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

The Triumph of Time

George Eastman Museum, “Couple” (ca. 1910)

Is it worth a tear, is it worth an hour,
To think of things that are well outworn?
Of fruitless husk and fugitive flower,
The dream foregone and the deed forborne?
Though joy be done with and grief be vain,
Time shall not sever us wholly in twain;
Earth is not spoilt for a single shower;
But the rain has ruined the ungrown corn.

It will grow not again, this fruit of my heart,
Smitten with sunbeams, ruined with rain.
The singing seasons divide and depart,
Winter and summer depart in twain.
It will grow not again, it is ruined at root,
The bloodlike blossom, the dull red fruit;
Though the heart yet sickens, the lips yet smart,
With sullen savour of poisonous pain.

I have put my days and dreams out of mind,
Days that are over, dreams that are done…

Yea, I know this well: were you once sealed mine,
Mine in the blood’s beat, mine in the breath,
Mixed into me as honey in wine,
Not time, that sayeth and gainsayeth,
Nor all strong things had severed us then;
Not wrath of gods, nor wisdom of men,
Nor all things earthly, nor all divine,
Nor joy nor sorrow, nor life nor death.

— Swinburne


The First Cut Is The Deepest

You got lucky

Photograph by Ghaly Wedinly via Unsplash

When I was fair and young, then favor graced me.
Of many was I sought their mistress for to be.
But I did scorn them all and answered them therefore:
Go, go, go, seek some other where; importune me no more.

How many weeping eyes I made to pine in woe,
How many sighing hearts I have not skill to show,
But I the prouder grew and still this spake therefore:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.

Then spake fair Venus’ son, that proud victorious boy,
Saying: You dainty dame, for that you be so coy,
I will so pluck your plumes as you shall say no more:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.

As soon as he had said, such change grew in my breast
That neither night nor day I could take any rest.
Wherefore I did repent that I had said before:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.

— Queen Elizabeth I, When I Was Fair and Young

You Got Lucky

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

Omnia Vincit Amor

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1969)

“When I compare the aspect of the world to me now with what it was twelve months ago, I am far from desponding or complaining. I seem to have a motive and a rallying-word in the fight of life: …Alles für Ruhm und Ihr!”

— Letter from Thomas Carlyle to Jane Welsh

Anybody in their right mind could see it’s you and me…

“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

reliquiae

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1969)

YOU left me, sweet, two legacies,—
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content,
Had He the offer of;

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me.

— Emily Dickinson


Marlene on the Wall

Reunited

Marion S. Trikosko, “Working College Students” (1971)

Soon, O Ianthe! life is o’er,
And sooner beauty’s heavenly smile:
Grant only (and I ask no more),
Let love remain that little while.

— Walter Savage Landor

See A Little Light

Il fuoco dell’amore

Thomas J. O’Halloran, “Students leaving school” (1977)

Ne regarde pas la figure,
Jeune fille, regarde le cœur.
Le cœur d’un beau jeune homme est souvent difforme.
Il y a des cœurs où l’amour ne se conserve pas.

Jeune fille, le sapin n’est pas beau,
N’est pas beau comme le peuplier,
Mais il garde son feuillage l’hiver…

— Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris

The First Cut Is the Deepest

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

Epistle from Mrs. Yonge to Her Husband

cf. Microcomputing Magazine (1981)

Think not this paper comes with vain pretense
To move your pity, or to mourn th’ offense.
Too well I know that hard obdurate heart;
No softening mercy there will take my part,
Nor can a woman’s arguments prevail,
When even your patron’s wise example fails.
But this last privilege I still retain;
Th’ oppressed and injured always may complain…

— Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

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

Amoretti and Epithalamion: Sonnet LXVI

cf. Nation’s Business Magazine (1970)

TO all those happy blessings, which ye have
With plenteous hand by heaven upon you thrown;
This one disparagement they to you gave,
That ye your love lent to so mean a one.
Ye, whose high worth’s surpassing paragon
Could not on earth have found one fit for mate,
Ne but in heaven matchable to none,
Why did ye stoop unto so lowly state?
But ye thereby much greater glory gat,
Than had ye sorted with a prince’s peer:
For, now your light doth more itself dilate,
And, in my darkness, greater doth appear.
Yet, since your light hath once illumined me,
With my reflex yours shall increased be.

— Edmund Spenser

Just Got Lucky

Far and Close

cf. LIFE Magazine (ca. 1970)

Far and Close

You

Look a while at me,

Look a while at a cloud.

I feel

You are far away while looking at me,

So very close while looking at the cloud.

— Gu Cheng (Tr. Morin)

Shower the People

On a Dream

cf. Cincinnati Magazine (1983)

As Hermes once took to his feathers light,
When lulled Argus, baffled, swoon’d and slept,
So on a Delphic reed, my idle spright
So play’d, so charm’d, so conquer’d, so bereft
The dragon-world of all its hundred eyes;
And seeing it asleep, so fled away,
Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,
Nor unto Tempe where Jove griev’d that day;
But to that second circle of sad Hell,
Where in the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw
Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell
Their sorrows—pale were the sweet lips I saw,
Pale were the lips I kiss’d, and fair the form
I floated with, about that melancholy storm.

— Keats, On a Dream

Love’s Train

I know it—and to know it is despair

Bright Star (2009)

The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you against the unpromising morning of my Life—My love has made me selfish.

