Then through my dream the choir of gods was borne . . .

Gustave Moreau – Phaethon

The Fall of a Soul
 by John Addington Symonds (October 5, 1840 – April 19, 1893)

I sat unsphering Plato ere I slept:
Then through my dream the choir of gods was borne,
Swift as the wind and lustrous as the morn,
Fronting the night of stars; behind them swept
Tempestuous darkness o’er a drear descent,
Wherethrough I saw a crowd of charioteers
Urging their giddy steeds with cries and cheers
To join the choir that aye before them went:
But one there was who fell, with broken car
And horses swooning down the gulf of gloom;
Heavenward his eyes, though prescient of their doom,
Reflected glory like a falling star;
While with wild hair blown back and listless hands
Ruining he sank toward undiscovered lands.

 

Gore Vidal on Monotheism

“Monotheism is easily the greatest disaster to befall the human race.”
― Gore Vidal

“It is astonishing to think that millions of people in my time—now, too, I suppose—actually thought that at a given moment in history two human beings had evolved to a higher state than that of all the gods that ever were or ever will be. This is titanism, as the Greeks would say. This is madness.”
― Gore Vidal (from his novel, Creation)

Gore Vidal (photograph by Carl van Vechten)

Today (October 3rd) is the birthday of the eminently quotable Gore Vidal, who recently died this past July.  Gore Vidal has always been one of my heroes and role models, and I daresay his novel Julian should be *required reading* for anyone who identifies as a pagan, polytheist, or Heathen.

Gore Vidal was a remarkable writer and a remarkable man.  His many books and essays are the sublime creations of a true public intellectual, a self-described “gadfly” with razor-edged wit, and the incredible ability to write historical novels that are often more insightful and illuminating than anything you’ll find in a history textbook or in a “nonfiction” book written by a more traditional historian.  I daresay Vidal’s Narratives of Empire series (Burr, Lincoln, 1876, etc.) may be one of the great American epics and certainly one of the best chronicles of this nation’s history.

Many years ago, I had the privilege and the pleasure to meet Gore Vidal after a book reading and lecture/discussion series.  A friend of mine had somehow gotten tickets to the cocktail party following the event, and when Gore Vidal finally entered the room, my precocious 20-year-old self (at the time I was just a pretty blonde slip of a youth), marched right up to him, with my beloved copy of Julian under my arm, and enthusiastically thanked him for writing one of my favorite novels.  I was quick to proudly exclaim that “Emperor Julian is my hero!”  Gore Vidal (who had a remarkable presence – he seemed larger than life, and he absolutely radiated both charisma and gravitas) then stared directly into my eyes, as if he was boring right into my soul.  Having apparently found what he was looking for, he huffed in a deep breath and loudly barked:  “He’s my hero too!  I wish he’d won!”  And then, in a booming voice that could be heard by the entire room, he bellowed out:  “MONOTHEISM!  It’s gotta go!”  I was delighted, especially when he followed with:  “And I have the solution!”

“What’s your solution, Mr. Vidal?”

He took time for a dramatic pause (everyone was listening now), as he proclaimed:  “Tax the churches!”  We then had a relatively brief but fascinating conversation about the separation of church and state, Julian’s life and philosophy (he dismissed Julian’s Neoplatonism as “absurd but harmless,” though certainly preferable to the alternative represented by Constantine and his Christian heirs), and how different the world might be if Julian had lived and found time to solidify his reign and launch a dynasty.  Vidal then signed my battered and well-loved paperback of the novel.  It was a remarkable experience that I will always remember, and I still can’t believe the grand old gadfly has left us.  However,  his words definitely still carry a sting:

Gore Vidal on the United States:

“We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.”
― Gore Vidal

“America started out wanting to be Greece and ended up Rome.” ― Gore Vidal

“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”
― Gore Vidal

“The American press exists for one purpose only, and that is to convince Americans that they are living in the greatest and most envied country in the history of the world. The Press tells the American people how awful every other country is and how wonderful the United States is and how evil communism is and how happy they should be to have freedom to buy seven different sorts of detergent.”
― Gore Vidal

“I believe there’s something very salutary in, say, beating up a gay-bashing policeman. Preferably one fights through the courts, through the laws, through education, but if at a neighborhood level violence is necessary, I’m all for violence. It’s the only thing Americans understand.”
― Gore Vidal

“Today’s public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either. ”
― Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal on Writing:

“Write something, even if it’s just a suicide note. ”
― Gore Vidal

“Write what you know will always be excellent advice for those who ought not to write at all. Write what you think, what you imagine, what you suspect!”
― Gore Vidal, The Essential Gore Vidal

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
― Gore Vidal

“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head.”
― Gore Vidal

“In America, the race goes to the loud, the solemn, the hustler. If you think you’re a great writer, you must say that you are.”
― Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal on Life:

“The unfed mind devours itself.”
― Gore Vidal

“The malady of civilized man is his knowledge of death. The good artist, like the wise man, addresses himself to life and invests with his private vision the deeds and thoughts of men. The creation of a work of art, like an act of love, is our one small yes at the center of a vast no.”
― Gore Vidal

“Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy’s edge, all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. Nothing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.”
― Gore Vidal

“Of course his dust would be absorbed in other living things and to that degree at least he would exist again, though it was plain enough that the specific combination which was he would never exist again.”
― Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar

“There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”
― Gore Vidal

***

If you are interested in learning more about Gore Vidal’s life, I highly recommend the documentary The Education of Gore Vidal, which aired on PBS as part of the American Masters series (it also used to be available on Youtube, but it appears to have been taken down).  Though there are also a ton of great clips of Vidal online.  This Youtube user has many wonderful examples.  And here are two more:

***

We’ll end with a few more marvelous quotes, all from Gore Vidal’s Julian:

“How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.”
― Gore Vidal, Julian

“We are given our place in time as we are given our eyes: weak, strong, clear, squinting, the thing is not ours to choose. Well, this has been a squinting, walleyed time to be born in.”
― Gore Vidal, Julian

“Nothing human is finally calculable; even to ourselves we are strange.”
― Gore Vidal, Julian

“Never offend an enemy in a small way.”
― Gore Vidal, Julian

“History is idle gossip about a happening whose truth is lost the instant it has taken place.”
― Gore Vidal, Julian

