Commonplace Book (January 2018)
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
William Wordsworth, "Lines" (1798)
Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!
William Blake, "Holy Thursday" (1794)
What then does the poet? He considers man and the objects that surround him as acting and re-acting upon each other, so as to produce an infinite complexity of pain and pleasure . . .; he considers him as looking upon this complex scene of ideas and sensations, and finding every where objects that immediately excite in him sympathies which, from the necessities of his nature, are accompanied by an overbalance of enjoyment.
William Wordsworth, "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" (1800, 1802)
. . . I see around me here
Things which you cannot see: we die, my Friend,
Nor we alone, but that which each man loved
And prized in his peculiar nook of earth
Dies with him or is changed, and very soon
Even of the good is no memorial left.
William Wordsworth, "The Ruined Cottage" (1797–ca. 1799)
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow mortal!
Robert Burns, "To a Mouse" (1786)
The supreme lesson of human consciousness is to learn how not to know.
D.H. Lawrence, Fantasia of the Unconscious (1922)
Let's not be too quick to make light of the pantheism of flows present in such a text as this: it is not easy to de-oedipalize even nature, even landscapes, to the extent that [D.H.] Lawrence could.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
(trans. 1977; originally published as L'Anti-Oedipe in 1972)
Where profit gets his clutches in
There's little he will leave;
Gain stooping for a single pin
Will stick it on his sleeve.
John Clare, "[Lament of Swordy Well]" (1832–37, 1935)
The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.
Anna Letitia Barbauld, "The Mouse's Petition" (1773)
"I don't want to be a machine, and I don't want to think about war," EPICAC had written after Pat's and my lighthearted departure. "I want to be made out of protoplasm and last forever so Pat will love me. But fate has made me a machine. That is the only problem I cannot solve. That is the only problem I want to solve. I can't go on this way." I swallowed hard. "Good luck, my friend. Treat our Pat well. I am going to short- circuit myself out of your lives forever. You will find on the remainder of this tape a modest wedding present from your friend, EPICAC."
Kurt Vonnegut, "EPIPAC" (1950)
. . . Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, littles lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
William Wordsworth, "Lines," a.k.a., "Tintern Abbey" (1798)
. . .
At intervals my mother's voice was heard,
Urging dispatch: briskly the work went on,
All hands employed to wash, to rinse, to wring,
To fold, and starch, and clap, and iron, and plait.
Then would I sit me down, and ponder much
Why washings were. Sometimes through hollow bowl
Of pipe amused we blew, and sent aloft
The floating bubbles; little dreaming then
To see, Montgolfier, thy silken ball
Ride buoyant through the clouds—so near approach
The sports of children and the toils of men.
Earth, air, and sky, and ocean, hath its bubbles,
And verse is one of them—this most of all.
Anna Letitia Barbauld, "Washing-Day" (1797)
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
I never asked her what books she had read and what books she was reading, there wasn't time, we had to study. She drilled me, and was furious if I didn't have the answers. Once she slapped me on the arm, hard, with her long, thin hands, and didn't apologize; rather, she said that if I kept making mistakes she would hit me again, and harder. She was enchanted by the Latin dictionary, so large, pages and pages, so heavy—she had never seen one. She constantly looked up words, not only the ones in the exercises but any that occurred to her.
Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
(trans. 2016; originally published as L'amica geniale n 2012)
The univocity of Being does not mean that there is one and the same Being; on the contrary, beings are multiple and different, they are always produced by a disjunctive synthesis, and they themselves are disjointed and divergent, member disjuncta. the univocity of Being signifies that Being is Voice that it is said, and that it is said in one and the same "sense" of everything about which it is said. . . . It occurs, therefore, as a unique event for everything that happens to the most diverse things, Eventum tantrum for all events, the ultimate form for all of the forms which remain disjointed in it, but which bring about the resonance and the ramification of their disjunction. . . . A position in the void of all events in one, an expression in the nonsense of all senses in one, univocal Being is the pure form of the Aion, the form of exteriority which relates things and propositions. In short, the univocity of Being has three determinations: one single event for all events; one and the same aliquid for that which happens and that is said; and one and the same Being for the impossible, the possible, and the real.
Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense
(trans. 1990; originally published as Logique du sens in 1969)
. . . it occurred to [Mary Macgregor] then that the first years with Miss Brodie, sitting listening to all those stories and opinions which had nothing to do with the ordinary world, had been the happiest time of her life. She thought this briefly, and never again referred her mind to Miss Brodie, but had got over her misery, and had relapsed into her habitual slow bewilderment, before she died while on leave in Cumberland in a fire in the hotel. Back and forth along the corridors ran Mary Macgregor, through the thickening smoke. She ran one way; then, turning, the other way; and at either end the blast furnace of fire met her. She heard no screams, for the roar of the fire drowned the screams; she gave no scream, for the smoke was choking her. She ran into somebody on her third turn, stumbled and died. But at the beginning of the nineteen-thirties, when Mary Macgregor was ten, there she was sitting blankly among Miss Brodie's pupils. "Who has spilled the ink on the floor—was it you, Mary?"
"I don't know, Miss Brodie."
"I daresay it was you. I've never come across such a clumsy girl. And if you can't take an interest in what I am saying, please try to look as if you did."
These were the days that Mary Macgregor, on looking back, found to be the happiest days of her life.
Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)
People are masks, with masks under those masks, and masks under those, and down you go.
David Mitchell, Slade House (2015)