“When I left you I found an organ-grinder in Russell Square playing to a child; and the simple fact that there was a child listening to him, that he was giving this pleasure, entitled him, according to my theory, as you know, to some money; so I put some coppers on the ledge of his organ, without so much as looking at him, and I was going on when a woman said to me: ‘Yes sir, he do look bad, don’t he? scarcely fit like to be working.’ And then I looked at the man, and O! he was so ill, so yellow and heavy-eyed and drooping. I did not like to go back somehow , and so I gave the woman a shilling and asked her to give it to him for me. I saw her do so and walked on; but the face followed me, and so when I had got to the end of the division, I turned and came back as hard as I could and filled his hand with money — ten to thirteen shillings, I should think. I was sure he was going to be ill, you know, and he was a young man; and I dare say he was alone, and had no one to love him.”
— Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Mrs. Sitwell, November, 1874
WHEN in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d, Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee,—and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
WHEN a friend calls to me from the road And slows his horse to a meaning walk, I don’t stand still and look around On all the hills I haven’t hoed, And shout from where I am, What is it? No, not as there is a time to talk. I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground, Blade-end up and five feet tall, And plod: I go up to the stone wall For a friendly visit.
The horses started up, amid farewells and hand-wavings from the bystanders; and then, as Frau Chauchat sank smilingly back against the cushions of the sleigh, her eyes swept the facade of the Berghof, and rested for the fraction of a second upon Hans Castorp’s face. In pallid haste he sought his loggia, thence to get a last glimpse of the sleigh as it went jingling down the drive toward the Dorf. Then he flung himself into his chair…
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.
To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans, Coy looks with heart-sore sighs, one fading moment’s mirth With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights; If haply won, perhaps a hapless gain; If lost, why then a grievous labor won; How ever, but a folly bought with wit, Or else a wit by folly vanquishèd.
Admiringly, my liege. At first I stuck my choice upon her, ere my heart Durst make too bold a herald of my tongue; Where the impression of mine eye infixing, Contempt his scornful perspective did lend me, Which warped the line of every other favor, Scorned a fair color or expressed it stol’n, Extended or contracted all proportions To a most hideous object. Thence it came That she whom all men praised and whom myself, Since I have lost, have loved, was in mine eye The dust that did offend it.
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 LEFT you in the morning, And in the morning glow, You walked a way beside me To make me sad to go. Do you know me in the gloaming, Gaunt and dusty grey with roaming? Are you dumb because you know me not, Or dumb because you know?
All for me? And not a question For the faded flowers gay That could take me from beside you For the ages of a day? They are yours, and be the measure Of their worth for you to treasure, The measure of the little while That I’ve been long away.
WHY, who makes much of a miracle? As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky… Or talk by day with any one I love…
Frank T. Merrill, “Hercules frees Prometheus from the rock” (1904)
Meanwhile, during the first flush of success and before the release of “Fantastic,” we’d decided that Wham!’s creative reins should rest solely with George if we were to achieve the scale of success we believed was in our reach. I had long recognized his ability… The decision still smarted a little, but it was the right one: George was so clearly developing into a writer of rare ability; indeed it was the desire to realize the potential of that gift which drove him to become a solo artist, free of our band’s constraints…
— Andrew Ridgeley, “Wham!, George Michael and Me: A Memoir”
From out the dragging vastness of the sea, Wave-fettered, bound in sinuous seaweed strands, He toils toward the rounding beach, and stands One moment, white and dripping, silently, Cut like a cameo in lazuli, Then falls, betrayed by shifting shells, and lands Prone in the jeering water, and his hands Clutch for support where no support can be. So up, and down, and forward, inch by inch, He gains upon the shore, where poppies glow And sandflies dance their little lives away. The sucking waves retard, and tighter clinch The weeds about him, but the land-winds blow, And in the sky there blooms the sun of May.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
“GOING to him! Happy letter! Tell him— Tell him the page I did n’t write; Tell him I only said the syntax, And left the verb and the pronoun out. Tell him just how the fingers hurried, Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow; And then you wished you had eyes in your pages, So you could see what moved them so.
“Tell him it was n’t a practised writer, You guessed, from the way the sentence toiled; You could hear the bodice tug, behind you, As if it held but the might of a child; You almost pitied it, you, it worked so. Tell him—No, you may quibble there, For it would split his heart to know it, And then you and I were silenter.
“Tell him night finished before we finished, And the old clock kept neighing ‘day!’ And you got sleepy and begged to be ended— What could it hinder so, to say? Tell him just how she sealed you, cautious, But if he ask where you are hid Until to-morrow,—happy letter! Gesture, coquette, and shake your head!”
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and off-beat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Thou dusky spirit of the wood, Bird of an ancient brood, Flitting thy lonely way, A meteor in the summer’s day, From wood to wood, from hill to hill, Low over forest, field and rill, What wouldst thou say? Why shouldst thou haunt the day? What makes thy melancholy float? What bravery inspires thy throat, And bears thee up above the clouds, Over desponding human crowds, Which far below Lay thy haunts low?
All day I tried to distinguish need from desire. Now, in the dark, I feel only bitter sadness for us, the builders, the planers of wood, because I have been looking steadily at these elms and seen the process that creates the writhing, stationary tree is torment, and have understood it will make no forms but twisted forms.
Yesterday the fields were only grey with scattered snow, And now the longest grass-leaves hardly emerge; Yet her deep footsteps mark the snow, and go On towards the pines at the hills’ white verge.
I cannot see her, since the mist’s white scarf Obscures the dark wood and the dull orange sky; But she’s waiting, I know, impatient and cold, half Sobs struggling into her frosty sigh.
Why does she come so promptly, when she must know That she’s only the nearer to the inevitable farewell; The hill is steep, on the snow my steps are slow – Why does she come, when she knows what I have to tell?
“…since you can’t sleep, and Mamma can’t either, we mustn’t go on in this stupid way; we must do something; I’ll get one of your books.” But I had none there. “Would you like me to get out the books now that your grandmother is going to give you for your birthday?”
You smiled, you spoke, and I believed, By every word and smile deceived. Another man would hope no more; Nor hope I what I hoped before: But let not this last wish be vain; Deceive, deceive me once again!