I shall read…

for what else to do now?


This mournful and restless sound was a fit accompaniment to my meditations.


— Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

Oh 2 be b’side the c-side with u write now! Can you hear it, can you hear me, can you hear the sonorous, no searing, sounds of the redolent, no relentless, sea.

Read The NYT Book review

Download a PDF copy here:
BooksNYT Book Review (Jan. 2020).

There is an ocean of silence between us. . . and I am drowning in it.
“No one compares to you, but there’s no you, except in my dreams tonight.”
— Lana Del Rey


Though lovers be lost, love shall not /
And death shall have no dominion.


— Dylan Thomas

There is an ocean of silence between us. . . and I am drowning in it 013
“It hurts to breathe. It hurts to live. I hate him, yet I do not think I can exist without him.”
― Charlotte Featherstone


There is an ocean of silence between us… and I am drowning in it.


— Ranata Suzuki

There is an ocean of silence between us. . . and I am drowning in it 012
“You can love someone so much… But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.”
― John Green


Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.


— Kahlil Gibran

There is an ocean of silence between us. . . and I am drowning in it 010
“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”
― George R. Martin


It’s painful, loving someone from afar /
Watching them – from the outside.


— Ranata Suzuki


“Your smile and your laughter lit my whole world.”

Dust & Shadow

“Pulvis et umbra sumus”

— We are but dust and shadow.

Horrace
Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.”

Ode I, 5: To Pyrrha


What slender youth, bedew’d with liquid odors,
Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave,
Pyrrha? For whom bind’st thou
In wreaths thy golden hair,
 
Plain in thy neatness? O how oft shall he
Of faith and changed gods complain, and seas
Rough with black winds, and storms
Unwonted shall admire!
 
Who now enjoys thee credulous, all gold,
Who, always vacant, always amiable
Hopes thee; of flattering gales
Unmindful. Hapless they
 
To whom thou untried seem’st fair. Me, in my vow’d
Picture, the sacred wall declares t’have hung
My dank and dropping weeds
To the stern god of sea.


— Translated by John Milton

^ Horace’s “Ode to Pyrrha” can be interpreted in many ways… Read more about the life and works of Horace, including some pretty detailed literary analysis of the ode above:

PoetsHorace

Tittle-Tattle

Telltale Tit /
Your tongue shall be slit
• • •

There was a time when I would walk & talk
the veneration was captivating
in those halcyon days, I’d silk and milk
the politicking was everything
 
Statecraft through court intrigue (my modes were old)
Machiavelli gave the manuscript
my words writ power plays (and paid me gold)
yet Cromwell showed, class can never be stripped
 
Tittle-Tattle, the cut of the devil
— time and tome tell us the weak will relent
Telltale Tit, most will be nowt but evil
— there ain’t no doubt that the meek will repent
 
Not I, Adversity… I’ll catch stars;
for you, my dearest, I’ll spar yet with Mars.


Thomas Cromwell
Thomas Cromwell
By Hans Holbein (1533)
* See too, p. 88 of Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies” (2012).

• • • and all the dogs in the town
/ Shall each be fed a little bit

No Second Troy

— W. B. Yeats (1916)

The_Love_of_Paris_and_Helen_by_Jacques-Louis_David
The Love of Paris and Helen
By Jacques-Louis David (1788)

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

— W. B. Yeats

This twelve-line poem is addressed to Maud Gonne, who, to Yeats’s great distress, married John MacBride in 1903 (she’d rejected a number of Yeats’s marriage proposals). After Yeats received Maud’s final emphatic and shattering rejection, he wrote “No second Troy.” It is in no small part a poem of unrequited love and it articulates the moment in a tortured love affair when the unrequited lover, at their wits’ end, opens up emotionally — and sends a ‘flamer’ — in a spasm of candid and brutal honesty.

However, it doesn’t only focus on love’s destructiveness on a personal level, it considers this at the level of the state (Irish) and the mythological level too. We can say it is a truism that love and politics when mixed, shaken and stirred, will be an irresistible combination. So, alongside this poem’s clear references to Helen and Paris, think too of the enduring nature of troubled love stories such as Antony and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet. So here, while Yeats clearly criticises Maude’s political strategies (but not her goals) he seems to do so in a way to emphasis the larger point about being debilitated by love and the destructive power of beauty. The tightened bow referenced in the poem suggests an inherent tension in heroic beauty that necessarily results in destructiveness.

