Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Sep 26, 2010

Part-I: A Nobel-winning Playwright , devastetd family and his Extremely Distinguished Dog


We know how much love a pet can give to the family. Be it a cat, a parrot or a dog, there is a great emotional attachment. In case of dog, there is so much interaction in the family that when the time comes for the dog to move to the heavenly abode, the master’s family is invariably shattered. This feeling of devastated family can be best understood by another pet lover only.
Some scientists believe that the earliest wild dog originated in North America fifteen to thirty-five million years ago, long before any men lived there. No one really knows which animals were the ancestors of this first dog in the world. They think that he probably had a wolf father and a jackal mother. And the descendants of this puppy were the very first wild animals that primitive man ever tamed.
As long ago as 1500 B.C., when Man began to write down his history, he recorded in so many words and pictures  about his dog. In Ethiopia, people in the past had actually elected him their King. talking of Egypt, about a thousand years later, the Egyptians made the dog one of their gods!
"All through the history, and even in the Bible, the dog is mentioned as man's hunter, shepherd or  watchdog. And also the dog has been his best friend. Whether he is hale & hearty, sick, blind, depressed, stressed, injured, handicapped, at home or on the beach, lost or in place, living in mansion or footpath. His dog will be always with him. So nice that dog comes in all shapes and sizes, ugliest to the most chic, highly portable by a frail lady and also large enough to be rode by a young child.
Pictures of the dog appear in the tombs of the ancient  Egypt, in the ruins of Pompeii, in the tapestries of medieval France and England, on the pottery of American Indians." 

This touching incident revolves around two characters : A famous man and his wonderful dog. He had dramatically poor relationships with his most family members. Yet, his dog was lucky to have such a sensitive and loving master. So much so, he wrote a will, on behalf of his much loved dog, so that when the dog is no more, his wife does not suffer a heart break!
The man was Eugene O’Neill. One of the greatest American playwrights, restless and bold experimenter, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1936.

And the dog was Blemie.

Eugene O'Neill (1888 – 1953) was born in a Broadway Hotel ( what could be a better place for the birth of a playwright than Broadway, the Mecca of plays & theatres?). Ironically he died also in a hotel. Rare coincidence. In early days, I thought most people were born in their homes and died also there. Now a days, most of them are born in a hospital and also die there. But a hotel for birth and also  death –  very rare!  We move ahead.
   For a winner of Pulitzer prize and Nobel prize,  O'Neill's early life was an utter  disgrace. His father was a famous actor ( nomadic type- always on the move)  and mother was an actress. His mother's addiction to morphine left bitter memories with the young O'Neill. She tried to commit suicide also. O'Neill was sent away to a Catholic boarding school but he rebelled against being taught by nuns and monks. After renouncing Catholicism, O'Neill entered in 1902  another academy for studies.  Six years later he entered Princeton University, but left it after a year. During this period he spent most of the time in New York waterfront bars and brothels.  

His marriage in 1909 lasted two years. After the failed marriage, he went to sea in 1910, living the life of a tramp at dock sides. Once he attempted suicide; & later was forced by the onset of tuberculosis to spend six months in a sanatorium. After recovering O'Neill began writing plays.

