[To A Serving man] What lady is that, which doth enrich the paw
Of yonder Daniel Striped Tiger?
I know not, sir.
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear—
Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows and X the Owl,
As yonder lady o’er her fellows and Lady Elaine Fairchilde shows…
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this episode aired on PBS.
Frances Benjamin Johnston, “2 scenes from Pastoral Plays: Strephon casts off Chloe” (1906)
cf. LIFE, 1964
UNIDENTIFIED GUEST: Your wife has left you?
EDWARD: Without warning, of course;
Just when she’d arranged a cocktail party.
She’d gone when I came in, this afternoon.
She left a note to say that she was leaving me;
But I don’t know where she’s gone…
—T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
Cincinnati Magazine, 1971
The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavilion–cloth-of-gold of tissue–
O’er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.
—Antony and Cleopatra
(Comes towards her and leans over the back of a chair.)
Are you fretting yourself, ma’am, about anything?
Don’t be. He was always like that, meandering off by himself somewhere. He is a curious bird, Master Richard, and always was. Sure there isn’t a turn in him I don’t know. Are you fretting now maybe because he does be in there (pointing to the study) half the night at his books? Leave him alone. He’ll come back to you again. Sure he thinks the sun shines out of your face, ma’am.
—James Joyce, Exiles
You got that radioaction
Brighter than a sunny day…
Lady Bracknell: A hand-bag?
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Zaida Ben-Yusuf, “Don’t you see that you are making me a great deal of trouble?” (1902)
No shame but mine: I must, forsooth, be forced
To give my hand opposed against my heart
Unto a mad-brain rudesby full of spleen;
Who woo’d in haste and means to wed at leisure.
I told you, I, he was a frantic fool,
Hiding his bitter jests in blunt behavior:
And, to be noted for a merry man,
He’ll woo a thousand, ‘point the day of marriage,
Make feasts, invite friends, and proclaim the banns;
Yet never means to wed where he hath woo’d.
Now must the world point at poor Katharina,
And say, “Lo, there is mad Petruchio’s wife,
If it would please him come and marry her!”
—The Taming of the Shrew
cf. D.A. Sigerist, “Two men and a woman dancing three hand reel” (ca. 1905)
LAVINIA: Stop! I want you to explain the telegram.
JULIA: Explain the telegram? What do you think, Alex?
ALEX: No, Julia, we can’t explain the telegram.
LAVINIA: I am sure that you could explain the telegram.
I don’t know why. But it seems to me that yesterday
I started some machine, that goes on working,
And I cannot stop it; no, it’s not like a machine—
Or if it’s a machine, someone else is running it.
But who? Somebody is always interfering …
I don’t feel free … and yet I started it …
–T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
cf. Gaston Lachaise, Lachaise’s Mother Resting (ca. 1912) and
Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871)
…That was in the winter of senior year. Then in the spring something happened to me. Yes, I remember. I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.
—Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
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
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
VOITSKI: …I met her first ten years ago, at her sister’s house, when she was seventeen and I was thirty-seven. Why did I not fall in love with her then and propose to her? It would have been so easy! And now she would have been my wife. Yes, we would both have been waked tonight by the thunderstorm, and she would have been frightened, but I would have held her in my arms and whispered: “Don’t be afraid! I am here.” Oh, enchanting dream, so sweet that I laugh to think of it. [He laughs] But my God! My head reels! Why am I so old? Why won’t she understand me?…
–Anton Checkov, Uncle Vanya
And you can’t turn back
There is never any starting over
Parallel lines never do cross over…
Frau E. Nothmann, “In The Garden” (detail) (ca. 1896)
“Specimen Of Platinotype After Development”
from “The Book Of Photography, Practical, Theoretic And Applied”, Paul N. Hasluck, Ed. (1907)
O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?
Very well, my lord.
Upon the talk of the poisoning?
I did very well note him.
Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!
Got one for the money
Two for the show
Three for my honey
And four to let you know that I
Let the music do the talking…
Take, O, take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn;
And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn:
But my kisses bring again, bring again;
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.
–Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
cf. H. L. Bostwick, “Multi-Photograph Of Cissy Fitzgerald” (ca. 1905)
Börje Gallén, Fisherman and boy in Smygehuk (detail) (1954)
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world “This was a man!”
—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
cf. E. C. Thompson, Interior showing a dining table set with silver and crystal (ca. 1870)
and photograph by Kace Rodriguez (detail) via Unsplash
Emily: Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all. Everything. I can’t look at everything hard enough. Good morning, Mama…
—Thornton Wilder, Our Town
Joseph A. Horne, Children with radishes grown in the Fairlawn Avenue Victory gardens (1943)
ESTRAGON: Ah! (Pause. Despairing.) What’ll we do, what’ll we do!
VLADIMIR: There’s nothing we can do.
ESTRAGON: But I can’t go on like this!
VLADIMIR: Would you like a radish?
ESTRAGON: Is that all there is?
VLADIMIR: There are radishes and turnips.
ESTRAGON: Are there no carrots?
VLADIMIR: No. Anyway you overdo it with your carrots.
ESTRAGON: Then give me a radish.
—Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
From “American Cookery” (1914)
Scene: Morning-room at the Manor House.
[Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window, looking out into the garden.]
Gwendolen: The fact that they did not follow us at once into the house, as any one else would have done, seems to me to show that they have some sense of shame left.
Cecily: They have been eating muffins. That looks like repentance.
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
William MacGregor Paxton, The Breakfast (1911)
MANDERS: It almost makes me dizzy. Your whole married life, the seeming union of all these years, was nothing more than a hidden abyss!…
MRS. ALVING: I had gone on bearing with him, although I knew very well the secrets of his life out of doors. But when he brought the scandal within our own walls—
MANDERS: Impossible! Here!
MRS. ALVING: Yes; here in our own home…
MANDERS: [Moved.] And you were able to bear all this!
MRS. ALVING: I had to bear it for my little boy’s sake. But when the last insult was added; when my own servant-maid—…
–Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts
Edward Penfield, Arrow washed handkerchiefs… (ca. 1920) and Room from a hotel in the Cours d’Albret, Bordeaux
Max: This probably isn’t anything, but I found this in the car, between the front seats. (He shows her a soiled and blood-stained white handkerchief.)
Annie: What is it?
Max: Henry’s handkerchief…It’s not true, is it?
Max: Oh, God. (He stands up.) Why did you?…
Annie: I’m awfully sorry, Max, but I love him.
Max: Oh, no.
—Tom Stoppard, “The Real Thing”
Othello: By heaven, I saw my handkerchief in’s hand.
O perjured woman! thou dost stone my heart…
I saw the handkerchief.
Photograph by Alejandra Quiroz via unsplash.com
Are you fretting now maybe because he does be in there [pointing to the study] half the night at his books?
Leave him alone. He’ll come back to you again.
Sure he thinks the sun shines out of your face, ma’am.
—James Joyce, “Exiles”
You got that radioaction
Brighter than a sunny day
I wear a lot of protection
Just to keep all your sun away…
Martinus Rørbye, View from the Citadel Ramparts in Copenhagen by Moonlight (1839)
Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one,–
Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.
Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.
Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.
Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.
—Hamlet, Act I, Scene I
TYRONE: I’d lost the great talent I once had through years of easy repetition, never learning a new part, never really working hard. Thirty-five to forty thousand dollars net profit a season like snapping your fingers! It was too great a temptation. Yet before I bought the damned thing I was considered one of the three or four young actors with the greatest artistic promise in America. I’d worked like hell. I’d left a good job as a machinist to take supers’ parts because I loved the theater. I was wild with ambition. I read all the plays ever written. I studied Shakespeare as you’d study the Bible. I educated myself. I got rid of an Irish brogue you could cut with a knife. I loved Shakespeare. I would have acted in any of his plays for nothing, for the joy of being alive in his great poetry. And I acted well in him. I felt inspired by him. I could have been a great Shakespearean actor, if I’d kept on. I know that! In 1874 when Edwin Booth came to the theater in Chicago where I was leading man, I played Cassius to his Brutus one night, Brutus to his Cassius the next, Othello to this Iago, and so on. The first night I played Othello, he said to our manager, “That young man is playing Othello better than I ever did!”
That from Booth, the greatest actor of his day or any other! And it was true! And I was only twenty-seven years old! As I look back on it now, that night was the high spot in my career. I had life where I wanted it! And for a time after that I kept on upward with ambition high. Married your mother. Ask here what I was like in those days. Her love was an added incentive to ambition. But a few years later my good bad luck made me find the big money-maker. It wasn’t that in my eyes at first. It was a great romantic part I knew I could play better than anyone. But it was a great box office success from the start-and then life had me where it wanted me-at from thirty-five to forty thousand net profit a season! A fortune in those days-or even in these.
What the hell was it I wanted to buy, I wonder, that was worth-
Well, no matter. It’s a late day for regrets…
TYRONE: No, I don’t know what the hell it was I wanted to buy.
[He clicks out one bulb.]
On my solemn oath, Edmund, I’d gladly face not having an acre of land to call my own, nor a penny in the bank-
[He clicks out another bulb.]
I’d be willing to have no home but the poorhouse in my old age if I could look back now on having been the fine artist I might have been…
—Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Frédéric Bazille, Bazille’s Studio (Detail)
[Morning-room in Algernon’s flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room.]
[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.]
Algernon: Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
Lane: I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.
Algernon: I’m sorry for that, for your sake. I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.
Lane: Yes, sir.
–Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago…
― Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night