I view the switch from personal to political as Yeats somehow giving in, conceding defeat, he’s not prepared to destroy Maude’s marriage to MacBride. He doesn’t, metaphorically speaking, raise another Troy to the ground. Instead, he throws in the towel, he controls his passions and consoles himself by demeaning her political strategies as being rather naïve and exploitative of the uneducated common man. As an afterthought, I’d like to say I’d do the same but I fear that an inner fire would burn so searingly that my honed placidity and pacificity would soon shed and, my abyss-borne nihilistic self, with fire & fury, would hunt down and crush completely any sudden suitor for my version of Maude.

Helene & Paris (detail)
Paris and Helen [Detail]
By Jacques-Louis David (1788)

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.

— Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

The mythic Helen of Troy, who, 2,500 years ago, set off a war that “launched a thousand ships,” need not be real, but the obsession with female beauty as blessing and curse surely is.* However, we must ask ourselves, was Helen a victim of her beauty or a free agent in full command of her power? As a stand-in for female beauty and sexual power, the myth of Helen and the ancient texts written about the Trojan War — Iliad and Odyssey by Homer and Aeneid by Virgil — are suggestive of male attitudes on control of women and what constitutes heroism.


p.s.

Charnel house
A building or vault in which corpses or bones are piled; a place associated with violent death.


Flamer
[informal]
A person who directs a vitriolic or abusive message at someone on the Internet or via email. — “Dr Bun sent a flamer to his peers and the email went viral; he lives to regret it every day.”


Misogynistic
To be strongly prejudiced against women. — “In most parts of the world there are deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes.”


Trope
[1] A figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.
[2] A significant or recurrent theme; a motif.
— A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works. The phrase, ‘Stop and smell the roses,’ and the meaning we take from it, is an example of a trope. Derived from the Greek word tropos, which means, ‘turn, direction, way,’ tropes are figures of speech that move the meaning of the text from literal to figurative.


Wit’s end
— The idiom at wits’ end means to be very upset, or at the limits of one’s emotional or mental limitations. It’s commonly spelled at wit’s end, but we say at the end of my wits, not at the end of my wit, so at wits’ end makes more sense.

* Readers beware! If we blame Helen for the Trojan War, what does it say about us? I am pasting here the opening paragraphs of a 2014 eye-opening article by Emilie Wilson published in The New Republic. The article is a review of Blondell’s 2013 book, Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation

Émile Zola’s gripping novel Nana (1880) evokes the rise, fall, and early death of a sexy blonde teenager, a celebrity actress and prostitute, who takes all of Paris by storm. She destroys every man who crosses her path before herself dying a dismal death of smallpox, portending the fall of the Second Empire. The novel is part of Zola’s series on urban industrialisation and its threat to traditional family life. Nana, although theoretically human, is a destructive and powerful machine, the engine of the new civilization as well as the motor of Zola’s novelistic plot. Her sexual allure, figured as an irresistible scent, is in the end transformed into, or revealed as, the seeping putrefaction of the charnel house. This is one of the most powerful modern versions of a far more widespread misogynistic trope. Heterosexual male desire for an exceptionally attractive woman tends to be projected onto the woman herself, who is then presented as particularly lustful. Since male desire can be experienced as mysterious, bewildering, and overwhelming, the woman herself must be destructive and deceptive, perhaps possessed of magical witch-like powers.
 
In ancient Greek mythology, one of the female characters who fits this general model is Pandora, the female sent by Zeus to punish humans for Prometheus’s theft of fire and to end the Golden Age, when she opens the jar of death, pain, and other evils upon the world. This is a relatively straightforward presentation of the beautiful woman as a mechanism for disaster—a mere instrument of divine vengeance. But Hesiod adds that Pandora herself had agency, “strength,” a “mind,” and a “voice,” allowing her to “devise” evils for humanity, when she made the fateful choice to open the jar—an action that, as Ruby Blondell rightly notes in, Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation, has obvious sexual overtones. The problem with Pandora, as with all beautiful women in a patriarchal society, is that she is “more than a statue. And there’s the rub.” The urge to objectify a desirable woman is undermined by the acknowledgment that she might be human; at the same time, her capacity for agency and choice only reinforces her desirability (and makes her seem all the more dangerous).
 
I provide the full article here: The Shaming Helen of Troy

The Fear Factor

a letter, unread:

Dear Jamela,

There’s one thing I know for sure, there’s nothing I fear more than losing you.