In 1918, O'Neill married  Agnes Boulton, a successful writer . Over the next few years the couple had two children, a son and daughter. He continued to suffer from depression and his state of mind was not helped when his parents and elder brother, also an alcoholic, died within three years of one another (1920-1923).
 O'Neill initially concentrated on writing one-act plays but it was his first full-length play, Beyond the Horizon (1920) that established his reputation as a dramatist. This play won a Pulitzer prize He went on to win the prestigious Pulitzer prize  four times—more than any other playwright – over a span of 37 years.
O'Neill continued to have problems with alcohol. His one of the friends commented: "Gene was a periodic drinker, and once started wouldn't stop - I guess he couldn't stop - until he was really sick. He was the most trying morning-after drinker I've ever known. He would gloom up and not say a word, or else talk of suicide, he was so disgusted with himself. But when he stopped drinking, he would work around the clock. I never knew anyone who had so much self-discipline." 
 O'Neill's health deteriorated during the 1930s. Suffering from alcoholism and Parkinson disease, O'Neill wrote little during this period although in 1936 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His poor health did not permit him to attend the award ceremony held in 1937.
O'Neill's tragic view of life was perpetuated in his relationships with the three women he married--two of whom he divorced--and with his three children. O'Neill had poor relationships with his children. He disinherited his son Shane because he did not approve of his son's life style, and also his daughter Oona because at the age of eighteen she married someone who was her father’s age : 54 years old -36 years older to be precise!  Eugene O'Neill, Jr., his eldest son, from the first wife, suffered from alcoholism, and committed suicide in 1950 at the age of 40, and the second son Shane O'Neill, a heroin addict who also committed suicide. Oona was also an alcoholic in the last years of her life.
O'Neill became gradually paralyzed and he died on November 27, 1953 in Boston.
 His famous words – a sample – are here, showing some insights in the mind of the man who was so much talented as well as tormented:
  •    If a person is to get the meaning of life he must learn to like the facts about himself – ugly as they may seem to his sentimental vanity – before he can learn the truth behind the facts. And the truth is never ugly.
  • ·        The old – like children – talk to themselves, for they have reached that hopeless wisdom of experience which knows that though one were to cry it in the streets to multitudes, or whisper it in the kiss to one’s beloved, the only ears that can ever hear one’s secrets are one’s own.
  • ·        I do not think you can write anything of value or understanding about the present. You can only write about life if it is far enough in the past. The present is too much mixed up with the superficial values, you can’t know which thing is important and which is not. 
  • ·     
In the early 1940s, this famed playwright wrote a moving piece of prose about his dog, Silverdene Emblem O'Neill (Blemie). In The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog, O'Neill eloquently and compassionately articulates what all dog owners feel as their pet nears the of its life. O'Neill elegy has been lovingly published, as a cherished possession of innumerable pet lovers.  “The Last Will”  says everything that needs to be said to someone you love who is losing or has lost a beloved canine friend.
Here it is, reproduced verbatim, written so lovingly by Eugene O'Neill - habitually a serious playwright - on behalf of his Blemie and bought as a book by thousands of pet lovers. . It gives very touching emotions as we read what Blemie  has to say - as words of consolation - as he prepares for his heavenly journey!
Last Will and Testament
I, Silverdene Emblem O'Neill (familiarly known to my family, friends and acquaintances as Blemie), because the burden of my years is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near,
 do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master. He will not know it is there until I am dead. Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.
I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are wiser than men. They do not set great store upon things. They do not waste their time hoarding property.
 They do not ruin their sleep worrying about objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not.
There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith. 
These I leave to those who have loved me, to my Master and Mistress, who I know will mourn me most, to Freeman who has been so good to me, to Cyn and Roy and Willie and Naomi and - but if I should list all those who have loved me it would force my Master to write a book. 
Perhaps it is in vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog. I ask my Master and Mistress to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to be a comfort to them in time of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in their happiness. 
It is painful for me to think that even in death I should cause them pain. Let them remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that a rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation.
I feel life is taunting me with having over lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-by, before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love me.
It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those of my fellow Dalmatians who are devout Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; 
here all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris, beautifully spotted; where jack-rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one's Master and Mistress. I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleeps in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.
One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, 'When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one.' Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. 
What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have permitted to share the living-room rug during the evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit, and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others. Dalmatians, naturally, as everyone knows, are best.
So I suggest a Dalmatian as my successor. He can hardly be as well bred, or as well mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must not ask the impossible. But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green.
To him I bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made to order in 1929 at Hermes in Paris. He can never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the Place Vendome, or later along Park Avenue, all eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog. Here on the ranch, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume, come closer to jackrabbits than I have been able to in recent years. And, for all his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.
One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: 'here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.' No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.