Thursday, July 27, 2017

Le Fauconnier, Germain Détanger, 1882

The Defilers

David Park Barnitz (1878-1901)

The Defilers

O endless idiocy of humankind!
O blatant dead that howl and scream and roar!
O strange dead things the worms have gambled for!...
O dull and senseless, foolish, mad and blind!
How long now shall your scent defile the wind?
How long shall you make vile the earth's wide floor?
How long, how long, O waiting ages hoar,
Shall the white dawn their gaping faces find?
O vile and simple, blind of heart and mind,
When shall your last wave roll forevermore
Back from the sick and long-defiled shore?
When shall the grave the last dead carcass bind?
O shameless humankind! O dead! O dead!
When shall your rottenness be buried?

- David Park Barnitz 


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Is there anything so delicious as the first exploration of a great library—alone—unwatched? You shut the heavy door behind you slowly, reverently, lest a noise should jar on the sleepers of the shelves. For as the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were dead and yet alive, so are the souls of the authors in the care of their ancient leathern binding. You walk gently round the walls, pausing here to read a title, there to draw out a tome and support it for a passing glance — half in your arms, half against the shelf. The passing glance lengthens till the weight becomes too great, and with a sigh you replace it, and move again, peering up at those titles which are foreshortened from the elevation of the shelf, and so roam from folio to octavo, from octavo to quarto, till at last, finding a little work whose value, were it in the mart, would be more than its weight in gold, you bear it to the low leather-covered armchair and enjoy it at your ease. But to sip the full pleasure of a library you must be alone, and you must take the books yourself from the shelves. A man to read must read alone. He may make extracts, he may work at books in company; but to read, to absorb, he must be solitary.

- Richard Jefferies


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sacred and Profane Love

Giovanni Baglione, Sacred Love and Profane Love, 1602

The vicious lover is the follower of earthly Love who desires the body rather than the soul; his heart is set on what is mutable and must therefore be inconstant. And as soon as the body he loves begins to pass the first flower of its beauty, he "spreads his wings and flies away," giving the lie to all his pretty speeches and dishonoring his vows, whereas the lover whose heart is touched by moral beauties is constant all his life, for he has become one with what will never fade.


"Symposium" by Plato, translated by M. Joyce, "Collected Dialogues of Plato ",1961.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An excerpt from "Lazarus" by Leonid Andreyev

Portrait of the writer Leonid Andreev by Valentin Serov, 1907

All objects seen by the eye and palpable to the hand became empty, light and transparent, as though they were light shadows in the darkness; and this darkness enveloped the whole universe. It was dispelled neither by the sun, nor by the moon, nor by the stars, but embraced the earth like a mother, and clothed it in a boundless black veil.
Into all bodies it penetrated, even into iron and stone; and the particles of the body lost their unity and became lonely. Even to the heart of the particles it penetrated, and the particles of the particles became lonely.
The vast emptiness which surrounds the universe, was not filled with things seen, with sun or moon or stars; it stretched boundless, penetrating everywhere, disuniting everything, body from body, particle from particle.
In emptiness the trees spread their roots, themselves empty; in emptiness rose phantom temples, palaces and houses--all empty; and in the emptiness moved restless Man, himself empty and light, like a shadow.
There was no more a sense of time; the beginning of all things and their end merged into one. In the very moment when a building was being erected and one could hear the builders striking with their hammers, one seemed already to see its ruins, and then emptiness where the ruins were.
A man was just born, and funeral candles were already lighted at his head, and then were extinguished; and soon there was emptiness where before had been the man and the candles.
And surrounded by Darkness and Empty Waste, Man trembled hopelessly before the dread of the Infinite.


Lazarus By Leonid N. Andreyev

Related reading:

Judas Iscariot by L.N. Andreyev, tr. W.H. Lowe, p. F. Griffiths, 1910

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mi Amore

Castor and Pollux

I pray that it may for ever be my lot in life to sit opposite my dear one and hear close to me his sweet voice, to go out when he goes out and share every activity with him. And so a lover might well pray that his cherished one should journey to old age without any sorrow through a life free from stumbling or swerving, without having experienced at all any malicious spite of Fortune. But, if in accordance with the law governing the human body, illness should lay its hand on him, I shall ail with him when he is weak, and, when he puts out to sea through stormy waves, I shall sail with him. And, should a violent tyrant bind him in chains, I shall put the same fetters around myself. All who hate him will be my enemies and those well disposed to him shall I hold dear. Should I see bandits or foemen rushing upon him, I would arm myself even beyond my strength, and if he dies, I shall not bear to live. I shall give final instructions to those I love next best after him to pile up a common tomb for both of us, to unite my bones with his and not to keep even our dumb ashes apart from each other.


Affairs of the Heart, Pseudo-Lucian, tr. A.M. Harmon

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Veiled Image at Sais by Friedrich Schiller

A youth, impelled by a burning thirst for knowledge
To roam to Sais, in fair Egypt's land,
The priesthood's secret learning to explore,
Had passed through many a grade with eager haste,
And still was hurrying on with fond impatience.
Scarce could the Hierophant impose a rein
Upon his headlong efforts. "What avails
A part without the whole?" the youth exclaimed;
"Can there be here a lesser or a greater?
The truth thou speak'st of, like mere earthly dross,
Is't but a sum that can be held by man
In larger or in smaller quantity?
Surely 'tis changeless, indivisible;
Deprive a harmony of but one note,
Deprive the rainbow of one single color,
And all that will remain is naught, so long
As that one color, that one note, is wanting."

While thus they converse held, they chanced to stand
Within the precincts of a lonely temple,
Where a veiled statue of gigantic size
The youth's attention caught. In wonderment
He turned him toward his guide, and asked him, saying,
"What form is that concealed beneath yon veil?"
"Truth!" was the answer. "What!" the young man cried,
"When I am striving after truth alone,
Seekest thou to hide that very truth from me?"

"The Godhead's self alone can answer thee,"
Replied the Hierophant. "'Let no rash mortal
Disturb this veil,' said he, 'till raised by me;
For he who dares with sacrilegious hand
To move the sacred mystic covering,
He'--said the Godhead--" "Well?"--"'will see the truth.'"
"Strangely oracular, indeed! And thou
Hast never ventured, then, to raise the veil?"
"I? Truly not! I never even felt
The least desire."--"Is't possible? If I
Were severed from the truth by nothing else
Than this thin gauze--" "And a divine decree,"
His guide broke in. "Far heavier than thou thinkest
Is this thin gauze, my son. Light to thy hand
It may be--but most weighty to thy conscience."

The youth now sought his home, absorbed in thought;
His burning wish to solve the mystery
Banished all sleep; upon his couch he lay,
Tossing his feverish limbs. When midnight came,
He rose, and toward the temple timidly,
Led by a mighty impulse, bent his way.
The walls he scaled, and soon one active spring
Landed the daring boy beneath the dome.

Behold him now, in utter solitude,
Welcomed by naught save fearful, deathlike silence,--
A silence which the echo of his steps
Alone disturbs, as through the vaults he paces.
Piercing an opening in the cupola,
The moon cast down her pale and silvery beams,
And, awful as a present deity,
Glittering amid the darkness of the pile,
In its long veil concealed, the statue stands.

With hesitating step, he now draws near--
His impious hand would fain remove the veil--
Sudden a burning chill assails his bones
And then an unseen arm repulses him.
"Unhappy one, what wouldst thou do?" Thus cries
A faithful voice within his trembling breast.
"Wouldst thou profanely violate the All-Holy?"
"'Tis true the oracle declared, 'Let none
Venture to raise the veil till raised by me.'
But did the oracle itself not add,
That he who did so would behold the truth?
Whate'er is hid behind, I'll raise the veil."
And then he shouted: "Yes! I will behold it!"
"Behold it!"
Repeats in mocking tone the distant echo.

He speaks, and, with the word, lifts up the veil.
Would you inquire what form there met his eye?
I know not,--but, when day appeared, the priests
Found him extended senseless, pale as death,
Before the pedestal of Isis' statue.
What had been seen and heard by him when there
He never would disclose, but from that hour
His happiness in life had fled forever,
And his deep sorrow soon conducted him
To an untimely grave. "Woe to that man,"
He warning said to every questioner,
"Woe to that man who wins the truth by guilt,
For truth so gained will ne'er reward its owner."

- Friedrich Schiller


Related reading:

A Translation of "Die Lehrlinge zu Sais" by Novalis