I remember the night the Green–Schwarz mechanism was discovered — It was a stormy summer night in 1984. The lightning that flashed across the equations on the blackboard also flashed across my curtains, two oranges on the dining room table, a Pat Metheny album on the blue shag carpet. I, too, thought I had solved something. I, too, thought I was free of anomalies. But the next day I still couldn’t figure it out.
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d, Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee,—and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
at precisely 10 o’clock he (a distinguished professor in the history department) closed the door and walked briskly to the lectern
“There is one song…,”
he whirled on us in an exaggeratedly sotto voce stage whisper
he crouched forward dramatically leaning into the first row of seats then paced back and forth across the front of the classroom like Holmes to our Watsons his hands in a sweeping gesture across the entire spellbound auditorium
My Sharona was now receding into the dim, dark, distant past quod erat demonstrandum!
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…
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.
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)
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…
And Bellerophon put his faith in the child, who had seen the image of Pegasus in the water, and in the maiden, who had heard him neigh so melodiously, rather than in the middle-aged clown, who believed only in cart-horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the beautiful things of his youth…
—Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Chimaera
You better believe it You know my dream’s still alive You can love it or leave it But I’m never gonna be 35…
O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all. The crows above the forest call; Tomorrow they may form and go. O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow. Make the day seem to us less brief. Hearts not averse to being beguiled, Beguile us in the way you know. Release one leaf at break of day; At noon release another leaf; One from our trees, one far away. Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst. Slow, slow! For the grapes’ sake, if they were all, Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, Whose clustered fruit must else be lost— For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
–Robert Frost, October
Life, so they say, is but a game And they let it slip away…
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…
“Dr. Adams told me that Johnson, while he was at Pembroke College, ‘was caressed and loved by all about him, was a gay and frolicksome fellow, and passed there the happiest part of his life.’ But this is a striking proof of the fallacy of appearances, and how little any of us know of the real internal state even of those whom we see most frequently…”
—Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
T. M. Weaver, “Far From The Madding Crowd” (ca. 1911)
From Lichfield he came to Birmingham, where he passed a few days with his worthy old schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, who thus writes to me: “He was very solicitous with me to recollect some of our most early transactions, and transmit them to him, for I perceived nothing gave him greater pleasure than calling to mind those days of our innocence. I complied with his request, and he only received them a few days before his death…”
If I could go back in time Well, I know somehow you’d still be mine I wouldn’t be so blind To that wonderful ’65 Love Affair When rock ‘n’ roll was simple and clear Oh, I still can hear I can hear it baby…