. And nowhere is this more true than in the literature of the 20s for the most part. It was a time of disillusionment and cynicism. The young people were as Gertrude Stein told Ernest Hemingway in Paris a generation lost. And Hemingway became the leading spokesman for that lost generation. We're going to hear from him later in the program. For the moment let us hear the voice of a poet whom we sometimes forget was a part of the teeming output of the 20s. His name Robert Frost Frost wrote in conventional forms and simple idioms plain and pastoral imagery. This is a reassuring voice from the 20s and certainly Robert Frost is a poet who is a durable part of America's literary legacy. It's all but impossible of having once read or heard. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening one can never quite forget it.
Whose woods these are I think I know his house is in the village though he will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near between the woods and frozen lake the darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake. The only other sounds the sweep of easy wind and Donny flee the woods are lovely dark and deep But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep And miles to go before I sleep. Although Robert Frost was and is a conventional poet and Carl Sandburg an unconventional one Sunbury being a veritable medicine man of poetry in that era it was a writer of light verse who
keenly reflected the irreverent cynical character of the twenties and his name was Samuel Hoffenstein and among the best known of Hoffman's Dean's poems of that period where those entitled poems in praise of practically nothing. Do you buy some flowers for your table. You turn them tenderly as you are able. You fetch them water from hither thither what thanks do you get for it all. They wither. Rising what thanks do you get for it all in a fright as pneumonia appendicitis renal calculus and gastritis together. You say a lot of the comparative stars of bombers you roast the comparative roses pullover you throw the ball you'll never throw or what thanks do you
get that very first who says who tips is met with him she vamoosed says. You buy yourself a new suit of clothes the care you give it. Heaven only knows the material of course is the very best yet you get a depressed price breast yet you keep it free from specks so tiny thanks to you get the plants get ready. You practice every possible virtue. You're not a soul. While others hurt you you fetch and carry like a market basket what thanks do you get for me. Don't ask it. You start to get ready to get dressed get dressed you feel unsteady. Hours go by and you're still busy putting on clothes. You quit.
You go out make a little button you don't what thanks do you get. Well for all this messy act when night comes around you've got the wondrous. Poems in praise of practically nothing. Samuel Hoffenstein also wrote a love song. The honey of the hill of bees is not so sweet as kissing you know Autumn Wind in dying trees. So wistful is I was missing you and when you are not mine to kiss my every thought is haunting you. And when your mouth is mine I miss the wistfulness of wanting you. When it comes to unconventionality of which the Twenties of course of bounded
attention must be paid to the work of each. Cummings the son of a Harvard English professor later pastor of the Old South Church in Boston. Cummings was and is a lyrical exhibitionist. His poems are written in lower case and so he signs his name. The words are divided to form separate lines in one poem one complete line contains nothing but a comma. And yet Cummings frequently has much to say although infrequently very penetrating. An example of his technique at its very best is this poem entitled next to of course God which unmercifully whittles a patriotic orator down to size. Next time of course God America I love you we're land of the pilgrims and so forth Oh say can you see by the dawn's early my country tunes of centuries comes and
go and are no more what of it. We should worry in every language even even dumb by sons acclaim your glorious name by Garrie By jingo by G by God. By gum. Why talk of beauty. What could be more beautiful than these hair like happy dad who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter. They did not stop to think. They died instead. Then fell the Voices of Liberty mute. He spoke and drank rapidly a glass of water. No program claiming to represent the writings of the 20s could even begin to justify itself without including something from the works of Ernest Hemingway Hemingway a Midwesterner became an expatriate in France following World War 1. And they're writing the truth as he sought developing a style that is probably the most copied of that of any other American writer. Hemingway as
we mentioned earlier became the spokesman for the lost generation. He had his teachers sure what Anderson taught him something about simplicity. Gertrude Stein talked to him about sentences as repond cut out of adjectives out of the manuscripts. I mean we sent to him and LB cut out the cold fact the emotional slither the upholstered words. It's a style that's deceptive because of its simplicity it appears so easy. The straight declarative sentences spareness of adjectives and adverbs the curt dialogue the flexible swinging cadences of the linked sentences. In the autumn of 1929 having ways novel A Farewell to Arms was published full of the melancholy disenchantment the twenties bore so happily almost like a flag. The story of the English nurse Catherine Barclay and the American Lieutenant Frederick Henry who