“I have been reading Plotinus all evening. He has the power to sooth me; and I find his sadness curiously comforting. Even when he writes: “Life here with the things of earth is a sinking, a defeat, a failure of the wing.” The wing has indeed failed. One sinks. Defeat is certain. Even as I write these lines, the lamp wick sputters to an end, and the pool of light in which I sit contracts. Soon the room will be dark. One has always feared that death would be like this. But what else is there? With Julian, the light went, and now nothing remains but to let the darkness come, and hope for a new sun and another day, born of time’s mystery and a man’s love of life.”
― Gore Vidal, Julian

The Poet’s Calendar for October (List of Honored Poet-Heroes and Culture Heroes)

For the last couple years or so, at the beginning of each calendar month I create something I’ve dubbed “The Poet’s Calendar,” which is a list of the Poet-Heroes (as well as non-writers/non-poets who I’ve dubbed my “Culture Heroes”) whose memory I honor, usually by marking their birthday in some way.  I often utilize this calendar when creating posts for my Poet-Heroes Series.  However, there are always far more Poet-Heroes and Culture Heroes each month than I have time to write about every day, so I’ve decided to start sharing these calendars as a monthly feature for those who might likewise be interested in honoring the poets.

Thus, the following calendar is a list of the Poet-Heroes and Culture Heroes who I will be honoring in various ways in October.  For those who are new to the subject, I’ve written an introduction to the ancient Greek concept of Poet-Heroes here: “The Dead Poets Society (Reviving the Ancient Greek Cult of the Poet).” Please keep in mind that my definition of “poet” is particularly broad and encompassing of many writers or thinkers or scholars in general.  The majority are poets, but some are better known for other aspects of their lives than their writing, and others are artists, musicians, and leaders/activists who weren’t writers at all, but who are personally important to me in various ways.  (To me, there is undoubtedly “poetry” to be found in a painting by Picasso or Simeon Solomon, a song by John Lennon or Nico, or a photograph by Herbert List – to use just a few examples from October.) Many of the Heroes and Heroines below are also important figures in LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) history, as I specifically like to honor my LGBTQ Ancestors (who I affectionately refer to as “The Men Who Loved Men, The Women Who Loved Women, and The Gender Nonconformists of All Eras”). Which reminds me that October also happens to be LGBT History Month in the United States – check out http://lgbthistorymonth.com/ for more information and some great resources, especially for educators!

I prefer to honor the Poet-Heroes on their birthdays.  When those dates are unknown, I try to look for an existing tradition, such as the Florentine Academy’s celebration of Plato’s birthday on November 7th.  One site that has been particularly useful in this regard (and an inspiration for my Poet’s Calendar) is The Perpetual Festival Calendar, (associated with The Shrine of Wisdom magazine – a Theosophical magazine published in the U.K. between 1919 and 1947), which includes festival dates for a number of ancient philosophers and poets (particularly the Neoplatonists). Also, since Poet-Heroes and Culture Heroes are part of my practice of honoring the Heroes/Heroines, the Ancestors and the Dead, please note that I only honor those who have shuffled off this mortal coil.  (My page on The Global Literary Canon, however, also includes many great writers who are thankfully still alive and still writing.  Keep in mind that the best way to honor living writers is to buy their books, spread the word, and write positive reviews!)

There are many ways to honor the Poet-Heroes and Culture Heroes on the days listed below.  The easiest way is to simply acknowledge their names as part of your daily devotional practice (if you have one), perhaps by adding them to a list of Ancestors, Heroes/Heroines, and/or honored dead.  If you happen to live near their gravesite (or near a statue, memorial, historical monument, or anywhere significant to their life and work), you could take this one step further by visiting this place and pouring out a libation or leaving an offering in their honor.  But the best and most obvious way is to somehow acknowledge and appreciate the creative work they’ve left behind.  Read one of their poems, or find an excerpt from their writing.  Check out one of their books (or CDs or films) from your local library.  If they were a musician or a visual artist, find an example of their work to listen to or view.  Find an inspiring quote and share it with someone.  Read a biography, even a brief one (below I’ve included links to biographies, mostly from Wikipedia, but also from GLBTQ.com – my favorite encyclopedia of queer history.)  You could watch a documentary about them, or a film inspired by their life or adapted from one of their books.  If you are particularly devoted to a specific Hero/Heroine, then you could write about them on your blog, thereby sharing their work with others.  If you are a teacher/educator, you might want to start your lesson that day with a quote or example of their work.  If you are a writer/artist yourself, perhaps their works will inspire you to create something new in their honor.  Any or all of these actions will honor them and thereby keep their memories alive.  What is remembered, lives.

Also, if there’s a writer/philosopher/artist/activist (or any deceased individual who has made a positive cultural impact) born in the month of October (or whose memory you feel should be celebrated in October) and who you think belongs here, please let me know in the comments and they can be added to the list!

The Poet’s Calendar for October
(A List of Poet-Heroes and Culture Heroes)

* = not actually born on this day, honored and remembered now because their actual date of birth is unknown.

October 1st:
William Beckford – Gothic novelist, art collector and flamboyant English aristocrat
Annie Besant – British Theosophist and writer
Louis Untermeyer – American poet and anthologist
Isaac Bonewits – American writer, druid, and founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)

October 2nd:
*Aristotle – Greek philosopher
Charles Ricketts – English artist, designer, writer and publisher, who lived with his  lifelong partner and artistic collaborator Charles Shannon (an English painter) for over 50 years
Mahatma Gandhi – Indian leader, philosopher, writer, and activist
Wallace Stevens – American poet
Assotto Saint – Haitian-born American poet, performance artist, and musician

October 3rd:
Allan Kardec – French spiritualist, writer and educator
Alain-Fournier – French novelist
Sergei Yesenin [aka Sergei Esenin] – Russian Poet
Louis Aragon – French poet, novelist and activist
Gore Vidal – American novelist, essayist, screenwriter and satirist

October 4th:
Juliette Adam – French author and feminist
Alan L. Hart – American physician, scientist, writer and one of the first female-to-male (FTM) trans individuals to undergo surgery in the U.S.
Violeta Parra – Chilean composer, songwriter, folklorist, ethnomusicologist and visual artist
C.A. Tripp – American psychologist, writer, scholar and researcher for Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey

October 5th:
Denis Diderot – French philosopher and writer
Chevalier D’Eon – French diplomat and spy whose first 49 years were spent as a man, and whose last 33 years were spent as a woman
John Addington Symonds – English poet, translator, scholar, and early gay rights activist
Teresa de la Parra – Venezuelan novelist
Flann O’Brien – Irish novelist, playwright and satirist
José Donoso – Chilean novelist and short-story writer
Václav Havel – Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician

October 6th:
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton – patron (and possibly lover) of Shakespeare, believed to be the “Fair Youth” and subject of Shakespeare’s first 126 love sonnets
Mikhail Kuzmin – Russian poet, musician and novelist

October 7th:
John Horne Burns – American novelist
Herbert List – German photographer

October 8th:
*Confucius [Kongzi, Kong Fuzi, K’ung Fu-tzu] – Chinese philosopher and sage
[Confucius memorial activities have been carried out annually in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the rest of the world from September 26 to October 10]
Harriet Taylor Mill – English philosopher and women’s rights advocate
Marina Tsvetaeva – Russian poet
Frank Herbert – American science fiction author

October 9th:
Harriet Hosmer – American sculptor
Simeon Solomon – English painter
Mário de Andrade – Brazilian poet, novelist, ethnomusicologist, photographer and art historian
John Lennon – English musician, singer, songwriter and activist
Léopold Sédar Senghor – Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist

October 10th:
*Plotinus – Greco-Egyptian philosopher
*Thomas Traherne – English poet
R. K. Narayan – Indian novelist, essayist, translator and mythographer
Mercè Rodoreda – Catalan Spanish novelist
Claude Simon – French novelist
Harold Pinter – English playwright, screenwriter, director, actor and poet

October 11th:
Joe Simon – American comic book writer and artist (co-creator of Captain America)
Douglas Wilson – Canadian writer, publisher, and gay rights activist

October 12th:
*Demosthenes – Greek statesman and orator
Henry More – English philosopher of the Cambridge Platonist school
Aleister Crowley – English occultist, mystic, ceremonial magician and poet
Ding Ling – Chinese novelist and short fiction writer
Ann Petry – American author who became the first black woman writer with book sales topping a million copies
Robert Fitzgerald – American poet, critic and translator
Alice Childress – African-American playwright, novelist and actor
Arthur Evans – American writer, philosopher, and gay rights activist, author of Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture

October 13th:
Reed Erickson – American philanthropist, LGBT activist and female-to-male (FTM) trans trailblazer
Lenny Bruce – American comedian, social critic and satirist
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Pakistani musician, primarily a singer of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis

October 14th:
William Penn – Colonial American writer, philosopher, and early champion of democracy and religious freedom
Vernon Lee – English novelist, scholar, aesthete and writer of supernatural fiction
e. e. cummings – American poet, novelist, essayist, playwright and painter
Katherine Mansfield – New Zealand writer of short fiction
Hannah Arendt –  German-born American writer and political theorist

October 15th:
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) – Roman poet (possibly of Gaulish/Celtic descent)
*Nizami Ganjavi – Persian poet
Mikhail Lermontov – Russian writer, poet and painter
Friedrich Nietzsche – German philosopher, poet and classical philologist
Italo Calvino – Italian novelist and writer of short fiction
P. G. Wodehouse – English novelist, poet, playwright and humorist
John Kenneth Galbraith – Canadian-American economist
Michel Foucault – French philosopher, historian, philosopher, social theorist and literary critic

October 16th:
Oscar Wilde – Irish playwright, poet, novelist, philosopher and wit
Eugene O’Neill – American playwright
Paul Monette – American novelist, poet and memoirist
Nico – German singer, lyricist, composer, musician, fashion model and actress

October 17th:
Jupiter Hammon – American poet and activist, the first African-American writer to be published in the present-day United States
Georg Büchner – German playwright and poet
Yvor Winters – American poet
Nathanael West – American novelist, screenwriter and satirist
Jerry Siegel – American comic book writer (co-creator of Superman)
Arthur Miller – American playwright and essayist

October 18th:
Zhu Xi [Chu Hsi] – Chinese philosopher and scholar
Michael Wigglesworth – Colonial-era Puritan poet whose tortured diary described his homoerotic longings, including his identification as a godspouse of Jesus (who he regularly refers to as his “husband”)
Heinrich von Kleist – German poet, playwright and novelist
Henri Bergson – French philosopher
A. J. Liebling – American journalist, critic and food/travel writer
Wendy Wasserstein – American playwright

October 19th:
Marsilio Ficino – Italian philosopher, occultist and reviver of Neoplatonism
Thomas Browne – English author and scholar
John Woolman – Colonial-era American writer, activist and abolitionist
Leigh Hunt – English poet, essayist and critic
Miguel Ángel Asturias – Guatemalan poet, novelist, playwright, journalist and diplomat
Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead) – American actor, singer, performance artist and fierce drag queen

October 20th:
*Ammonius Hermiae – Greco-Egyptian philosopher
Arthur Rimbaud – French poet
Nellie McClung – Canadian novelist, feminist, politician, and social activist
Selma Lagerlöf – Swedish author and the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature
Philip Whalen – American poet, novelist and Zen Buddhist monk

October 21st:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge – English poet, critic and philosopher
Alphonse de Lamartine – French poet, writer and politician
William Dale Jennings – American LGBT rights activist, playwright and author

October 22nd:
Leconte de Lisle – French poet and translator
Sarah Bernhardt – French actress, “the Divine Sarah,” “the most famous actress the world has ever known”
Lord Alfred Douglas – English poet and translator, lover of Oscar Wilde
Timothy Leary – American writer, psychologist, activist and advocate of psychedelics

October 23rd:
*Boethius – Roman philosopher
Robert Bridges – British poet

October 24th:
Sarah Josepha Hale – American poet, essayist, editor, and activist, credited with getting Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday in the U.S.
August von Platen – German poet and playwright
Bob Kane – American comic book artist and writer (creator of Batman)
Denise Levertov – British-born American poet
Paula Gunn Allen – Native American poet, scholar and lesbian activist

