Transfigured Night

Wild Strawberries (1957)

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table — Samsa was a travelling salesman — and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

— Kafka, Metamorphosis

CHAPTER I: Down The Rabbit Hole

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

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

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me

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
 

“What is wrong with woollen gloves?”

cf. photograph by Joshua Coleman via Unsplash (edit)

The possibility of having [Ulysses] published in a more regular way came up again in June 1918, when Roger Fry suggested Miss Weaver call on Leonard and Virginia Woolf to induce them to publish the book at their new Hogarth Press. Virginia Woolf noted in her diary the incongruous appearance of Miss Weaver as the ‘buttoned-up’ and woollen-gloved missionary for a book that ‘reeled with indecency.’*

*Miss Weaver, when the passage was quoted to her, demanded with acerbity, ‘What is wrong with woollen gloves?’

— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
 

“(Shine Your) Light Love Hope” by Bob Mould

Love And A Question

cf. Home Movie

He was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to the man at the furnace:

“Is the fire hot, sir?”

But the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. It was just as well. He might have answered rudely.

— Joyce, The Dead
 

“I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

Lynx Eye

Northeastern University Bulletin, 1980-81

STEPHEN: (Brings the match near his eye.) Lynx eye. Must get glasses. Broke them yesterday. Sixteen years ago. Distance. The eye sees all flat. (He draws the match away. It goes out.) Brain thinks. Near: far. Ineluctable modality of the visible. (He frowns mysteriously.) Hm… Married.

— Joyce, Ulysses
 

“Time Passages” by Al Stewart

One Art

cf. Gustave Caillebotte, “Interior, Woman at the Window” (detail) (1880) and photograph via unsplash (edit)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster…

— Elizabeth Bishop, One Art

“Life Goes On Without You” — Jill Sobule

“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

“It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” — Alison Krauss

“Who has the most matches?”

Ernst Halberstadt, “City Hall Plaza–A Pleasant Setting for Rest and Conversation” (1973)

—He’s pretty well on, professor MacHugh said in a low voice.

—Seems to be, J. J. O’Molloy said, taking out a cigarettecase in murmuring meditation, but it is not always as it seems. Who has the most matches?

— Joyce, Ulysses

“Love Of The Common Man” — Todd Rundgren

“tanglewood in blue”

photograph by Jonathan Dubon via Unsplash (edit)

tanglewood in blue

a moment
I held
once forever
in the summer grass
steadfast bright stars
still turning

—J.S.

—Yes. So you think…

The door closed behind the outgoer.

Rest suddenly possessed the discreet vaulted cell, rest of warm and brooding air.

A vestal’s lamp.

Here he ponders things that were not… what might have been: possibilities of the possible as possible: things not known…

— Joyce, Ulysses

“Fifty Years After The Fair” — Aimee Mann

“The problem with life is that it’s too daily.”

Horacio Villalobos, “Housewife in the Kitchen…” (ca. 1975)

“The problem with life is that it’s too daily.”

— Sarah E. Sapiro

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest…

— T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

“Sweet Bird” — Joni Mitchell

Tender is the night… but here there is no light

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

The Myth Of Sisyphus

photograph by Kristopher Roller via Unsplash

All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing…There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night…Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling…

— Camus, The Myth Of Sisyphus

A Modern Aeneid

cf. photograph by Gabriel Laroche (edit) via Unsplash

Muse, tell me why, for what attaint of her deity, or in what vexation, did the Queen of heaven drive one so excellent in goodness to circle through so many afflictions, to face so many toils? Is anger so fierce in celestial spirits?

— Virgil, Aeneid
 

“Carry On My Wayward Son” by Samantha Loren

“In Time of Storm”

cf. video by go_see via Pixabay

Brightness

and with good luck
we will reach the harbor
and black earth

We sailors have no will
in big blasts of wind,
hoping for dry land

and to sail
our cargo
floating about

Many
labors
until dry land

—Sappho, “In Time of Storm” (Tr. Barnstone)

“Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” – New England

Call me Ishmael.

photograph by Mark Jefferson Paraan via Unsplash

Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.

— Melville, Moby Dick

Electric Light Orchestra – “Last Train To London”

This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.

photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay

My tables—meet it is I set it down…

Hamlet

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

Who is it that can tell me who I am?

Photograph by Bruce Mars via Pexels

KING LEAR:
Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?

FOOL:
Lear’s shadow.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Elton John

Straight Ahead

Photograph by Easton Oliver via Unsplash

His railings and outbursts expressed not the conviction of failure but the passion for success. They touched off his disappointment, his injured self-esteem, his wounded pride, without ultimately concealing his determination to persevere — his finally unshakeable will to achieve. The strain of remonstrative self-pity and pessimism in Conrad was an overlay to the iron in him.

—Leo Gurko, “Joseph Conrad: Giant in Exile”

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

—Emerson, Self Reliance
 

Aerosmith – “Make It” (2007)

More Light

Tom Hubbard, “…Sale of Donated Books…” (1973)

For me that white figure in the stillness of coast and sea seemed to stand at the heart of a vast enigma. The twilight was ebbing fast from the sky above his head, the strip of sand had sunk already under his feet, he himself appeared no bigger than a child — then only a speck, a tiny white speck, that seemed to catch all the light left in a darkened world. . . . And, suddenly, I lost him. . . .

—Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

“More Light” – Utopia

I’m out here in the meadow

TV Commercial

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, “Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home again, old neighbor—Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”

—Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle

“Meadows” – Joe Walsh

Loomings

LSE Library, “Student in the library, 1981”

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
 

“Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard

Renaissance

Tom Hubbard, “…Troupes Dancing in the Square Are Joined by Young-In-Heart Spectator” (1973)

Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off forever…

King Lear

“Love Is Alive” – Gary Wright

A Turning Point

cf. Photograph by The Creative Exchange via Unsplash

One sound is saying, ‘You are not worth tuppence,
But neither is anybody. Watch it! Be severe.’
The other says, ‘Go with it! Give and swerve.
You are everything you feel beside the river.’

—Seamus Heaney, Casting and Gathering (excerpt)

Part One: Life

cf. Library Company of Philadelphia, “Frankford Creek and Vicinity, Winter” (ca. late 19th century) and
photograph by Peter Gonzalez via Unsplash

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

But when I face the light somehow it all seems right

Southworth & Hawes, “Classroom in the Emerson School…” (detail) (ca. 1850)

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

—Keats, Ode to a Nightingale (excerpt)

But when I face the light
Somehow it all seems right…

“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

Charlotte’s Web

Wil Blanche, “In Battery Park, on the Lower Tip of Manhattan Island” (1973)

Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte.
I’m just about average for a pig.”

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied
Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my
best friend, and I think you’re sensational. Now stop
arguing and go get some sleep!”

—E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“Nay, if I mistake not, unity itself divided by zero equals infinity.”

Jack Corn, “The Cool Morning Air Condenses a Boy’s Breath as He Walks Along a Coal Car on His Way to School…” (1974)

“Nay, if I mistake not, unity itself divided by zero equals infinity.”

—Thomas Carlyle
 

“Flaming Youth” by Kiss

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

Lyntha Scott Eiler, “Motorist Gets in Line for the Safety Lane at an Auto Emission Inspection Station…” (1975)

And so this storyteller will not be finished telling our Han’s story in only a moment or two. The seven days in one week will not suffice, nor will seven months. It will be best for him if he is not all too clear about the number of earthly days that will pass as the tale weaves its web about him. For God’s sake, surely it cannot be as long as seven years!

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Metaphysics

Left: Cesare Guilio, “Palestra Bianca” (ca. 1940)
Right: A.K. Aster, “On Salons” (Camera Craft, 1940)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo…

“Follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”

Photograph by Skitterphoto via Pixabay

“…follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”

—Emerson, Greatness
 

“Highway Star” by Deep Purple

The Magic Mountain

Time, they say, is water from the river Lethe…

How long had Joachim actually lived up here with him, whether measured until his wild departure or taken as a whole? What had been the date on the calendar of his first defiant departure? How long had he been gone, when had he returned, and how long had Hans Castorp himself been here when he did return and then took leave of time? How long, to set Joachim aside for now, had Frau Chauchat not been present? How long, purely in terms of years, was it now since she was back again (because she was back again); and how much earthly time had Hans Castorp spent at the Berghof until the day she came back? In response to all such questions—assuming someone had posed them to him, which, however, no one did, not even he to himself, for he was probably afraid of posing them—Hans Castorp would have drummed his fingertips on his brow and most assuredly known no definite answer: a phenomenon no less disquieting than the temporary inability to tell Herr Settembrini his own age on his first evening here; indeed, it represented a worsening of that incapacity, for he now seriously no longer knew at any time just how old he was…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 


Flip Schulke, “Youths Congregate Around the Front Steps of a Home…” (ca. 1975);
Patricia D. Duncan, “…Schoolhouse…” (1974);
David Rees, “Students Arriving by School bus at Senior High School…” (1974);
William Strode, “The Ohio River” (1972)

“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 dwell in a lonely house I know…”

John Dillwyn Llewelyn, The Upper Fall (1853–56)

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow…

–Robert Frost, Ghost House
 

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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

“My own heart let me more have pity on”

Ernst Halberstadt, Midsummer Siesta at City Hall Plaza (1973)

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins, “My own heart let me more have pity on”

“I have of late turned my thoughts with a very useless earnestness upon past incidents.”

cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1989 and Lightning : Calvin Company

“My mind is unsettled and my memory confused. I have of late turned my thoughts with a very useless earnestness upon past incidents. I have yet got no command over my thoughts; an unpleasing incident is almost certain to hinder my rest…”

—Johnson’s diary quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Ghosts appear and fade away…

 

Colin Hay – “Overkill”

“Can I not grasp them with a tighter clasp?”

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

–Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within a Dream (excerpt)

Well I keep holdin’ on to yesterday…

 

Eugène Atget, Jardin du Luxembourg (1902)

 

“Holdin’ On To Yesterday” by Ambrosia

Corner Of The Sky

Coronet Instructional Film
 

“I too am sometimes sad and lonely, especially when I walk around a church or parsonage.
Let’s not give in, but try to be patient and gentle. And do not mind being eccentric…”

–Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, March 16, 1877

Bartleby, the Scrivener

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

“Insist on yourself”

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these…

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Ain’t no jive – it’s no surprise
You are born to synthesize…

“You are swimming in it; your daughter is drowning”

“…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.)

The Hedge Fund And The Fox

There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says:
“The fox knows many things, but the Hedge Fund knows one big thing.”
Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words…