Icarus and Psyche

photograph by David Raichman via Unsplash

Icarus and Psyche

Keats, what thoughts I have of you tonight
O, Hyperion! O, aching time!
thoughts of the hopes of the past —
the burden of the mystery
of the wide world
I stand alone
a sick eagle
far from the fiery noon
and eve’s one star

— J.S.


Wouldn’t It Be Good

Roderick Hudson

photograph by REVOLT via Unsplash

“It’s greater happiness than you deserve, then! You have never chosen, I say; you have been afraid to choose. You have never really faced the fact that you are false, that you have broken your faith. You have never looked at it and seen that it was hideous, and yet said, ‘No matter, I’ll brave the penalty, I’ll bear the shame!’ You have closed your eyes; you have tried to stifle remembrance, to persuade yourself that you were not behaving as badly as you seemed to be, and there would be some way, after all, of compassing bliss and yet escaping trouble. You have faltered and drifted, you have gone on from accident to accident, and I am sure that at this present moment you can’t tell what it is you really desire!”

— Henry James, Roderick Hudson


Flaming Youth

Book 2, Chapter VII

photograph by Fernando @cferdo via Unsplash

Nicole’s world had fallen to pieces, but it was only a flimsy and scarcely created world; beneath it her emotions and instincts fought on. Was it an hour ago she had waited by the entrance, wearing her hope like a corsage at her belt?

. . . Dress stay crisp for him, button stay put, bloom narcissus–air stay still and sweet.

“It will be nice to have fun again,” she fumbled on. For a moment she entertained a desperate idea of telling him how rich she was, what big houses she lived in, that really she was a valuable property–for a moment she made herself into her grandfather, Sid Warren, the horse-trader. But she survived the temptation to confuse all values and shut these matters into their Victorian side-chambers–even though there was no home left to her, save emptiness and pain.

“I have to go back to the clinic. It’s not raining now.”

Dick walked beside her, feeling her unhappiness, and wanting to drink the rain that touched her cheek.

“I have some new records,” she said. “I can hardly wait to play them. Do you know–“

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

Love Cries

At Sundown, Burning Drift-wood

Degas, “The Collector of Prints” (1866)

BEFORE my drift-wood fire I sit,
And see, with every waif I burn,
Old dreams and fancies coloring it,
And folly’s unlaid ghosts return.

O ships of mine, whose swift keels cleft
The enchanted sea on which they sailed,
Are these poor fragments only left
Of vain desires and hopes that failed?

— John Greenleaf Whittier

You Take A Heart

Slough of Despond

…it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place. And this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

— Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

Finding Myself

cf. William Hamilton, “Male Traveler in a Storm” (1770–80)

The little world, the subject of my muse,
Is a huge task and labor infinite;
Like to a wilderness or mass confuse,
Or to an endless gulf, or to the night:
How many strange Meanders do I find?
How many paths do turn my straying pen?
How many doubtful twilights make me blind,
Which seek to limb out this strange All of men?
Easy it were the earth to portray out,
Or to draw forth the heavens’ purest frame,
Whose restless course, by order whirls about
Of change and place, and still remains the same.
But how shall man’s, or manner’s, form appear,
Which while I write, do change from what they were?

— Thomas Bastard, Book 1, Epigram 5: Ad lectorem de subjecto operis sui.


I wish it would rain down

The Triumph of Time

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

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

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

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

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

— Swinburne


The First Cut Is The Deepest

You got lucky

Photograph by Ghaly Wedinly via Unsplash

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

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

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

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

— Queen Elizabeth I, When I Was Fair and Young

You Got Lucky

Non Semper Erit Aestas

cf. Tom McCarthy, “Renaissance of the Upper West Side” (New York Magazine, 1969)

“What is time?” A mystery, a figment — and all-powerful. It conditions the exterior world, it is motion married to and mingled with the existence of bodies in space, and with the motion of these. Would there then be no time if there were no motion? No motion if no time? We fondly ask. Is time a function of space? Or space of time? Or are they identical? Echo answers. Time is functional, it can be referred to as action; we say a thing is “brought about” by time. What sort of thing? — Change! Now is not then, here not there, for between them lies motion. But the motion by which one measures time is circular, is in a closed circle; and might almost equally well be described as rest, as cessation of movement — for the there repeats itself constantly in the here, the past in the present…

— Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (Tr. Lowe-Porter)


I Need You

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

cf. photograph by Vlad Bagacian via Pexels

In the last year of his life he wrote his daughter, “I wish now I’d never relaxed or looked back – but said at the end of “The Great Gatsby”: I’ve found my line – from now on this comes first. This is my immediate duty – without this I am nothing.”

