Transfigured Night

Wild Strawberries (1957)

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table — Samsa was a travelling salesman — and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

— Kafka, Metamorphosis

That summer

cf. American Scenery publishing company, “Top Corridor of Palace Hotel” (ca. 1850s–1910s)

April 15. Met her today point blank in Grafton Street. The crowd brought us together. We both stopped. She asked me why I never came, said she had heard all sorts of stories about me. This was only to gain time. Asked me was I writing poems? About whom? I asked her. This confused her more and I felt sorry and mean. Turned off that valve at once and opened the spiritual-heroic refrigerating apparatus, invented and patented in all countries by Dante Alighieri. Talked rapidly of myself and my plans. In the midst of it unluckily I made a sudden gesture of a revolutionary nature. I must have looked like a fellow throwing a handful of peas into the air. People began to look at us. She shook hands a moment after and, in going away, said she hoped I would do what I said.
Now I call that friendly, don’t you?
Yes, I liked her today. A little or much? Don’t know. I liked her and it seems a new feeling to me. Then, in that case, all the rest, all that I thought I thought and all that I felt I felt, all the rest before now, in fact… O, give it up, old chap! Sleep it off!

— Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

To Each His Own

CHAPTER I: Down The Rabbit Hole

cf. photograph by Nik Shuliahin via Unsplash (edit)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! “I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?” she said aloud. “I must be getting somewhere near the center of the earth…”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I Don’t Understand

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me

cf. video by SlowMoJoe via Pixabay

The “morbid melancholy,” which was lurking in his constitution, and to which we may ascribe those particularities, and that aversion to regular life, which, at a very early period, marked his character, gathered such strength in his twentieth year, as to afflict him in a dreadful manner. While he was at Lichfield, in the college vacation of the year 1729, he felt himself overwhelmed with a horrible hypochondria, with perpetual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience; and with a dejection, gloom, and despair, which made existence misery. From this dismal malady he never afterwards was perfectly relieved; and all his labours, and all his enjoyments, were but temporary interruptions of its baleful influence. He told Mr. Paradise that he was sometimes so languid and inefficient, that he could not distinguish the hour upon the town-clock.

Boswell’s Life of Johnson
 

“What is wrong with woollen gloves?”

cf. photograph by Joshua Coleman via Unsplash (edit)

The possibility of having [Ulysses] published in a more regular way came up again in June 1918, when Roger Fry suggested Miss Weaver call on Leonard and Virginia Woolf to induce them to publish the book at their new Hogarth Press. Virginia Woolf noted in her diary the incongruous appearance of Miss Weaver as the ‘buttoned-up’ and woollen-gloved missionary for a book that ‘reeled with indecency.’*

*Miss Weaver, when the passage was quoted to her, demanded with acerbity, ‘What is wrong with woollen gloves?’

— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
 

“(Shine Your) Light Love Hope” by Bob Mould

Love And A Question

cf. Home Movie

He was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to the man at the furnace:

“Is the fire hot, sir?”

But the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. It was just as well. He might have answered rudely.

— Joyce, The Dead
 

“I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

Flat Tire (The Truth)

cf. LIFE, 1972

“…For you to wait like that was stupid and quite impermissible. But you aren’t angry with me, are you, because you waited in vain?”

“Well, it was rather hard, Clavdia, even for a man with detached passions — hard on me and hard-hearted of you to come back with him, because of course you knew from Behrens that I was still here, waiting for you. But I’ve told you that I think of that night simply as a dream, our dream…”

— Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

Flat Tire (The Truth) by Athenaeum

Technicolor

Carol M. Highsmith, “The character Dorothy models her sparkling ruby slippers at the Land of Oz…” (2017)

You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all
that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.

— Whitman, Song Of The Open Road

“Here She Is” — Ellis Paul

Lynx Eye

Northeastern University Bulletin, 1980-81

STEPHEN: (Brings the match near his eye.) Lynx eye. Must get glasses. Broke them yesterday. Sixteen years ago. Distance. The eye sees all flat. (He draws the match away. It goes out.) Brain thinks. Near: far. Ineluctable modality of the visible. (He frowns mysteriously.) Hm… Married.

— Joyce, Ulysses
 

“Time Passages” by Al Stewart

“The past is a foreign country…”

August, 1984

To be sure, it is sheer madness… to return to the sites of one’s youth and try to relive at forty what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty. But I was forewarned of that madness… I hoped, I think, to recapture there a freedom I could not forget. In that spot, indeed, more than twenty years ago, I had spent whole mornings wandering… I was alive then.

— Camus, Return To Tipasa

“Free Man In Paris” — Joni Mitchell

“Who has the most matches?”

Ernst Halberstadt, “City Hall Plaza–A Pleasant Setting for Rest and Conversation” (1973)

—He’s pretty well on, professor MacHugh said in a low voice.

—Seems to be, J. J. O’Molloy said, taking out a cigarettecase in murmuring meditation, but it is not always as it seems. Who has the most matches?

— Joyce, Ulysses

“Love Of The Common Man” — Todd Rundgren

“tanglewood in blue”

photograph by Jonathan Dubon via Unsplash (edit)

tanglewood in blue

a moment
I held
once forever
in the summer grass
steadfast bright stars
still turning

—J.S.

—Yes. So you think…

The door closed behind the outgoer.

Rest suddenly possessed the discreet vaulted cell, rest of warm and brooding air.

A vestal’s lamp.

Here he ponders things that were not… what might have been: possibilities of the possible as possible: things not known…

— Joyce, Ulysses

“Fifty Years After The Fair” — Aimee Mann

The Calling

edited composite video: live action + Pudding Lane Productions

—It is this hour of a day in mid June, Stephen said, begging with a swift glance their hearing. The flag is up on the playhouse by the bankside… Canvasclimbers who sailed with Drake chew their sausages among the groundlings…

—Shakespeare has left the huguenot’s house in Silver street and walks by the swanmews along the riverbank. But he does not stay to feed the pen chivying her game of cygnets towards the rushes. The swan of Avon has other thoughts…

— Joyce, Ulysses

“The Calling” — Mary Chapin Carpenter

Tender is the night… but here there is no light

photograph by Forrest Cavale via Unsplash (edit)

Dick tried to rest — the struggle would come presently at home and he might have to sit a long time, restating the universe for her… But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike. It requires the united front of many people to work against it… In a tired way, he planned that they would again resume the régime relaxed a year before…

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

“Compassion” – Todd Rundgren

“I’ve long wanted to ask you one thing.”

“Ah! I’ve scribbled all over the table!” she said, and, laying down the chalk, she made a movement as though to get up.

“What! shall I be left alone—without her?” he thought with horror, and he took the chalk. “Wait a minute,” he said, sitting down to the table. “I’ve long wanted to ask you one thing.”

He looked straight into her caressing, though frightened eyes.

“Please, ask it.”

“Here,” he said; and he wrote the initial letters, w. y. t. m. i. c. n. b. d. t. m. n. o. t.?

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (Part IV, Chapter 13) (Tr. Constance Garnett)

Vanessa Williams – “Save The Best For Last”

But, soft! what light through yonder trolley tunnel breaks?

ROMEO:
[To A Serving man] What lady is that, which doth enrich the paw
Of yonder Daniel Striped Tiger?

SERVANT:
I know not, sir.

ROMEO:
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear—
Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows and X the Owl,
As yonder lady o’er her fellows and Lady Elaine Fairchilde shows…
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this episode aired on PBS.

“Whenever You’re On My Mind” – Marshall Crenshaw

The Myth Of Sisyphus

photograph by Kristopher Roller via Unsplash

All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing…There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night…Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling…

— Camus, The Myth Of Sisyphus

Say Yeah

Ernst Halberstadt, “Ice Skating in the Public Garden” (detail) (1973)

“Are you going to stay in town long?” asked Kitty.

“I don’t know,” he answered, not thinking of what he was saying.

The thought that if he were held in check by her tone of quiet friendliness he would end by going back again without deciding anything came into his mind, and he resolved to rebel against it.

“How is it you don’t know?”

“I don’t know why. It depends on you,” he said, and instantly he was horrified at his own words.

She either did not understand his words, or did not want to understand them, for, seeming to stumble once or twice, catching her foot, she hurriedly skated away from him. She skated up to Mlle. Linon, said something to her, and went towards the pavilion where the ladies took off their skates.

— Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Utopia – “Say Yeah”

A Modern Aeneid

cf. photograph by Gabriel Laroche (edit) via Unsplash

Muse, tell me why, for what attaint of her deity, or in what vexation, did the Queen of heaven drive one so excellent in goodness to circle through so many afflictions, to face so many toils? Is anger so fierce in celestial spirits?

— Virgil, Aeneid
 

“Carry On My Wayward Son” by Samantha Loren

Sure (Ulysses)

David Falconer, “One Family of Four Moved Into the Attic of Their Home…” (1973)

I was happier then. Or was that I? Or am I now I?
Twentyeight I was. She twentythree.
When we left Lombard street west something changed.
Could never like it again after Rudy.
Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand.
Would you go back to then? Just beginning then. Would you?

—James Joyce, Ulysses

Hatchie — “Sure”

Quote

pianoforte

His creativity increasingly extended to music. Though he never took formal piano lessons, he could pound out a simple melody by ear. “Even when he was a little kid,” remembered his sister Kim, “he could sit down and just play something he’d heard on the radio. He was able to artistically put whatever he thought onto paper or into music.”

—Charles R. Cross, Heavier Than Heaven

This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.

photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay

My tables—meet it is I set it down…

Hamlet

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

—T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

“Black Sheets Of Rain” – Bob Mould

As You Like It

cf. LIFE, 1972

PHOEBE:
Good shepherd, tell this youth what ’tis to love.

SILVIUS:
It is to be all made of sighs and tears,
It is to be all made of faith and service,
It is to be all made of fantasy,
All made of passion and all made of wishes,
All adoration, duty, and observance,
All humbleness, all patience and impatience,
All purity, all trial, all observance…

As You Like It
 

“Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole

Who is it that can tell me who I am?

Photograph by Bruce Mars via Pexels

KING LEAR:
Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?

FOOL:
Lear’s shadow.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Elton John

More Light

Tom Hubbard, “…Sale of Donated Books…” (1973)

For me that white figure in the stillness of coast and sea seemed to stand at the heart of a vast enigma. The twilight was ebbing fast from the sky above his head, the strip of sand had sunk already under his feet, he himself appeared no bigger than a child — then only a speck, a tiny white speck, that seemed to catch all the light left in a darkened world. . . . And, suddenly, I lost him. . . .

—Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

“More Light” – Utopia

“On First Looking Into Greene’s Chord Chemistry”

On First Looking into Greene’s “Chord Chemistry”

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Greene speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

(cf. Keats, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer)
 

You Go to My Head / Willow Weep for Me by Ted Greene

CHAPTER 2

cf. video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay

The remote power of that voice, those old eyes full of tears, that noble and ruined face, had affected her extraordinarily she said. But perhaps what affected her was the shadow, the still living shadow of a great passion in the man’s heart.

Allegre remarked to her calmly: “He has been a little mad all his life.”

—Joseph Conrad, The Arrow of Gold

The Rubinoos – “The Girl”

Saving Grace

Dick Swanson, “Artist On Bank Of The Schuylkill River” (1973)

I think that if I can get into the habit of writing a little about what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, I may lose a little of the sense of loneliness and desolation which abides with me. My circumstances allowing of nothing but the ejaculation of one-syllabled reflections, a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself, may have its yet to be discovered consolations. I shall at least have it all my own way and it may bring relief as an outlet to that geyser of emotions, sensations, speculations and reflections…so here goes, my first Journal!

—Diary of Alice James, May 31, 1889

“Everything Else” – Jennifer Damiano

CHAPTER I: Arrival

cf. John Adams Whipple, “Cornelius Conway Felton with His Hat and Coat” (detail) (ca. 1850) and
video by Activedia via Pixabay

An unassuming young man was travelling, in midsummer, from his native city of Hamburg to Davos-Platz in the Canton of the Grisons, on a three weeks’ visit.

From Hamburg to Davos is a long journey — too long, indeed, for so brief a stay…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

“Point Of Know Return” by Kansas

They Shut Me Up In Prose

cf. Jean Antoine Houdon, “Bather” (1782) and video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay

They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still” –

Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will
And easy as a Star
Abolish his Captivity –
And laugh – No more have I –

—Emily Dickinson
 

Aretha Franklin – “Respect”

Wallflower

cf. video by Ventus17 via Pixabay

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!
You would play upon me;
You would seem to know my stops;
You would pluck out the heart of my mystery;
You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass;
and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ;
Yet cannot you make it speak…

Hamlet

“Wallflower” – Splender

ACT I, SCENE II: A café near the Duke’s palace.

The Finnish Museum of Photography, “The counter of a café at the new Centrum department store of Voima cooperative.” (detail) (1961)

What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue?
I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference.
O poor Orlando! Thou art overthrown.

—As You Like It

“Magnet and Steel” – Walter Egan

Renaissance

Tom Hubbard, “…Troupes Dancing in the Square Are Joined by Young-In-Heart Spectator” (1973)

Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off forever…

King Lear

“Love Is Alive” – Gary Wright

“Once Again To Zelda”

Missouri Historical Society, “Capturing the City: Photographs from the Streets of St. Louis, 1900–1930 — Strand Motion Picture Theater entrance at 419 North Sixth Street featuring advertisement for the movie “Bootles’ Baby,” 1915. The large colorful poster catches the attention of the woman passing at far right.” (detail)

Darling, I’ve nearly sat it off in the Strand to-day and all because W.E. Lawrence of the Movies is your physical counter-part. So I was informed by half a dozen girls before I could slam on a hat and see for myself—He made me so homesick…

—letter from Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald, March, 1919

Watermark

cf. Antoine-Émile Bourdelle, “Irene Millet” (1917) and Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882)

Yet diaries do, indirectly, lay claim to a certain kind of immortality, projecting a voice beyond the grave. Alice James’s diary was her dialogue with the future. It gave form to her sense of ironic detachment. And it created a communion in her lonely life…

—Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography

“Watermark” – Art Garfunkel

“There’s the thrush again…”

LIFE, 1965

…as he lay trying desperately to put poetry, ambition, and Fanny Brawne out of his mind, suddenly an early thrush had appeared…

Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats

“More Than a Feeling” – Boston

“What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman…”

Doug Cronk, “Supervalu Supermarket…” (1952)

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

Allen Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California (excerpt)

The Clash – “Lost in the Supermarket

A Turning Point

cf. Photograph by The Creative Exchange via Unsplash

One sound is saying, ‘You are not worth tuppence,
But neither is anybody. Watch it! Be severe.’
The other says, ‘Go with it! Give and swerve.
You are everything you feel beside the river.’

—Seamus Heaney, Casting and Gathering (excerpt)

Another Lycidas

One hand she press’d upon that aching spot
Where beats the human heart, as if just there,
Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain…

Keats, “The Fall of Hyperion”


cf. Antonio Gai, “Meleager” (1735) and Mathew Brady’s studio, “Unidentified Man” (ca. 1860)

“Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.”

cf. video by klimkin via Pixabay

These days were filled with puzzlement, with thoughts of the hopes of the past, of the changes that life brings, of the whole “Burden of the Mystery” — the phrase that had meant so much to him for so long. And the burden was greater now than any he had ever experienced before…

—Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats
 

“Fire And Rain” by James Taylor

Hyperion

cf. Alfred Stieglitz, “An Icy Night” (1898) and video by CAMERAGE via Pixabay

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung about his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more
By reason of his fallen divinity
Spreading a shade: the Naiad ‘mid her reeds
Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips…

—Keats, Hyperion (excerpt)

But when I face the light somehow it all seems right

Southworth & Hawes, “Classroom in the Emerson School…” (detail) (ca. 1850)

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

—Keats, Ode to a Nightingale (excerpt)

But when I face the light
Somehow it all seems right…

“What seest thou else in the dark backward and abysm of time?”

cf. LIFE, 1968

MIRANDA:
‘Tis far off
And rather like a dream than an assurance
That my remembrance warrants. Had I not
Four or five women once that tended me?

