Looking for something lost in a past life…
— Joyce, Ulysses
Looking for something lost in a past life…
— Joyce, Ulysses
Art Hanson, “Students Resting in the Hall Against Their Lockers Waiting for Class…” (1975)
At the inn, Coleridge emblazoned into his Notebook, in huge, drunken capital letters, two portentous words, “THE EPOCH”, followed by three pages of frantic scrawl…
— Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections
cf. photograph by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash and video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay (edited collage)
My blue dream…
— Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon
I remember the feeling…
Photograph by Martino Pietropoli via Unsplash
I want my place! my own place! my true place in the world! my proper sphere! my thing to do, which Nature intended me to perform when she fashioned me thus awry, and which I have vainly sought all my lifetime!
— Hawthorne, The Intelligence Office
cf. Prelinger Archives: Home Movie
…I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.
— Letter from Henry James to Hugh Walpole, August 21, 1913
cf. Underwood & Underwood, “Bluff Island…” (ca. 1900)
I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.
— letter from John Keats to Fanny Brawne, July 1, 1819
cf. Nationaal Archief, “Underneath a parasol” (1933) (edit)
Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory…
— Joyce, from Dubliners
…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
— Dickens, A Christmas Carol
cf. photograph by Tookapic via Pexels
I was overcome with remorse…because I hadn’t lived up to her expectations.
— Ionesco, The Hermit
collage including photograph from “Student Life” collection at UL Digital Library (1976) (detail) (edited)
No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change…
— Sonnet 123
Advertising Arts, 1931
He beckoned coaxingly to the Pomeranian, and when the dog came up to him he shook his finger at it. The Pomeranian growled: Gurov shook his finger at it again.
The lady looked at him and at once dropped her eyes.
“He doesn’t bite,” she said, and blushed.
“May I give him a bone?” he asked…
— Chekhov, The Lady with the Dog
Pasadena (Calif.) Audubon Society, “Teaching Children To Love The Birds” (ca. 1922)
He gathered together a few shillings and wired them to Trieste; on Christmas eve John Joyce produced a few more to wire to Nora, quoting Vergil almost accurately, “Non ignara malorum miseris succurrere disco.”*
*“Having suffered myself, I know how to help those in trouble.”
— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
Risdon Tillery, “A young draftsman drawing plans for a house and developing his favorite hobby…” (detail) (1944)
“What career do you intend to take up, Mr. Joyce?” he asked. “The career of letters.” The dean persisted, “Isn’t there some danger of perishing of inanition in the meantime?” And Joyce, as his brother recorded, said this was one of the perils, but there were prizes too.
— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
Mr. Wilcox, the bookseller, on being informed by him that his intention was to get his livelihood as an author, eyed his robust frame attentively, and with a significant look, said, “You had better buy a porter’s knot.”
— Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
cf. videos by MEISTERvideo (train) and Vimeo-Free-Videos (rain) both via Pixabay (edited)
Skylark was much like her father. She simply lived her life from day to day. But now, as the receding landscape, the alternating meadows made her think of what could never change, would always stay the same, her heart sank…
She set off back down the swaying corridor of the train hurrying anxiously as if in flight, as if in search of a more secure and secluded space in which to hide her pain.
When she reached the compartment where the young man and the old, gaunt Catholic priest sat in silence, she tried to return to her seat. But now she could no longer contain her suffering.
Her eyes filled with tears.
— Dezso Kosztolanyi, Skylark
Ernst Halberstadt, “Elevated Railroad Structure…” (1973)
A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me without leaving any impression.
— Samuel Johnson, Prayers and Meditations
cf. video by Orpheline via Pixabay
Little Chandler remembered (and the remembrance brought a slight flush of pride to his cheek) one of Ignatius Gallaher’s sayings when he was in a tight corner:
“Half time now, boys,” he used to say light-heartedly. “Where’s my considering cap?”
— Joyce, A Little Cloud
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
— The Great Gatsby
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
cf. film via Prelinger Archives
I would forget her, but a fever she
Reigns in my blood and will remember’d be.
