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It is night, in my study.

The deepest solitude; I hear the steady

shudder in my breast

– for it feels all alone,

and blanched by my mind –

and I hear my blood

with even murmur

fill up the silence.

You might say the thin stream

falls in the waterclock and fills the bottom.

Here, in the night, all alone, this is my study;

the books don’t speak;

my oil lamp

bathes these pages in a light of peace,

light of a chapel.

The books don’t speak;

of the poets, the meditators, the learned,

the spirits drowse;

and it is as if around me circled

cautious death.

 

~ From “It is Night, in My Study” by Miguel de Unamuno

 

"Reading Woman" by Albert Edelfelt, 1885

“Reading Woman” by Albert Edelfelt, 1885

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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,

And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

 

~ William Shakespeare, died on this day in 1616

 

"Meditation" by Wilhelm Amberg, circa 1880

“Meditation” by Wilhelm Amberg, circa 1880

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Old forms and phrases began to have a sense that frightened her.  She had a new feeling, the feeling of danger; on which a new remedy rose to meet it, the idea of an inner self or, in other words, of concealment.  She puzzled out with imperfect signs, but with a prodigious spirit, that she had been a centre of hatred and a messenger of insult, and that everything was bad because she had been employed to make it so.  Her parted lips locked themselves with the determination to be employed no longer.  She would forget everything, she would repeat nothing, and when, as a tribute to the successful application of her system, she began to be called a little idiot, she tasted a pleasure new and keen.  When therefore, as she grew older, [they] in turn announced before her that she had grown shockingly dull, it was not from any real contraction of her little stream of life.  She spoiled their fun, but she practically added to her own.  She saw more and more; she saw too much.

 

~ From What Maisie Knew by Henry James, born on this day in 1843

 

James_What_Maisie_Knew_cover

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Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice.  I would rather have one article a day of this sort; and these ten or twenty lines might readily represent a whole day’s hard work in the way of concentrated, intense thinking and revision, polish of style, weighing of words.

 

~ Joseph Pulitzer, born on this day in 1847

 

Joseph Pulitzer, 1918

Joseph Pulitzer, 1918

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The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

 

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,

And the days are dark and dreary.

 

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

 

                          ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Charles Edward Perugini, circa 1888

Charles Edward Perugini, circa 1888

 

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Vernal Sentiment

Though the crocuses poke up their heads in the usual places,

The frog scum appear on the pond with the same froth of green,

And boys moon at girls with last year’s fatuous faces,

I never am bored, however familiar the scene.

 

When from under the barn the cat brings a similar litter,

Two yellow and black, and one that looks in between,

Though it all happened before, I cannot grow bitter:

I rejoice in the spring, as though no spring ever had been.

 

                                                                       ~ Theodore Roethke

 

"Joys of Spring" by René Lelong, circa 1890 to 1900

“Joys of Spring” by René Lelong, circa 1890 to 1900

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Late March

Saturday morning in late March.

I was alone and took a long walk,

though I also carried a book

of the Alone, which companioned me.

 

The day was clear, unnaturally clear,

like a freshly wiped pane of glass,

a window over the water,

and blue, preternaturally blue,

like the sky in a Magritte painting,

and cold, vividly cold, so that

you could clap your hands and remember

winter, which had left a few moments ago –

if you strained you could almost see it

disappearing over the hills in a black parka.

Spring was coming but hadn’t arrived yet.

 

………………………………………………

 

I walked down to the pier to watch

the launching of a passenger ship.

Ice had broken up on the river

and the water rippled smoothly in blue light.

The moon was a faint smudge

in the clouds, a brushstroke, an afterthought

in the vacant mind of the sky.

 

………………………………………………

 

Down at the water, the queenly ship

started moving away from the pier.

Banners fluttered.

The passengers clustered at the rails on deck.

I stood with the people on shore and waved

goodbye to the travelers.

Some were jubilant;

others were broken-hearted.

I have always been both.

 

Suddenly, a great cry went up.

The ship set sail for the horizon

and rumbled into the future

but the cry persisted

and cut the air

like an iron bell ringing

in an empty church.

I looked around the pier

but everyone else was gone

and I was left alone

to peer into the ghostly distance.

I had no idea where that ship was going

but I felt lucky to see it off

and bereft when it disappeared.

 

                 ~ Edward Hirsch

 

"Bootssteg auf der Herreninsel im Chiemsee" by Wilhelm Trübner, 1874

“Bootssteg auf der Herreninsel im Chiemsee” by Wilhelm Trübner, 1874

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