PROSPERO:
Thou hadst, and more, Miranda. But how is it
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?

—Shakespeare, The Tempest

“Nay, if I mistake not, unity itself divided by zero equals infinity.”

Jack Corn, “The Cool Morning Air Condenses a Boy’s Breath as He Walks Along a Coal Car on His Way to School…” (1974)

“Nay, if I mistake not, unity itself divided by zero equals infinity.”

—Thomas Carlyle
 

“Flaming Youth” by Kiss

I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain.

David Falconer, “Reading and Studying by Kerosene Lamps…” (1973)

The gaslight shone yellow through the frosted transom above the door of Number 31. Gordon took out his key and fished about in the keyhole — in that kind of house the key never quite fits the lock. The darkish little hallway — in reality it was only a passage — smelt of dishwater, cabbage, rag mats, and bedroom slops. Gordon glanced at the japanned tray on the hall-stand. No letters, of course. He had told himself not to hope for a letter, and nevertheless had continued to hope. A stale feeling, not quite a pain, settled upon his breast. Rosemary might have written! It was four days now since she had written…

—George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

F. Scott Fitzgerald — Born This Date, 1896

Esther Bubley, “Students at Woodrow Wilson High School” (1943)

…his ideas were still in riot; there was ever the pain of memory; the regret for his lost youth — yet the waters of disillusion had left a deposit on his soul, responsibility and a love of life, the faint stirring of old ambitions and unrealized dreams. But — oh, Rosalind! Rosalind! . . .

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
 

“Time Passages” by Al Stewart

Samuel Johnson — Born This Date, 1709

photograph by Zachary Staines via Unsplash

“…He, and another neighbour of mine, one Mr. Samuel Johnson, set out this morning for London together. Davy Garrick is to be with you early the next week, and Mr. Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and to see to get himself employed in some translation, either from the Latin or the French…”

—Letter from G. Walmsley to The Reverend Mr. Colson, March 2, 1737, quoted in Boswell’s Life Of Johnson

Chapter 8

Polaroid photograph by Andrei Tarkovsky

It was dawn now on Long Island and we went about opening the rest of the windows down-stairs, filling the house with gray-turning, gold-turning light. The shadow of a tree fell abruptly across the dew and ghostly birds began to sing among the blue leaves. There was a slow, pleasant movement in the air, scarcely a wind, promising a cool, lovely day.

“I don’t think she ever loved him.” Gatsby turned around from a window and looked at me challengingly.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“But then I found myself one winter afternoon remembering a quiet morning in a classroom…”

David Stroble, “Students and Teacher in a Classroom…” (ca. 1975)

But then I found myself one winter afternoon
Remembering a quiet morning in a classroom
And inventing everything again, in ordinary
Terms that seemed to comprehend a childish
Dream of love, and then the loss of love,
And all the intricate years between.

—John Koethe, “Falling Water” (excerpt)

Extraordinary

Left: H.E. Peck, “Cheer Up Lassie” (ca. 1908);
Right: H. E. Peck, “On Norway’s Coast” (ca. 1908)

The largest fire ever known
Occurs each afternoon,
Discovered is without surprise,
Proceeds without concern:
Consumes, and no report to men…

—Emily Dickinson

“It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person…”

LIFE, 1969

…some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away…it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“How is it that the clouds still hang on you?”

cf. J. Craig Annan, “Au Jardin” (ca. 1899)

A crowd will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud.

—Yeats, Fallen Majesty (excerpt)

She’s a cloud
That hangs above my world…

Metaphysics

Left: Cesare Guilio, “Palestra Bianca” (ca. 1940)
Right: A.K. Aster, “On Salons” (Camera Craft, 1940)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo…

“I refute it THUS.”

cf. Paul Stang, “Group portrait at Lushågen” (ca. 1910)

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “I refute it THUS.”

Boswell’s Life Of Johnson

“You have a soul in you of rare quality, an artist’s nature; never let it starve for lack of what it needs.”

cf. photograph by Alice Moore via Unsplash

“You have a soul in you of rare quality, an artist’s nature; never let it starve for lack of what it needs.”

—Proust, Swann’s Way

Metamorphoses

cf. Charles O’Rear, “Passengers of the Southwest Limited strolling beside the Amtrak train…” (1974)

When now the boy, whose childish thoughts aspire
To loftier aims, and make him ramble high’r,

Grown wild, and wanton, more embolden’d flies
Far from his guide, and soars among the skies…

—Ovid, Metamorphoses

If I didn’t try, how would I know? how would I know?

“Follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”

Photograph by Skitterphoto via Pixabay

“…follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”

—Emerson, Greatness
 

“Highway Star” by Deep Purple

“It seemed on one March afternoon that I had lost every single thing I wanted…”

cf. Erik Calonius, “…Subway Car” (1973)

The first time was twenty years ago, when I left Princeton in junior year with a complaint diagnosed as malaria. It transpired, through an X-ray taken a dozen years later, that it had been tuberculosis—a mild case, and after a few months of rest I went back to college… To me college would never be the same. There were to be no badges of pride, no medals, after all. It seemed on one March afternoon that I had lost every single thing I wanted… A man does not recover from such jolts—he becomes a different person, and, eventually, the new person finds new things to care about…

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Pasting It Together”

Cleopatra

Cincinnati Magazine, 1971

The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavilion–cloth-of-gold of tissue–
O’er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

Antony and Cleopatra
 

“VENUS” :: Shocking Blue by MARVEN Feat Sarah-jane

Switchin’ To Glide

LIFE, 1972

“Ho-Ho! my valiant page!
Bring hither Pegasus, and let me ride;
Smooth the winged-charger’s ruffled mane,
Tighten the curb, and let the loosen’d rein
Hang loose no more!
Bring hither Pegasus, and I will soar,
With my proud courser well in hand,
Into the presence of that fairyland
Wherein the far hills brood in the still mist
And the laughter-ripple of the mere is kissed
By the bright-eyed orb of day:
Now make good speed, my page…”

—William Wilson, “Pegasus in Lakeland”
 

“Switchin’ To Glide” by The Kings

A Season In Hell

Esther Bubley, “This boardinghouse room needs a heater in the winter and a fan in the summer” (1943)

Enough! Here’s the punishment.—Forward, march!
Ahhh! My lungs are burning, my skull roars!
Night rolls through my eyes by that sun!

—Rimbaud, A Season In Hell

Propertius

Tom Hubbard, “…Tyler Davidson Fountain” (1973)

You ask me, from what source so oft I draw my songs of love and whence comes my book that sounds so soft upon the tongue. ‘Tis not Calliope nor Apollo that singeth these things; ’tis my mistress’ self that makes my wit. If thou wilt have her walk radiant in silks of Cos, of Coan raiment all this my book shall tell; or have I seen her tresses stray dishevelled o’er her brow, I praise her locks and she walks abroad in pride and gladness; or struck she forth music from the lyre with ivory fingers, I marvel with what easy skill she sweeps her hands along the strings; or when she droops those eyes that call for sleep I find a thousand new themes for song; or if, flinging away her robe, she enter naked with me in the lists, then, then I write whole Iliads long. Whate’er she does, whate’er she says, from a mere nothing springs a mighty tale…

—Propertius, The Elegies

The Nose

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “N.Y.C. – Bridges – Brooklyn” (1895)

As he returned, he met Madame Podtotchina with her daughter. He accosted them, and they responded very graciously. The conversation lasted a long time, during which he took more than one pinch of snuff, saying to himself, “No, you haven’t caught me yet, coquettes that you are! And as to the daughter, I shan’t marry her at all.”

After that, the Major resumed his walks on the Neffsky Avenue and his visits to the theatre as if nothing had happened. His nose also remained in its place as if it had never quitted it. From that time he was always to be seen smiling, in a good humour, and paying attentions to pretty girls…

—Nikolai Gogol, The Nose

Better forget him, him with his nose in the air…

Prometheus Unbound

cf. from “Rockefeller Center” (1930)

The echoes of the human world, which tell
Of the low voice of love, almost unheard,
And dove-eyed pity’s murmured pain, and music,
Itself the echo of the heart, and all
That tempers or improves man’s life, now free;
And lovely apparitions,–dim at first,
Then radiant, as the mind arising bright
From the embrace of beauty (whence the forms
Of which these are the phantoms) casts on them
The gathered rays which are reality–
Shall visit us the progeny immortal
Of Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy,
And arts, though unimagined, yet to be;
The wandering voices and the shadows these
Of all that man becomes, the mediators
Of that best worship, love, by him and us
Given and returned; swift shapes and sounds, which grow
More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind…

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

 


“Defying Gravity” – Wicked The Musical

“Thus oft the hour of parting seems more vivid than a sweet reunion”

Ernst Halberstadt, “Commonwealth Avenue between Arlington and Berkeley Streets” (1973)

The season’s final blossoms bring
More dear delight than buds of spring.
They stir in us a live communion
Of sorrowfully poignant dreams.
Thus oft the hour of parting seems
More vivid than a sweet reunion.

—Aleksandr Pushkin

“That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you, may yield to the fire of you…”

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “Helen Keller, three-quarter length, seated, facing right; holding hand of her teacher, Mrs. John A. Macy (Anne Mansfield Sullivan)” (ca. 1909)

Emily Sparks

Where is my boy, my boy—
In what far part of the world?
The boy I loved best of all in the school?—
I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,
Who made them all my children.
Did I know my boy aright,
Thinking of him as spirit aflame,
Active, ever aspiring?
Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed
In many a watchful hour at night,
Do you remember the letter I wrote you
Of the beautiful love of Christ?
And whether you ever took it or not,
My boy, wherever you are,
Work for your soul’s sake,
That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,
May yield to the fire of you,
Till the fire is nothing but light!…
Nothing but light!

–Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology
 

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler

“Is it not Tennyson who has said: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost…”

Lejaren à Hiller, Fatima Cigarettes advertisement (ca. 1922)

…is it not Tennyson who has said: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have lost at all?

—Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

“The meaning is what the poem means to different sensitive readers.”

Albert Bartholomé, The Artist’s Wife Reading (1883)

“But as for the meaning of the poem as a whole, it is not exhausted by any explanation, for the meaning is what the poem means to different sensitive readers.”

—T. S. Eliot, “The Frontiers of Criticism”

Acquainted with the Night

Tom Hubbard, “Rainy Night…” (1973)

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

–Robert Frost, Acquainted with the Night

“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

State Archives of North Carolina, “…Duplin County Schools” (ca.1949)

I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
 

“School Day” by Chuck Berry

“I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…”

cf. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “Landscape with dirt road and stone wall” (ca. 1900)

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…

—Whitman, Song Of Myself

“While our hero lies comfortably in his bed at home…”

Illustration by H. J. Ford from “The Book Of Romance” (1902)

Thus they drive on the day with such doings while our hero lies comfortably in his bed at home in clothes full rich of hue. The lady did not forget; she came to greet him; full early she was by him to change his mind. She comes to the curtain and peeps at the knight. Sir Gawain at once welcomes her worthily, and she returns his greeting right promptly, seats herself softly by his side, laughs openly, and with a lovely look addresses these words to him: “Sir, if ye be Gawain, it seems to me a very strange thing that a man of such quality should not follow the conventions of good society; and should after making acquaintance with a person cast him utterly from his mind. Thou hast already forgotten what I taught you yesterday in the best language that I knew.” “What is that?” quoth the hero. “Forsooth I know not. If what ye say be true, I am to blame.” “Yet I taught you about kissing,” replied the fair lady; “wherever a countenance is known, quickly to claim a kiss; that becomes every knight who practices courtesy…”

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

She’s turnin’ on the heat
And it’s a little too much
She’s turnin’ on the heat
And it’s a hundred above, yeah…

“Stand a little out of my sun.”

Photograph by mvp via Unsplash

…since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.”

–Plutarch, Alexander

“Some woman, who knows what that self was, in whom it still lives a little.”

cf. photograph by Yoann Boyer via Unsplash

“…the situation of the man of genius who, in some accursed hour of his youth, has bartered away the fondest vision of that youth and lives ever afterwards in the shadow of the bitterness of the regret…the fancy of his recovering a little of the lost joy, of the Dead Self, in his intercourse with some person, some woman, who knows what that self was, in whom it still lives a little.”

The Notebooks of Henry James

“His heart is a lute strung tight; As soon as one touches it, it resounds.”

cf. LIFE, 1969

“Son coeur est un luth suspendu;
Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne.”
–de Béranger.

–epigraph from Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher
 

“Presto in F Major” by Silvius Leopold Weiss performed by John H. Schneiderman on a baroque lute

“He sees days slipping from him that were the best for what they were.”

Northeastern University Bulletin, 1976-77

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

–Robert Frost, October

Life, so they say, is but a game
And they let it slip away…

Time Passes (To The Lighthouse)

cf. Jody Claborn, “Lover of Light…” (2016 ) and Robb Hannawacker, “NW Storm” (2014)

Time Passes

“Well, we must wait for the future to show,” said Mr. Bankes, coming in from the terrace.
“It’s almost too dark to see,” said Andrew, coming up from the beach.
“One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,” said Prue.
“Do we leave that light burning?” said Lily as they took their coats off indoors.
“No,” said Prue, “not if every one’s in.”
“Andrew,” she called back, “just put out the light in the hall.”
One by one the lamps were all extinguished, except that Mr. Carmichael, who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil, kept his candle burning rather longer than the rest.

So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say, “This is he” or “This is she.” Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness.

—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
 

Chorus sine nomine: Samuel Barber – Agnus Dei (Adagio for Strings)

CHAPTER XXXIX: Mr. Samuel Weller, being entrusted with a mission of love, proceeds to execute it; with what success will hereinafter appear…

Carol M. Highsmith, “Melodrama performance…” (detail)

CHAPTER XXXIX: Mr. Samuel Weller, being entrusted with a mission of love, proceeds to execute it; with what success will hereinafter appear…

–Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
 

I Know A Little (Album Version) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“I have of late turned my thoughts with a very useless earnestness upon past incidents.”

cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1989 and Lightning : Calvin Company

“My mind is unsettled and my memory confused. I have of late turned my thoughts with a very useless earnestness upon past incidents. I have yet got no command over my thoughts; an unpleasing incident is almost certain to hinder my rest…”

—Johnson’s diary quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Ghosts appear and fade away…

 

Colin Hay – “Overkill”

“I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.”

cf. Gaston Lachaise, Lachaise’s Mother Resting (ca. 1912) and
Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871)

…That was in the winter of senior year. Then in the spring something happened to me. Yes, I remember. I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.

—Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
 

Blue by Joni Mitchell

“Doubt thou the stars are fire…”

cf. Henry Farrer, Winter Scene in Moonlight (1869) and stock footage – STARS – Time Lapse – Night

Although crowds gathered once if she but showed her face,
And even old men’s eyes grew dim, this hand alone,
Like some last courtier at a gypsy camping place,
Babbling of fallen majesty, records what’s gone.