October 25th:
*Taliesin – Legendary Welsh poet and bard
*Geoffrey Chaucer – English poet, the Father of English Literature
Benjamin Constant – Swiss-born French philosopher, writer and politician
Max Stirner – German philosopher
Pablo Picasso – Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and designer
Karin Boye – Swedish poet and novelist
John Berryman – American poet and scholar
Claude Cahun – French artist, photographer, writer, and activist whose work played with concepts of gender and sexuality

October 26th:
*Maximus Tyrius – Greek rhetorician and philosopher

October 27th:
James Macpherson – Scottish poet, known as the “translator” (collector/adapter/forger/creator) of the Ossian cycle
Katherine Bradley – one-half of the literary lesbian duo who wrote poetry under the pseudonym of “Michael Field”
Dylan Thomas – Welsh poet and playwright
Sylvia Plath – American poet and novelist

October 28th:
Desiderius Erasmus – Dutch humanist, scholar and philosopher
Ivan Turgenev – Russian novelist and playwright
Evelyn Waugh – English novelist
Francis Bacon – Irish-born British painter

October 29th:
Shin Saimdang – Korean artist, poet and calligraphist
James Boswell – Scottish biographer of Dr. Samuel Johnson
Jean Giraudoux – French playwright, novelist, essayist and diplomat

October 30th:
André Chénier – French poet
Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Russian novelist and essayist
Paul Valéry – French poet, essayist and philosopher
Ezra Pound – American poet, translator, critic, essayist and promoter of Modernism
Ruth Gordon – American actress, playwright and screenwriter
Kostas Karyotakis – Greek poet

October 31st:
John Keats – English poet
Mary Wilkins Freeman – American novelist and writer of short fiction
Natalie Clifford Barney – American-born poet, memoirist and wit, hostess of a famous lesbian salon in Paris
Marie Laurencin – French painter, printmaker and designer
Napoleon Lapathiotis – Greek poet

The browned trees are singing for my thirty-fourth birthday.

Since today is the birthday of William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) and tomorrow happens to be my thirty-fourth birthday, the following prose-poem (by the great modernist poet who famously proclaimed:  “Say it, no ideas but in things”) seems most appropriate for this day:

Kora in Hell: Improvisations, XII.
by William Carlos Williams

1

The browned trees are singing for my thirty-fourth birthday. Leaves are beginning to fall upon the long grass. Their cold perfume raises the anticipation of sensational revolutions in my unsettled life. Violence has begotten peace, peace has fluttered away in agitation. A bewildered change has turned among the roots and the Prince’s kiss as far at sea as ever.

——————

To each age as to each person its perfections. But in these things there is a kind of revolutionary sequence. So that a man having lain at ease here and advanced there as time progresses the order of these things becomes inverted. Thinking to have brought all to one level the man finds his foot striking through where he had thought rock to be and stands firm where he had experienced only a bog hitherto. At a loss to free himself from bewilderment at this discovery he puts off the caress of the imagination.

2

The trick is never to touch the world anywhere. Leave yourself at the door, walk in, admire the pictures, talk a few words with the master of the house, question his wife a little, rejoin yourself at the door—and go off arm in arm listening to last week’s symphony played by angel hornsmen from the benches of a turned cloud. Or if dogs rub too close and the poor are too much out let your friend answer them.

——————

The poet being sad at the misery he has beheld that morning and seeing several laughing fellows approaching puts himself in their way in order to hear what they are saying. Gathering from their remarks that it is of some sharp business by which they have all made an inordinate profit, he allows his thoughts to play back upon the current of his own life. And imagining himself to be two persons he eases his mind by putting his burdens upon one while the other takes what pleasure there is before him.

Something to grow used to; a stone too big for ox haul, too near for blasting. Take the road round it or—scrape away, scrape away: a mountain’s buried in the dirt! Marry a gopher to help you! Drive her in! Go yourself down along the lit pastures. Down, down. The whole family take shovels, babies and all! Down, down! Here’s Tenochtitlan! here’s a strange Darien where worms are princes.

3

But for broken feet beating, beating on worn flagstones I would have danced to my knees at the fiddle’s first run. But here’s evening and there they scamper back of the world chasing the sun round! And it’s daybreak in Calcutta! So lay aside, let’s draw off from the town and look back awhile. See, there it rises out of the swamp and the mists already blowing their sleepy bagpipes.

——————

Often a poem will have merit because of some one line or even one meritorious word. So it hangs heavily on its stem but still secure, the tree unwilling to release it.

H.D. aka Hilda Doolittle (September 10, 1886 – September 27, 1961)

On this day, in 1886, the poet Hilda Doolittle (aka H.D.), was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Of all the writers/poet-heroes I love and praise and revere, I can say without hesitation that H.D. is my favorite poet and visionary. I am utterly enthralled by her entire body of work, from the earliest Imagist poems to her final masterpiece, the book-length epic, Helen in Egypt. Along the way, she wrote novels (HERmione and Asphodel are the two closest to my heart), translated Euripides (Ion and Hippolytus), compiled memoirs/tributes to Sigmund Freud (she was one of his patients) and Ezra Pound (one of her closest friends, the pair were even briefly engaged), and set forth a mystical philosophy in Notes on Thought and Vision. Even her correspondence is fascinating.

Her most famous poem, below, was regarded as the perfect example of Imagism:

Oread
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Whirl up, sea –
Whirl your pointed pines,
Splash your great pines
On our rocks,
Hurl your green over us,
Cover us with your pools of fir.

***

Here’s Another brief poem in the same Imagist style:

The Pool
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Are you alive?
I touch you.
You quiver like a sea-fish.
I cover you with my net.
What are you – banded one?

***

One of my favorite poems, the piece that instigated my H.D. obsession, is entitled “Eros.”

Eros
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

I.
Where is he taking us
now that he has turned back?

Where will this take us,
this fever,
spreading into light?

Nothing we have ever felt,
nothing we have dreamt,
or conjured in the night
or fashioned in loneliness,
can equal this.

Where is he taking us,
Eros,
now that he has turned back?

II.
My mouth is wet with your life,
my eyes blinded with your face,
a heart itself which feels
the intimate music.

My mind is caught,
dimmed with it,
(where is love taking us?)
my lips are wet with your life.

In my body were pearls cast,
shot with Ionian tints, purple,
vivid through the white.

III.
Keep love and he wings
with his bow,
up, mocking us,
keep love and he taunts us
and escapes.

Keep love and he sways apart
in another world,
outdistancing us.

