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Some thoughts, August 4 — 10

August 10

T.S. Eliot looked all over Italy for a statue of a weeping girl. He couldn’t find her, but then one day a real one appeared. How do you say hello to a beautiful woman? Sometimes you don’t, but you write a poem. Writers often write what they wanted to say. “O quam te memorem virgo” is from Virgil, the Aeneid. Aeneas sees his mother Venus and he asks, “What should I call you, maiden?” He doesn’t know it’s his mother, but he does suspect he stands before a goddess, and wants to be very polite on that account. Not only should we respect a goddess, but remember that all that beauty can burn us up if she wants to in her splendor. Always be polite to strangers. You never know who’s there. And that seems to be the tact Tom Eliot is using here.

La Figlia Che Piange

O quam te memorem virgo

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—
Lean on a garden urn—
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.

August 8

Leda and the Swan by Henri Matisse

Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

Leda and the Swan by Sid Nolan

August 7

A tree grows in Brooklyn, wild anise in Manhattan. Joe Pye in the Projects. “Possunt quia posse videntur.” Virgil. “They can because they think they can.” Delectable leaves in the morning.

Groucho Marx (1890 – 1977)

A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.

Before I speak, I have something important to say.

Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped.

Humor is reason gone mad.

No man goes before his time unless the boss leaves early.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.

I must confess I was born at a very early age.

I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.

I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.

Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.

The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.

All people are born alike – except Republicans and Democrats.

Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.

Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

August 5

Barack Obama with his grandfather circa 1965. The president turned 53 yesterday.

The Sky above 9th and C

At 7th and A

James Thurber (1894 – 1961)

All men kill the thing they hate, unless, of course, it kills them first.

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.

Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.

The most dangerous food is wedding cake.

The past is an old armchair in the attic, the present an ominous ticking sound, and the future is anybody’s guess.

August 4

On the way to class, let’s stop in Tompkins Square for a minute and take in the morning. There are many people we do not see who have made this particular way and day beautiful. None of us are alone and I’m thankful.

“Turbam vita. Cum his vive qui te melioriem facere possunt; illos admitte quos tu potes facere meliores” Cicero “Avoid the crowd. Live with those who can make you better and admit those whom you can make better.”

“Labor omnia vincit.” Virgil

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