Photograph by Martino Pietropoli via Unsplash
I want my place! my own place! my true place in the world! my proper sphere! my thing to do, which Nature intended me to perform when she fashioned me thus awry, and which I have vainly sought all my lifetime!
— Hawthorne, The Intelligence Office
The Real Me
cf. Nancy Ford Cones, “Mending The Net” (ca. 1912) and John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott (1888)
…trying as usual to get my picture of myself straight.
— Robert Lowell, Near the Unbalanced Aquarium
Dowland — Book of Songs, Book 1: “All ye whom love or fortune hath betrayed” (David Munderloh)
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
— Edgar Allan Poe, “Alone” (excerpt)
John Dillwyn Llewelyn, “After the Storm” (ca. 1853)
I fit for them,
I seek the dark till I am thorough fit.
The labor is a solemn one,
With this sufficient sweet —
That abstinence as mine produce
A purer good for them,
If I succeed, —
If not, I had
The transport of the Aim.
— Emily Dickinson
They Will Never Know
Entering the Thimble Shoal Channel Tunnel, March, 1985
Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.
— Melville, Moby Dick
Stephen Schwartz Performs “Corner of the Sky”
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
Risdon Tillery, “A young draftsman drawing plans for a house and developing his favorite hobby…” (detail) (1944)
“What career do you intend to take up, Mr. Joyce?” he asked. “The career of letters.” The dean persisted, “Isn’t there some danger of perishing of inanition in the meantime?” And Joyce, as his brother recorded, said this was one of the perils, but there were prizes too.
— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
Mr. Wilcox, the bookseller, on being informed by him that his intention was to get his livelihood as an author, eyed his robust frame attentively, and with a significant look, said, “You had better buy a porter’s knot.”
— Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
Finally Found A Home
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
I remember happier days…
My joking friends well they all moved away.
Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club — “English Garden”
photograph by Mark Jefferson Paraan via Unsplash
Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.
— Melville, Moby Dick
Electric Light Orchestra – “Last Train To London”
Photograph by Bruce Mars via Pexels
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?
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Elton John
Photograph by Easton Oliver via Unsplash
His railings and outbursts expressed not the conviction of failure but the passion for success. They touched off his disappointment, his injured self-esteem, his wounded pride, without ultimately concealing his determination to persevere — his finally unshakeable will to achieve. The strain of remonstrative self-pity and pessimism in Conrad was an overlay to the iron in him.
—Leo Gurko, “Joseph Conrad: Giant in Exile”
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
—Emerson, Self Reliance
Aerosmith – “Make It” (2007)
cf. LIFE, 1968 and Vincent van Gogh, “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat” (1887)
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
—Sara Teasdale, Barter (excerpt)
“Crazy Crazy Nights” by Kiss
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
All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, “Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home again, old neighbor—Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”
—Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle
“Meadows” – Joe Walsh
LSE Library, “Student in the library, 1981”
CHAPTER 1. Loomings.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard
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)
cf. Photograph by Mike Wilson via Unsplash and Nationaal Archief, “Testing guitar in a music shop…” (1957)
cf. Library Company of Philadelphia, “Frankford Creek and Vicinity, Winter” (ca. late 19th century) and
photograph by Peter Gonzalez via Unsplash
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.
cf. photograph by Will Wilson (edited) via Unsplash
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string…”
cf. Esther Bubley, “A Greyhound bus trip…” (1943)
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…
cf. video by MikesPhotos via Pixabay
The lamentable change is from the best…
—Shakespeare, King Lear
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.”
“Flaming Youth” by Kiss
Photograph by Skitterphoto via Pixabay
“…follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”
“Highway Star” by Deep Purple
John Collier, “Young man boarding train for New York state…” (1942)
Lovers, forget your love,
And list to the love of these,
She a window flower,
And he a winter breeze.
When the frosty window veil
Was melted down at noon,
And the cagèd yellow bird
Hung over her in tune,
He marked her through the pane,
He could not help but mark,
And only passed her by,
To come again at dark.
He was a winter wind,
Concerned with ice and snow,
Dead weeds and unmated birds,
And little of love could know.
But he sighed upon the sill,
He gave the sash a shake,
As witness all within
Who lay that night awake.
Perchance he half prevailed
To win her for the flight
From the firelit looking-glass
And warm stove-window light.
But the flower leaned aside
And thought of naught to say,
And morning found the breeze
A hundred miles away.
—Robert Frost, Wind and Window Flower
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
Esther Bubley, “…talking with some friends near her locker…” (1943)
Sometimes, in the evening, she heard a voice, concealed beneath the wind screen of the bell tower, singing a sad, strange song, as though to lull her to sleep. The lines were unrhymed, such as a deaf person can make.
“Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart.
The heart of a handsome young man is often deformed.
There are hearts in which love does not keep.
Young girl, the pine is not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps its foliage in winter…”
One morning, on awaking, she saw on her window two vases filled with flowers. One was a very beautiful and very brilliant but cracked vase of glass. It had allowed the water with which it had been filled to escape, and the flowers which it contained were withered. The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…
—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
John Dillwyn Llewelyn, The Upper Fall (1853–56)
I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow…
–Robert Frost, Ghost House
Carol M. Highsmith, “Playing for $1 in a hat…” (2011)
“But the most important thing that you can take advantage of in the world of music is to see yourself. I eventually got to the point where music meant to me self-exploration more than anything else…and I encourage everyone here to be brave in that respect, to be fearless in that respect…that album ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ which was such an abomination to everyone at the time it came out eventually became the signature moment in my career…”
Todd Rundgren – Berklee Commencement Address 2017 – YouTube
Can you hear me, the sound of my voice?
I am here to tell you I have made my choice…
“Just One Victory” by Todd Rundgren
Wilhelm von Gloeden, Man (ca. 1900)
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
–Whitman, Song Of Myself
David De Vries, “Room 103, small classroom…” (2001)
I heard his raspy old voice talking
about a poem about a spider
and he even looked like Frost
but I was looking
out the door out the window
at the ultrablue sky
Coronet Instructional Film
“I too am sometimes sad and lonely, especially when I walk around a church or parsonage.
Let’s not give in, but try to be patient and gentle. And do not mind being eccentric…”
–Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, March 16, 1877
Tom Hubbard, August Brings the “D’aug Days” to Fountain Square… (1973)
And that was the end of the attempt by the flatlands to reclaim Hans Castorp. The young man admitted quite openly to himself that such total failure, which he had seen coming, was of decisive importance for his relationship to the people down there. For the flatlands it meant a final shrug, the abandonment of any claim; for him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.
–Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
George C. Laur, Students Arriving for School… (ca. 1975)