Photograph by Ioannis Ioannidis via Pixabay
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves…
— from Dubliners, James Joyce
cf. Christina Rossetti, A Daughter of Eve (excerpt) and video by me
Fell On Black Days
Photograph by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash
This is the debt I pay
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.
Pay it I will to the end —
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release —
Gives me the clasp of peace.
Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best —
God! but the interest!
— Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Debt
The Real Me
W.E. Daugherty, “Solitary” (ca. 1904)
BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
— Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper
I’m thinking of you Mary Anne…
cf. National Geographic, 1953
A little less returned for him each spring.
Music began to fail him. Brahms, although
His dark familiar, often walked apart.
His spirit grew uncertain of delight,
Certain of its uncertainty, in which
That dark companion left him unconsoled
For a self returning mostly memory.
Only last year he said that the naked moon
Was not the moon he used to see, to feel
(In the pale coherences of moon and mood
When he was young), naked and alien,
More leanly shining from a lankier sky.
Its ruddy pallor had grown cadaverous.
He used his reason, exercised his will,
Turning in time to Brahms as alternate
In speech. He was that music and himself.
They were particles of order, a single majesty:
But he remembered the time when he stood alone.
He stood at last by God’s help and the police;
But he remembered the time when he stood alone.
He yielded himself to that single majesty;
But he remembered the time when he stood alone,
When to be and delight to be seemed to be one,
Before the colors deepened and grew small.
— Wallace Stevens, “Anglais Mort à Florence”
Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky
I THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wish’d-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw in gradual vision through my tears
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years—
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ‘ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
‘Guess now who holds thee?’— ‘Death,’ I said. But there
The silver answer rang— ‘Not Death, but Love.’
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese: i
The Power of Love
Photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash
When all the world is looming dark
And things seem not so clear,
When shadows seem to hover ’round
Lord, may I persevere.
When it seems everything’s been tried
And there’s no way to go,
Just let me keep remembering
Sometimes the journey’s slow.
I may just need to stop and rest
Along the path I trod,
A time to try to understand
And have my talk with God.
As I gain new strength to carry on
Without a doubt or fear,
Somehow I know things will be right,
And so, I persevere.
— Anne Stortz
Roll On Down The Highway
Harry E. Goodwin, “The Barker” (ca. 1935)
He seems very similar to the gods
That man who sits in front of you
And listens to you speaking
And smiles softly;
And suddenly my heart throbs.
When I glance at you,
I can no longer speak…
— Sappho, Fragment 31 (Tr. Labate)
cf. edited collage featuring photograph by Sasha Freemind (man at window) via Unsplash
never give in, never give in, never, never, never…
— Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941, Harrow School
J.M. Bridges, “Left Ashore” (ca. 1935)
cf. photograph by Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay and video by MixailMixail via Pixabay (edited collage)
ASHES denote that fire was;
Respect the grayest pile
For the departed creature’s sake
That hovered there awhile.
Fire exists the first in light,
And then consolidates,—
Only the chemist can disclose
Into what carbonates.
— Emily Dickinson
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001: I. Adagio
photograph by mikegi via Pixabay (detail)
One white morning, you awoke to find
your black feathers rooted in the lake’s early freeze.
Your friends had fled…
— Margo Button, “With No Explanation”
Wouldn’t It Be Good – Nik Kershaw
cf. photograph by Alex Iby via Unsplash and
error46146, Subway Timelapse Experiment – YouTube (edited collage)
And brood on hopes and fear no more…
— W. B. Yeats, Who goes with Fergus?
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day
W. T. Starr, “The Idler” (ca. 1916)
A poor torn heart, a tattered heart,
That sat it down to rest,
Nor noticed that the ebbing day
Flowed silver to the west,
Nor noticed night did soft descend
Nor constellation burn,
Intent upon the vision
Of latitudes unknown…
— Emily Dickinson
cf. photograph by photosforyou via Pixabay
This is the very worst hour of the day. Vitality. Dull, gloomy: hate this hour. Feel as if I had been eaten and spewed.
— Joyce, Ulysses
cf. photograph by guvo59 via Pixabay (edit) and video by McZerrill via Pixabay (edited collage)
The carriage swerved from the tramtrack to the smoother road past Watery lane. Mr Bloom at gaze saw a lithe young man, clad in mourning, a wide hat.
—There’s a friend of yours gone by, Dedalus, he said.
—Who is that?
—Your son and heir.
—Where is he? Mr Dedalus said, stretching over across.
The carriage, passing the open drains and mounds of rippedup roadway before the tenement houses, lurched round the corner and, swerving back to the tramtrack, rolled on noisily with chattering wheels. Mr Dedalus fell back, saying:
—Was that Mulligan cad with him? His fidus Achates!
