There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die: and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.
When hurrying home on a rainy night And hearing tree-tops rubbed and tossed, And seeing never a friendly star And feeling your way when paths are crossed: Stop fast and turn three times around And try the logic of the lost.
Where is the heavenly light you dreamed? Where is your hearth and glowing ash? Where is your love by the mellow moon? Here is not even a lightning-flash, And in a place no worse than this Lost men shall wail and teeth shall gnash.
Lightning is quick and perilous, The dawn comes on too slow and pale, Your love brings only a yellow lamp, Yet of these lights one shall avail: The dark shall break for one of these, I’ve never known this thing to fail.
“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
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
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.
Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom. His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy who was sitting frightened but graceful on the edge of a stiff 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.
THAT time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see’st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west; Which by and by black night doth take away, Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire, That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by. This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
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.
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
“…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?”
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green, The night above the dingle starry, Time let me hail and climb Golden in the heydays of his eyes, And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves Trail with daisies and barley Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home, In the sun that is young once only, Time let me play and be Golden in the mercy of his means…
And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs— Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.