madwoman in the attic

photograph by Isi Parente via Unsplash

“…but now I have a particular reason for wishing to hear all about the fire. Was it suspected that this lunatic, Mrs. Rochester, had any hand in it?”

“You’ve hit it, ma’am: it’s quite certain that it was her, and nobody but her, that set it going…”

— Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


Seether

Icarus and Psyche

photograph by David Raichman via Unsplash

Icarus and Psyche

Keats, what thoughts I have of you tonight
O, Hyperion! O, aching time!
thoughts of the hopes of the past —
the burden of the mystery
of the wide world
I stand alone
a sick eagle
far from the fiery noon
and eve’s one star

— J.S.


Wouldn’t It Be Good

Roderick Hudson

photograph by REVOLT via Unsplash

“It’s greater happiness than you deserve, then! You have never chosen, I say; you have been afraid to choose. You have never really faced the fact that you are false, that you have broken your faith. You have never looked at it and seen that it was hideous, and yet said, ‘No matter, I’ll brave the penalty, I’ll bear the shame!’ You have closed your eyes; you have tried to stifle remembrance, to persuade yourself that you were not behaving as badly as you seemed to be, and there would be some way, after all, of compassing bliss and yet escaping trouble. You have faltered and drifted, you have gone on from accident to accident, and I am sure that at this present moment you can’t tell what it is you really desire!”

— Henry James, Roderick Hudson


Flaming Youth

Slough of Despond

…it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place. And this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

— Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

Finding Myself

cf. William Hamilton, “Male Traveler in a Storm” (1770–80)

The little world, the subject of my muse,
Is a huge task and labor infinite;
Like to a wilderness or mass confuse,
Or to an endless gulf, or to the night:
How many strange Meanders do I find?
How many paths do turn my straying pen?
How many doubtful twilights make me blind,
Which seek to limb out this strange All of men?
Easy it were the earth to portray out,
Or to draw forth the heavens’ purest frame,
Whose restless course, by order whirls about
Of change and place, and still remains the same.
But how shall man’s, or manner’s, form appear,
Which while I write, do change from what they were?

— Thomas Bastard, Book 1, Epigram 5: Ad lectorem de subjecto operis sui.


I wish it would rain down

Non Semper Erit Aestas

cf. Tom McCarthy, “Renaissance of the Upper West Side” (New York Magazine, 1969)

“What is time?” A mystery, a figment — and all-powerful. It conditions the exterior world, it is motion married to and mingled with the existence of bodies in space, and with the motion of these. Would there then be no time if there were no motion? No motion if no time? We fondly ask. Is time a function of space? Or space of time? Or are they identical? Echo answers. Time is functional, it can be referred to as action; we say a thing is “brought about” by time. What sort of thing? — Change! Now is not then, here not there, for between them lies motion. But the motion by which one measures time is circular, is in a closed circle; and might almost equally well be described as rest, as cessation of movement — for the there repeats itself constantly in the here, the past in the present…

— Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (Tr. Lowe-Porter)


I Need You

in memoriam

cf. photograph by Cade Prior via Pexels

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

— Langston Hughes, Mother to Son

Jacob’s Ladder

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

cf. photograph by Vlad Bagacian via Pexels

In the last year of his life he wrote his daughter, “I wish now I’d never relaxed or looked back – but said at the end of “The Great Gatsby”: I’ve found my line – from now on this comes first. This is my immediate duty – without this I am nothing.”

— Arthur Mizener, “Gatsby, 35 Years Later”

Almost ten years ago I participated in the conference whose proceedings would become the volume “Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism.” Stanley sat directly in front of me and listened attentively to my talk, thrilling and scary, not to say awkward, reading out “Cavell writes…” and “Cavell says…” with the man right there. After the Q and A, someone, I don’t remember who, brought me over and introduced us. Stanley shook my hand and with the other patted my shoulder and said, with a broad smile, “Stay on your path, young man.”

— Paul Grimstad, “Stay on Your Path, Young Man”


Point Of Know Return

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob…”

Photograph by Jon Tyson via Unsplash

“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!”

— Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Man in the Mirror

A Painful Case

Photograph by Etienne Boulanger via Unsplash

It was after nine o’clock when he left the shop. The night was cold and gloomy. He entered the Park by the first gate and walked along under the gaunt trees. He walked through the bleak alleys where they had walked four years before. She seemed to be near him in the darkness. At moments he seemed to feel her voice touch his ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he withheld life from her?…He felt his moral nature falling to pieces.

— Joyce, from Dubliners

Mandolin Rain

Emily’s Epigram

cf. National Geographic Magazine (1952)

IT ’S all I have to bring to-day,
This, and my heart beside,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget,—
Some one the sun could tell,—
This, and my heart, and all the bees
Which in the clover dwell.

— Emily Dickinson


The Pleasure Principle

Who goes with Fergus?

(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.

