Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Edith Wharton and other fools for love (myself included)
First, some sublime words on erotic escape, from Wharton's 1909 poem "Terminus" --
And thus some woman like me, waking alone before dawn,
While her lover slept, as I woke & heard the calm stir of your breathing,
Some woman has heard as I heard the farewell shriek of the trains
Crying good-bye to the city & staggering out into darkness,
And shaken at heart has thought: "So must we forth in the darkness,
Sped down the fixed rail of habit by the hand of implacable fate–
So shall we issue to life, & the rain, & the dull dark dawning;
You to the wide flare of cities, with windy garlands and shouting,
Carrying to populous places the freight of holiday throngs;
I, by waste lands, & stretches of low-skied marsh
To a harbourless wind-bitten shore, where a dull town moulders & shrinks...
You can read the rest of the poem here.
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These are some less sublime words from Wharton, taken from one of her letters to Morton Fullerton. They are consolation to anyone who has ever drunk dialed, or otherwise been pitiful in the grasp of unrequited love:
I never expected to tell you this; but under the weight of this silence I don't know what to say or leave unsaid. After nearly a month my frank tender of friendship remains unanswered. If that was not what you wished, what is then your feeling for me? My reason rejects the idea that a man like you, who has felt a warm sympathy for a woman like me, can suddenly, from one day to another; without any act or word on her part, lose even a friendly regard for her, & discard the mere outward signs of consideration by which friendship speaks. And so I am almost driven to conclude that your silence has another meaning, which I have not guessed. If any feeling subsists under it, may these words reach it, & tell you what I felt in silence when we were together!
You will find the rest of the letter here.
Nothing can quite top Wharton, but I'm posting so rarely these days I feel I should give you your money's worth when I do show up, so here are a few more variations on the theme:
There's a wonderful piece in Guernica on Pauline Réage/Dominique Aury, the author of The Story of O. The article is an excerpt from Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, by Carmela Ciuraru. The discussion of the novel is skippable if you have read it, but the examination of Aury's relationship with Jean Paulhan is pretty interesting. "She wrote the book to entice him, claim him, and keep him—and she wrote it exclusively for him. It was the ultimate love letter."
In case you missed it, here's a slide show at The Daily Beast of e.e. cummings' erotic drawings, along with snippets of his love poems.
Finally -- because what's a blog without a little shameless self-promotion? -- here's a new essay by me about how some things survive our loving foolishness.
Evening, Anders Zorn, 1892 (Many thanks to Jon, an erudite friend of the blog, for providing the proper title and date of this gorgeous painting.)