— Love’s Labour’s Lost
Jim Matchinga, “Roots” (Cincinnati Magazine, 1980)
Now this interconnection or adaptation of all created things to each and of each to all, means that each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and, consequently, that it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe.
— Leibniz, The Monadology
Jack Delano, “Flagman walks back to flag any oncoming trains…” (1943)
Do not wear your soul out with tears but be as usually brave and look hopefully to the future.
— Letter to James Joyce from his mother (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)
photograph by Liane Metzler via Unsplash
I believe I can cover most of the expenses of publication of my daughter’s “Alphabet.” My idea is not to persuade her that she is a Cézanne but that, on her 29th birthday, she may see something to persuade her that her whole past has not been a failure.
The reason I keep on trying by every means to find a solution for her case — which may come at any time as it did with my eyes — is that she may not think that she is left with a blank future as well.
I am aware that I am blamed by everybody for sacrificing that “precious metal” — money — to such an extent for such a purpose when it could be done so cheaply and quietly by locking her up in an economical “mental prison” for the rest of her life. I will not do so as long as I see a single chance of hope for her recovery nor blame her or punish her for the great crime she has committed in being a victim to one of the most elusive diseases known to men and unknown to medicine.
And I imagine that if you were where she is and felt as she must you would perhaps feel some hope if you felt that you were neither abandoned nor forgotten.
— Letter from James Joyce to Harriet Weaver, 1936 (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)
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
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
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
When it came to concealing his troubles, Tommy Wilhelm was not less capable than the next fellow…
— Saul Bellow, Seize the Day
Carol M. Highsmith, “The character Dorothy models her sparkling ruby slippers at the Land of Oz…” (2017)
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all
that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
— Whitman, Song Of The Open Road
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“Ah! I’ve scribbled all over the table!” she said, and, laying down the chalk, she made a movement as though to get up.
“What! shall I be left alone—without her?” he thought with horror, and he took the chalk. “Wait a minute,” he said, sitting down to the table. “I’ve long wanted to ask you one thing.”
He looked straight into her caressing, though frightened eyes.
“Please, ask it.”
“Here,” he said; and he wrote the initial letters, w. y. t. m. i. c. n. b. d. t. m. n. o. t.?
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (Part IV, Chapter 13) (Tr. Constance Garnett)
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
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
David Falconer, “One Family of Four Moved Into the Attic of Their Home…” (1973)
I was happier then. Or was that I? Or am I now I?
Twentyeight I was. She twentythree.
When we left Lombard street west something changed.
Could never like it again after Rudy.
Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand.
Would you go back to then? Just beginning then. Would you?
—James Joyce, Ulysses
cf. John Margotta, “La Galleria” (Orange Coast Magazine, 1986)
Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?
— Thackeray, Vanity Fair
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
cf. “Waterproof”, After C. Clyde Squires (ca. 1907) and video by tmeier1964 via Pixabay
O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate that let thy folly in,
And thy dear judgment out!
His creativity increasingly extended to music. Though he never took formal piano lessons, he could pound out a simple melody by ear. “Even when he was a little kid,” remembered his sister Kim, “he could sit down and just play something he’d heard on the radio. He was able to artistically put whatever he thought onto paper or into music.”
—Charles R. Cross, Heavier Than Heaven
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
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
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
cf. video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay
The remote power of that voice, those old eyes full of tears, that noble and ruined face, had affected her extraordinarily she said. But perhaps what affected her was the shadow, the still living shadow of a great passion in the man’s heart.
Allegre remarked to her calmly: “He has been a little mad all his life.”
—Joseph Conrad, The Arrow of Gold
Billy Rose Theatre Division, “Harvest” (1913)
Newman uttered one of the least attenuated imprecations that had ever passed his lips…
—Henry James, The American
cf. video by Ventus17 via Pixabay
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!
You would play upon me;
You would seem to know my stops;
You would pluck out the heart of my mystery;
You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass;
and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ;
Yet cannot you make it speak…
The Finnish Museum of Photography, “The counter of a café at the new Centrum department store of Voima cooperative.” (detail) (1961)
What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue?
I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference.
O poor Orlando! Thou art overthrown.
—As You Like It
cf. photograph by Mike Fox via Unsplash
O, brave new world
That has such people in’t!