volunteered to drive an ambulance with the Italian medical corps before America entered the war became a bestseller. It was made into a movie starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. I think the first picture that Helen Hayes made it's a rare kind of Hemingway A Farewell to Arms tough brutal realistic uncompromising as always and yet warm even Son of metal at times and melancholy. The key word rather than bitterness. The final pages of A Farewell to Arms are among the most beautifully simple in American literature. Catherine Barclay and Lieutenant Henry have been lovers deeply desperately in love. They managed to have some time together stolen from battle and lived for a time in laws on which they chose because of the hospital there where Catherine was to have a child. Catherine was not well it was dangerous for her to have the child and when she went into labor. Frederick took her to the hospital where she frequently inhaled
gas at first in order to converse with him. And now in this scene near the end of the novel Frederick has returned to the hospital after a lapse of several hours just in time to witness the birth of his child a boy by means of his Aryan section. His main concern however is for Catherine. I thought Catherine was dead. She looked dead. Her face was gray. The part of it that I could see down below under the light. The doctor was sewing up the great long forceps spread thick edged wound. Another doctor in a mask gave the anesthetic to nurses and masks handed things. It looked like a drawing of the Inquisition. I know as I watched I could have watched it all but I was glad I hadn't. I do not think I could have watched them cut. But I watched the wound closed into a high welded ridge with quick skilful looking stitches like a cobbler's and was glad when the
wound was close I went into the hall and walked up and down again. After a while the doctor came out. I asked him I was sure he is alright. Did you watch. He looked tired. I saw you sew up the incision looked very long. You thought so. Yes well that scar flatten out. Oh yes. After a while they brought out the wheeled stretcher and took it very rapidly down the hallway to the elevator. I went along beside it. Katherine was moaning downstairs they put her in the bed in her room. I sat in a chair at the foot of the bed. It was a nurse in the room. I got up and stood by the bed. It was dark in the room. Catherine put out her hand. Hello darling she said and her voice was very weak and tired. Oh you sweet. What sort of baby was it. Don't talk. The nurse said. I said a
boy. He's long and wide and dark. Is he all right. Yes I said. He's fine. I saw the nurse look at me strangely. I'm awfully tired Katherine said. And I hurt like hell. Are you alright Dolly. Oh I'm fine. Don't talk. You were lovely to me. Darling her dreadfully. What does he look like. It looks like a skin rabbit with a puckered up old man's face. You must go out. The nurse said Madame Henri must not talk. All right. I'll be outside. Yes go and get something to eat Dolly. No I'll be outside. I kissed Catherine.
She was very gray and weak and tired. When I speak to you I said to the nurse. She came out in the hall and I walked a little way down the hall. What's the matter with the baby I asked. Didn't you know he wasn't alive. Dead. Yes they couldn't start him breathing. The cord was caught around his neck or something. Oh he's dead. Yes and it's such a shame. He was such a fine big boy. I thought you knew now. You better go back in with a dime. I sat down in the chair in front of a table where there were nurses reports hung on clips on the side looked out of the window I
could see nothing but the dark and the rain falling across the light from the window. So that was that the baby was dead. That was why the doctor looks so tired. But why they acted the way they did in the room with him. I supposed he would come around and start breathing probably. But what if he never breathed at all. He had never been alive except in Catherine. I felt him kick there often enough but I hadn't for a week and he was choked all the time. Poor little kid. I wished I'd been chilled like that noted. Still I would not be all that dying to go through. Now Katherine would die. That was what you did you died. You did not know what it was about you never had time to learn they threw you one and told you the rules the first time they caught you off base they killed you. Need to count on that. Stay around they'd kill you.
Once in camp I put a lock on top of the fire and was full of ants as a commenced to burn the ants swarmed out and went first toward the center where the fire was then turned back and ran toward the end. And when there were enough on the end they fell off into the fire. Some got out their bodies burnt and flattened and went off not knowing where they were going. But most of them went toward the fire and then back toward the end and swarmed on the cool end and finally fell off into the fire. I remember thinking at the time that it was the end of the world and a splendid chance to be a messiah and lift the log off the fire and throw it out with the ants could get off on the ground. But I did not do anything but throw a tin cup of water on the log so that I would have the cup empty to put whiskey in before I added water to it. I think the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants. So now I sat out in the hall and waited to hear all Catherine was the nurse did not come out so after a while I went to the door and opened it very softly and looked in. I could not see at first because it was a
bright light in the hall it was dark in the room and I saw the nurse sitting by the bed and Catherine's head on a pillow and she all flat under the sheet. The nurse put her finger to her lips then stood up and came to the door. I was she asked. She's all right wingers. You should go and have your supper and then come back if you wish. I went down the hall and down the stairs and out the door of the hospital and down the dark street in the rain to the cafe. It was brightly lighted inside and there were many people at the tables. I did not see a place to sit and a waiter came up to me and took my what coat and hat and showed me a place of the table across from an elderly man who was drinking beer and reading the evening paper. I sat down and asked the waiter what the block as euro was a veal stew. But it is finished. What can I have to eat. I'm an egg's eggs with Jesus. Or should I do.
