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
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 Will Wilson (edited) via Unsplash
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string…”
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…
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
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
cf. “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
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
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”
Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), Thomas Edison (between 1870 and 1880)
Neglect not the gift that is in thee…
—Timothy 4:14 King James Version
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
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…
George C. Laur, Students Arriving for School… (ca. 1975)
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these…
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Ain’t no jive – it’s no surprise
You are born to synthesize…