Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.


And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.


~ Walt Whitman, born on this day in 1819


Pieter Gallis (1633-1697)

Pieter Gallis (1633-1697)

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We must be very suspicious of the deceptions of the element of time.  It takes a good deal of time to eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred dollars, and a very little time to entertain a hope and an insight which becomes the light of our life.  We dress our garden, eat our dinners, discuss the household […], and these things make no impression, are forgotten next week; but in the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations, which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him.  Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old heart! – it seems to say, – there is victory yet for all justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power.


~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, born on this day in 1803


"De Jonge Schilder" ("The Young Painter") by Pierre Joseph Toussaint, between 1850 and 1888

“De Jonge Schilder” (“The Young Painter”) by Pierre Joseph Toussaint, between 1850 and 1888



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“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –


I’ve heard it in the chilliest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.


~ Emily Dickinson


Isaac Israels, 1895-1900

Isaac Israels, 1895-1900

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There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted

who disappeared into those shadows.


I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled

this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,

our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,

its own ways of making people disappear.


I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods

meeting the unmarked strip of light –

ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:

I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.


And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you

anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these

to have you listen at all, it’s necessary

to talk about trees.


~ Adrienne Rich, born on this day in 1929


"Edge of the Forest" by Ralph Albert Blakelock, between 1880 and 1890

“Edge of the Forest” by Ralph Albert Blakelock, between 1880 and 1890

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May and the Poets

There is May in books forever;

May will part from Spenser never;

May’s in Milton, May’s in Prior,

May’s in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;

May’s in all the Italian books: –

She has old and modern nooks,

Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,

In happy places they call shelves,

And will rise and dress your rooms

With a drapery thick with blooms.

Come, ye rains, then if ye will,

May’s at home, and with me still;

But come rather, thou, good weather,

And find us in the fields together.


                                  ~ James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)


"Springtime" by Claude Monet, 1872

“Springtime” by Claude Monet, 1872

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The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,

takes on a used-up, feather-duster look

within a week.


The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign

sends red feelers out and up and down

to find the sun.


Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,

brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch

soft to the touch


and rank with interface of rut and rot.

The month after the month they say is cruel

is and is not.


                              ~ Jonathan Galassi


"Apple Tree in Blossom" by Carl Fredrik Hill, 1877

“Apple Tree in Blossom” by Carl Fredrik Hill, 1877

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The Heart

It’s the lobby of the Plaza,

the systole and diastole

of hard women in soft coats, soft

men in hard coats, palming

quarters, fingers, keys.

Drop in any mailbox.

I’ll answer. Please.


It’s the murmur, the scarring fever,

of a page, always the same,

urgent, muted: calling

Mr. Name. Calling Mr. Name.


You exsanguinate.

For the carpets of indolence,

for the cut-throat chandelier,

for the forced forsythia

on the table—you pay, dear.


But some of it’s free. A knock

and rise in the ribs, gardenia

pectoris, and at four a muffled din:

the revolving door is bearing balloons;

look out—someone’s checking in.


                       ~ Annie Dillard, born on this day in 1945




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