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…
Photograph by Paul Trienekens via Unsplash
“My sister is in the country. I have a house all to myself, wear no clothes, take 10 big baths a day, & dine on lemonade and ice-cream…”
—Letter from Henry James to his London publisher quoted in Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography
cf. photograph by Will Wilson (edited) via Unsplash
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string…”
cf. video by klimkin via Pixabay
These days were filled with puzzlement, with thoughts of the hopes of the past, of the changes that life brings, of the whole “Burden of the Mystery” — the phrase that had meant so much to him for so long. And the burden was greater now than any he had ever experienced before…
—Walter Jackson Bate, John Keats
Jack E. Boucher, “Visitors Enjoy The View From Clingman Dome Parking Area…” (1959)
…although it had been his grandfather’s and then his father’s and uncle’s and was now his cousin’s and someday would be his own land which he and Sam hunted over, their hold upon it actually was as trivial and without reality as the now faded and archaic script in the chancery book in Jefferson which allocated it to them…
— William Faulkner, The Old People
Michael Philip Manheim, “Constitution Beach, on Boston Harbor…” (1973)
What is time? A secret — insubstantial and omnipotent…
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
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
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)
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
“Summer in Style” exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 17, 1960
“…her daughter senior is I think beautiful and elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable and strange…”
—First mention of Fanny Brawne by John Keats (letter to George Keats, December 16, 1818)
cf. video by MikesPhotos via Pixabay
The lamentable change is from the best…
—Shakespeare, King Lear
cf. LIFE, 1968
‘Tis far off
And rather like a dream than an assurance
That my remembrance warrants. Had I not
Four or five women once that tended me?
Thou hadst, and more, Miranda. But how is it
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?
—Shakespeare, The Tempest
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.”
Photograph by Guy Sapiro (1962-2009)
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
Esther Bubley, “Students at Woodrow Wilson High School” (1943)
…his ideas were still in riot; there was ever the pain of memory; the regret for his lost youth — yet the waters of disillusion had left a deposit on his soul, responsibility and a love of life, the faint stirring of old ambitions and unrealized dreams. But — oh, Rosalind! Rosalind! . . .
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
cf. photograph by Peter Mason via Unsplash
What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What would happen now in the dim, incalculable hours?
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby (1974)
“We’ve met before,” muttered Gatsby…
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
cf. photographs by Tim Wright (guitarist) and Benjamin Child (conference room) via Unsplash
The fox knows many things,
but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
—Archilochus (ca. 700 BC)
David Stroble, “Students and Teacher in a Classroom…” (ca. 1975)
But then I found myself one winter afternoon
Remembering a quiet morning in a classroom
And inventing everything again, in ordinary
Terms that seemed to comprehend a childish
Dream of love, and then the loss of love,
And all the intricate years between.
—John Koethe, “Falling Water” (excerpt)
…some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away…it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
cf. “Stencil” (Japan, 19th century)
“It’s stopped raining.”
“Has it?” When he realized what I was talking about, that there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. “What do you think of that? It’s stopped raining.”
“I’m glad, Jay.” Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire…
—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Tookapic, “Woman Wearing Jacket Sitting On Concrete During Night Time” (via pexels.com)
Hyperion arose, and on the stars
Lifted his curved lids, and kept them wide
Until it ceas’d; and still he kept them wide:
And still they were the same bright, patient stars.
Then with a slow incline of his broad breast,
Like to a diver in the pearly seas,
Forward he stoop’d over the airy shore,
And plung’d all noiseless into the deep night.
—Keats, Hyperion (excerpt)
cf. Michael Caporale, “Real, Live, Wearable Fashions For Fall” (Cincinnati Magazine, 1979)
cf. photograph by Eric Nopanen via Unsplash
Memory, hither come,
And tune your merry notes;
And, while upon the wind,
Your music floats,
I’ll pore upon the stream,
Where sighing lovers dream,
And fish for fancies as they pass
Within the watery glass.
I’ll drink of the clear stream,
And hear the linnet’s song;
And there I’ll lie and dream
The day along:
And, when night comes, I’ll go
To places fit for woe,
Walking along the darken’d valley,
With silent Melancholy.
