“Does the past live with me alone?”

Nationaal Archief, “Presents at the top of a car” (detail)

His Notebooks, increasingly filled with intricate technical speculations on science and theology, lose much of their intimacy. But, at least until 1820, they are also far less painful and unhappy, apart from the occasional visitation of the ghosts and wolves of memory and loss.

In December 1816, after a long metaphysical speculation on “the three Protoplasms, or primary Forms” of Gravity, Light and Water, he suddenly stopped short and wrote:

“ASRA. Written as of yore. Christmas 1816. ASRA. Does the Past live with me alone? Coleridge.”

— Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections

This Shirt

Quote

Poem to my 18-year-old self

These sharp Springs
Matter most
After years
Will be time enough to sleep
Carefulness and tears

Now while life is raw and new,
Drink it clear, drink it deep!
Let the moonlight’s lunacy
Tear away your cautions…

Never fear,
Age will catch you…

Only graven in your soul
After all the rest is gone
There will be ecstasies,
These alone

— John Weaver, To Youth (excerpt)

When Smokey Sings

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day is Done (excerpt)

When Smokey Sings

They Will Never Know

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

inner strength

James Montgomery Flagg, “You” (Life Publishing Co., 1906)

Recovery…may take time and may require some big adjustments and perhaps a great deal of inner strength.

— Jon Kabat-Zinn, “World of Relaxation”
 

Coldcut Featuring Lisa Stansfield – “People Hold On” (Dj “S” Bootleg “Thank U” Remix by Dj “S”)

Invictus

cf. Tom Hubbard, “Fountain Square…” (1973) and video by tmeier1964 via Pixabay (edited)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

— William Ernest Henley, Invictus (excerpt)

Don’t Stop Believin’

Hope

cf. photograph by Lukasz Szmigiel via Unsplash (edited)

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

— Emily Dickinson, “Hope” is the thing with feathers (excerpt)
 

Midnight Rider

You’re gonna need security

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

problem-solving

cf. video by Orpheline via Pixabay

Little Chandler remembered (and the remembrance brought a slight flush of pride to his cheek) one of Ignatius Gallaher’s sayings when he was in a tight corner:

“Half time now, boys,” he used to say light-heartedly. “Where’s my considering cap?”

— Joyce, A Little Cloud

Takin’ Care Of Business

Mercy Mercy Me

Jim Matchinga, “Roots” (Cincinnati Magazine, 1980)

Now this interconnection or adaptation of all created things to each and of each to all, means that each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and, consequently, that it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe.

— Leibniz, The Monadology
 

“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye

My dear Jim

Jack Delano, “Flagman walks back to flag any oncoming trains…” (1943)

Do not wear your soul out with tears but be as usually brave and look hopefully to the future.

— Letter to James Joyce from his mother (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)

“tempus fugit”

Jack Corn, “Children During Recess…” (1974)

tempus fugit

nowadays
jobs
wives, husbands
houses
children
but I —
I was there
in that bright autumn dawn
on the playground
when we sparkled
and our dreams were the morning stars
still in the sky

— J.S.

Old Days

Hero

photograph by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I believe I can cover most of the expenses of publication of my daughter’s “Alphabet.” My idea is not to persuade her that she is a Cézanne but that, on her 29th birthday, she may see something to persuade her that her whole past has not been a failure.

The reason I keep on trying by every means to find a solution for her case — which may come at any time as it did with my eyes — is that she may not think that she is left with a blank future as well.

I am aware that I am blamed by everybody for sacrificing that “precious metal” — money — to such an extent for such a purpose when it could be done so cheaply and quietly by locking her up in an economical “mental prison” for the rest of her life. I will not do so as long as I see a single chance of hope for her recovery nor blame her or punish her for the great crime she has committed in being a victim to one of the most elusive diseases known to men and unknown to medicine.

And I imagine that if you were where she is and felt as she must you would perhaps feel some hope if you felt that you were neither abandoned nor forgotten.

— Letter from James Joyce to Harriet Weaver, 1936 (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)
 

“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

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

“And sweetest in the gale is heard…”

Jerome B. Thompson, “A Pic Nick in the Woods of New England” (detail) (ca. 1855)

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…

— Emily Dickinson
 

“All Right” by Christopher Cross

“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

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

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

Mother’s Day

Miroslav Sido, “Mother”

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away…
That lingers in the garden there.

— Robert Louis Stevenson, “To Any Reader” (excerpt)
 

“In Time of Storm”

cf. video by go_see via Pixabay

Brightness

and with good luck
we will reach the harbor
and black earth

We sailors have no will
in big blasts of wind,
hoping for dry land

and to sail
our cargo
floating about

Many
labors
until dry land

—Sappho, “In Time of Storm” (Tr. Barnstone)

“Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” – New England

Call me Ishmael.

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”

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

Inebriate of air am I

video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay

For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what is this
in it and from it?
Thou, soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come, let us lag here no longer, let us be up and away!
O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape, to sail forth as in a ship!
To glide with thee O soul, o’er all, in all, as a ship o’er the waters…

—Walt Whitman, Warble For Lilac-Time
 

Roger Powell – from “Architecture”

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

Straight Ahead

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)

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”

Barter

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

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

“The Strayed Poet” (for R.L.B.)

Terry Eiler, “Training Class For Havasupai Teachers in Reading and Language Instruction Methods” (ca. 1972)

Your voice and his I heard in those non-lectures —
Hammock chairs sprawled skew-wise all about;
Moore in the armchair bent on writing it all out —
Each soul agog for any word of yours…

Poke the fire again!
Open the window!
Shut it! — patient pacing unavailing.
Barren the revelations on the ceiling —
Dash back again to agitate a cinder.
“Oh it’s so clear! It’s absolutely clear!”

—I.A. Richards, “The Strayed Poet” (excerpt)
 

“Learning To Fly” by Tom Petty / Heartbreakers

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”

Loomings

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

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

For Guy

Patricia D. Duncan, “Sunset View of a Horse in Pastureland…” (1975)

As my eyes search the prairie
I feel the summer in the spring.

—Anonymous, “Spring Song” (Tr. Frances Densmore) from Chippewa Music II Bulletin 53 (1913)
 


“Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphey

I’m with you

Russell Lee, “Visitors’ hour at the Cairns General Hospital at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) farmworkers’ community” (1942)

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life” (excerpt)
 

“Box of Rain” by Grateful Dead

“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

How to Regain Your Soul

Horacio Villalobos, “…a Member of the Parish Is Shown Playing a Guitar at a Folk Mass…” (1975)

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer
afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out.
You will see
the white butterflies…

—William Stafford, How to Regain Your Soul (excerpt)
 

Kennedy Rose – “Some Walls”

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)

On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye

cf. Provincial Archives of Alberta, “Vermilion Agricultural and Vocational College” (1970)

For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once…

—William Wordsworth, Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey…

Lux Aeterna

Provincial Archives of Alberta, “Marten River Provincial Park, Alberta” (1970)

Lux Aeterna

suddenly the memory reveals itself
so then, what is time?
time past is time present

I begin again with that summer
(borne back ceaselessly)
(It avails not, time)

wind waves
sun clouds glinting
forsaking the fragile
unredeemable future
I call to you

J.S.
 

“Come Back To Me” by Janet Jackson

Part III: It is the autumnal mood with a difference.

cf. Katsushika Hokusai, “Under the Wave off Kanagawa…” (ca. 1830–32)

Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
But it seems like the sea’s return
To the ancient lands where it left the shells
Before the age of the fern;
And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain.
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
And be my love in the rain.

—Robert Frost, “A Line-storm Song” (excerpt)

“With me?” I said, “With me?”

cf. photograph (musician) by Andrew Robles via Unsplash

I showed her heights she never saw—
“Wouldst climb?” I said,
She said “Not so”—
“With me?” I said, “With me?”

—Emily Dickinson
 

“Shadows of the Night” (Live) by Pat Benatar

“Keats, walk a hundred yards over the rim”

cf. photograph by Felix Russell-Saw via Unsplash

“Keats, walk a hundred yards over the rim”

Keats,
leave the Piazza di Spagna
walk a hundred yards over the rim
I have your penicillin
I won’t let you go
there are more poems to write
and she is still waiting for you

—J.S.
(cf. “The Twilight Zone”, Season 2, Episode 23, 1961)

“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…

Through The Fire

I go on my way to-night, If I can; if not, to-morrow; emigrant train ten to fourteen days’ journey; warranted extreme discomfort…
I have been steadily drenched for twenty-four hours; water-proof wet through; immortal spirit fitfully blinking up in spite…
I am not beaten yet, though disappointed. If I am, it’s for good this time; you know what “for good” means in my vocabulary— something inside of 12 months perhaps; but who knows? At least, if I fail in my great purpose, I shall see some wild life in the West and visit both Florida and Labrador ere I return. But I don’t yet know if I have the courage to stick to life without it. Man, I was sick, sick, sick of this last year.

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin (on board s.s. “Devonia,” an hour or two out of New York, August, 1879)
 

“Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan

Charlotte’s Web

Wil Blanche, “In Battery Park, on the Lower Tip of Manhattan Island” (1973)

Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte.
I’m just about average for a pig.”

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied
Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my
best friend, and I think you’re sensational. Now stop
arguing and go get some sleep!”

—E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

“Summer in Style” exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 17, 1960

“…her daughter senior is I think beautiful and elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable and strange…”

—First mention of Fanny Brawne by John Keats (letter to George Keats, December 16, 1818)

The White Carnelian

cf. piano photograph by Free-Photos via Pixabay (edited)

Frequently he held in his hand a little present that Fanny Brawne had given him — a small, oval, white carnelian. It was the only tangible thing left to remind him of their engagement; for he would still not have her letters opened. Words struck home to him too powerfully.

—Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats
 

Elton John – “Love Lies Bleeding”

“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

“My wearied fancy turns for ease to thee…”

cf. video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay

And now, my Marian, from its shackles free,
My wearied fancy turns for ease to thee;
To thee, my compass through life’s varied stream,
My constant object, and unfailing theme…

—Warren Hastings, “Ode to his Wife” (Written in Patna, 1784)

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

Chapter 9

cf. Art Hanson, “Student at Work at Senior High School…” (ca. 1975)

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…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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

“Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose…”

Ernst Halberstadt, “Faneuil Square Outdoor Market” (1973)

No, no, go not to Lethe…

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies…

—Keats, Ode on Melancholy
 
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness – Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

“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

“Tarry, delight, so seldom met”

cf. LIFE, 1971 (edited)

Tarry, delight, so seldom met,
So sure to perish, tarry still;
Forbear to cease or languish yet,
Though soon you must and will.

By Sestos town, in Hero’s tower,
On Hero’s heart Leander lies;
The signal torch has burned its hour
And sputters as it dies.

Beneath him, in the nighted firth,
Between two continents complain
The seas he swam from earth to earth
And he must swim again.

—A. E. Housman

“And still they were the same bright, patient stars…”

Tookapic, “Woman Wearing Jacket Sitting On Concrete During Night Time” (via pexels.com)

Hyperion arose, and on the stars
Lifted his curved lids, and kept them wide
Until it ceas’d; and still he kept them wide:
And still they were the same bright, patient stars.
Then with a slow incline of his broad breast,
Like to a diver in the pearly seas,
Forward he stoop’d over the airy shore,
And plung’d all noiseless into the deep night.

—Keats, Hyperion (excerpt)
 

Elton John – “Love Lies Bleeding”

“You may contribute a verse…”

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?

Answer.

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…

“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

Quote

“Portraits” (V-VIII)

“Portraits” (V-VIII)

V
(John Keats)

The thought of her
in that darkest winter
fevered torment
but your eternal summer
will not fade

VI
(Jane Dornacker)

You did not know me
but I was always listening
and when I lost you
I pulled my car over to the side of the road
and prayed

VII
(Hans Castorp)

As Spender said of Eliot,
A wonderful poet disguised as a businessman.
Just ask Clavdia.

VIII
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

A romantic resting against a mantelpiece clock.
You were right, Scott—
the past is forever.

—J.S.

“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”

Distant roads are calling me

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

“The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…”

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

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

William Alexander Alcock, “A lonely Vigil” (detail) (ca. 1922);
August Krug, “The Portal” (detail) (ca. 1922);
Sophie L. Lauffer, “A Canaan Evening” (detail) (ca. 1922);
Edwin B. Collins, “Good Cheer Within” (detail) (ca. 1922)

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

–John Milton, Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent
 

J. S. Bach, “Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein” (“When we are in the greatest distress”)

The Chimaera

David Falconer, “School Children…” (1974)

And Bellerophon put his faith in the child, who had seen the image of Pegasus in the water, and in the maiden, who had heard him neigh so melodiously, rather than in the middle-aged clown, who believed only in cart-horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the beautiful things of his youth…

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Chimaera

You better believe it
You know my dream’s still alive
You can love it or leave it
But I’m never gonna be 35…

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

“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

“But the most important thing that you can take advantage of in the world of music is to see yourself.”

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

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

The U.S. National Archives, “A youngster, clutching his soldier father, gazes upward while the latter lifts his wife from the ground to wish her a ‘Merry Christmas.’ The serviceman is one of those fortunate enough to be able to get home for the holidays.” (December, 1944)

 

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby

“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

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Welby Sherman (After Samuel Palmer), “The Shepherd” (1828)

Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses (excerpt)

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Health Month

“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…

Remembering Allan Holdsworth

I was saddened to read recently of the passing of Allan HoldsworthThis is a transcription I did a long time ago of his “In The Dead Of Night” solo. I saw him in the fall of 1983 and remember how much he inspired me.

“Hats off, gentlemen—a genius!”