—No, Mr Bloom said. He was alone…
Way To Blue
cf. John C. Higgins, “Man in Bottle” (detail) (ca. 1888) and
video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay (edited collage)
Every man must take the measure of his own strength. I may, I do, regret my want of fortitude; but so it is, that incurable depression of Spirits, Brooding, Indolence, Despondence, thence Pains and nightly Horrors…
— Letter from Coleridge to Daniel Stuart quoted in Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections
Black Sheets Of Rain
William James Mullins, “Children Fishing” (ca. 1900)
“…I worry about so many things, and everything is so hard for me. For instance, I cut my finger or hurt myself some way — and it’s a wound that heals for other people in a week, but it takes four weeks with me. It just won’t heal, it gets infected, gets really ghastly, and gives me all kinds of trouble. The other day Herr Brecht told me that my teeth look horrible, that they’re all deteriorating and wearing down, not to mention the ones he’s already pulled. That’s how things stand now. And what will I bite with when I’m thirty, or forty? I’ve lost all hope.”
“Come on,” Kai said and picked up the pace of their stroll. “And now tell me a little about your piano playing…are you going to play the piano this afternoon?”
Hanno was silent for a moment. A bleak, confused, feverish look came to his eyes. “Yes, I’ll probably improvise a while,” he said…
— Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks
cf. magazine advertisement
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow…
— Emily Dickinson, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes –” (excerpt)
Wouldn’t It Be Good – Nik Kershaw (acoustic)
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
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
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
photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay
My tables—meet it is I set it down…
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
LITHIUM CARBONATE | Li2CO3 – PubChem
Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin,
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax,
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft.
The coated ones smell sweet or have
no smell; the powdery ones smell
like the chemistry lab at school
that made me hold my breath.
—Jane Kenyon, “Having it Out with Melancholy” (excerpt)
H. C. Benedict, “Original And Unique The P. and H. Process Of Negative Development” (1939)
The question, O me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these,
O me, O life?
That you are here — that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I’m thinking of you Mary Anne…
New York Magazine, 1977
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect…
—Kafka, The Metamorphosis
D Coetzee, “Neurology waiting room…” (2008)
I watched my mother grow smaller and smaller until she disappeared into the door of Doctor Gordon’s office building. Then I watched her grow larger and larger as she came back to the car.
“Well?” I could tell she had been crying.
My mother didn’t look at me. She started the car.
Then she said, as we glided under the cool, deep-sea shade of the elms, “Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all. He thinks you should have some shock treatments at his private hospital in Walton.”
I felt a sharp stab of curiosity, as if I had just read a terrible newspaper headline about somebody else.
“Does he mean live there?”
“No,” my mother said, and her chin quivered.
I thought she must be lying.
“You tell me the truth,” I said, “or I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Don’t I always tell you the truth?” my mother said, and burst into tears.
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You got to help me make a stand
You just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching
And my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way…
Fire And Rain by James Taylor
Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, “A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.” BOSWELL: “May not he think them down, Sir?” JOHNSON: “No, Sir. To attempt to THINK THEM DOWN is madness. He should have a lamp constantly burning in his bed-chamber during the night, and if wakefully disturbed, take a book, and read, and compose himself to rest…”
—Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
James McNeill Whistler, Reading in Bed (The Slipper) (1858)
cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1985
The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.
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)
cf. Everett Shinn, All Night Cafe (ca. 1900)
O, how I faint when I of you do write
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame!
But since your worth—wide as the ocean is,—
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wrack’d, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building and of goodly pride:
Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this,—my love was my decay.
Marjory Collins, Bowery hotel about midnight (1942)
We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When Light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye —
A Moment — We uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road — erect–
And so of larger — Darkness —
Those Evenings of the Brain —
When not a Moon disclose a sign —
Or Star — come out — within —
The Bravest — grope a little —
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead —
But as they learn to see —
Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.
In the darkest place
I know that is where you’ll find me
Even though you didn’t have to remind me
I shut out the lights
Your eyes adjust
They’ll never be the same…
cf. Frances Benjamin Johnston, Post Office Dept. – Dead Letter Office (edited)
Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous —a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!…
Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!
—Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener
“…kept with him a sense as of snow falling about him, a secret screen of new snow between himself and the world.”
—Conrad Aiken, Silent Snow, Secret Snow
cf. Alfred Stieglitz, Reflections, night, New York (ca. 1897)
The night was blustery and raw, with a chill wet wind blowing down the avenues, and when Rose and I met Franchise and her son and a friend at La Lorraine, a glittering brasserie not far from L’Etoile, rain was descending from the heavens in torrents. Someone in the group, sensing my state of mind, apologized for the evil night, but I recall thinking that even if this were one of those warmly scented and passionate evenings for which Paris is celebrated I would respond like the zombie I had become. The weather of depression is unmodulated, its light a brownout.
—William Styron, Darkness Visible