O My Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June…
Lastly, dance records were put in. There were specimens of the new imported dance, the tango, calculated to make a Viennese waltz sound sedate and grandfatherly by contrast. Two couples displayed the fashionable steps. Behrens having by now withdrawn, with the admonition that a needle should be used no more than once, and the whole instrument handled “as though it were made of eggs.” Hans Castorp took his place as operator…
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be…
—Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra
cf. photograph by Alice Moore via Unsplash
“You have a soul in you of rare quality, an artist’s nature; never let it starve for lack of what it needs.”
—Proust, Swann’s Way
cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1973
Photograph by Skitterphoto via Pixabay
“…follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”
The thought of her
in that darkest winter
but your eternal summer
will not fade
You did not know me
but I was always listening
and when I lost you
I pulled my car over to the side of the road
As Spender said of Eliot,
A wonderful poet disguised as a businessman.
Just ask Clavdia.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
A romantic resting against a mantelpiece clock.
You were right, Scott—
the past is forever.
Taizo Kato, “Sunlight And Shadow” (ca. 1921)
cf. Erik Calonius, “…Subway Car” (1973)
The first time was twenty years ago, when I left Princeton in junior year with a complaint diagnosed as malaria. It transpired, through an X-ray taken a dozen years later, that it had been tuberculosis—a mild case, and after a few months of rest I went back to college… To me college would never be the same. There were to be no badges of pride, no medals, after all. It seemed on one March afternoon that I had lost every single thing I wanted… A man does not recover from such jolts—he becomes a different person, and, eventually, the new person finds new things to care about…
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Pasting It Together”
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…
New York Magazine, 1977
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect…
—Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Esther Bubley, “…talking with some friends near her locker…” (1943)
Sometimes, in the evening, she heard a voice, concealed beneath the wind screen of the bell tower, singing a sad, strange song, as though to lull her to sleep. The lines were unrhymed, such as a deaf person can make.
“Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart.
The heart of a handsome young man is often deformed.
There are hearts in which love does not keep.
Young girl, the pine is not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps its foliage in winter…”
One morning, on awaking, she saw on her window two vases filled with flowers. One was a very beautiful and very brilliant but cracked vase of glass. It had allowed the water with which it had been filled to escape, and the flowers which it contained were withered. The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…
—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
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
Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire, “A Gallant Suitor And His Beautiful Lady”
“Why don’t you drink some water,” Zoya counseled.
I walked up and down beside the sofa. I pressed my finger to my throat. Again, I hiccuped. Ma Chère, I was in a terrible bind! Zoya got up and went to the box. I followed. I opened the door to the box for her, hiccuped, and ran to the bar. I drank five glasses of water. The hiccups seemed to have settled down. I smoked a cigarette and headed for the box. Zoya’s brother stood and offered me his seat, a seat beside my Zoya. I sat down and immediately I hiccuped. Five minutes passed, but then I hiccuped again—a strange wheezy hiccup. I got up and went to stand by the door of the box. It is better, ma chère, to hiccup by the door rather than into the ear of a woman one loves! I hiccuped. The schoolboy in the neighboring box looked at me and laughed loudly…Cursing the impertinent schoolboy, I hiccuped again. Laughter came from the neighboring boxes.
“Encore!” hissed the schoolboy.
“What the hell is going on!” Colonel Pepsinov muttered in my ear. “You could have stayed home to hiccup, sir!”
Zoya blushed. Once again I hiccuped, and then I ran out of the box, my fists fiercely clenched. I paced up and down the hallway. I paced, and paced, and paced—and I hiccuped. The things I ate and drank to make the hiccups go away! At the beginning of the fourth act, I called it quits. I went home…
The next evening, I went to dine with the Pepsinovs, as was my habit. Zoya didn’t come down to dinner. She sent a message that she couldn’t see me. She was ill. Colonel Pepsinov gave a long speech about how certain young men do not know how to behave in public…
“Would you have given your daughter, if you had one,” Pepsinov said to me after dinner, “to a man who permits himself to engage in public belching? Well, sir?”
“I would,” I muttered.