I’ve just woken up from a nightmare (covered in a cold sweat etc.). In the nightmare (I remember it vividly because I woke with a jolt), I had done something to annoy you and, as a consequence, you had blocked me. I was desperately trying to contact you, but each time I did you’d read what I had to say then blocked that communication channel. Finally, every avenue was blocked so I kept on going to your house (this was a dream and your house and family were here in Holland). Each time I’d go to your house (which was a different one each time) a member of your family would tell me you no longer lived there but I could hear you dancing, or singing, or talking or even playing tennis… I kept trying to get into these different houses to see you, to apologise, to explain myself but on each occasion I found myself trapped in a bathroom, a bathroom from my childhood, a bathroom with carpet on the floor; a bathroom that kept turning into a padded cell of a lunatic asylum.

Anyway, that was a nightmare, nothing more — I’m remembering now that book, Why we Dream. I don’t believe that nightmares are anything other than our brains sorting out and processing information. Nevertheless, as that book kind of suggests, we can somehow take guidance from these dreams/nightmares and that I plan to do. I will be thankful for every day I have you with me as a soulmate, I will work hard to understand each and every one of your personality traits in order for me to treat you right. You have given me so much, you continue to give me so much and, to me, you are the elixir of life; the epitome of my happiness; ‘the’ reason to celebrate and cherish being alive.

It was just a dream, just a dream.

Yours in life & in love,
James

Heaven — is with you

Heaven
The Kiss
by Gustav Klimt (1908)

“The mind is a universe and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
― John Milton

Hell — is without

Hell
The Scream
by Edvard Munch (1893)

“Life moves very fast. It rushes from Heaven to Hell in a matter of seconds.”
― Paulo Coelho


p.s.
Welcome to the twenties! They say to be happy, inter alia, we should (a) go to bed early and (b) embrace boredom. I can see the logic behind such advice but am I likely to follow it? I think not. I am a hedonistic human being and this is something that I cannot escape. Oh! The (futile & fruitless) Pursuit of Happiness.

The book mentioned — Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey — is written by Alice Robb and is reviewed in this post: Dream on

Dream

on the vexing subject of anxiety
Understand your anxieties
Try keeping a diary of what you are doing and how you feel at different times to help identify what’s affecting you and what you are best able to take action on.
on the vexing subject of anxiety
Get to grips with your anxieties
When you’re feeling anxious, it can help to use a problem-solving technique to identify some solutions (e.g., writing them down on paper), this can make the challenges you’re facing feel more manageable.
on the vexing subject of anxiety
Shift your focus
Some people find relaxation, mindfulness or breathing exercises helpful because they can reduce tension and focus one’s awareness on the present.

Elixir
A magical or medicinal potion. — “The seller of snake oil promised Oliver an elixir guaranteed to induce love.”


Epitome
A person or thing that is a perfect example of a particular quality or type. — “He looked the epitome of elegance and good taste.”


Hedonistic
[adjective]
To be engaged in the pursuit of pleasure; sensuous and self-indulgent. — “Julie dreamed of a hedonistic existence of sex, drugs, and hardcore house music but in reality moped around in her dressing gown in her suburban living room.”


Lunatic asylum
A psychiatric hospital.


Padded cell
A room in a psychiatric hospital with padding on the walls to prevent violent patients from injuring themselves.

Love me little, love me long

— Robert Herrick (1591–1674)


YOU say, to me-wards your affection’s strong;
Pray love me little, so you love me long.
Slowly goes far: the mean is best: desire,
Grown violent, does either die or tire.

||

Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song:
Love that is too hot and strong
Burneth soon to waste.
I am with little well content,
And a little from thee sent
Is enough, with true intent,
To be steadfast friend.
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Say thou lov’st me while thou live,
I to thee my love will give,
Never dreaming to deceive
While that life endures:
Nay, and after death in sooth,
I to thee will keep my truth,
As now when in my May of youth,
This my love assures.
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Constant love is moderate ever,
And it will through life persever,
Give to me that with true endeavor.
I will it restore:
A suit of durance let it be,
For all weathers, that for me,
For the land or for the sea,
Lasting evermore.

Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Of Love: A Sonnet

How love came in I do not know,
Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came
(At first) infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere,
This troubles me: but I as well
As any other this can tell:
That when from hence she does depart
The outlet then is from the heart.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was an English poet best known for Hesperides: Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine (1648), a book of poems. This includes the carpe diem poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

^ In the genre of carpe diem

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse
‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May’ by British Pre-Raphaelite artist, John William Waterhouse (1909).