Sunday, April 29, 2012

"I said it to you for the clouds"

I said it to you for the clouds
I said it to you for the tree of the sea
For each wave for the birds in the leaves
For the pebbles of sound
For familiar hands
For the eye that becomes landscape or face
And sleep returns it the heaven of its colour
For all that night drank
For the network of roads
For the open window for a bare forehead
I said it to you for your thoughts for your words
Every caress every trust survives.

~ Paul Éluard, translated by A.S. Kline

Sunbathing in the Dunes, Paul Gustave Fischer, 1916

Friday, April 27, 2012

"That night was to decide..."

That night was to decide
if she and I
were to be lovers.
Under cover
of darkness
no one would see, you see.
I bent over her, it’s the truth,
and as I did,
it’s the truth, I swear it,
I said
like a kindly parent:
“Passion’s a precipice –
so won’t you please
move away?
Move away,

~ Vladimir Mayakovsky, "Attitude to a Miss"

Zwei Mädchenakte, Egon Schiele, 1911

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"ghostly exhilarations in the thought of her"

[...]I’d been

in the course of a letter—I am still
in the course of a letter—to a friend,
who comes close in to my thought so that
the day is hers. My hand writing here
there shakes in the currents of . . . of air?
of an inner anticipation of . . . ?   reaching to touch
ghostly exhilarations in the thought of her.

               At the extremity of this
“there is a connexion working in both directions, as in
               the bow and the lyre”—
only in that swift fulfillment of the wish
                  that sleep
               can illustrate my hand
                  sweeps the string.

You stand behind where-I-am.
The deep tones and shadows I will call a woman.
The quick high notes . . . You are a girl there too,
   having something of sister and of wife,
and I would play Orpheus for you again,

                  recall the arrow or song,
                  to the trembling daylight
                  from which it sprang.

~From "Bending the Bow" by Robert Duncan. The complete poem is here. 
Bather, Francesco Hayez, 1859

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Trust love, even if it brings sorrow"

"Trust love even if it brings sorrow. Do not close up your heart."
Ah no, my friend, your words are dark, I cannot understand them.

"The heart is only for giving away with a tear and a song, my love."
Ah no, my friend, your words are dark, I cannot understand them.

"Pleasure is frail like a dewdrop, while it laughs it dies. But sorrow is strong and abiding. Let sorrowful love wake in your eyes."
Ah no, my friend, your words are dark, I cannot understand them.

"The lotus blooms in the sight of the sun, and loses all that it has. It would not remain in bud in the eternal winter mist."
Ah no, my friend, your words are dark, I cannot understand them.

~ From The Gardener by Rabindranath Tagore

Lotus flower, Seitei Watanabe (1851-1918)

Monday, April 23, 2012

"If the dull substance of my flesh were thought..."

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then, despite of space, I would be brought,
From limits far remote where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah, thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
Receiving naught by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.

~ Shakespeare, Sonnet 44

Yeux clos, Odilon Redon, c.1890

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"I hate my verses, every line, every word"

Love the Wild Swan
Robinson Jeffers

“I hate my verses, every line, every word.   
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting flash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.”
—This wild swan of a world is no hunter’s game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast,
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your...self? At least
Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.

Sunset at Sea, Thomas Moran c.1906

Friday, April 20, 2012

"My dear, your eyes are weary"

My dear, your eyes are weary;
Rest them a little while.
Assume the languid posture
Of pleasure mixed with guile.
Outside the talkative fountain
Continues night and day
Repeating my warm passion
In whatever it has to say.

             The sheer luminous gown
                           The fountain wears
             Where Phoebe’s very own
                           Color appears
             Falls like a summer rain
                           Or shawl of tears.

~ From "The Fountain" by Charles Baudelaire, trans. by Anthony Hecht. The complete poem is here.

RestWojciech Gerson, 1895

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"A something to be loved"

... Juan seem'd
To her, as 'twere, the kind of being sent,
Of whom these two years she had nightly dream'd,
A something to be loved, a creature meant
To be her happiness, and whom she deem'd
To render happy; all who joy would win
Must share it,—Happiness was born a twin.

It was such pleasure to behold him, such
Enlargement of existence to partake
Nature with him, to thrill beneath his touch,
To watch him slumbering, and to see him wake:
To live with him forever were too much;
But then the thought of parting made her quake;
He was her own, her ocean-treasure, cast
Like a rich wreck—her first love, and her last.

~ From Don Juan by Lord Byron

Byron died this day in 1824. More about him at Neurotic Poets

The Finding of Don Juan by Haidee, Ford Madox Brown, 1878

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Ring-mistress of the circus of the stars"

No terrors lurking in her depths, like those
Bound in that buzzing strongbox of the atom,
Terrors that, loosened, turn the hills vesuvian,
Trace in cremation where the cities were.

No, she’s our quiet mother, sensible.
But therefore down-to-earth, not suffering
Fools who play fast and loose among the mountains,
Who fly in her face, or, drunken, clown on cornices.

She taught our ways of walking. Her affection
Adjusted the morning grass, the sands of summer
Until our soles fit snug in each, walk easy.
Holding her hand, we’re safe. Should that hand fail,
The atmosphere we breathe would turn hysterical,
Hiss with tornadoes, spinning us from earth
Into the cold unbreathable desolations.

Yet there—in fields of space—is where she shines,
Ring-mistress of the circus of the stars,
Their prancing carousels, their ferris wheels
Lit brilliant in celebration. Thanks to her
All’s gala in the galaxy.

~ From "Gravity" by John Frederick Nims. The complete poem is at the Poetry Foundation.

