photograph by Warren Wong via Unsplash
Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. “We have lost the first of the ebb,” said the Director suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.
— Conrad, Heart of Darkness
“So foul a sky clears not without a storm.”
— Shakespeare, King John
Whosoever unceasingly strives upward … him can we save.
Carry On Wayward Son
photograph by Fernando @cferdo via Unsplash
Nicole’s world had fallen to pieces, but it was only a flimsy and scarcely created world; beneath it her emotions and instincts fought on. Was it an hour ago she had waited by the entrance, wearing her hope like a corsage at her belt?
. . . Dress stay crisp for him, button stay put, bloom narcissus–air stay still and sweet.
“It will be nice to have fun again,” she fumbled on. For a moment she entertained a desperate idea of telling him how rich she was, what big houses she lived in, that really she was a valuable property–for a moment she made herself into her grandfather, Sid Warren, the horse-trader. But she survived the temptation to confuse all values and shut these matters into their Victorian side-chambers–even though there was no home left to her, save emptiness and pain.
“I have to go back to the clinic. It’s not raining now.”
Dick walked beside her, feeling her unhappiness, and wanting to drink the rain that touched her cheek.
“I have some new records,” she said. “I can hardly wait to play them. Do you know–“
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
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
cf. Christina Rossetti, A Daughter of Eve (excerpt) and video by me
Fell On Black Days
Photograph by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash
This is the debt I pay
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.
Pay it I will to the end —
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release —
Gives me the clasp of peace.
Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best —
God! but the interest!
— Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Debt
The Real Me
cf. Image by Engin Akyurt via Pixabay (edited)
This tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there…
O, that way madness lies. let me shun that;
No more of that.
— King Lear
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
cf. National Geographic, 1953
A little less returned for him each spring.
Music began to fail him. Brahms, although
His dark familiar, often walked apart.
His spirit grew uncertain of delight,
Certain of its uncertainty, in which
That dark companion left him unconsoled
For a self returning mostly memory.
Only last year he said that the naked moon
Was not the moon he used to see, to feel
(In the pale coherences of moon and mood
When he was young), naked and alien,
More leanly shining from a lankier sky.
Its ruddy pallor had grown cadaverous.
He used his reason, exercised his will,
Turning in time to Brahms as alternate
In speech. He was that music and himself.
They were particles of order, a single majesty:
But he remembered the time when he stood alone.
He stood at last by God’s help and the police;
But he remembered the time when he stood alone.
He yielded himself to that single majesty;
But he remembered the time when he stood alone,
When to be and delight to be seemed to be one,
Before the colors deepened and grew small.
— Wallace Stevens, “Anglais Mort à Florence”
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
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
J.M. Bridges, “Left Ashore” (ca. 1935)
cf. photograph by Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay and video by MixailMixail via Pixabay (edited collage)
ASHES denote that fire was;
Respect the grayest pile
For the departed creature’s sake
That hovered there awhile.
Fire exists the first in light,
And then consolidates,—
Only the chemist can disclose
Into what carbonates.
— Emily Dickinson
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001: I. Adagio
photograph by mikegi via Pixabay (detail)
One white morning, you awoke to find
your black feathers rooted in the lake’s early freeze.
Your friends had fled…
— Margo Button, “With No Explanation”
Wouldn’t It Be Good – Nik Kershaw
cf. Nancy Ford Cones, “Mending The Net” (ca. 1912) and John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott (1888)
…trying as usual to get my picture of myself straight.
— Robert Lowell, Near the Unbalanced Aquarium
Dowland — Book of Songs, Book 1: “All ye whom love or fortune hath betrayed” (David Munderloh)
cf. John C. Higgins, “Man in Bottle” (detail) (ca. 1888) and
video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay (edited collage)
Every man must take the measure of his own strength. I may, I do, regret my want of fortitude; but so it is, that incurable depression of Spirits, Brooding, Indolence, Despondence, thence Pains and nightly Horrors…
— Letter from Coleridge to Daniel Stuart quoted in Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections
Black Sheets Of Rain
cf. videos via Pixabay (edited)
The enormous changes that we see in Ruskin, the Ruskin of Herkomer’s portrait, were caused by events which took place between February 14 and April 23, 1878. It was during this period that he experienced his first bout of full-blown insanity. Five more were to follow.
At the top of a blank page in his diary, Ruskin wrote of this period:
“February, — to April — the Dream”
— Wolfgang Kemp, The Desire of My Eyes
cf. magazine advertisement
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow…
— Emily Dickinson, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes –” (excerpt)
Wouldn’t It Be Good – Nik Kershaw (acoustic)
cf. photograph by Nik Shuliahin via Unsplash (edit)
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! “I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?” she said aloud. “I must be getting somewhere near the center of the earth…”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I Don’t Understand
cf. video by SlowMoJoe via Pixabay
The “morbid melancholy,” which was lurking in his constitution, and to which we may ascribe those particularities, and that aversion to regular life, which, at a very early period, marked his character, gathered such strength in his twentieth year, as to afflict him in a dreadful manner. While he was at Lichfield, in the college vacation of the year 1729, he felt himself overwhelmed with a horrible hypochondria, with perpetual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience; and with a dejection, gloom, and despair, which made existence misery. From this dismal malady he never afterwards was perfectly relieved; and all his labours, and all his enjoyments, were but temporary interruptions of its baleful influence. He told Mr. Paradise that he was sometimes so languid and inefficient, that he could not distinguish the hour upon the town-clock.
— Boswell’s Life of Johnson
photograph by RyanMcGuire via Pixabay
Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.
— Joyce, Ulysses
“No Lookin’ Back” — Michael McDonald
photograph by Forrest Cavale via Unsplash (edit)
Dick tried to rest — the struggle would come presently at home and he might have to sit a long time, restating the universe for her… But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike. It requires the united front of many people to work against it… In a tired way, he planned that they would again resume the régime relaxed a year before…
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
“Compassion” – Todd Rundgren
photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay
My tables—meet it is I set it down…
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
—T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
“Black Sheets Of Rain” – Bob Mould
LITHIUM CARBONATE | Li2CO3 – PubChem
Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin,
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax,
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft.
The coated ones smell sweet or have
no smell; the powdery ones smell
like the chemistry lab at school
that made me hold my breath.
—Jane Kenyon, “Having it Out with Melancholy” (excerpt)
Unknown, “Elizabeth Tappenden” (1876)
In Memory of Elizabeth Tappenden
I reach across time
to tell you
Cassius was wrong —
the fault is not yours.
“In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” by The Allman Brothers Band
Welby Sherman (After Samuel Palmer), “The Shepherd” (1828)
Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses (excerpt)
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Health Month
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
cf. Frances Benjamin Johnston, Post Office Dept. – Dead Letter Office (edited)
Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous —a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!…
Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!
—Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener
“…kept with him a sense as of snow falling about him, a secret screen of new snow between himself and the world.”
—Conrad Aiken, Silent Snow, Secret Snow
“…the author fell back on the well-known consultation James Joyce had with Carl Jung with regard to Joyce’s schizophrenically ill daughter. Jung explained about the loosening of associations in the disease, to which Joyce replied that this precisely was what he did in his writing. To which Jung replied, “Yes, but you are swimming in it; your daughter is drowning.”
—Robert W. Rieber and Maurice Green, The psychopathy of everyday life: antisocial behavior and social distress included in The Individual, Communication, and Society: Essays in Memory of Gregory Bateson (Robert W. Rieber, Ed.)