“Then you’d be making a mistake, sir!”
That was the end of Zoya. She couldn’t forgive the hiccups. I was done for.
—Anton Chekhov, “A Confession Or, Olya, Zhenya, Zoya (A Letter)”
I’m not feelin’ too good myself…
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
Dave Thomas, “Girl With The Fishbowl” (LIFE, 1970)
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
–Shakespeare, Sonnet 97: “How like a winter hath my absence been from thee”
Tom Hubbard, “…Tyler Davidson Fountain” (1973)
You ask me, from what source so oft I draw my songs of love and whence comes my book that sounds so soft upon the tongue. ‘Tis not Calliope nor Apollo that singeth these things; ’tis my mistress’ self that makes my wit. If thou wilt have her walk radiant in silks of Cos, of Coan raiment all this my book shall tell; or have I seen her tresses stray dishevelled o’er her brow, I praise her locks and she walks abroad in pride and gladness; or struck she forth music from the lyre with ivory fingers, I marvel with what easy skill she sweeps her hands along the strings; or when she droops those eyes that call for sleep I find a thousand new themes for song; or if, flinging away her robe, she enter naked with me in the lists, then, then I write whole Iliads long. Whate’er she does, whate’er she says, from a mere nothing springs a mighty tale…
—Propertius, The Elegies
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “N.Y.C. – Bridges – Brooklyn” (1895)
As he returned, he met Madame Podtotchina with her daughter. He accosted them, and they responded very graciously. The conversation lasted a long time, during which he took more than one pinch of snuff, saying to himself, “No, you haven’t caught me yet, coquettes that you are! And as to the daughter, I shan’t marry her at all.”
After that, the Major resumed his walks on the Neffsky Avenue and his visits to the theatre as if nothing had happened. His nose also remained in its place as if it had never quitted it. From that time he was always to be seen smiling, in a good humour, and paying attentions to pretty girls…
—Nikolai Gogol, The Nose
Better forget him, him with his nose in the air…
cf. from “Rockefeller Center” (1930)
The echoes of the human world, which tell
Of the low voice of love, almost unheard,
And dove-eyed pity’s murmured pain, and music,
Itself the echo of the heart, and all
That tempers or improves man’s life, now free;
And lovely apparitions,–dim at first,
Then radiant, as the mind arising bright
From the embrace of beauty (whence the forms
Of which these are the phantoms) casts on them
The gathered rays which are reality–
Shall visit us the progeny immortal
Of Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy,
And arts, though unimagined, yet to be;
The wandering voices and the shadows these
Of all that man becomes, the mediators
Of that best worship, love, by him and us
Given and returned; swift shapes and sounds, which grow
More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind…
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound
Ernst Halberstadt, “Commonwealth Avenue between Arlington and Berkeley Streets” (1973)
The season’s final blossoms bring
More dear delight than buds of spring.
They stir in us a live communion
Of sorrowfully poignant dreams.
Thus oft the hour of parting seems
More vivid than a sweet reunion.
cf. Ide Collars Advertisement (ca. 1922)
“Who wants to go to town?” demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby’s eyes floated toward her. “Ah,” she cried, “you look so cool.”
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
“You always look so cool,” she repeated.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “Helen Keller, three-quarter length, seated, facing right; holding hand of her teacher, Mrs. John A. Macy (Anne Mansfield Sullivan)” (ca. 1909)
Where is my boy, my boy—
In what far part of the world?
The boy I loved best of all in the school?—
I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,
Who made them all my children.
Did I know my boy aright,
Thinking of him as spirit aflame,
Active, ever aspiring?
Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed
In many a watchful hour at night,
Do you remember the letter I wrote you
Of the beautiful love of Christ?
And whether you ever took it or not,
My boy, wherever you are,
Work for your soul’s sake,
That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,
May yield to the fire of you,
Till the fire is nothing but light!…
Nothing but light!
–Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology
Photograph by Morre Christophe via Unsplash
There is a Gull that rolls alone
over billows loud;
the Nightingale at night will moan
under her soft shroud.
—Allen Ginsberg, “A Very Dove” (excerpt)
Lejaren à Hiller, Fatima Cigarettes advertisement (ca. 1922)
…is it not Tennyson who has said: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have lost at all?
—Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh
Woodbury’s Facial Soap Advertisement (ca. 1922)
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“Into the same river you could not step twice, for other waters are flowing.”
Carol M. Highsmith, “Playing for $1 in a hat…” (2011)
“But the most important thing that you can take advantage of in the world of music is to see yourself. I eventually got to the point where music meant to me self-exploration more than anything else…and I encourage everyone here to be brave in that respect, to be fearless in that respect…that album ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ which was such an abomination to everyone at the time it came out eventually became the signature moment in my career…”
Can you hear me, the sound of my voice?
I am here to tell you I have made my choice…
Albert Bartholomé, The Artist’s Wife Reading (1883)
“But as for the meaning of the poem as a whole, it is not exhausted by any explanation, for the meaning is what the poem means to different sensitive readers.”
—T. S. Eliot, “The Frontiers of Criticism”
cf. Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884 (1884/86) and LIFE (1965)
Illustration by H. J. Ford from “The Book Of Romance” (1902)
Thus they drive on the day with such doings while our hero lies comfortably in his bed at home in clothes full rich of hue. The lady did not forget; she came to greet him; full early she was by him to change his mind. She comes to the curtain and peeps at the knight. Sir Gawain at once welcomes her worthily, and she returns his greeting right promptly, seats herself softly by his side, laughs openly, and with a lovely look addresses these words to him: “Sir, if ye be Gawain, it seems to me a very strange thing that a man of such quality should not follow the conventions of good society; and should after making acquaintance with a person cast him utterly from his mind. Thou hast already forgotten what I taught you yesterday in the best language that I knew.” “What is that?” quoth the hero. “Forsooth I know not. If what ye say be true, I am to blame.” “Yet I taught you about kissing,” replied the fair lady; “wherever a countenance is known, quickly to claim a kiss; that becomes every knight who practices courtesy…”
—Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
She’s turnin’ on the heat
And it’s a little too much
She’s turnin’ on the heat
And it’s a hundred above, yeah…
Photograph by mvp via Unsplash
…since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.”
cf. LIFE, 1969
“Son coeur est un luth suspendu;
Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne.”
–epigraph from Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher
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. Redbook, 1912
Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), Thomas Edison (between 1870 and 1880)
Neglect not the gift that is in thee…
—Timothy 4:14 King James Version
cf. Jody Claborn, “Lover of Light…” (2016 ) and Robb Hannawacker, “NW Storm” (2014)
“Well, we must wait for the future to show,” said Mr. Bankes, coming in from the terrace.
“It’s almost too dark to see,” said Andrew, coming up from the beach.
“One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,” said Prue.
“Do we leave that light burning?” said Lily as they took their coats off indoors.
“No,” said Prue, “not if every one’s in.”
“Andrew,” she called back, “just put out the light in the hall.”
One by one the lamps were all extinguished, except that Mr. Carmichael, who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil, kept his candle burning rather longer than the rest.
So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say, “This is he” or “This is she.” Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness.
—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Carol M. Highsmith, “Melodrama performance…” (detail)
CHAPTER XXXIX: Mr. Samuel Weller, being entrusted with a mission of love, proceeds to execute it; with what success will hereinafter appear…
–Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
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…
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
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
Keystone View Company, “In Olden Times…the Stork Would Bring a Baby Sweet and Fair” (1907)
“Out of the cradle endlessly rocking…”
Seven Thirty Seven comin’ out of the sky
Oh! Won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride,
I wanna move…
cf. Gustav Kalhammer, “View from Café Heinrichhof…” (1911)
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
—Romeo and Juliet
“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
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
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…
cf. Henry Farrer, Winter Scene in Moonlight (1869) and stock footage – STARS – Time Lapse – Night
Although crowds gathered once if she but showed her face,
And even old men’s eyes grew dim, this hand alone,
Like some last courtier at a gypsy camping place,
Babbling of fallen majesty, records what’s gone.
The lineaments, a heart that laughter has made sweet,
These, these remain, but I record what’s gone. A crowd
Will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud.
–W.B. Yeats, Fallen Majesty
99, I’ve been waiting so long…
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
cf. photograph by Henrique Félix via Unsplash (edited collage)
He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was….
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
I get the same old dreams same time every night…
Your mother named you. You and she just saw
Each other in passing in the room upstairs,
One coming this way into life, and one
Going the other out of life—you know?
So you can’t have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard
It must have made your dimple there, and said,
‘Maple.’ I said it too: ‘Yes, for her name.’
She nodded. So we’re sure there’s no mistake.
I don’t know what she wanted it to mean,
But it seems like some word she left to bid you
Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree’s for us to guess…
–Robert Frost, Maple (excerpt)
Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938)
“Have you noticed a change in Steve?
Boy, I have!
Oh, It’s wonderful, I’ll tell ya!”
–Entry from girl’s diary (ca. 1961) quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries
cf. Jean Raoux, Couple Dancing in a Park (1725)
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
cf. John Atkinson Grimshaw, Canny Glasgow (1887) and Daniel Chester French, Joe’s Farewell (1872–73)
“…of course you knew from Behrens that I was still here, waiting for you. But I’ve told you that I think of that night simply as a dream, our dream, and that I concede you have your freedom. After all, I did not really wait in vain, because you are here again, we are sitting next to one another just as then, I can hear the wonderful edge to your voice, so familiar to my ear for a very long time; and under that billowing silk are arms that I know well…”
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
I can wait forever
Helping you to see
That I was meant for you
And you for me…
Carol M. Highsmith, Fountain and front view of Mission San Buenaventura, Ventura, California (2012)
“An oasis that I needed.”
–Entry in the Visitor’s Book at St Peter’s Church, Cambridge, September 12, 1982, quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God…
–Psalm 42, New Revised Standard Version
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
–T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (excerpt)
Well, I’m a bum in the sun and I’m having fun
And I know you know I got no special plans
All the bills are paid
I got it made in the shade
And all I need is the woman…
cf. Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (detail) (1942) and Detour (1945)
Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.
–William Butler Yeats, Ephemera (excerpt)
You’re leaving now
It’s in your eyes…
Terry Eiler, Walkers in Dust Storm (ca. 1972)
In my native country, in the bosom of my religion, family, and friends, I should have passed a calm and peaceful life in the uniformity of a pleasing occupation, and among connections dear to my heart…
Instead of this — what a picture am I about to draw! — Alas! why should I anticipate the miseries I have endured? The reader will have but too much of the melancholy subject.
—Rousseau, Confessions (Tr. by W. Conyngham Mallory)
cf. Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco (1506–15) and Romeo and Juliet (1968)
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
cf. Lottie, “Train view” (2012)
Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980
his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly reemerged into light. It was
a gray day with an almost constant and heavy rain beating down against the train window.
“What are you doing in the dark?” asked a voice.
The cabin lights were off. I stared at the distant red signal light in the mist and felt a chill. I fumbled for my book.
A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a
smoking compartment sign. I was alone. A voice asked for my ticket.
“Is that you, Hynes?” asked Mr. O’Connor.
“Yes. What are you doing in the dark?” said Mr. Hynes. advancing into the light of the fire.
The train pulled out of the station and I thought about what you said.
“Tell me,” he said across the fire, “what brings our friend in here? What does he want?”
I guess I just wanted to see you one last time.
“What age are you?” he asked.
“Seventeen,” said the boy.
As the train slowed into the station I looked for you. A man was getting into his car and heading home.
“Tell me, John,” said Mr. O’Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
“What he is exactly?”
“Ask me an easier one,” said Mr. Henchy.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, “A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.” BOSWELL: “May not he think them down, Sir?” JOHNSON: “No, Sir. To attempt to THINK THEM DOWN is madness. He should have a lamp constantly burning in his bed-chamber during the night, and if wakefully disturbed, take a book, and read, and compose himself to rest…”
—Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
James McNeill Whistler, Reading in Bed (The Slipper) (1858)
J.B.B. Wellington, “The Toast” (ca. 1914)
Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
“Daisy, that’s all over now,” he said earnestly. “It doesn’t matter any more. Just tell him the truth — that you never loved him — and it’s all wiped out forever.”
