Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 1
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 as 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 S. Burdick. Drum on your drums batter 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 moon 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 cam the arrest stuff. Now a Mississippi steamboat pushes up the night river with a way 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. In the voice of Carl Sandburg calls the turn on this week's theme
which is Jim Keeler 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 Bob hair cynicism and the 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 knew growing pains at the time we were coming out of adolescence and the 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 were those the untitled poems in praise of practically nothing. You buy some flowers for your table you tend them tenderly as you are able. You fetch them water from hither thither what thanks do you get for it all. They wither. Only the most you Lavan late early rising what thanks do you get for it all in a fright as pneumonia appendicitis renal calculus and gastritis you get a girl and you say a lot of impact on the comparative stars of bombers you roast the comparative roses pullover you throw the ball but you'll never throw or what thanks do you get the very first who says who tips is met with him she them who 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 pressed yet you keep it free from specks so tiny what thanks do you get. The plants get. Practice possible virtue. 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. To get ready to feel unsteady. You're still busy putting on clothes. You go out make a little button you don't what thanks do you get well
for all this mess yet when night comes around you've got to undress yet. Poems in praise of practically nothing. As 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 as 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 abound and attention must be paid to the work of each.
Cummings. The son of a Harvard in this 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 I'm mercifully whittles a patriotic orator down to size. Next story of course God America I love you we're land of the pilgrims and so forth all say can you see by the dawn's early My Country Tis of centuries comes and go and are no more what of it. We should worry in every language even even
down by Suns or claim your glorious name by Garrie By jingo by gee by gosh by gum. Why talk of beauty. What could be more beautiful than these hair like be dyed rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter. They did not stop to think they died instead. Then fell the Voices of Liberty be 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 sentimental 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 when she was 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 in the high a 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. I love Eileen she said 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. Oh Don I hurt dreadfully. What does he look like. It looks like a skinned rabbit with a puckered up old man's face. You must go out there said Madame Henri must not talk. All right. I'll be outside. Yes go and get something to eat Dolly. I'll be outside. I kissed Catherine she was very gray and weak in tired when I speak
to you I said to the nurse. She came out in the hall and then 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. So he's dead. Yes and it's such a shame he was such a fine big boy. I thought you knew. Now you know 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 in the rain falling across the light from the window. So that was that
the baby was dead. That was why the doctor looks a 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. What a kid I wish I'd been chilled like that night and 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 in and told you the rules the first time they caught you off base they killed you. You could 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 and then finally fell off into the fire. I remember thinking at the time that it was the end of the world in 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. NURSE 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 wet 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 is 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 add shit group. There's noone I said you know that is too
honest. You it is YOU who is known. And it was a middle aged man with a bald top on his head his hair slicked over he had a kind face what do you want mature. I'm an exile rigs with GS salmon eggs I said and bear it any longer. Yeah I ate the ham and eggs and drank the beer. The ham and eggs went around dish the ham underneath the eggs on top. It was very hot but 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 he 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 Nonna 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 liquor 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 in. No not yet. The doctor is with you. Is it is a 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 hide. 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 right. But don't let her die. Please please please God only. Nurse opened the door and motioned with her finger. I mean it 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. Catherine looked at me and smiled and I bent down and started to cry. Poor darling Catherine said very softly. She looked great. You're all right Jack. You're 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. 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. Oh well do you want me 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 doctor said all right get inside cat. Do you want to do anything. Can I get you anything. She smiled. You won't do our things with another girl. 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. Hanley you must go. He can come back again later. You are not going to die.
You must not be silly. I'll get inside I'll come and stay with you nights. She said it was very hard for talk. Please go out of the room. The doctor said you cannot talk. Katherine 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 this is one he is very ill I'm afraid. Is she dead. No but she is unconscious. It seems she'd had one hemorrhage after another and they couldn't stop. I went into the room and stayed with Catherine until she died.
She was unconscious all the time and it did not take it very long to die. Outside the room in 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. Is your Henry. I know there is nothing to say. I cannot tell you why there's nothing to say. Good night. I can I think you deal with them now 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 your home now. No 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. 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 and the past 30 minutes we have heard from
Carl Sandburg Robert Frost Samuel Hoffenstein Cummings and Ernest Hemingway. Next week in part two of this two part program of writings of the 20s will spend some pleasurable moments with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ring Lardner Dorothy Parker TS Eliot's and Sinclair Lois naturally these two programs cannot be comprehensive of the fertile decade of writing a comprise the 20s. But an attempt has been made to be at least representational. I hope you plan to be with me again next week as once more we listen to the line. Until then so long. Yeah I'm young. Listen to the land was produced and recorded at station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is James Keeler inviting you to be with us next week for part two of the fertile 20s with your host and the writer Richard S. Burdick on listen to the land. This is the n
AB Radio Network.
- 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 December 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kw57jf31.
- 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. December 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kw57jf31>.
- 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-kw57jf31