— Letter from Keats to Fanny Brawne

Love Lies Bleeding

That time of year

Image by Vicki Nunn via Pixabay

That time of year
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold…

autumn
leaves
me
again
every year
— J.S.

Always The Last To Know

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

“recuerdo”

Photograph by Juliane Mergener via Unsplash

recuerdo

upon a violin
Sentio, ergo sum
my musical Descartes
each song
deeper
deeper
deeper
into my heart
mercy I cried
but in her lantern slide
did see my life
as though magnified

— J.S.

Killing Me Softly With Her Song

To Fanny

cf. TV Commercial

I know it—and to know it is despair
To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
Nor when away you roam,
Dare keep its wretched home:
Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
Then, loveliest! keep me free
From torturing jealousy.

— Keats, “To Fanny”

What’s Her Name Today?

“The Meaning of Simplicity”

Photograph by John-Mark Smith via Unsplash (detail) (edit)

I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me;
if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things,
you’ll touch what my hand has touched,
our hand-prints will merge…

— Yannis Ritsos, “The Meaning of Simplicity” (Tr. Keeley)

Lorelei

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

The Waiting Game

WHEN you are very old, at evening
You’ll sit and spin beside the fire, and say,
Humming my songs, “Ah well, ah well-a-day!
When I was young, of me did Ronsard sing.”
None of your maidens that doth hear the thing,
Albeit with her weary task foredone,
But wakens at my name, and calls you one
Blest, to be held in long remembering.

I shall be low beneath the earth, and laid
On sleep, a phantom in the myrtle shade,
While you beside the fire, a grandame grey,
My love, your pride, remember and regret;
Ah, love me, love! we may be happy yet,
And gather roses, while ’tis called to-day.

— Pierre de Ronsard, “Of His Lady’s Old Age” (Tr. Lang)

The Waiting Game

When I was stone blue I knew what to do.

cf. National Geographic Magazine (1948)

EXERT thy voice, sweet harbinger of Spring!
This moment is thy time to sing,
This moment I attend to praise,
And set my numbers to thy lays.
Free as thine shall be my song;
As thy music, short or long.

Poets wild as thee were born,
Pleasing best when unconfined,
When to please is least designed,
Soothing but their cares to rest:
Cares do still their thoughts molest,
And still th’ unhappy poet’s breast,

Like thine, when best he sings, is placed against a thorn.
She begins, let all be still!
Muse, thy promise now fulfil!
Sweet, oh sweet! still sweeter yet!

— Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “To the Nightingale” (excerpt)

Stone Blue

“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

Solitaire

W.E. Daugherty, “Solitary” (ca. 1904)

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

— Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper

I’m thinking of you Mary Anne…

So thy great gift, upon misprision growing, comes home again, on better judgment making.

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1962)

FAREWELL! thou art too dear for my possessing
And like enough thou know’st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but, waking, no such matter.

— Sonnet LXXXVII

Don’t Hurt Yourself

[Storm still.]

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

Dépression à Tucson

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”

Born yesterday

The Birth of Bacchus

La Dolce Vita (1960)

But if he be indeed the thund’ring Jove,
Bid him, when next he courts the rites of love,
Descend triumphant from th’ etherial sky,
In all the pomp of his divinity,
Encompass’d round by those celestial charms,
With which he fills th’ immortal Juno’s arms…

— Ovid, Metamorphoses (Tr. Garth, Dryden, et al.)

Give Me An Inch

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?…
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare…
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new…

— Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

“Flying High Again” Randy Rhoads Guitar Track

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

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

cf. “Shy Guy” (1947)

WHEN to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times’ waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight…

— Sonnet XXX

Whenever You’re On My Mind

When I consider every thing that grows holds in perfection but a little moment

cf. Edwin Rosskam, “Untitled photo…” (1936)

WHEN I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and check’d e’en by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And, all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

— Sonnet XV

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

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

“Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight…”

Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight,
Assigning commas, setting accents right,
As once I punctuated, spelled and trimmed
When, passing in a Princeton spring—how dimmed
By this damned quarter-century and more!—
You left your Shadow Laurels at my door.
That was a drama webbed of dreams: the scene
A shimmering beglamored bluish-green
Soiled Paris wineshop; the sad hero one
Who loved applause but had his life alone;
Who fed on drink for weeks; forgot to eat,
“Worked feverishly, ” nourished on defeat
A lyric pride, and lent a lyric voice
To all the tongueless knavish tavern boys,
The liquor-ridden, the illiterate;
Got stabbed one midnight by a tavern-mate—
Betrayed, but self-betrayed by stealthy sins—
And faded to the sound of violins…

— Edmund Wilson, from the Dedication to “The Crack-Up” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Back on the Chain Gang

Perseverance

Photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash

Perseverance

When all the world is looming dark
And things seem not so clear,
When shadows seem to hover ’round
Lord, may I persevere.
When it seems everything’s been tried
And there’s no way to go,
Just let me keep remembering
Sometimes the journey’s slow.
I may just need to stop and rest
Along the path I trod,
A time to try to understand
And have my talk with God.
As I gain new strength to carry on
Without a doubt or fear,
Somehow I know things will be right,
And so, I persevere.

— Anne Stortz

Roll On Down The Highway