She looked at him blindly. “Why — how could I love him — possibly?”
“You never loved him.”
She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal, as though she realized at last what she was doing — and as though she had never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now. It was too late.
“I never loved him,” she said, with perceptible reluctance…
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Lines on my head from that one thing she said…
Cervantes—a patient gentleman who wrote a book—has been sitting in the Elysian fields for three centuries and gazing sadly around, awaiting the birth of a grandson capable of understanding him.
—José Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Quixote
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me…
Library and Information Services Metropolitan State University, Star Wars Party (2015)
Before her the grimy cupolas and towering square walls of the city loomed up. Above the jagged roof tops, the white smoke, whitened and suffused by the slanting sun, faded into the slots and wedges of the sky. She pressed her brow against her child’s, hushed him with whispers. This was that vast incredible land, the land of freedom, of immense opportunity, that Golden Land.
Again she tried to smile.
“Albert,” she said timidly, “Albert.”
“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”
—Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (1907)
cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1985
The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.
Alan Fisher, Lou Ambers tips his hat as he accepts a sandwich from a hand reaching out of a doorway (1935)
Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
–Aeschylus, Agamemnon (Edith Hamilton, trans., “Three Greek Plays”)
Abul Haque, “Students Arriving By School Bus…” (ca. 1976)
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re all alone…
cf. Photograph by Dewang Gupta via Unsplash
Never tell me that not one star of all
That slip from heaven at night and softly fall
Has been picked up with stones to build a wall.
Some laborer found one faded and stone-cold,
And saving that its weight suggested gold
And tugged it from his first too certain hold,
He noticed nothing in it to remark.
He was not used to handling stars thrown dark
And lifeless from an interrupted arc.
He did not recognize in that smooth coal
The one thing palpable besides the soul
To penetrate the air in which we roll…
—Robert Frost, A Star In A Stoneboat (excerpt)
Only shooting stars break the mold…
cf. photograph by Paul Green via Unsplash
“Adieu, my Carnival Prince! I can predict that you’ll see a nasty rise in your fever chart this evening.”
Then she glided out of her chair, glided across the carpet to the door, where she stopped and turned halfway back to him, one bare arm raised, a hand on the hinge. Over her shoulder she said softly, “Don’t forget to return my pencil.”
And she left.
—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Esther Bubley, A geometry teacher…using a model to explain a figure (1943)
…she at last blushed, adjusted her dress, got up, and, without saying a word, went and seated herself at the window. I went to sit by her side, but she moved, sat down on a couch, got up immediately afterwards, and fanning herself as she walked about the chamber, said to me in a cold and disdainful tone of voice, “Zanetto, lascia le donne, e studia la matematica.” (“Johnny, give up women and study mathematics.”)
cf. The Fire Within (Le feu follet) (1963) and Home Movie: 98927: St. Croix River and 1956 Honeymoon
“Now, you recall this memory, as if
it were someone else’s story…”
—from Margo Button, “With No Explanation”
Been breaking down
Do you want me now?
Robert Burns, The Window Seat (ca. 1905) and startgrid, “Clouds Time Lapse – YouTube”
Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.
When you have done, pray tell me,
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you’re lagging,
I may remember him!
Back in my room I wonder
Then I sit on the bed
Look at the sky
Up in the sky
cf. Calvert Richard Jones, “Colosseum, Rome, Second View” (1846)
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
She’s everything you dream about
But don’t fall in love…
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (called il Grechetto), Melancholia (ca. 1640)
“While I traversed the apartment in the most horrible dismay of soul, expecting every moment that the earth would open and swallow me up, my conscience scaring me…and the city of refuge out of reach and out of sight, a strange and horrible darkness fell upon me. If it were possible that a heavy blow could light upon the brain without touching the skull, such was the sensation I felt. I clapped my hand to my forehead, and cried aloud through the pain it gave me. At every stroke my thoughts and expressions became more wild and indistinct…These thoughts kept undisturbed possession of my mind all the way through my illness, without interruption or abatement.”
—William Cowper, “Memoir of the Early Life of William Cowper, Esq.” (1835)