— Yeats

Return of the Mack

time and tide

Charlotte Brooks, “Teenage driver Bill Kolb…driving his date in an MG convertible” (1958)

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie…

— Sonnet LXXIII

Top of the World

My wheel is in the dark

Image by Myriam Zilles via Pixabay

MY Wheel is in the dark,—
I cannot see a spoke,
Yet know its dripping feet
Go round and round.

My foot is on the tide—
An unfrequented road,
Yet have all roads
A “clearing” at the end.

Some have resigned the Loom,
Some in the busy tomb
Find quaint employ,
Some with new, stately feet
Pass royal through the gate,
Flinging the problem back at you and I.

— Emily Dickinson

Part of the Plan

dreamless

cf. photograph by Toni Frissell, “Weeki Wachee spring, Florida” (underwater view of a woman, wearing a long gown, floating in water) (1947) and video (underwater seabed light) by motionstock via Pixabay (edited collage by me)

I placed my dream in a boat
and the boat into the sea;
then I ripped the sea with my hands
so that my dream would sink.

My hands are still wet
with the blue of the slashed waves,
and the color that runs from my fingers
colors the deserted sands.

The wind arrives from far away,
night bends itself with the cold;
under the water in a boat
my dream is dying away.

I’ll cry as much as necessary
to make the sea grow
so that my boat will sink to the bottom
and my dream disappear…

— Cecilia Meireles, “Song” (Tr. Giacomelli)

Jackie Blue

“Wanting to Move”

Image by Niek Verlaan via Pixabay

Continually, a bell rings in my heart.
I was supposed to go somewhere, to some other place,
Tense from the long wait—
Where do you go, will you take me
“With you, on your horses, down the river, with the flame
of your torches?”

They burst out laughing.
“A tree wanting to move from place to place!”
Startled, I look at myself—
A tree, wanting to move from place to place, a tree
Wanting to move? Am I then—
Born here, to die here
Even die here?
Who rings the bell, then, inside my heart?
Who tells me to go, inside my heart?
Who agitates me, continually, inside my heart?

— Vijaya Mukhopadhyay, “Wanting to Move”

“House of Spring”

cf. Photographs via Unsplash and Pexels

Hundreds of open flowers
all come from
the one branch
Look
all their colors
appear in my garden
I open the clattering gate
and in the wind
I see
the spring sunlight
already it has reached
worlds without number

— Musō Soseki (Tr. Merwin & Shigematsu)

I Just Want To Celebrate

coping: perspective

Photograph by Ioannis Ioannidis via Pixabay

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves…

— from Dubliners, James Joyce

“The Road Taken”

George C. Laur, “Students on Their Way to Senior High School…” (ca. 1975)

The Road Taken

Two hundred roads diverged from a yellow house,
And sorry I could not travel all two hundred
And be one traveler, briefly I stood
And looked down one and thought it was good;
And looked down the other one hundred and ninety nine
And thought they were mine.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Even knowing how way leads on to way losing track,
I never doubted that I could come back.
I am telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages ago:
Two hundred roads diverged —
I took number one ninety nine to my regret,
And that is what I can’t forget.

— J.S. (cf. Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”)

Broadway Hotel

The Dewey Decimal System

Thomas J. O’Halloran, “Young people working in Library” (1964)

From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive.
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire.
They are the books, the arts, the academes
That show, contain, and nourish all the world.
Else none at all in ought proves excellent.

Love’s Labor’s Lost

What A Wonderful World

carpe diem quam minimum credula postero

Party at The Met, ca. 1960s

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

— A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad

BELL & JAMES — Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)

Thalatta! Thalatta!

Photograph by Radu Florin via Unsplash

And when all had reached the summit, then indeed they fell to embracing one another, and generals and captains as well, with tears in their eyes. And on a sudden, at the bidding of some one or other, the soldiers began to bring stones and to build a great cairn…

— Xenophon, Anabasis

Doorstep

“Santayana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there!”

“PHILOSOPHICAL” DIALOGUES BETWEEN SOCRATES (S) AND AN IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR (ii):

 

S: Wittgenstein at a restaurant or we can dine at home.

ii: Bertrand, can you Russell up some dinner for me?

S: Francis, Bacon sure smells great when it’s cooking doesn’t it?

ii: That hits Lamarck.

S: I Goethe go.

ii: Rousseau long!

 

S: Let’s play Heidegger seek!

ii: I Kant find you!

 

S: Hegel, what’s going on?

ii: We were supposed to go Schopenhauers ago!

S: Don’t put Descartes before the horse! We’ve Spinoza this many times before.

ii: John, Locke the front door and we’ll get going.

 

S: Foucault? I didn’t hear the phone ring.

ii: Hume are you referring to?

S: Camus come over to visit today?

ii: I’m Newton town so I’m not sure where to go.

S: I’ll Nietzsche in front of my house. Drive Pascal and then take the next left. Husserl can you get here?

ii: Is your house Nietzsche and clean?