And I had shit group doing this noon I said you know it is too much and I just to you it is you who do listen. And he was a middle aged man with a bald top on his head his hair slicked over yet a kind face. What do you want me. I'm an exit eggs with cheese. How many eggs I said and bear it any longer. Yeah I ate the ham and eggs and drank the beer and ham and eggs went around dish the ham underneath and the eggs on top it was very hot. At the first mouthful I had to take a drink of beer to cool my mouth I was hungry and I asked the waiter for another order. I drank several glasses of beer. I was not thinking at all but read the paper of the man opposite me. It was about the breakthrough on the British front when he realised I was reading the back of his paper and folded it over. I thought of asking the waiter for a paper but I cannot concentrate. It was hot in the cafe and the air was
bad. Many of the people at the tables knew one another. There were several card games going on. The waiters were busy bringing drinks from the bar to the tables. Two men came in and could find no place to sit. They stood opposite the table where I was. I ordered another beer. I was not yet ready to leave. It was too soon to go back to the hospital. I tried not to think to be perfectly calm and then stood around but no one was leaving so they went out. I drank another beer. It was quite a pile of saucers on non a table in front of me the man opposite me had taken off his spectacles put them away in a case folded his paper put it in his pocket and now sat holding his liqueur glass and looking out of the room. Suddenly I knew I had to get back. I called the waiter paid the reckoning got into my coat put on my hat started out the door. I walked through the rain up to the hospital. Upstairs I met the nurse coming down the hall. I just called you at the hotel she
said. Something dropped inside me. What's wrong. Mrs. Henry I was had a hemorrhage. Can I go on. No not yet. The doctor is with you is it is it dangerous it is very dangerous. The nurse went into the room and shut the door. I sat outside in the hall. Everything was gone inside of me I did not think I could not think I knew she was going to die and I prayed that she would not. Don't let her die. Oh God please don't let her die. I'll do anything for you if you want or die please please please dear God don't let her die. You've got to die. Please please please don't die. God please make her not die I'll do anything you say if you don't want to die you took the baby but don't let her die. That was our life. But don't let her die. Please please please dear God don't let the
nurse open the door and motion with her finger. I'm going to come. I followed her into the room. Catherine to not look up when I came in. I went over the side of the bed. The doctor was standing by the bed on the opposite side. Katherine looked at me and smiled and I bent down and started to cry. Poor darling Catherine said very softly. She looked great. Here are your IQ at. It's going to be alright. I'm going to die she said and waited and said I hate it. I took her hand. Don't touch me she said. I let go of her hand. She smiled. Poor Dolly. You touch me all you want. You'll be alright cat. I know you'll be alright she said. I'm going to write you a letter to have if anything happened.
But I didn't do it. Well do you want to get a priest or anyone to come and see you. Just you. Then a little later I'm not afraid. I just hate it. You must not talk so much. The doctors are right. Yes inside the cat. Do you want to do anything. Yeah. Can I get you anything. She smiled. No. You won't do our things with another girl like say the same things we never. I want you to have girls though I don't want them. You are talking too much. The doctor said Mr. Hundley you must go. You can come back again
later. You are not going to die. You must not be silly. Get inside. I'll come and stay with you nights she said. I thought it was very hard for her to talk. Please go out of the room the doctor said you cannot talk. Catherine winked at me her face gray. I'll be right outside I said. Don't worry darling that I'm not a bit afraid. Just it's just a turkey trick. I waited outside in the hall I waited a long time. The nurse came to the door and came over to me. I'm afraid Mrs. Henry is very ill. I'm afraid for is she dead. No. But she is unconscious. It seems she'd had one hemorrhage after another and they couldn't stop it. I went into the room and
stayed with Catherine until she died. She was unconscious all the time and it did not take a very long to die outside the room and the hall I spoke to the doctor. Is there anything I can do tonight. No there is nothing you can do. Again I take you to your hotel. No thank you. I don't stay here for a while. As your hand read. I know there is nothing to say. I cannot tell you now. That's why there's nothing to say goodnight. I I cannot take you to your hotel. No thank you. It was the only thing to do he said. The operation proved I do not want to talk about it I said.
I would like to take you to Yahoo now. Oh thank you. He went down the hall I went to the door of the room. You can't come in No One of the nurses said yes I can. I said you can't come in yet. You get out. And I said the other one too. But after I got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn't any good. It was like saying goodbye to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. And so in company with some stalwart but involuntary historians we have listened to the land as it echoes from the fertile 20s during the past 30 minutes we have heard from Carl Sandburg Robert Frost Samuel Hoffenstein the Cummings and Ernest
- Listen to the land
- The fertile Twenties, part 1
- Producing Organization
- WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the first of two parts, focuses on the exceptional American writings of the 1920s.
- Series Description
- America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
- Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Voegeli, Don
Writer: Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967
Writer: Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962
Writer: Frost, Robert, 1874-1963
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 1,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 5, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dv1cpt5c.
- MLA: “Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 1.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 5, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dv1cpt5c>.
- APA: Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dv1cpt5c