NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 28, 2013

A time to dream, a time to awake

Ever notice that our most cherished documents begin with elements of time?

In the beginning …

When in the course of human events …

These are times that try men’s souls …

Fourscore and seven years ago …

One of literature’s two most quoted opening lines, “Call me Ishmael,” casts the narrator of Moby Dick as an orphan out of Genesis musing over “a dark, drizzly November of my soul.”

The other unites even as it divides “A Tale of Two Cities” into “the best of times” and “the worst of times.”

Children’s stories begin with “Once upon a time,” prayers with “Now I lay me down … “

Every Saturday evening, “The News from Lake Wobegone,” that “little town that time forgot” on America’s prairie, always begins with “a quiet week.”

Time cannot forget Aug. 28, 1963, in America’s then-vibrant, now-static capital when — after citing “history” twice to thank those standing with him — Martin Luther King opened his “Dream Today” at the Lincoln Memorial with “Five score years ago.”

Earlier that year, James Baldwin invoked Noah’s Ark with a scorching look at race relations in America titled “The Fire Next Time” — a warning echoed with “fierce urgency” in King’s Dream.

Five years later King had seen the mountaintop and Baldwin fled to Paris, leaving the Chambers Brothers to belt out “Time Has Come Today” with relentless tempo on, of all things, “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

In retrospect, the “British Invasion” was really the British Diversion: The Rolling Stones wavered between “Time is on my side” and “What a drag it is getting old,” while The Beatles’ “When I’m 64” was oblivious to The Who’s “Hope I die before I get old.”

For American diversion, our parents turned their longing ears to Frank Sinatra for “A Very Good Year,” but Old Blue Eyes just up and flailed away: “Riding high in April, shot down in May.”

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