POETS Day! Kit Marlowe v Sir Walter Ralegh

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

“After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank thea, under the shade of some apple trees…he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself…”
– Sir William Stukeley, 
Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, 1752

And that is how Isaac Newton invented gravity. I had a similar revelation regarding POETS Day this morning. It wasn’t an apple that ushered in my Eureka moment. It wasn’t even a fruit. It was Spectrum, my internet provider, coincidently named after another of Newton’s inventions: the rainbow. Spectrum was at my house at the appointed time, and it was a specific time. They said they’d be there at twelve noon and there they were, practically shadowless. This is a freakish turn to those who are now, or may have earlier been, a customer of another national provider whose attempts to meet a four hour window for troubleshooting or repairing connectivity are aspirational at best. I won’t mention that particular company by name because I don’t want to attack them directly or bring any attention to them at all for that matter, but they definitely need to adopt a better attitude towards customer relations. Anyway, I realized that occasionally we should reach beyond the POETS Day mantra of Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Let’s skip the whole day and blame it on the internet company. You think poetry speaks to a shared humanity? Bring up tech support phone trees in a room full of strangers and witness communion. Tell your boss and co-workers that the cable people – that’s what I still call them because I’m an old – say they’re coming in the morning. Put on your doubtful face and say “They told me nine, but…” You’re out with just the one fib. No trespassing the delicate pieties of society. No trampling of norms. You’re free. Beer with lunch, flirting with strangers, naps, baseball. It’s all yours for the taking. Remember to read a little verse for edification.


Christopher “Kit” Marlowe set the Elizabethan theater world on fire by not rhyming. His disdain of “jygging vaines of riming mother wits” gave us the blank verse plays Tamburlaine the Great and The Tragical History of the Life of Doctor Faustus, most notable for the immortal-to-date line, “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships..?” When he was denied his masters from Cambridge in 1587 for gross absenteeism, Archbishop Whitgift, Lord Burghley, and Sir Christopher Hatton signed a letter on his behalf. It read:

“Whereas it was reported that Christopher Morley was determined to have gone beyond the seas to Reames and there to remaine, Their Lordships thought good to certefie that he had no such intent, but that in all his accions he had behaved him selfe orderlie and discreetlie wherebie he had done her Majestie good service, & deserved to be rewarded for his faithfull dealinge.”

That the three signees were all members of Queen Elizabeth’s privy council no doubt carried tremendous weight, but the heft of the letter is carried by the six letters probably – they sided with C.S. Lewis on orthograffi back then – not misspelling Reames, as Rhiems was the site of a Jesuit plot against the Queen that was foiled in 1586, the time of Marlowe’s absences, by undercover agents deployed by M’s Renaissance predecessor, Sir Francis Walsingham. Cambridge awarded him the degree.

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