Keep love and he mocks,
ah, bitter and sweet,
your sweetness is more cruel
than your hurt.

Honey and salt,
fire burst from the rocks
to meet fire
spilt from Hesperus.

Fire darted aloft and met fire,
and in that moment
love entered us.

IV.
Could Eros be kept,
he was prisoned long since
and sick with imprisonment,
could Eros be kept,
others would have taken him
and crushed out his life.

Could Eros be kept,
we had sinned against the great god,
we too might have prisoned him outright.

Could Eros be kept,
nay, thank him and the bright goddess
that he left us.

V.
Ah love is bitter and sweet,
but which is more sweet
the bitterness or the sweetness,
none has spoken it.

Love is bitter,
but can salt taint sea-flowers,
grief, happiness?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your lover if he crave it?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your lover if he wish it
for a new favourite,
who can say,
or is it sweet?

Is it sweet to possess utterly,
or is it bitter,
bitter as ash?

VI.
I had thought myself frail,
a petal
with light equal
on leaf and under-leaf.

I had thought myself frail;
a lamp,
shell, ivory or crust of pearl,
about to fall shattered,
with flame spent.

I cried:

“I must perish,
I am deserted in this darkness,
an outcast, desperate,”
such fire rent me with Hesperus,

Then the day broke.

VII.
What need of a lamp
when day lightens us,
what need to bind love
when love stands
with such radiant wings over us?

What need–
yet to sing love,
love must first shatter us.

***

The following lines have been a great source of comfort in times of despair:

Excerpt from “The Tribute” (Section 10)
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

And this we will say for remembrance,
speak this with their names:

Could beauty be done to death,
they had struck her dead
in ages and ages past,
could beauty be withered from earth,
they had cast her forth,
root and stalk
scattered and flailed—

They had trod her to death with sneers,
they had bartered her
for a piece of thin money tossed up
to fall half alloy,
they had stripped her and sent her forth.

Could beauty be caught and hurt,
could beauty be rent with a thought,
for a thrust of a sword,
for a piece of thin money tossed up
then beauty were dead.

Long, long before we came to earth,
long, long before we rent our hearts
with this worship, this fear
and this dread.

***

H.D.’s ability to express her depth of emotions (which includes achingly beautiful love poems written to men and to women), her crystalline clarity (her “hard, gem-like flame”), her musical rhythms, her passion for ancient Greece, her immersion in all things esoteric, and her entangled web of connections to other modernist writers/artists are just a few of the reasons I adore her work. Her words are a continuing source of inspiration, and I can honestly say she’s kept me going me through some dark periods in my life. I’ve long felt like our souls are connected in some way. And after being ignored and marginalized for decades, she’s finally becoming more widely recognized as a writer of canonical stature.  Her work should be of especial interest to pagans, especially those interested in Hellenic, Kemetic, and Greco-Egyptian paganism/polytheism.

The primary page for more information on H.D. can be found here, and there’s a nice introduction to her life and work (including the texts of several poems and and part of an audio recording of H.D. reading from Helen in Egypt) here.

***

A Few Quotes by H.D.

“Actually, they are both occupied with the thought of reconstruction, he ‘to re-claim the coast of Pharos, the light-house,’ she to establish or re-establish the ancient Mysteries.”
– H.D., from Helen in Egypt, Pallinode IV.8

“Today, again at a turning-point in the history of the world, the mind stands, to plead, to condone, to explain, to clarify, to illuminate; and, in the name of our magnificent heritage of that Hellenic past, each one of us is responsible to that abstract reality; silver and unattainable yet always present, that spirit again stands holding the balance between the past and the future. What now will we make of it?”
– H.D., from Ion, part XIX

“The Delphic charioteer has, I have said, an almost hypnotic effect on me: the bend of his arm, the knife-cut of his chin; his feet, rather flat, slightly separated, a firm pedestal for himself; the fall of his drapery, in geometrical precision; and the angles of the ingatherings of the drapery of the waist.

All this was no ‘inspiration,’ it was sheer, hard brain work.

This figure has been created by a formula arrived at consciously or unconsciously.

If we had the right sort of brains, we would receive a definite message from that figure, like dots and lines ticked off by one receiving station, received and translated into definite thought by another telegraphic centre.

There is no trouble about art. There is already enough beauty in the world of art, enough in the fragments and almost perfectly preserved charioteer at Delphi alone to remake the world.

There is no trouble about the art, it is the appreciators we want. We want young men and women to communicate with the charioteer and his like.

We want receiving centres for dots and dashes.”

– H.D., from Notes on Thought and Vision

peril, strangely encountered, strangely endured,
marks us;

we know each other
by secret symbols,

though, remote, speechless,
we pass each other on the pavement,

at the turn of the stair;
though no word pass between us,

there is subtle appraisement;
even if we snarl a brief greeting

or do not speak at all,
we know our Name,

we nameless initiates,
born of one mother,

companions
of the flame.

– H.D., from “The Walls Do Not Fall”

We are voyagers, discoverers
of the not-known,
the unrecorded;
we have no map;
possibly we will reach haven,
heaven.
― H.D., from “The Walls Do Not Fall”

September 4th: Honoring Richard Wright, Antonin Artaud and Mary Renault

September 4th is a good day for 20th Century literature.  Three of my favorite writers – Richard Wright, Antonin Artaud, and Mary Renault – were all born on this day.  Below are a few of my favorite passages from their beautiful writings.  May their works continue to be read, and may their names be remembered!

***

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Black Boy
by Richard Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960)

Each event spoke with a cryptic tongue. And the moments of living slowly revealed their coded meanings. There was the wonder I felt when I first saw a brace of mountainlike, spotted, black-and-white horses clopping down a dusty road through clouds of powdered clay.
There was the delight I caught in seeing long straight rows of red and green vegetables stretching away in the sun to the bright horizon.
There was the faint, cool kiss of sensuality when dew came on to my cheeks and shins as I ran down the wet green garden paths in the early morning.
There was the vague sense of the infinite as I looked down upon the yellow, dreaming waters of the Mississippi River from the verdant bluffs of Natchez.
There were the echoes of nostalgia I heard in the crying strings of wild geese winging south against a bleak, autumn sky.
There was the tantalizing melancholy in the tingling scent of burning hickory wood.
There was the teasing and impossible desire to imitate the petty pride of sparrows wallowing and flouncing in the red dust of country roads.
There was the yearning for identification loosed in me by the sight of a solitary ant carrying a burden upon a mysterious journey.
There was the disdain that filled me as I tortured a delicate, blue-pink crawfish that huddled fearfully in the mudsill of a rusty tin can.
There was the aching glory in masses of clouds burning gold and purple from an invisible sun.
There was the liquid alarm I saw in the blood-red glare of the sun’s afterglow mirrored in the squared panes of a whitewashed frame house.
There was the languor I felt when I heard green leaves rustling with a rainlike sound.
There was the incomprehensible secret embodied in a whitish toadstool hiding in the dark shade of a rotting log.
There was the experience of feeling death without dying that came from watching a chicken leap about blindly after its neck had been snapped by a quick twist of my father’s wrist.
There was the great joke that I felt God had played on cats and dogs by making them lap their milk and water with their tongues.
There was the thirst I had when I watched clear, sweet juice trickle from sugar cane being crushed.
There was the hot panic that welled up in my throat and swept through my blood when I first saw the lazy, limp coils of a blue-skinned snake sleeping in the sun.
There was the speechless astonishment of seeing a hog stabbed through the heart, dipped into boiling water, scraped, split open, gutted, and strung up gaping and bloody.
There was the love I had for the mute regality of tall, moss-clad oaks.
There was the hint of cosmic cruelty that I felt when I saw the curved timbers of a wooden shack that had been warped in the summer sun.
There was the saliva that formed in my mouth whenever I smelt clay dust potted with fresh rain.
There was the cloudy notion of hunger when I breathed the odor of new-cut, bleeding grass.
And there was the quiet terror that suffused my senses when vast hazes of gold washed earthward from star-heavy skies on silent nights . . .

***

Excerpt from “The Alchemical Theater” (From The Theater and Its Double)
by Antonin Artaud (September 4, 1896 – March 4, 1948)
translated by Mary Caroline Richards

If in fact we raise the question of the origins and raison d’etre (or primordial necessity) of the theater, we find, metaphysically, the materialization or rather the exteriorization of a kind of essential drama which would contain, in a manner at once manifold and unique, the essential principles of all drama, already disposed and divided, not so much as to lose their character as principles, but enough to comprise, in a substantial and active fashion (i.e., resonantly), an infinite perspective of conflicts. To analyze such a drama philosophically is impossible; only poetically and by seizing upon what is communicative and magnetic in the principles of all the arts can we, by shapes, sounds, music, and volumes, evoke, passing by way of all natural resemblances of images and affinities to each other not the primordial directions of the mind, which our excessive logical intellectualism would reduce to merely useless schemata, but states of an acuteness so intense and so absolute that we sense, beyond the tremors of all music and form, the underlying menace of a chaos as decisive as it is dangerous.
And this essential drama, we come to realize, exists, and in the image of something subtler than Creation itself, something which must be represented as the result of one Will alone—and without conflict.
We must believe that the essential drama, the one at the root of all the Great Mysteries, is associated with the second phase of Creation, that of difficulty and of the Double, that of matter and the materialization of the idea.
It seems indeed that where simplicity and order reign, there can be no theater nor drama, and the true theater, like poetry as well, though by other means, is born out of a kind of organized anarchy after philosophical battles which are the passionate aspect of these primitive unifications.
Now these conflicts which the Cosmos in turmoil offers us in a philosophically distorted and impure manner, alchemy offers us in all their rigorous intellectuality, since it permits us to attain once more to the sublime, but with drama, after a meticulous and unremitting pulverization of every insufficiently fine, insufficiently matured form, since it follows from the very principle of alchemy not to let the spirit take its leap until it has passed through all the filters and foundations of existing matter, and to redouble this labor at the incandescent edges of the future. For it might be said that in order to merit material gold, the mind must first prove that it was capable of the other kind, that it would have earned it, would have attained to it, only by assenting to it, by seeing it as a secondary symbol of the fall it must experience in order to rediscover in solid and opaque form the expression of light itself, of rarity, and of irreducibility.
The theatrical operation of making gold, by the immensity of the conflicts it provokes, by the prodigious number of forces it throws one against the other and rouses, by this appeal to a sort of essential redistillation brimming with consequences and surcharged with spirituality, ultimately evokes in the spirit an absolute and abstract purity, beyond which there can be nothing, and which can be conceived as a unique sound, defining note, caught on the wing, the organic part of an indescribable vibration.
The Orphic Mysteries which subjugated Plato must have possessed on the moral and psychological level something of this definitive and transcendent aspect of the alchemical theater, with elements of an extraordinary psychological density, and conversely must have evoked the symbols of alchemy, which provide the spiritual means of decanting and transfusing matter, must have evoked the passionate and decisive transfusion of matter by mind.
We are told that the Mysteries of Eleusis confined themselves to the mise en scene of a certain number of moral truths. I believe instead that they must have consisted of projections and precipitations of conflicts, indescribable battles of principles joined from that dizzying and slippery perspective in which every truth is lost in the realization of the inextricable and unique fusion of the abstract and the concrete, and I think that by the music of instruments, the combinations of colors and shapes, of which we have lost every notion, they must have brought to a climax that nostalgia for pure beauty of which Plato, at least once in this world, must have found the complete, sonorous, streaming naked realization: to resolve by conjunctions unimaginably strange to our waking minds, to resolve or even annihilate every conflict produced by the antagonism of matter and mind, idea and form, concrete and abstract, and to dissolve all appearances into one unique expression which must have been the equivalent of spiritualized gold.

***

Excerpts from The Last of the Wine
by Mary Renault (September 4, 1905 – December 13, 1983)

[from Chapter 10]

I felt Lysis look at me, and turned towards him. Understanding each other, we got up and walked out through the gardens into the streets. We did not speak, having no need of it, but made for the High City, and climbed the stairway side by side. Leaning on the northern wall we looked out to the mountains. On the tops of Parnes the first snow had fallen; the day was bright and blue, with a few small clouds, white and violet-dark. The wind from the north blew our hair from our brows, and streamed our garments behind us. The air was clear, keen, and filled with light. It seemed to us that at our command the wind would have lifted us like eagles, that our home was the sky. We joined our hands; they were cold, so that in clasping them we felt the bone within the flesh. Still we had not spoken; or not with words. Turning from the wall we saw people offering at the altars or going in and out of the temples; it had seemed to us that the place was empty, but for ourselves. When we came to the great altar of Athene I stopped and said, “Shall we swear it?” He thought for a moment and answered, “No. When a man needs an oath, he has repented that he swore it, and is compelled by fear. This must come from our own souls, and from love.”