The lineaments, a heart that laughter has made sweet,
These, these remain, but I record what’s gone. A crowd
Will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud.

–W.B. Yeats, Fallen Majesty

99, I’ve been waiting so long…

“Open, unlidded eye of golden day! O marching light…”

CHORUS:
Now the long blade of the sun, lying
Level east to west, touches with glory
Thebes of the Seven Gates. Open, unlidded
Eye of golden day! O marching light…

—Sophocles, Antigone (Tr. by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald)

Traveling down the sandy track
Compass in hand, guitar on my back…

 


cf. photograph by Ben White (edit) via Unsplash

“His life had been confused and disordered since then…”

cf. photograph by Henrique Félix via Unsplash

He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was….

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I get the same old dreams same time every night…

“…of course you knew from Behrens that I was still here, waiting for you.”

cf. John Atkinson Grimshaw, Canny Glasgow (1887) and Daniel Chester French, Joe’s Farewell (1872–73)

“…of course you knew from Behrens that I was still here, waiting for you. But I’ve told you that I think of that night simply as a dream, our dream, and that I concede you have your freedom. After all, I did not really wait in vain, because you are here again, we are sitting next to one another just as then, I can hear the wonderful edge to your voice, so familiar to my ear for a very long time; and under that billowing silk are arms that I know well…”

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

I can wait forever
Helping you to see
That I was meant for you
And you for me…

“An oasis that I needed.”

Carol M. Highsmith, Fountain and front view of Mission San Buenaventura, Ventura, California (2012)

“An oasis that I needed.”

–Entry in the Visitor’s Book at St Peter’s Church, Cambridge, September 12, 1982, quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God…

–Psalm 42, New Revised Standard Version
 


Palestrina – Sicut Cervus

Nighthawks

cf. Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (detail) (1942) and Detour (1945)

Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.

–William Butler Yeats, Ephemera (excerpt)

You’re leaving now
It’s in your eyes…

“I should have passed a calm and peaceful life…”

Terry Eiler, Walkers in Dust Storm (ca. 1972)

In my native country, in the bosom of my religion, family, and friends, I should have passed a calm and peaceful life in the uniformity of a pleasing occupation, and among connections dear to my heart…

Instead of this — what a picture am I about to draw! — Alas! why should I anticipate the miseries I have endured? The reader will have but too much of the melancholy subject.

—Rousseau, Confessions (Tr. by W. Conyngham Mallory)

Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980

cf. Lottie, “Train view” (2012)

Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980

his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly reemerged into light. It was

a gray day with an almost constant and heavy rain beating down against the train window.

“What are you doing in the dark?” asked a voice.

The cabin lights were off. I stared at the distant red signal light in the mist and felt a chill. I fumbled for my book.

A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a

smoking compartment sign. I was alone. A voice asked for my ticket.

“Is that you, Hynes?” asked Mr. O’Connor.
“Yes. What are you doing in the dark?” said Mr. Hynes. advancing into the light of the fire.

The train pulled out of the station and I thought about what you said.

“Tell me,” he said across the fire, “what brings our friend in here? What does he want?”

I guess I just wanted to see you one last time.

“What age are you?” he asked.
“Seventeen,” said the boy.

As the train slowed into the station I looked for you. A man was getting into his car and heading home.

“Tell me, John,” said Mr. O’Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
“Hm? ”
“What he is exactly?”
“Ask me an easier one,” said Mr. Henchy.

–J.S.

Into My Own

Ernst Halberstadt, “Westward” Sails Back to Long Wharf from Outing at Great Brewster Island… (1973)

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

–Robert Frost, Into My Own
 

Kansas – “Point Of Know Return”

“Gatsby walked over and stood beside her…”

J.B.B. Wellington, “The Toast” (ca. 1914)

Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
“Daisy, that’s all over now,” he said earnestly. “It doesn’t matter any more. Just tell him the truth — that you never loved him — and it’s all wiped out forever.”
She looked at him blindly. “Why — how could I love him — possibly?”
“You never loved him.”
She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal, as though she realized at last what she was doing — and as though she had never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now. It was too late.
“I never loved him,” she said, with perceptible reluctance…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lines on my head from that one thing she said…

 

Peter Frampton – “Lines On My Face”

Love and a Question

cf. “Miscellaneous Color Shots”

A Stranger came to the door at eve,
And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
Without a window light.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch
With, ‘Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
Stranger, you and I.’
The woodbine leaves littered the yard,
The woodbine berries were blue,
Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;
‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

Within, the bride in the dusk alone
Bent over the open fire,
Her face rose-red with the glowing coal
And the thought of the heart’s desire.
The bridegroom looked at the weary road,
Yet saw but her within,
And wished her heart in a case of gold
And pinned with a silver pin.

The bridegroom thought it little to give
A dole of bread, a purse,
A heartfelt prayer for the poor of God,
Or for the rich a curse;
But whether or not a man was asked
To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
The bridegroom wished he knew.

–Robert Frost, Love and a Question

How could love be so wrong?
I don’t know why…

“Cheering” is a paltry description…

cf. LIFE, 1957 and Skyline New York : Dudley Pictures Corporation

Each weekend I traveled the fifty-odd miles from Glacial Falls to Watertown, where I spent Friday night and all day Saturday in some sustained whisky drinking, tapering off Sundays with a few bottles of beer at The Parrot, eyes fixed on the television screen, cheering for my team. “Cheering” is a paltry description. The Giants were my delight, my folly, my anodyne…

—Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes
 

“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”

Before her the grimy cupolas and towering square walls of the city loomed up. Above the jagged roof tops, the white smoke, whitened and suffused by the slanting sun, faded into the slots and wedges of the sky. She pressed her brow against her child’s, hushed him with whispers. This was that vast incredible land, the land of freedom, of immense opportunity, that Golden Land.
Again she tried to smile.
“Albert,” she said timidly, “Albert.”
“Hm?”
“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”

—Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
 


Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (1907)

“I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light…”

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light…

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”

I never knew how complete love could be
Till she kissed me and said…

 
delphin-enjolras-and-the-best-fireplace-video-edit-1080

cf. Delphin Enjolras, The Fireplace and The Best Fireplace Video

“While on the shop and street I gazed my body of a sudden blazed”

cf. Deseronto Archives, “Woman standing outside Bismark Leroy Detlor’s bake shop…” (ca. 1920)
and photograph by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

–W. B. Yeats, “Vacillation” (IV)

“Upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom”

Alan Fisher, Lou Ambers tips his hat as he accepts a sandwich from a hand reaching out of a doorway (1935)

Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom…

–Aeschylus, Agamemnon (Edith Hamilton, trans., “Three Greek Plays”)

“He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city…”

Abul Haque, “Students Arriving By School Bus…” (ca. 1976)

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re all alone…

“He noticed nothing in it to remark. He was not used to handling stars thrown dark”

cf. Photograph by Dewang Gupta via Unsplash

Never tell me that not one star of all
That slip from heaven at night and softly fall
Has been picked up with stones to build a wall.

Some laborer found one faded and stone-cold,
And saving that its weight suggested gold
And tugged it from his first too certain hold,

He noticed nothing in it to remark.
He was not used to handling stars thrown dark
And lifeless from an interrupted arc.

He did not recognize in that smooth coal
The one thing palpable besides the soul
To penetrate the air in which we roll…

—Robert Frost, A Star In A Stoneboat (excerpt)

Only shooting stars break the mold…

“Don’t forget to return my pencil.”

cf. photograph by Paul Green via Unsplash

“Adieu, my Carnival Prince! I can predict that you’ll see a nasty rise in your fever chart this evening.”

Then she glided out of her chair, glided across the carpet to the door, where she stopped and turned halfway back to him, one bare arm raised, a hand on the hinge. Over her shoulder she said softly, “Don’t forget to return my pencil.”

And she left.

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“Johnny, give up women and study mathematics.”

Esther Bubley, A geometry teacher…using a model to explain a figure (1943)

…she at last blushed, adjusted her dress, got up, and, without saying a word, went and seated herself at the window. I went to sit by her side, but she moved, sat down on a couch, got up immediately afterwards, and fanning herself as she walked about the chamber, said to me in a cold and disdainful tone of voice, “Zanetto, lascia le donne, e studia la matematica.” (“Johnny, give up women and study mathematics.”)

—Rousseau, Confessions

“A strange and horrible darkness fell upon me.”

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (called il Grechetto), Melancholia (ca. 1640)

“While I traversed the apartment in the most horrible dismay of soul, expecting every moment that the earth would open and swallow me up, my conscience scaring me…and the city of refuge out of reach and out of sight, a strange and horrible darkness fell upon me. If it were possible that a heavy blow could light upon the brain without touching the skull, such was the sensation I felt. I clapped my hand to my forehead, and cried aloud through the pain it gave me. At every stroke my thoughts and expressions became more wild and indistinct…These thoughts kept undisturbed possession of my mind all the way through my illness, without interruption or abatement.”

—William Cowper, “Memoir of the Early Life of William Cowper, Esq.” (1835)

“And miles to go before I sleep.”

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

—Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

I will choose a path that’s clear…

 

a-large-erratic-resting-on-gneiss-cape-denison-area-1200
State Library of New South Wales, “A large erratic resting on gneiss Cape Denison area” (ca. 1911)

Who goes with Fergus?

8 1/2 (1963)

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

—W. B. Yeats, Who goes with Fergus?

His head halted again for a moment at the top of the staircase, level with the roof:

Don’t mope over it all day, he said. I’m inconsequent. Give up the moody brooding.

His head vanished but the drone of his descending voice boomed out of the stairhead:

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery
For Fergus rules the brazen cars.

—James Joyce, Ulysses

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business.”

Ferdinand Hodler, The Good Samaritan (1885)

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The Importance of Being Earnest

cf. U.S. National Archives, Photograph of Guests at Refreshment Table… (detail) (1963)

Jack: You really love me, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen: Passionately!

Jack: Darling! You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

Gwendolen: My own Ernest!

Jack: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

Gwendolen: But your name is Ernest.

Jack: Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

Gwendolen: [Glibly.] Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

Jack: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest… I don’t think the name suits me at all.

Gwendolen: It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations.

Jack: Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

Gwendolen: Jack?… No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations… I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude. The only really safe name is Ernest.

Jack: Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once. There is no time to be lost…

–Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest