cf. photograph by Nadia Valkouskaya via Unsplash and video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay
cf. photograph by Nadia Valkouskaya via Unsplash and video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay
Wild Strawberries (1957)
“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table — Samsa was a travelling salesman — and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.
— Kafka, Metamorphosis
Business Screen magazine, 1971
Scan the shape of this dim shadow, once a man
And Oedipus . . . but I was different then.
— Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus (Tr. Murray)
cf. film via Prelinger Archives
I would forget her, but a fever she
Reigns in my blood and will remember’d be.
— Love’s Labour’s Lost
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
cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1979 with additional artwork by me
roman à clef
Here’s the key —
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)
I remember happier days…
My joking friends well they all moved away.
Jack Corn, “Children During Recess…” (1974)
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
Paris, August, 1984
Nothing should remain unsaid between us
— Robert Frost, To E. T. (excerpt)
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
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)
cf. photograph by Lefty Kasdaglis via Unsplash (edit)
Farewell to an idea . . .
A darkness gathers though it does not fall
And the whiteness grows less vivid on the wall.
— Wallace Stevens, The Auroras of Autumn (excerpt)
Ian Livesey, “Rainy rainy Manchester” (detail) (2015)
On Margate Sands
I can’t stop connecting
everything with everything
with the past
the broken fingernails of dirty hands.
To Carthage I came, once, many years ago
now dull roots with spring rain
cf. photograph by Kyle Popineau via unsplash and Abul Haque, “Students Arriving by Schoolbus…” (1976)
Up from the earth, O weary head!
This is not Troy, about, above—
— Euripides, The Trojan Women (Tr. Murray)
Northeastern University Course Catalog, 1975-76
He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried…
— Robert Frost, The Most Of It (excerpt)
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
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
When it came to concealing his troubles, Tommy Wilhelm was not less capable than the next fellow…
— Saul Bellow, Seize the Day
Northeastern University Bulletin, 1980-81
STEPHEN: (Brings the match near his eye.) Lynx eye. Must get glasses. Broke them yesterday. Sixteen years ago. Distance. The eye sees all flat. (He draws the match away. It goes out.) Brain thinks. Near: far. Ineluctable modality of the visible. (He frowns mysteriously.) Hm… Married.
— Joyce, Ulysses
photograph by Hannah Grace via Unsplash (edit)
Ars Nova (1980)
to the window
a new room
a whole world
I found it — here
a Dowland transcription
To be sure, it is sheer madness… to return to the sites of one’s youth and try to relive at forty what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty. But I was forewarned of that madness… I hoped, I think, to recapture there a freedom I could not forget. In that spot, indeed, more than twenty years ago, I had spent whole mornings wandering… I was alive then.
— Camus, Return To Tipasa
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
Le feu follet (1963)
Now close the windows and hush all the fields;
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.
It will be long ere the marshes resume,
It will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.
— Robert Frost
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
photograph by Jonathan Dubon via Unsplash (edit)
tanglewood in blue
in the summer grass
steadfast bright stars
—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
Horacio Villalobos, “Housewife in the Kitchen…” (ca. 1975)
“The problem with life is that it’s too daily.”
— Sarah E. Sapiro
At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest…
— T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
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
cf. photograph by Genessa Panainte via Unsplash (edit)
open tuning (august, 1981)
under the proscenium arch
seeming you near me
inspired and altered
what chord is that?
and I answered
photograph by RyanMcGuire via Pixabay
Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.
— Joyce, Ulysses
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
Tom Hubbard, “…Public Plaza, Fountain Square…” (1973)
I diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel
long I stood
and looked as far as I could
doubting I should ever come back
I am telling this with a sigh
has made all the difference
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
Ernst Halberstadt, “Ice Skating in the Public Garden” (detail) (1973)
“Are you going to stay in town long?” asked Kitty.
“I don’t know,” he answered, not thinking of what he was saying.
The thought that if he were held in check by her tone of quiet friendliness he would end by going back again without deciding anything came into his mind, and he resolved to rebel against it.
“How is it you don’t know?”
“I don’t know why. It depends on you,” he said, and instantly he was horrified at his own words.
She either did not understand his words, or did not want to understand them, for, seeming to stumble once or twice, catching her foot, she hurriedly skated away from him. She skated up to Mlle. Linon, said something to her, and went towards the pavilion where the ladies took off their skates.
— Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Utopia – “Say Yeah”
cf. photograph by Gabriel Laroche (edit) via Unsplash
Muse, tell me why, for what attaint of her deity, or in what vexation, did the Queen of heaven drive one so excellent in goodness to circle through so many afflictions, to face so many toils? Is anger so fierce in celestial spirits?
— Virgil, Aeneid
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
cf. John Margotta, “La Galleria” (Orange Coast Magazine, 1986)
Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?
— Thackeray, Vanity Fair
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)
cf. video by go_see via Pixabay
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
until dry land
—Sappho, “In Time of Storm” (Tr. Barnstone)
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
cf. photograph by Sam Soffes via Unsplash (edit)
fog of fluorescence
this watch said
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
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?
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
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
photograph by Annie Spratt via Unsplash
There’s not a string attuned to mirth,
But has its chord in melancholy.
—Thomas Hood, Ode to Melancholy
cf. photograph by Tim Gouw via Unsplash and Northeastern University Course Catalog, 1980-82
I see you
cf. John Adams Whipple, “Cornelius Conway Felton with His Hat and Coat” (detail) (ca. 1850) and
video by Activedia via Pixabay
An unassuming young man was travelling, in midsummer, from his native city of Hamburg to Davos-Platz in the Canton of the Grisons, on a three weeks’ visit.
From Hamburg to Davos is a long journey — too long, indeed, for so brief a stay…
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
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
Camden Public Library, “The 6-masted schooner George W. Wells…” (detail) (ca. 1900)
a closed book
just for an instant
ionized and incandescent
split the sky
then was lost
cf. photograph by Tyler Springhetti via Unsplash
back issue (june, 1981)
on the prudential tower escalator
and your smile
moving beyond me
cf. photographs by Noel Y. C., Artful Dioramas of North American Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History and Warren Wong via unsplash
into the diorama
quickly by the buffalo
down the mountain
along the freeway
I flag down the driver
of a 1965 ford fairlane
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…
Photograph by Paul Trienekens via Unsplash
“My sister is in the country. I have a house all to myself, wear no clothes, take 10 big baths a day, & dine on lemonade and ice-cream…”
—Letter from Henry James to his London publisher quoted in Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography
cf. UL Digital Library, “Interior of Foundation Building”
so much milk spilled
so much bridged water
so much greener grass
so much silver lining
so much unglittered gold—
so much unsaid
so much unsaid,
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)
Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography
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)
cf. video by Sixstringplayer via Pixabay
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
that one place where the valley floor opens out.
You will see
the white butterflies…
—William Stafford, How to Regain Your Soul (excerpt)
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. 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…
cf. Jonathan Petersson, “346” (2017)
antediluvian (august, 1986)
in my car at the red light
cascades of rain
empty the town
for an eternity
tried to begin again
cf. video by chayka1270 via Pixabay
Pour on. I will endure.
Provincial Archives of Alberta, “Marten River Provincial Park, Alberta” (1970)
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)
sun clouds glinting
forsaking the fragile
I call to you
cf. photograph by Felix Russell-Saw via Unsplash
“Keats, walk a hundred yards over the rim”
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
(cf. “The Twilight Zone”, Season 2, Episode 23, 1961)
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
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)
Michael Philip Manheim, “Constitution Beach, on Boston Harbor…” (1973)
What is time? A secret — insubstantial and omnipotent…
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
at the college art gallery, october, 1981
the ultrablue sunset sky
radiated around the white church spire
I walked into the art gallery
because I was a romantic
fair creature of an hour
was looking at chippendale furniture
but I shall never look upon thee more
my footfalls echoed around decorative arts
down the passage which I did not take
another door was opening
into another rose-garden
this fire is now my quarry
vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore
William Strode, “Magazines And Newspapers Litter The Intersection Of Sixth & Broadway…” (1972)
You must tell me something that you are sure is true —
I don’t care much what it may be, I will take your word for it.
Things get into a muddle with me…
—Mary Temple, letter to John C. Gray
cf. LIFE, 1964
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself…
–Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
cf. photograph by Andy Beales via Unsplash (edited)
It was very early in the morning, the streets were clean and deserted, I was on my way to the train station. When I compared the time on a clock tower with that on my pocket watch and realized that it was already much later than I thought, I really had to rush, the shock at this discovery made me suddenly uncertain as to the right direction, I didn’t yet know my way all that well in this city…
— Franz Kafka, “Give It Up!”
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
Left: Underwood & Underwood, “…a country farm-yard in Ireland” (ca. 1903)
Right: L.M. Melander & Bro., “Another button off” (ca. 1875)
Cincinnati Magazine, 1977
“…In your twenty-fourth year, you say? Hmm … please permit me one more question, or if you will, a modest suggestion. Since your stay here appears not to be good for you — neither physically nor, if I am not mistaken, mentally — how would it be, if you were to forgo the pleasure of growing older here, in short, if you were to pack your things tonight and be on your way with one of the scheduled express trains tomorrow morning?”
“You mean I should leave?” Hans Castorp asked. “When I’ve only just arrived? But no, how can I possibly decide about that after only one day?”
And as he said it, quite by chance he caught a glimpse of Frau Chauchat in the next room…
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
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.”
cf. LIFE, 1964
UNIDENTIFIED GUEST: Your wife has left you?
EDWARD: Without warning, of course;
Just when she’d arranged a cocktail party.
She’d gone when I came in, this afternoon.
She left a note to say that she was leaving me;
But I don’t know where she’s gone…
—T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
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
cf. Corson Hirschfeld, “Sporting Life” (Cincinnati Magazine, 1977)
Morris looked vaguely round him, and gave a deep sigh. “Well, I was in hopes that we might still have been friends.”
“I meant to tell you, by my aunt, in answer to your message — if you had waited for an answer — that it was unnecessary for you to come in that hope.”
—Henry James, Washington Square
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
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
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed…
—Gerard Manley Hopkins, “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief.” (excerpt)
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
“You weren’t so nice to me last night.”
“How could it have mattered then?”
Silence for a moment. Then:
“However — I want to see you.”
“I want to see you, too.”
“Suppose I don’t go to Southampton, and come into town this afternoon?”
“No — I don’t think this afternoon.”
“It’s impossible this afternoon. Various ——”
We talked like that for a while, and then abruptly we weren’t talking any longer. I don’t know which of us hung up with a sharp click, but I know I didn’t care. I couldn’t have talked to her across a tea-table that day if I never talked to her again in this world.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Lyntha Scott Eiler, “Motorist Gets in Line for the Safety Lane at an Auto Emission Inspection Station…” (1975)
And so this storyteller will not be finished telling our Han’s story in only a moment or two. The seven days in one week will not suffice, nor will seven months. It will be best for him if he is not all too clear about the number of earthly days that will pass as the tale weaves its web about him. For God’s sake, surely it cannot be as long as seven years!
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
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…
cf. J. Craig Annan, “Au Jardin” (ca. 1899)
A crowd will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud.
—Yeats, Fallen Majesty (excerpt)
She’s a cloud
That hangs above my world…
cf. Terry Eiler, “Bather Under Water…” (ca. 1972)
Recalled To Life
when I was 17
I jumped off a boat
after my friend’s fallen eyeglasses
now, dark, cold, and
abandon the light
Left: Cesare Guilio, “Palestra Bianca” (ca. 1940)
Right: A.K. Aster, “On Salons” (Camera Craft, 1940)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo…
cf. LIFE, 1971
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
Fred G. Korth, “A Good Time In The Office” (ca. 1936)
Curtail far hopes to fit short destiny.
Even while we speak time, grudging time, has fled.
Seize eagerly each day, and trust the morrow’s grace as little as may be.
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)
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…
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be…
—Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra
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
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…
If I didn’t try, how would I know? how would I know?
Photograph by Skitterphoto via Pixabay
“…follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”
The thought of her
in that darkest winter
but your eternal summer
will not fade
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
As Spender said of Eliot,
A wonderful poet disguised as a businessman.
Just ask Clavdia.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
A romantic resting against a mantelpiece clock.
You were right, Scott—
the past is forever.
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”
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
a long time ago
you mailed me your copy of Ulysses
and I tried but
many years later
summoning my muse
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
Esther Bubley, “This boardinghouse room needs a heater in the winter and a fan in the summer” (1943)
Enough! Here’s the punishment.—Forward, march!
Ahhh! My lungs are burning, my skull roars!
Night rolls through my eyes by that sun!
—Rimbaud, A Season In Hell
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
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…
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
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)
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
Photograph by Morre Christophe via Unsplash
There is a Gull that rolls alone
over billows loud;
the Nightingale at night will moan
under her soft shroud.
—Allen Ginsberg, “A Very Dove” (excerpt)
Northeastern University Course Catalog, 1984-85
I remember the night the Green–Schwarz mechanism was discovered —
It was a stormy summer night in 1984.
The lightning that flashed across the equations on the blackboard
also flashed across my curtains,
two oranges on the dining room table,
a Pat Metheny album on the blue shag carpet.
I, too, thought I had solved something.
I, too, thought I was free of anomalies.
But the next day I still couldn’t figure it out.
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…”
Can you hear me, the sound of my voice?
I am here to tell you I have made my choice…
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
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.
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…
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…
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
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”
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Anna Curtis Chandler & Irene F. Cypher, “Audio-visual techniques for enrichment of the curriculum” (1948)
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun…
—Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man
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
“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
Benjamin Balázs, “Where My Heart Belongs…”
at the music store, August, 1979
I had to reach way up
the salesman plugged it into a Pignose
the sun was streaming in through the windows
He gave me an imitation tortoise-shell pick
my index finger pressed across
a circuit closed
on the way home
the late summer afternoon sun was starting to set
I rolled down the car window and
reached for the Pat Travers 8-track tape on the passenger seat
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)
Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938)
“Have you noticed a change in Steve?
Boy, I have!
Oh, It’s wonderful, I’ll tell ya!”
–Entry from girl’s diary (ca. 1961) quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries
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
Mohamed Hayibor, Church of Christ, Scientist (2016)
Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981
Over the sound of water splashing in the fountain
and the warm summer night air
I heard your melody echoing around the entire city
then I gave you my guitar and you played the introduction to Roundabout
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
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)
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…
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)
A Stranger came to the door at eve,
And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
Without a window light.
The bridegroom came forth into the porch
With, ‘Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
Stranger, you and I.’
The woodbine leaves littered the yard,
The woodbine berries were blue,
Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;
‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’
Within, the bride in the dusk alone
Bent over the open fire,
Her face rose-red with the glowing coal
And the thought of the heart’s desire.
The bridegroom looked at the weary road,
Yet saw but her within,
And wished her heart in a case of gold
And pinned with a silver pin.
The bridegroom thought it little to give
A dole of bread, a purse,
A heartfelt prayer for the poor of God,
Or for the rich a curse;
But whether or not a man was asked
To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
The bridegroom wished he knew.
–Robert Frost, Love and a Question
How could love be so wrong?
I don’t know why…
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…
Library and Information Services Metropolitan State University, Star Wars Party (2015)
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.”
“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”
—Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (1907)
cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1985
The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.