Illus. from Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's life by William Stukeley, 1752.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Out of the heavy-hanging sea"

by Thomas Merton

(From Crossportion’s Pastoral)

The bottom of the sea has come
And builded in my noiseless room
The fishes’ and the mermaids’ home,

Whose it is most, most hell to be
Out of the heavy-hanging sea
And in the thin, thin changeable air

Or unroom sleep some other where;
But play their coral violins
Where waters most lock music in:

The bottom of my room, the sea.
Full of voiceless curtaindeep
There mermaid somnambules come sleep
Where fluted half-lights show the way,

And there, there lost orchestras play
And down the many quarterlights come
To the dim mirth of my aquadrome:
The bottom of my sea, the room.

Meerjungfrau (Mermaid), Koloman Moser, 1914

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Me myself in the summer heaven godlike"

For Once, Then, Something
Robert Frost

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

The Crow and the Pitcher, Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"The words of the thing twang and twitter..."

The words of the thing twang and twitter to the gentle rocking of a high-laced boot and the silk above that. The trick of the dance is in following now the words, allegro, now the contrary beat of the glossy leg: Reaching far over as if—But always she draws back and comes down upon the word flat footed. For a moment we—but the boot’s costly and the play’s not mine. The pace leads off anew. Again the words break it and we both come down flatfooted. Then—near the knee, jumps to the eyes, catching in the hair’s shadow. But the lips take the rhythm again and again we come down flatfooted. By this time boredom takes a hand and the play’s ended.

~ From Kora in Hell: Improvisations by William Carlos Williams

Full text of Kora in Hell can be found here.

Im Boudoir, Károly Teuchert, 1922

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"On city bridges steep as hills I change countries"

Beginning Of The Plains
by W.S. Merwin

On city bridges steep as hills I change countries
and this according to the promise
is the way home

where the cold has come from
with its secret baggage

in the white sky the light flickering
like the flight of a wing

nothing to be bought in the last
dim shops
before the plain begins
few shelves kept only by children
and relatives there for the holiday
who know nothing

wind without flags
marching into the city
to the rear

I recognize the first hunger
as the plains start
under my feet

~ From The Carrier of Ladders

The old oak, Karl Konrad Simonsson (1843-1901)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"the beautiful bright veil through which her sorrow shines"

Many have painted her. But there was one
Who drew his radiant colours from the sun.
Mysteriously glowing through a background dim
When he was suffering she came to him,
And all the heavy pain within his heart
Rose in his hands and stole into his art.
His canvas is the beautiful bright veil
Through which her sorrow shines. There where the
Texture o'er her sad lips is closely drawn
A trembling smile softly begins to dawn ...
Though angels with seven candles light the place
You cannot read the secret of her face.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours, trans. by Jessie Lemont

Reclining nude, Lovis Corinth, 1910

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Since I have touched my lips to your brimming cup..."

Since I have touched my lips to your brimming cup,
Since I have bowed my pale brow in your hands,
Since I have sometime breathed the sweet breath
Of your soul, a perfume buried in shadow lands;

Since it was granted to me to hear you utter
Words in which the mysterious heart sighs,
Since I have seen smiles, since I have seen tears
Your mouth on my mouth, your eyes on my eyes;

Since I have seen over my enraptured head
A light from your star shine, ah, ever veiled!
Since I have seen falling to my life’s flood
The leaf of a rose snatched from out your days,

Now at last I can say to the fleeting years:
– Pass by! Pass by, forever! No more age!
Away with you and all your withered flowers,
I have a flower in my soul no one can take!

Your wings, brushing it, spill never a drop
From the glass I fill, from which my thirst I quench.
My soul possesses more fire than you have ashes!
My heart more love than your forgetfulness!

~ Victor Hugo, trans. by A.S. Kline

Liebespaar, Egon Schiele, 1913

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"You hold each other. Where is your proof?"

Lovers, gratified in each other, I am asking you
about us. You hold each other. Where is your proof?
Look, sometimes I find that my hands have come aware
of each other, or that my time-worn face
shelters itself inside them. That gives me a slight
sensation. But who would dare to exist, just for that?
You, though, who in the other's passion
grow until, overwhelmed, he begs you:
"No more..."; you who beneath his hands
swell with abundance, like autumn grapes;
you who may disappear because the other has wholly
emerged: I am asking you about us. I know,
you touch so blissfully because the caress preserves,
because the place you so tenderly cover
does not vanish; because underneath it
you feel pure duration. So you promise eternity, almost,
from the embrace. And yet, when you have survived
the terror of the first glances, the longing at the window,
and the first walk together, once only, through the garden:
lovers, are you the same? When you lift yourselves up
to each other's mouth and your lips join, drink against drink:
oh how strangely each drinker seeps away from his action.

~ From The Second Elegy (The Duino Elegies), Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Stephen Mitchell

Stehenedes Liebespaar
, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"And all her face was honey to my mouth"

Love and Sleep

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Lying asleep between the strokes of night
I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
Pale as the duskiest lily’s leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
But perfect-coloured without white or red.
And her lips opened amorously, and said –
I wist not what, saving one word – Delight.

And all her face was honey to my mouth,
And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
And glittering eyelids of my soul’s desire.

Sleeping Nymph and Shepherd, Jan Gerritsz van Bronckhorst, c.1645

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"The soul of sweet delight, can never be defil'd."

As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to layer her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, with plates.

Lais in Hades, Gustave-Claude-Etienne Courtois, c.1902.

Lais of Hyccara in the Deipnosophists