— Arthur Mizener, “Gatsby, 35 Years Later”

Almost ten years ago I participated in the conference whose proceedings would become the volume “Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism.” Stanley sat directly in front of me and listened attentively to my talk, thrilling and scary, not to say awkward, reading out “Cavell writes…” and “Cavell says…” with the man right there. After the Q and A, someone, I don’t remember who, brought me over and introduced us. Stanley shook my hand and with the other patted my shoulder and said, with a broad smile, “Stay on your path, young man.”

— Paul Grimstad, “Stay on Your Path, Young Man”


Point Of Know Return

“Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws”

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1968)

DEVOURING Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O! carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

— Sonnet XIX

I Just Wanna Stop

My Star

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1968)

All that I know
Of a certain star,
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue,
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!

Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.

— Robert Browning

Midnight Blue

Omnia Vincit Amor

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1969)

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

— Letter from Thomas Carlyle to Jane Welsh

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

Tears, Idle Tears

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1969)

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

— Tennyson

The Weekend

reliquiae

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1969)

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

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

— Emily Dickinson


Marlene on the Wall

“If no love is, O God, what fele I so?”

Photograph by Les Anderson on Unsplash (edited collage)

if you ever fall in love
to the sounds of violins
and bells
and a melody that wraps itself
around your heart
look for her
one more time

— J.S.

Bells of St. Augustine

On a Dream

cf. Cincinnati Magazine (1983)

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

— Keats, On a Dream

Love’s Train

Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay

Zach Muhlbauer, “Wyeth Eyewear” (2019)

Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay,
My love lyke the Spectator ydly sits
Beholding me that all the pageants play,
Disguysing diversly my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in myrth lyke to a Comedy:
Soone after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I waile and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my merth nor rues my smart:
But when I laugh she mocks, and when I cry
She laughes, and hardens evermore her hart.
What then can move her? if not merth nor mone,
She is no woman, but a sencelesse stone.

— Edmund Spenser, “Amoretti LIV: Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay”

Sin City

The Memory Of Laura

Kaye, “Plymouth Savoy in Australia” (ca. 1950s)

O joyous, blossoming, ever-blessed flowers!
’Mid which my pensive queen her footstep sets;
O plain, that hold’st her words for amulets
And keep’st her footsteps in thy leafy bowers!
O trees, with earliest green of springtime hours,
And all spring’s pale and tender violets!
O grove, so dark the proud sun only lets
His blithe rays gild the outskirts of thy towers!
O pleasant country-side! O limpid stream,
That mirrorest her sweet face, her eyes so clear,
And of their living light canst catch the beam!
I envy thee her presence pure and dear.
There is no rock so senseless but I deem
It burns with passion that to mine is near.

— Petrarch (Tr. Higginson)

Heaven Help Me

“A Complaint by Night of the Lover not beloved”

cf. Video by Welton Souza via Pexels

ALAS! so all things now do hold their peace!
Heaven and earth disturbed in no thing;
The beasts, the air, the birds their song do cease,
The nightès car the stars about doth bring.
Calm is the sea; the waves work less and less:
So am not I, whom love, alas! doth wring,
Bringing before my face the great increase
Of my desires, whereat I weep and sing,
In joy and woe, as in a doubtful ease.
For my sweet thoughts sometime do pleasure bring;
But by and by, the cause of my disease
Gives me a pang, that inwardly doth sting,
When that I think what grief it is again,
To live and lack the thing should rid my pain.

— Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, “A Complaint by Night of the Lover not beloved”

Nights Are Forever Without You

Was the past in color?

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1987)

was the past in color?

1987 was in color
ablazedboldbrightbrilliant
bigger than life
but then again
it could have been
only black and white —
I can’t see in this light
late at night

— J.S.

Love T.K.O.

That time of year

Image by Vicki Nunn via Pixabay

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

autumn
leaves
me
again
every year
— J.S.

Always The Last To Know

Who goes with Fergus?

(1963)

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

— Yeats

Return of the Mack

time and tide

Charlotte Brooks, “Teenage driver Bill Kolb…driving his date in an MG convertible” (1958)

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie…

— Sonnet LXXIII

Top of the World

My wheel is in the dark

Image by Myriam Zilles via Pixabay

MY Wheel is in the dark,—
I cannot see a spoke,
Yet know its dripping feet
Go round and round.

My foot is on the tide—
An unfrequented road,
Yet have all roads
A “clearing” at the end.

Some have resigned the Loom,
Some in the busy tomb
Find quaint employ,
Some with new, stately feet
Pass royal through the gate,
Flinging the problem back at you and I.

— Emily Dickinson

Part of the Plan

“recuerdo”

Photograph by Juliane Mergener via Unsplash

recuerdo

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

— J.S.

Killing Me Softly With Her Song

The largest fire ever known

cf. Videos by mohamed Hassan (storm) and Moshe Harosh (woman) both via Pixabay (edited collage by me)

THE LARGEST fire ever known
Occurs each afternoon,
Discovered is without surprise,
Proceeds without concern:
Consumes, and no report to men,
An Occidental town,
Rebuilt another morning
To be again burned down.

— Emily Dickinson

10,000 Lovers (In One)

A Serenade at the Villa

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1966) (edit)

I
That was I, you heard last night,
When there rose no moon at all,
Nor, to pierce the strained and tight
Tent of heaven, a planet small:
Life was dead and so was light.

II
Not a twinkle from the fly,
Not a glimmer from the worm;
When the crickets stopped their cry,
When the owls forbore a term,
You heard music; that was I…

IV
What they could my words expressed,
O my love, my all, my one!
Singing helped the verses best,
And when singing’s best was done,
To my lute I left the rest…

— Robert Browning, A Serenade at the Villa (excerpt)

Gabrielle

Insomnia

Image by Arek Socha via Pixabay

Thin are the night-skirts left behind
By daybreak hours that onward creep,
And thin, alas! the shred of sleep
That wavers with the spirit’s wind:
But in half-dreams that shift and roll
And still remember and forget,
My soul this hour has drawn your soul
A little nearer yet.

Our lives, most dear, are never near,
Our thoughts are never far apart,
Though all that draws us heart to heart
Seems fainter now and now more clear.
To-night Love claims his full control,
And with desire and with regret
My soul this hour has drawn your soul
A little nearer yet.

Is there a home where heavy earth
Melts to bright air that breathes no pain,
Where water leaves no thirst again
And springing fire is Love’s new birth?
If faith long bound to one true goal
May there at length its hope beget,
My soul that hour shall draw your soul
For ever nearer yet.

— Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Insomnia

Sun And Moon

The Darkling Thrush

Photograph by Mateo Avila Chinchilla via Unsplash

So little cause for carollings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessèd Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

— Thomas Hardy, The Darkling Thrush (excerpt)

Bad Reputation

To Fanny

cf. TV Commercial

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

— Keats, “To Fanny”

What’s Her Name Today?

The Waiting Game

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

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

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

The Waiting Game

A Late Walk

Rainy day, Paris, August, 1984

WHEN I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

— Robert Frost, “A Late Walk”

Another Park Another Sunday

ephemera

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1970)

Tide be runnin’ the great world over:
T’was only last June month I mind that we
Was thinkin’ the toss and the call in the breast of the lover
So everlastin’ as the sea.

Heer’s the same little fishes that sputter and swim,
Wi’ the moon’s old glim on the grey, wet sand;
An’ him no more to me nor me to him
Than the wind goin’ over my hand.

— Charlotte Mew, “Sea Love”

I Can’t Make You Love Me

“Poetry Was Like This”

David Stroble, “Students at Band Practice at Cathedral High School…” (ca. 1975)

Poetry was the memory of adolescence…
Poetry was Ayesha Akhter of my village school
with her long loose flowing hair.

— Al Mahmud, “Poetry Was Like This” (Tr. Chowdhury)

Baby, Now That I’ve Found You

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

cf. photograph by Nathan Anderson via Unsplash

One day I asked the mirror facing me,
Friend, what’s true?…

How about my heart, mirror?…

Silence.

O mirror, I see.

I need a human friend
True enough
To reflect my heart.

— Tialuga Sunia Seloti

Stand by Me

She moves me

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1970)

HAVE you got a brook in your little heart…
Then look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go…

— Emily Dickinson

Something in the Way She Moves

“House of Spring”

cf. Photographs via Unsplash and Pexels

Hundreds of open flowers
all come from
the one branch
Look
all their colors
appear in my garden
I open the clattering gate
and in the wind
I see
the spring sunlight
already it has reached
worlds without number

— Musō Soseki (Tr. Merwin & Shigematsu)

I Just Want To Celebrate

When I was stone blue I knew what to do.

cf. National Geographic Magazine (1948)

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

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

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

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

Stone Blue

coping: perspective

Photograph by Ioannis Ioannidis via Pixabay

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves…

— from Dubliners, James Joyce

And the operator said, “May I help you please?”

National Geographic Magazine (1948)

I waited all night, I remember that
smoked a cigarette
watched TV
went out and saw some friends
drove by your house
went to a bar and had a beer
got back home and tried to sleep…

— J.S.

I knocked the phone off the nightstand
And the operator said, “May I help you please?”
and I said “No thanks, baby tonight there ain’t no help for me —
see I just had a bad dream, that’s all that’s wrong with me
see I just had a bad dream.”

Crying In My Sleep