One of the figures said, “What if it doesn’t say anything?” The other said, “It won’t say anything; it won’t just give us simple instructions.” The wind rose; clouds scuttled across the moon. The first figure said, “What if it says just what we want to hear?” The other said, “What do we want to hear?”
Much later, when the night was almost completely dark, and only shifting shadows were to be seen, a voice said, “What if it’s closed when we get there?” Another voice said, “Closed? You mean like a museum or a library or a shop?” The first voice said, “Yes. Or like a ruin or an abandoned house.” The second voice said, “Well, I suppose we would have to tell the story of our journey, what we saw on the way there and the way back, and why we came.“
[Michael Wood, The Road to Delphi]
None writes so ill, that he gives not some thing exemplary, to follow, or flie. Now when I beginne this booke, I have no purpose to come into any mans debt; how my stocke will hold out I know not; perchance waste, perchance increase in use; if I doe borrow any thing of Antiquitie, besides that I make account that I pay it to posterity, with as much and as good: You shall still finde mee to acknowledge it, and to thanke not him onely that hath digg’d out treasure for mee, but that hath lighted mee a candle to the place.
[John Donne, Metempsycosis (1601)]
Reading, like speech, is an ancient, preliterate craft. We read the tracks and scat of animals, the depth and lustre of their coats, the set of their ears and the gait of their limbs. We read the horns of sheep, the teeth of horses. We read the weights and measures of the wind, the flight of birds, the surface of the sea, snow, fossils, broken rocks, the growth of shrubs and trees and lichens. We also read, of course, the voices that we hear. We read the speech of jays, ravens, hawks, frogs, wolves, and, in infinite detail, the voices, faces, gestures, coughs and postures of other human beings. This is a serious kind of reading, and it antedates all but the earliest, most involuntary form of writing, which is the leaving of prints and traces, the making of tracks.
[Robert Bringhurst, A Story as Sharp as a Knife (1999)]
I wrapped my tears in an ellum leaf
And left them under a stone…
[From Ezra Pound’s “La Fraisne” (1909). Some editions preface the poem with a note: “Scene: The Ash Wood of Malvern.” Fraisne = mod. French Frêne (Latin Fraxinus, English Ash). All of the trees mentioned in the poem are found in the Malvern Hills.]
Sir Ector said,
“After all, damn it all, we can’t have the boys runnin’ about all day like hooligans–after all, damn it all? Ought to be havin’ a first-rate eddication, at their age. When I was their age I was doin’ all this Latin and stuff at five o’clock every mornin’. Happiest time of me life. Pass the port.”
[T.H. White, The Once & Future King]
A thought on work: you think you’re hard at work on your work, but your work works too: it is hard at work on you.
[Teju Cole, November 2012 tweet]
Syracusan tyranny: “The citizens, being forbidden to speak, were obliged to communicate by pantomime, thereby inventing the art of dancing”
The hope of philosophy was to create a tranquility so stable that the world could not assail it. This stability will always turn out to be a madness or obsession or brutal indifference to the world. Philosophy is rather the self-mastery that frees one enough — of laziness, selfishness, rage, jealousy, and such failures of spirit — to help others, write for others, draw for others, be friends….
[Guy Davenport, “Journal I,” in The Hunter Gracchus]