*

[from Chapter 12]

Lysis and I rode off together along the coast, the blue sea beside us and the red rocky shore all broken into little bays. At one of these, after a long gallop, we drew rein; and looking at the clear blue water, threw our clothes off with one accord. The water was brisk at first and warm after, and we swam far out to sea, till we could see Poseidon’s temple at Sounion standing against the sky. Lysis was the faster, his wrestling having strengthened his shoulders and arms; but he waited for me, as I did in running for him. We rested on the water, then swam shoreward, and in shallow rock-pools tried laughing to catch fish in our hands. But as we walked out of the water afterwards, I felt a sharp pain in the side of my foot, and found it bleeding. I must have trodden on a broken shell or a potsherd, for the cut was deep. Lysis knelt and looked at it while I leaned on his shoulder. “This will give you trouble,” he said, “if you fill it with grit as you cross the beach. It might cost you a crown. Wash it well in the sea, and I will carry you over to a place where a horse can go.” For the beach was stony.
I sat on a flat-topped rock, and trailed my foot in the sea. The water was clear, and the blood unrolled in it like smoke in a blue sky. I sat watching it till Lysis touched me on the shoulder and said, “Come.” I leaned back for him to take hold of me, and fastened my arms round his neck. But he did not carry me; nor did I let him go. We spoke without sound each other’s names. A gull screamed over us, an empty sound, to tell us we two were alone upon the shore.
I said to my heart, “What mighty power hast thou been defying?” Truly love may be likened to the Sphinx of the Egyptians, with the face of a smiling god and a lion’s claws. When he had wounded me, all my longing was to leap into his darkness, and be consumed. I called on my soul, but it bled away from me like salt washed back into the ocean. My soul melted and fled; the wound in my foot, which the water had opened, streamed out scarlet over the wet rock.
I lay between sea and sky, stricken by the Hunter; the fiery immortal hounds of Eros, slipped from the leash, dragged at my throat and at my vitals, to bring the quarry in. It seemed to me now that my soul was here, if it was anywhere; nothing remained to me of what I was, save this, that I remembered I had promised Sokrates a gift. He whom I loved knew my mind; perhaps it was his own. We were still, understanding each other.
He let me go, and, kneeling beside the rock, covered the wound with his mouth till the bleeding stopped. We were silent, he kneeling in the water, and I lying like the sacrifice on the altar-stone, the blue sky burning my eyes. After a while he bent and rinsed his face and got up smiling. “The Thracians when they swear friendship mingle their blood, or drink it, I forget. Now we are really one.”

Poet-Hero: Edward Carpenter (August 29, 1844 – June 28, 1929)

Today is the birthday of one of my most beloved Poet-Heroes – Edward Carpenter.  As I wrote in a previous post, Carpenter was:

“a visionary poet who was also an early activist for gay rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights, animal rights, prison reform, economic reform, and many other progressive topics that made him very much ahead of his time.  His life with his partner, George Merrill (Merrill and Carpenter lived openly as a couple for over thirty years, until Carpenter’s death), was the inspiration for E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice.  And Carpenter was certainly a pagan mystic himself, as his opinions in Pagan and Christian Creeds and numerous other works clearly show.  I believe that Carpenter’s book-length poem Towards Democracy (a conscious imitation/homage to his hero Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), is a woefully overlooked and marginalized masterpiece of late 19th-/early 20th-century English poetry.  My pocket-sized copy from 1921 (with a battered green cover and gold lettering), has a special place on my household shrine.”

I honestly can’t understand why Carpenter’s beautiful poems aren’t more widely known.  I’ve already posted one of my favorites, “The Lake of Beauty,” (which I use for  my daily Passage Meditation) but here are two more gems:

All Night Long
by Edward Carpenter

All night long in love, in the darkness, passing through your lips, my love—
Breathing the same breath, being folded in the same sleep, losing sense of Me and Thee,
Into empyreal regions, beloved of the gods, united, we ascend together.

Then in the morning on the high hill-side in the sun, looking down upon the spires of the larches and Scotch firs,
Mortal, we tread again the earthy floor.

O Earth, the floor of heaven—
O Sun, shining aloft in the sky so pure—
O children of the sun, ye flowers and streams, and little mortals walking the earth for a time—
And we too gazing for a time, for a time, for a time, into each other’s eyes.

The Central Calm
by Edward Carpenter

Drawing back for a moment from Time, and its superficial claims and conclusions,
Realising for a moment the artistic nature of the utterance of the Universe:
That all is for expression, and that for this end commencement and finale, first evolved and latest evolved, are equally important;
That Progress is a word which may be applied to any world-movement or individual career in the same sense as it may be applied to the performance of a musical work,
Which progresses to its final chord, yet the conclusion of the whole is not in the final chord, but in that which runs beneath and inspires the entire web—in that which from first to last the whole complex succession of chords and phrases indicates:
Realising this—
Realising—thus for a moment withdrawn—that there is no need to hurry, no need to dash against the bars;
But that Time itself rushing on with amazing swiftness in its vast and endless round, with suns and systems, ages and geologic epochs, races and tribes of beings, mineral, vegetable, animal, and ethereal, circle beyond circle, infallibly fulfills and gives utterance to the glorious whole:
Like one in the calm that is the centre of a cyclone—guarded by the very tornado around—
Undisturbed, yet having access equally to every side,
I drink of the deep well of rest and joy,
And sit with all the gods in Paradise.

An Eighteenth Century Hymn/Prayer to the Gods by Mark Akenside (plus some Neoclassical Sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen)

Yes, there were even gay pagan poets in the 18th century. One of my obscure favorites is Mark Akenside (1721-1770), whose collected poems are available here via Project Gutenberg. According to the biographical introduction to his poems:
“Indeed, he [Akenside] never appears to have had much religion, except that of the Pagan philosophy, Plato being his Paul, and Socrates his Christ; and most cordially would he have joined in Thorwaldsen’s famous toast (announced at an evening party in Rome, while the planet Jupiter was shining in great glory), ‘Here’s in honour of the ancient gods.’” [More on Thorwaldsen below.]

Akenside was a lifelong bachelor (we all know what that often means), and was closely associated with his best friend (and sometimes patron), a lawyer by the name of Jeremiah Dyson. According to the 1911 Encylopedia Britannica: “His friendship with Dyson puts his character in the most amiable light. Writing to his friend so early as 1744, Akenside said that the intimacy had ‘the force of an additional conscience, of a new principle of religion’, and there seems to have been no break in their affection. He left all his effects and his literary remains to Dyson, who issued an edition of his poems in 1772.” This was the 1911 way of saying, “By the way, he happened to be gay and had a life partner.” An article on GLBTQ.com clarifies, saying that there was a circle of 18th-century gay men who joined together in ” a ‘little club’ formed in Leiden, Holland, that included the pre-Romantic English poet Mark Akenside and his lawyer-lover Jeremiah Dyson, and the group of European university students they fell in with.”

Biographical details aside, Mark Akenside wrote some beautiful neoclassical poetry. His (rather long) “Hymn to the Naiads” is justly praised as a remarkably early example of Pagan Romanticism, but the following hymn/prayer is especially lovely:

VIII. (From Inscriptions)
by Mark Akenside

Ye powers unseen, to whom, the bards of Greece
Erected altars; ye who to the mind
More lofty views unfold, and prompt the heart
With more divine emotions; if erewhile
Not quite unpleasing have my votive rites
Of you been deem’d, when oft this lonely seat
To you I consecrated; then vouchsafe
Here with your instant energy to crown
My happy solitude. It is the hour
When most I love to invoke you, and have felt
Most frequent your glad ministry divine.
The air is calm: the sun’s unveiled orb
Shines in the middle heaven. The harvest round
Stands quiet, and among the golden sheaves
The reapers lie reclined. The neighbouring groves
Are mute, nor even a linnet’s random strain
Echoeth amid the silence. Let me feel
Your influence, ye kind powers. Aloft in heaven,
Abide ye? or on those transparent clouds
Pass ye from hill to hill? or on the shades
Which yonder elms cast o’er the lake below
Do you converse retired? From what loved haunt
Shall I expect you? Let me once more feel
Your influence, O ye kind inspiring powers:
And I will guard it well; nor shall a thought
Rise in my mind, nor shall a passion move
Across my bosom unobserved, unstored
By faithful memory. And then at some
More active moment, will I call them forth
Anew; and join them in majestic forms,
And give them utterance in harmonious strains;
That all mankind shall wonder at your sway.

***

And speaking of Neoclassicism . . . the Thorwaldsen making a toast to the ancient gods in the above quote is the great Danish-Icelandic sculptor, Bertel Thorwaldsen [aka Bertel Thorvaldsen], who created some incredibly beautiful (and often homoerotic) Neoclassical statues. Below are some of my favorite examples (as always, all photos were found on the web and none were taken by me):

Ganymede Waters Zeus as an Eagle by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Located in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.

Bertel Thorvaldsen. Mercury. Marble Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Bertel Thorvaldsen: Adonis, 1808. The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen [photo by Bjørn Smestad]

Bertel Thorvaldsen: Cupid Triumphant. The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen

Bertel Thorvaldsen – Apollo [photo by Bjørn Smestad]

Bertel Thorvaldsen – Bacchus [photo by Bjørn Smestad]

“Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light” – One More by Emily Dickinson

“Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light”
by Emily Dickinson

Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light,
Pangless except for us –
Who slowly ford the Mystery
Which thou hast leaped across!

It’s all I have to bring today – Nine Short Poems by Emily Dickinson

I’ve been trying to get back into blogging on a more regular basis, but since my grandmother’s death I just haven’t had much to say or the energy/focus to say it. However, the following short poems by the immortal Emily Dickinson perfectly capture both my feelings and my experiences during this difficult time.

“It’s all I have to bring today –”
by Emily Dickinson

It’s all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

“’Twas comfort in her Dying Room”
by Emily Dickinson

’Twas comfort in her Dying Room
To hear the living Clock,
A short relief to have the wind
Walk boldly up and knock
Diversion from the Dying Theme
To hear the children play
But wrong the more
That these could live
And this of ours must die

“The right to perish might be thought”
by Emily Dickinson

The right to perish might be thought
An undisputed right
Attempt it, and the Universe
Upon the opposite
Will concentrate its officers –
You cannot even die
But nature and mankind must pause
To pay you scrutiny –

“I’ve seen a Dying Eye”
by Emily Dickinson

I’ve seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room –
In search of Something – as it seemed –
Then Cloudier become –
And then – obscure with Fog –
And then – be soldered down,
Without disclosing what it be
’Twere blessed to have seen –

“A throe upon the features –”
by Emily Dickinson

A throe upon the features –
A hurry in the breath –
An extasy of parting
Denominated “Death” –

An anguish at the mention
Which when to patience grown –
I’ve known permission given
To rejoin its own.

“The last Night that She lived”
by Emily Dickinson

The last Night that She lived
It was a Common Night
Except the Dying – this to Us
Made Nature different

We noticed smallest things –
Things overlooked before
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized – as t’were.

As We went out and in
Between Her final Room
And Rooms where Those to be alive
Tomorrow, were, a Blame

That others could exist
While She must finish quite
A Jealousy for Her arose
So nearly infinite –

We waited while She passed –
It was a narrow time –
Too jostled were Our Souls to speak
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot –
Then lightly as a Reed
Bent to the Water, struggled scarce –
Consented, and was dead –

And We – We placed the Hair –
And drew the Head erect –
And then an awful leisure was
Belief to regulate –

“She died – this was the way she died.”
by Emily Dickinson

She died – this was the way she died.
And when her breath was done
Took up her simple wardrobe
And started for the sun –
Her little figure at the gate
The Angels must have spied,
Since I could never find her
Upon the mortal side.

“The Bustle in a House”
by Emily Dickinson

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

“That Such have died enable Us”
by Emily Dickinson

That Such have died enable Us
The tranquiller to die –
That Such have lived,
Certificate for Immortality.

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