“First step: ask her out and treat her like a lady. Second step: tell her she’s the one you’re dreaming of. Third step: take her in your arms and never let her go.”

Charles Robert Leslie, Slender, with the Assistance of Shallow, Courting Anne Page, from “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (detail) (1825)

You gonna make a move you better make it now,
Don’t be afraid cause love will show you how–
You take that first step…

“Art, and the summer lightning of individual happiness: these are the only real goods we have.”

Marie-Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Self-portrait (1790)

“Art, and the summer lightning of individual happiness: these are the only real goods we have.”

—Alexander Herzen, quoted in Isaiah Berlin, “Herzen and his Memoirs”

He hears a voice whisper within himself, “Nobody would be interested in this feeling I have…”

Anonymous (After Guido Reni?), “A man holding a book, about to write in it, looking upwards to the left, after Reni?” (17th century)

A young writer is tempted…to be guided by the known, the admired and the currently accepted, as he hears a voice whisper within himself, “Nobody would be interested in this feeling I have, this unimportant action – therefore it must be peculiar to me, it must not be universal nor generally interesting nor even right.” But…some other voice in that crossroads makes him write down those apparently exceptional and unimportant things and that and nothing else is his style, his personality – eventually his whole self as an artist. What he has thought to throw away…was the saving grace vouchsafed him.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to Morton Kroll, August 3, 1939

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Acquainted With The Night (Christina At Night)

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”

“Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys.”

Harold Gilman, Edwardian Interior (c.1907)

Where now?
Her secrets: old featherfans, tasselled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunny window of her house when she was a girl…
Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.
And no more turn aside and brood.
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys.

—James Joyce, Ulysses

“I had been passing alone, on horseback…”

cf. John Wootton, Portrait of a Man on Horseback

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher…

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

Who’s riding so late where winds blow wild?

–Goethe, Erlkönig

Keep The Aspidistra Flying (Don’t Sleep In The Subway)

Tomorrow he would go up to the New Albion, in his best suit and overcoat (he must remember to get his overcoat out of pawn at the same time as his suit), in hat of the correct gutter-crawling pattern, neatly shaved and with his hair cut short. He would be as though born anew. The poet of today would be hardly recognizable in the natty young business man of tomorrow. They would take him back, right enough; he had the talent they needed. He would buckle to work, sell his soul, and hold down his job…

He would get married, settle down, prosper moderately, push a pram, have a villa and a radio and an aspidistra. He would be a law-abiding little cit like any other law-abiding little cit– a soldier in the strap-hanging army. Probably it was better so…

Vicisti, O aspidistra!

—George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying