He thought he kept the universe alone

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)

Behind The Lines

“I dwell in a lonely house I know…”

John Dillwyn Llewelyn, The Upper Fall (1853–56)

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow…

–Robert Frost, Ghost House
 

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Television Commercials (1950s-1960s)

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

–T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (excerpt)

Well, I’m a bum in the sun and I’m having fun
And I know you know I got no special plans
All the bills are paid
I got it made in the shade
And all I need is the woman…

Bartleby, the Scrivener

cf. Frances Benjamin Johnston, Post Office Dept. – Dead Letter Office (edited)

Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous —a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!…

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

—Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener

“…kept with him a sense as of snow falling about him, a secret screen of new snow between himself and the world.”

—Conrad Aiken, Silent Snow, Secret Snow