S: Rousseau it is. I really Fichte this place up. It looks great. Kierkegaard-en I told you about with lots of flowers.

ii: If that’s Sartre than I’m a Hottentot.

 

S: Santayana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there!

ii: Don’t Thoreau your life away!

Indiana Wants Me

Out of your whole life give but one moment!

Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Inc., Beginning to Date (1953)

Out of your whole life give but one moment!
All of your life that has gone before,
All to come after it, – so you ignore,
So you make perfect the present, – condense,
In a rapture of rage, for perfection’s endowment,
Thought and feeling and soul and sense –
Merged in a moment which gives me at last
You around me for once, you beneath me, above me –
Me – sure that despite of time future, time past, –
This tick of our life-time’s one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet –
The moment eternal – just that and no more –
When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!

— Robert Browning, “Now”

Hesperide Summer

Herbert L. Spencer, “Mere Man” (ca. 1934)

EXCEPT the smaller size, no Lives are round,
These hurry to a sphere, and show, and end.
The larger, slower grow, and later hang—
The Summers of Hesperides are long.

— Emily Dickinson

Lonely Weekend

depression mantra

cf. edited collage featuring photograph by Sasha Freemind (man at window) via Unsplash

never give in, never give in, never, never, never…

— Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941, Harrow School

 

a fever, longing still

Hot Rod Girl (1956)

In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav’nly-pensive contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns;
What means this tumult…?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?

— Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard

I Want You Bad

for all dishevelled wandering stars

cf. photograph by Alex Iby via Unsplash and

error46146, Subway Timelapse Experiment – YouTube (edited collage)

And brood on hopes and fear no more…

— W. B. Yeats, Who goes with Fergus?

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day

To The Same

cf. photograph by Andrew Neel via Unsplash (edited)

Yet I argue not
Against Heaven’s hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer
Right onward…

— Milton, “To the Same”

strong in that hour

cf. photograph by rawpixel via Unsplash

“…and he prayed that God would strengthen us when the hard time comes on us; as it will come for all of us; as it came to Job — that we’d be strong in that hour…”

— Garrison Keillor, More News from Lake Wobegon — Hope: Let Us Pray
 

a persistent question

Photograph by Martino Pietropoli via Unsplash

I want my place! my own place! my true place in the world! my proper sphere! my thing to do, which Nature intended me to perform when she fashioned me thus awry, and which I have vainly sought all my lifetime!

— Hawthorne, The Intelligence Office

my lost self

cf. photograph by Cherry Laithang via Unsplash (edited collage)

like Antaeus
drifting in the darkest night
searching for my long lost self —
my strength
my spirit
myself
and then I touch ground
again

— J.S.

Van Halen – 6/12/81 – Oakland Coliseum

“He gathered together a few shillings and wired them to Trieste…”

Pasadena (Calif.) Audubon Society, “Teaching Children To Love The Birds” (ca. 1922)

He gathered together a few shillings and wired them to Trieste; on Christmas eve John Joyce produced a few more to wire to Nora, quoting Vergil almost accurately, “Non ignara malorum miseris succurrere disco.”*

*“Having suffered myself, I know how to help those in trouble.”

— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce

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)

The furnace in which his soul was forged

cf. photograph by Erik Witsoe via Unsplash (edited) and video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay (edited)

 

J. S. Bach, Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein performed by Monica Chew

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”)

Spring and Fall

cf. Carol M. Highsmith, “Tremont Street, Boston” (between 1980 and 2006) and
video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay (edited)

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

— Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring and Fall

If These Walls Could Speak

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’

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

Who Goes with Fergus?

cf. London Stereoscopic Company, “Jeames at Home!” (ca. 1860-1870)

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?
 

Return Of The Mack (C&J Extended Mix) by Mark Morrison

college epiphany (a true story)

college epiphany (a true story)

at precisely 10 o’clock he
(a distinguished professor in the history department)
closed the door and walked briskly to the lectern

“There is one song…,”

he whirled on us
in an exaggeratedly sotto voce
stage whisper

“that changed…,”

he crouched forward dramatically
leaning into the first row of seats
then paced back and forth across the front of the classroom
like Holmes to our Watsons
his hands in a sweeping gesture across the entire spellbound auditorium

“…EVERYTHING!”

My Sharona was now receding into the dim, dark, distant past
quod erat demonstrandum!

— J.S.

Have You Never Been Mellow  Olivia Newton-John

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

I sat upon the shore fishing, with the arid plain behind me

Ian Livesey, “Rainy rainy Manchester” (detail) (2015)

On Margate Sands
I can’t stop connecting
everything with everything
the present
with the past
the broken fingernails of dirty hands.
To Carthage I came, once, many years ago
burning
now dull roots with spring rain
stirring

— J.S.

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Not Troy

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—
Not Troy…

— Euripides, The Trojan Women (Tr. Murray)

“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

“Now Close the Windows”

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