I thought once how Theocritus had sung

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky

I THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wish’d-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw in gradual vision through my tears
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years—
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ‘ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
‘Guess now who holds thee?’— ‘Death,’ I said. But there
The silver answer rang— ‘Not Death, but Love.’

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese: i

The Power of Love

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

A poor torn heart, a tattered heart

W. T. Starr, “The Idler” (ca. 1916)

A poor torn heart, a tattered heart,
That sat it down to rest,
Nor noticed that the ebbing day
Flowed silver to the west,
Nor noticed night did soft descend
Nor constellation burn,
Intent upon the vision
Of latitudes unknown…

— Emily Dickinson

Veterans Day

The U.S. National Archives, “A youngster, clutching his soldier father, gazes upward while the latter lifts his wife from the ground to wish her a ‘Merry Christmas.’ The serviceman is one of those fortunate enough to be able to get home for the holidays.” (December, 1944)

 

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby

Modern Love

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1948

And what is love? It is a doll dress’d up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, and so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long…

— Keats, Modern Love (excerpt)

Marionette

Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap…

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself…

— Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas
 

“Cool Yule” by Louis Armstrong

“The past is a foreign country…”

August, 1984

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

“Free Man In Paris” — Joni Mitchell

Lux Aeterna

Provincial Archives of Alberta, “Marten River Provincial Park, Alberta” (1970)

Lux Aeterna

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)

wind waves
sun clouds glinting
forsaking the fragile
unredeemable future
I call to you

J.S.
 

“Come Back To Me” by Janet Jackson

Dream Sequence

U.S. National Archives, “St. Valentine’s Day Hop…” (detail) (1975)

“You’re wearing a new dress,” he said, as an excuse for gazing at her. And now he heard her answer.

“New? You are conversant with my wardrobe?”

“I am right, am I not?”

“Yes. I recently had it made here, by Lukaek, the tailor in the village. He does work for many of the ladies up here. Do you like it?”

“Very much,” he said, letting his gaze pass over her again before casting his eyes down. “Do you want to dance?” he added.

“Would you like to?” she asked, her brows raised in surprise, but still with a smile…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

“Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler

“You must tell me something that you are sure is true”

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

Through The Fire

I go on my way to-night, If I can; if not, to-morrow; emigrant train ten to fourteen days’ journey; warranted extreme discomfort…
I have been steadily drenched for twenty-four hours; water-proof wet through; immortal spirit fitfully blinking up in spite…
I am not beaten yet, though disappointed. If I am, it’s for good this time; you know what “for good” means in my vocabulary— something inside of 12 months perhaps; but who knows? At least, if I fail in my great purpose, I shall see some wild life in the West and visit both Florida and Labrador ere I return. But I don’t yet know if I have the courage to stick to life without it. Man, I was sick, sick, sick of this last year.

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin (on board s.s. “Devonia,” an hour or two out of New York, August, 1879)
 

“Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

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
 

J. S. Bach, “Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein” (“When we are in the greatest distress”)

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

The U.S. National Archives, “A youngster, clutching his soldier father, gazes upward while the latter lifts his wife from the ground to wish her a ‘Merry Christmas.’ The serviceman is one of those fortunate enough to be able to get home for the holidays.” (December, 1944)

 

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby

Acquainted with the Night

Tom Hubbard, “Rainy Night…” (1973)

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

–Robert Frost, Acquainted with the Night

“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

State Archives of North Carolina, “…Duplin County Schools” (ca.1949)

I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
 

“School Day” by Chuck Berry

The Day I Ran The Projector

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

“No, we are all as old as we feel, but no older…”

cf. LIFE, 1968

…the sight of his own sharp features and grey hair plunged him in hopeless mortification; he made desperate efforts to recover the appearance and freshness of his youth and began paying frequent visits to the hotel barber. Enveloped in the white sheet, beneath the hands of that garrulous personage, he would lean back in the chair and look at himself in the glass with misgiving.

“Grey,” he said, with a grimace.

“Slightly,” answered the man. “Entirely due to neglect, to a lack of regard for appearances. Very natural, of course, in men of affairs, but, after all, not very sensible, for it is just such people who ought to be above vulgar prejudice in matters like these. Some folk have very strict ideas about the use of cosmetics; but they never extend them to the teeth, as they logically should. And very disgusted other people would be if they did. No, we are all as old as we feel, but no older, and grey hair can misrepresent a man worse than dyed. You, for instance, signore, have a right to your natural colour. Surely you will permit me to restore what belongs to you?”

“How?” asked Aschenbach.

For answer the talker washed his client’s hair in two waters, one clear and one dark, and lo, it was as black as in the days of his youth. He waved it with the tongs in wide, flat undulations, and stepped back to admire the effect…

—Thomas Mann, Death In Venice

“Out of the cradle endlessly rocking…”

Keystone View Company, “In Olden Times…the Stork Would Bring a Baby Sweet and Fair” (1907)

“Out of the cradle endlessly rocking…”

—Walt Whitman

Seven Thirty Seven comin’ out of the sky
Oh! Won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride,
I wanna move…

 

Travelin’ Band – Creedence Clearwater Revival

“For him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.”

Tom Hubbard, August Brings the “D’aug Days” to Fountain Square… (1973)

And that was the end of the attempt by the flatlands to reclaim Hans Castorp. The young man admitted quite openly to himself that such total failure, which he had seen coming, was of decisive importance for his relationship to the people down there. For the flatlands it meant a final shrug, the abandonment of any claim; for him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.

–Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all…”

D Coetzee, “Neurology waiting room…” (2008)

I watched my mother grow smaller and smaller until she disappeared into the door of Doctor Gordon’s office building. Then I watched her grow larger and larger as she came back to the car.
“Well?” I could tell she had been crying.
My mother didn’t look at me. She started the car.
Then she said, as we glided under the cool, deep-sea shade of the elms, “Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all. He thinks you should have some shock treatments at his private hospital in Walton.”
I felt a sharp stab of curiosity, as if I had just read a terrible newspaper headline about somebody else.
“Does he mean live there?”
“No,” my mother said, and her chin quivered.
I thought she must be lying.
“You tell me the truth,” I said, “or I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Don’t I always tell you the truth?” my mother said, and burst into tears.

—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You got to help me make a stand
You just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching
And my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way…

 

Fire And Rain by James Taylor

at the music store, August, 1979

Benjamin Balázs, “Where My Heart Belongs…”

at the music store, August, 1979

I had to reach way up

rosewood,
sunburst,
cigarette burn—

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

e

a

c#

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

–J.S.

“Open, unlidded eye of golden day! O marching light…”

CHORUS:
Now the long blade of the sun, lying
Level east to west, touches with glory
Thebes of the Seven Gates. Open, unlidded
Eye of golden day! O marching light…

—Sophocles, Antigone (Tr. by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald)

Traveling down the sandy track
Compass in hand, guitar on my back…

 


cf. photograph by Ben White (edit) via Unsplash