—Robert Schumann, Review of Chopin’s variations on Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano,” Op. 2 In “Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung”, Vol. 33, no. 49 (December 7, 1831)
 



When I Get My Plane

cf. Patricia D. Duncan, “Former Home of Aviatrix Amelia Earhart…” (1974)

You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night…

–Emily Dickinson
 

Nazz – “When I Get My Plane”

“My own heart let me more have pity on”

Ernst Halberstadt, Midsummer Siesta at City Hall Plaza (1973)

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins, “My own heart let me more have pity on”

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

Grego, Street Musician (2014)

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

onrushing out into the

42nd street passage

huddled in the corner

frayed and fallen

drifted from the street

in pieces and broken-down

Yamaha nylon string guitar

the third Brandenburg

reverberated, echoed, re-echoed

transfixed and transfigured

I put all my money in his well-worn open case

It was almost Christmas

–J.S.
 

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048 – III. Allegro by TXGQ

Corner Of The 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

“For him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.”

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

She put her finger in your cheek so hard it must have made your dimple there, and said, “Maple.”

“Tornado”

Your mother named you. You and she just saw
Each other in passing in the room upstairs,
One coming this way into life, and one
Going the other out of life—you know?
So you can’t have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard
It must have made your dimple there, and said,
‘Maple.’ I said it too: ‘Yes, for her name.’
She nodded. So we’re sure there’s no mistake.
I don’t know what she wanted it to mean,
But it seems like some word she left to bid you
Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree’s for us to guess…

–Robert Frost, Maple (excerpt)

“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

“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)

February

Ron Hoffman, Helping Hands Will Get This Skier’s Car off the Ice (1974)

Don’t think Brown ever gave up hope
Of getting home again because
He couldn’t climb that slippery slope;

Or even thought of standing there
Until the January thaw
Should take the polish off the crust.
He bowed with grace to natural law,

And then went round it on his feet,
After the manner of our stock;
Not much concerned for those to whom,
At that particular time o’clock,

It must have looked as if the course
He steered was really straight away
From that which he was headed for—
Not much concerned for them, I say:

No more so than became a man—
And politician at odd seasons.
I’ve kept Brown standing in the cold
While I invested him with reasons;

But now he snapped his eyes three times;
Then shook his lantern, saying, “Ile’s
’Bout out!” and took the long way home
By road, a matter of several miles.

–Robert Frost, Brown’s Descent, or the Willy-nilly Slide (excerpt)

Look on the map, I think we’ve been there before
Close up the doors, let’s roll once more…

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”

“A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.”

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)

“…awaiting the birth of a grandson capable of understanding him.”

Cervantes—a patient gentleman who wrote a book—has been sitting in the Elysian fields for three centuries and gazing sadly around, awaiting the birth of a grandson capable of understanding him.

—José Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Quixote

Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me…

 

star-wars-party-1080
Library and Information Services Metropolitan State University, Star Wars Party (2015)

“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)

“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 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…

“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

“Sensorium”

Peter Ilsted, Mother and Child in an Interior (1898)

“Sensorium”

1965: a song – “Come fly with me, said the little red sled”

1966: a hand in my hand on a frozen pond

1967: a poem – “Then there’s a pair of us–don’t tell!”

1968: a rush of perfume and cold air to say goodnight

1969: a light in the darkness

“Nessun maggior dolore
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
Nella miseria…”

—J.S., “Sensorium”

“What they’re looking for is a definition of why their lives have been flattened or floored…”

Photograph by Kimberly Richards via Unsplash

Harry Kreisler: What led you to philosophy?

Stanley Cavell: Well, I could give you a cocktail answer to that, or I could say, “I’m still asking myself the question.”

Harry Kreisler: Right.

Stanley Cavell: One serious way to answer the question is to say that leaving music was the first enormous basic radical crisis in my life. I was bewildered by who I might be if I wasn’t a musician. And philosophy is, after all, a subject you might come to in a state of crisis. That’s one thing that happened to me, in finding philosophy…

Harry Kreisler: This is a silly question, but I’ll ask it anyway. What does a philosopher do?

Stanley Cavell: Of course, the serious answer to that is, they ask themselves that. Almost everybody has his or her own answer to that. All the great philosophers have their answer to it; it winds up in their text, that what they’re looking for is a definition of why their lives have been flattened or floored…

Conversations with History: Stanley Cavell – YouTube Conversation with Stanley Cavell, p. 3 of 6

“Driftwood”

At Cape Cod, August, 1969

I am scattered in a thousand places

here and there —

now and then

the wind and waves wash me ashore

ceaselessly

leaving something behind

a remindering

a finding of lost time

I never left

–J.S., “Driftwood”

“Only when he touches earth does he, like Antaeus, recover his true strength.”

Bain News Service, “listening to records” (detail)

“Only when he touches earth does he, like Antaeus, recover his true strength.”

—Letter from Ivan Turgenev to Pavel Annenkov (referring to Tolstoy) quoted in Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox”