Archive for the 'Eng 213' Category

James Joyce

June 16, 2006


James Augustine Aloysius Joyce
Expatriate Irish writer and poet
Major figure of the Modernist movement
Uses “stream of consciousness” narrative


Frail the white rose and frail are/ Her hands that gave/ Whose soul is sere and paler/ Than time’s wan wave.
Rosefrail and fair- yet frailest/ A wonder wild/ In gentle eyes thou veilest,/ My blueveined child.

-A Flower Given to My Daughter (in whole)

The Dead (1914)

Final short story in the 1914 collection Dubliners
Longest story in the collection and widely considered to be one of the greatest short stories in the English


“Those who still remained in the drawing-room seemed tired of dancing and were conversing quietly in little groups.  Gabriel’s warm trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window.  How cool it must be outside!  How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park!  The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument.  How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table!”

“He felt quite at ease now for he was an expert carver and liked nothing better than to find himself at the head of a well-laden table.”

“Those were the days, he said, when there was something like singing to be heard in Dublin.”

“Some would say, perhaps, that with us it is rather a failing than anything to be boasted of.  But granted even that, it is, to my mind, a princely failing, and one that I trust will long be cultivated among us.”

“Our path through life is strewn with many such sad memories: and were we to brood upon them always we could not find the heart to go on bravely with our work among the living.  We have all of us living duties and living affections which claim, and rightly claim, our strenuous endeavours.  Therefore, I will not linger on the past.”

“A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in a warm flood along his arteries.  Like the tender fires of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory.”

“A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him.  He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror.  Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.”

“So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake.  It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life.”

“The air of the room chilled his shoulders.  He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife.  One by one they were all becoming shades.  Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

“His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead.  He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence.  His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.”

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”


Wallace Stevens

June 16, 2006


American Modernist poet
Held a successful career in law
Main output came at a fairly advanced age
Concerned with interplay between imagination and reality and the relation between consciousness and the world; believes god is a human creation; uses musical free verse and sensuous, significant imagery recalls Symbolism
Gave few readings, associated with few poets; Strong dislike for T.S. Eliot’s poetry
A Lucretian poet, celebrating a cosmos centered upon inevitable entropy and death

“After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption”


Complacencies of the peignoir, and late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, / And the green freedom of a cockatoo / Upon a rug mingle to dissipate / The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. 

Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be / The blood of paradise?  And shall the earth / Seem all of paradise that we shall know? / The sky will be much friendlier then than now, / A part of labor and a part of pain, / And next in glory to enduring love, / Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, / Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams / And our desires. Although she strews the leaves / Of sure obliteration on our paths, / The path sick sorrow took, the many paths / Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love / Whispered a little out of tenderness…

-Sunday Morning

Beauty is momentary in the mind- / The fitful tracing of a portal; / But in the flesh it is immortal. / The body dies; the body’s beauty lives. / So evenings die, in their green going, / A wave, interminably flowing.

-Peter Quince at the Clavier

Call the roller of big cigars, / The muscular one, and bid him whip / In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. / Let the wenches dawdle in such dress / As they are used to wear, and let the boys / Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers. / Let be be finale of seem. / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal, / Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet / On which she embroidered fantails once / And spread it so as to cover her face. / If her horny feet protrude, they come / To show how cold she is, and dumb. / Let the lamp affix its beam. / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

-The Emperor of Ice-Cream (in whole)

It was her voice that made / The sky acutest at its vanishing. / She measured to the hour its solitude. / She was the single artificer of the world / In which she sang.  And when she sang, the sea, / Whatever self it had, became the self / That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, / As we beheld her striding there alone, / Knew that there never was a world for her / Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

-The Idea of Order at Key West
See Poetry Speaks

Between the thing as idea and / The idea as thing. She is half who made her. / This is the final Projection, C.
The arrangement contains the desire of / The artist. But one confides in what has no / Concealed creator. One walks easily
The Unpainted shore, accepts the world / As anything but sculpture. Good-bye / Mrs. Pappadopoulos, and thanks.

-So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch
See Poetry Speaks

Tell X that speech is not dirty silence / Clarified. It is silence made still dirtier. / It is more than an imitation for the ear.
He lacks this venerable complication. / His poems are not of the second part of life. / They do not make the visible a little hard.
To see…

-The Creation of Sound

Throw away the lights, the definitions, / And say of what you see in the dark
That it is this or that it is that, / But do not use the rotted names.
How should you walk in that space and know  / Nothing of the madness of space,
Nothing of its jocular procreations? / Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand
Between you and the shapes you take / When the crust of shape has been destroyed.
You as you are? You are yourself. / The blue guitar surprises you.

-The Man with the Blue Guitar (in whole)

T. S. Eliot

June 16, 2006


Thomas Stearns Eliot
American-born British poet, dramatist, and literary critic
One of the most influential Modernist poets of the 20th century
In 1948 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature
Converted to Anglicanism
Poetry derives its power from the capacity to embody and reconcile contradictory characteristics : Deeply conservative and traditional, but emerged as a trailblazer of experimental modernism
Youngest of 7 children: born in St. Louis
Mother was an aspirating poet frustrated by her limited educational opportunities
Shy, witty, self-ironic, and reserved in manner
Brilliant student : Earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard by the age of 23
Abandoned expected career path as a philosophy professor in the U.S. when he met Pound in England on a traveling fellowship
Married vivacious and sensitive but emotionally unstable Englishwoman Vivien Haigh-Wood, but failed to offer a living wage: took a post in the colonial and foreign department of Lloyeds Bank
Suffered a mental and physical collapse in 1921: sought treatment at a sanatorium in Lausanne, Switzerland and completed the initial draft of “The Waste Land” which he later revised with Pound
Left Llolyds Bank for an editorial position at the London publishing firm of Faber and Gwyer
Joined the Church of England and became a British citizen in 1927
Returned to harvard to give a series of lectures published as “The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism”
Vivien was permanently institutionalized in 1938 and died 9 years later
Turned to drama in later years to win a larger audience
Married again after 1957 and fell virtually silent as a poet
Died in 1965 and is buried in East Coker, the English village from which his Eliot ancestors had originated


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

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!

-La Figlia Che Piange

All this was a long time ago, I remember, / And I would do it again, but set down / This set down / This: were we led all that way for / Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly, / We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, / But had thought they were different; this Birth was / Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. / We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, / But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, / With an alien people clutching their gods. / I should be glad of another death.

-Journey of the Magi

You tossed a blanket from the bed, / You lay upon your back, and waited; / You dozed, and watched the night revealing / The thousand sordid images / Of which your soul was constituted; / They flickered against the ceiling. / And when all the world came back / And the light crept up between the shutters / And you heard the sparrows in the gutters, / You had such a vision of the street / As the street hardly understands; / Sitting along the bed’s edge, where / You curled the papers from your hair, / Or clasped the yellow soles of feet / In the palms of both soiled hands.


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)

Follows the conscious experience of a man, Prufrock lamenting his physical and intellectual inertia, the lost opportunities in his life and lack of spiritual progress, with the recurrent theme of carnal love unattained
Although Prufrock seems to be middle-aged, Eliot wrote most of the poem when he was only 22
Relayed in the “stream of consciousness” form indicative of the Modernists


Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’ / Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be times / To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’ / Time to turn back and descend the stair, / With a bald spot in the middle of my hair- / [They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’] / My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, / My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a / simple pin- / [They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’] / Do I dare / Disturb the universe? / In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

And I have known the eyes already, known them all- / The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, / And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, / When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, / Then how should I being / To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? / And how should I presume?

I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

I grow old… I grow old… / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? / I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. / I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea / By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown / Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919/1920)


“In English writing we seldom speak of tradition, though we occasionally apply its name in deploring its absence. We cannot refer to ‘the tradition’ or to ‘a tradition’; at most, we employ the adjective in saying that the poetry of So-and-so is ‘traditional’ or even ‘too traditional.’ Seldom, perhaps, does the word appear except in a phrase of censure. If otherwise, it is vaguely approbative, with the implication, as to the work approved, of some pleasing archaeological reconstruction. You can hardly make the word agreeable to English ears without this comfortable reference to the reassuring science of archaeology.”

“…we might remind ourselves that criticism is as inevitable as breathing, and that we should be none the worse for articulating what passes in our minds when we read a book and feel an emotion about it, for criticising our own minds in their work of criticism. One of the facts that might come to light in this process is our tendency to insist, when we praise a poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles anyone else. In these aspects or parts of his work we pretend to find what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of the man. We dwell with satisfaction upon the poet’s difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors; we endeavour to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed. Whereas if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may =be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.”

“Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to any one who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feelig that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity.
No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead.”

“He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. He must be aware that the mind of Europe – the mind of his own country – a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind – is a mind which changes, and that this change is a development which abandons nothing en route, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare, or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draftsmen. That this development, refinement perhaps, complication certainly, is not, from the point of view of the artist, any improvement.”

“But the difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.”

“The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.”

“I have tried to point out the importance of the relation of the poem to other poems by other authors, and suggested the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written. The other aspects of this Impersonal theory of poetry is the relation of the poem to its author. And I hinted, by analogy, that the mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of ‘personality,’ not being necessarily more interesting, or having ‘more to say,’ but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.
The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the two gases previously mentioned are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmit the passions which are its material.”

“The poet’s mind is in face a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.”

‘It is not in his personal emotions, the emotions provoked by particular events in his life, that the poet is in any way remarkable or interesting. His particular emotions may be simple, or crude, or flat. The emotion in his poetry will be a very complex thing, but not with the complexity of the emotions of people who have very complex or unusual emotions in life. One error, in fact, of eccentricity in poetry is to seek for new human emotions to express; and in this search for novelty in the wrong place it discovers the perverse. The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all.”

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an excape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an excape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to excape form these things.”

“The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living.”

The Waste Land (1922)

Read as a representation of the disillusionment of the post-war generation
Dedicated to Ezra Pound, who suggested cuts and changes for the manuscript
Includes quotations from and allusions to Shakespeare, Dante, Charles Baudelaire, Richard Wagner, Ovid, St. Augustine, Buddhist sermons, folk songs, and the anthropologists Jessie Weston and James Frazer
Deliberate use of fragmentation and discontinuity
Deals with the decline of civilization and the impossibility of recovering meaning in life, shifts between satire and prophecy, abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, elegiac but intimidating summoning up of a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures
According to Time magazine:

“There is a new kind of literature abroad in the land, whose only obvious fault is that no one can understand it.”

Eliot reading The Waste Land


April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Dull roots with spring rain.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, / You cannot say, or guess, for you know only / A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, / And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, / And the dry stone no sound of water. Only / There is a shadow under this red rock, / (Come in under the shadow of this red rock), And I will show you something different from either / Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; / I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; / ‘They called me the hyacinth girl.’ / -Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden, / Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not / Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither / Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, / Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Unreal City, / Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.  Sighs, short and infrequent , were exhaled, / And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. 

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: ‘Stetson! / ‘You who were with me in the ships at Mylae! / ‘That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / ‘Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? / ‘Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed? / ‘Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men, / ‘Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again! / ‘You! Hypocrite lecteur! -mon semblable, -mon frere!’

‘What is that noise?’
The wind under the door.
‘What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?’
Nothing again nothing.
‘Do / ‘You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember / ‘Nothing?’
I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
‘Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?’

I too awaited the expected guest. / He, the young man carbuncular, arrives, / A small house agen’s clerk, with one bold stare, / One of the low on whom assurance sits / As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire. / The time is now propitious, as he guesses, / The meal is ended, she is bored and tired, / Endeavours to engage her in caresses / Which still are unreproved, if undesired. / Flushed and decided, he assaults at once; / Exploring hands encounter no defence; / His vanity requires no response, / And makes a welcome of indifference. / (And I Tiresias have foresuffered all / Enacted on this same divan or bed; / I who have sat by Thebes below the wall / And walked among the lowest of the dead.) / Bestows one final patronising kiss, / And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit…
She turns and looks a moment in the glass, / Hardly aware of her departed lover; / Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass: / ‘Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.’ / When lovely woman stoops to folly and / Paces about her room again, alone, / She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, / And puts a record on the gramophone.

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Rainer Maria Rilke

June 16, 2006


Considered the German language’s greatest 20th century poet
Famous for “thing poems”
Focus on the problems of Christianity in an age of disbelief and solitude, coexistence of the material and spiritual realms, tension between life and death
Suffered from leukemia, and died of an infection he contracted when he pricked himself on a rose thorn
Known as the “poet of loneliness”

“It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his powers to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility…”


Otherwise this stone would seem defaced / beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders / and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself, / burst like a star: for here there is no place / that does not see you.  You must change your life.

-Archaic Torso of Apollo

This laboring through what is still undone, / as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, / is like the awkward walking of the swan.
And dying- to let go, no longer feel / the solid ground we stand on every day- / is like his anxious letting himself fall
into the water, which receives him gently / and which, as though with reverence and joy, / draws back past him in streams on either side; / while, infinitely silent and aware, / in his full majesty and ever more / indifferent, he condescends to glide.

-The Swan

The Duino Elegies (1912-1922)

Rilke had been visiting Princess Marie von Thurn in the Duino castle in the region when he came across some cliffs from which he drew his inspiration to start his set of ten poems
According to a story, Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea – “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ / hierarchies?”
Completion of the elegies was delayed by Rilke’s battle with depression


Angel! If there were a place that we didn’t know of, and there, / on some unsayable carpet, lovers displayed / what they never could bring to mastery here- the bold / exploits of their high-flying hearts, / their towers of pleasure, their ladders / that have long since been standing where there was no ground, leaning / just on each other, trembling, -and could master all this, / before the surrounding spectators, the innumerable soundless dead: / Would these, then, throw down their final, forever saved-up, / forever hidden, unknown to us, eternally valid / coins of happiness before the at last / genuinely smiling pair on the gratified / carpet?

Why, if this interval of being can be spent serenely / in the form of a laurel… / why then / have to be human- and, escaping from fate, / keep longing for fate?…

But because truly being here is so much; because everything here / apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way / keeps calling to us.  Us, the most fleeting of all. / Once for each thing.  Just once; no more.  And we too, / just once.  And never again.  But to have been / this once, completely, even if only once: / to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.

Speak and bear witness.  More than ever / the Things that we might experience are vanishing, for / what crowds them out and replaces them is an imageless act. / An act under a shell, which easily cracks open as soon as the business inside outgrows it and seeks new limits.

And these Things, / which live by perishing, know you are praising them; transient, / they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all. / They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart, / within- oh endlessly- within us!  Whoever we may be at last.

Earth, my dearest, I will.  Oh believe me, you no longer / need your springtimes to win me over- one of them, / ah, even one, is already too much for my blood. / Unspeakably I have belonged to you, from the first. / You were always right, and your holiest inspiration / is our intimate companion, Death.
Look, I am living.  On what?  Neither childhood nor future / grows any smaller…. Superabundant being / wells up in my heart.

And we, who have always thought / Of happiness as rising, would feel / The emotion that almost overwhelms us / Whenever a happy thing falls.

Franz Kafka

June 5, 2006


Major German novelist and writer of short stories of the 20th Century
The adjective "kafkaesque" has come into common use to denote mundane yet absurd and surreal circumstances
Suffered from clinical depression, social anxiety, and tuberculosis
Requested that all his manuscripts were destroyed after death
Never finished any of his novels
Obtained the degree of Doctor of Law
Believed in existentialism: the individual is an agent of choice and must suffer consequences of those choices

The Trial (Published-1925)

Surreal novel
Kafka never intended for it to be published
Josef K. is arrested and subjected to the rigors of the judicial process for an unspecified crime
Themes of political injustice, absurdity of human nature, paranoia, the inevitable guilt of all humans, misunderstanding and miscommunication, problem of allowing others to do our thinking for us (lack of independent thought), struggle of authority and personal agency, hierarchy of power and dependency, trouble of judgment (deception of appearances, importance of impressions), luck
Claimed to be related to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment


"Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested."

"'And don't make such a fuss about how innocent you feel; it disturbs the otherwise not unfavorable impression you make.  And you should talk less in general; almost everything you've said up to now could have been inferred from your behavior, even if you'd said only a few words, and it wasn't terribly favorable to you in any case.'"

"'Who do you think you are?  You ask what sense it makes, while you stage the most senseless performance imaginable?'"

"'No.  You're under arrest all right, but not the way a thief would be.  If you're arrested like a thief, that's bad, but this arrest-.  It seems like something scholarly, I'm sorry if that sounds stupid, but it seems like something scholarly that I don't understand, but that I don't need to understand either.'"

"…some sort of stubbornness had prevented K. from taking a cab; he had an aversion to even the slightest outside help in this affair of his; he didn't want to enlist anyone's aid and thus initiate them in the matter even distantly; not, finally, did he have the least desire to humble himself before the commission of inquiry by being overly punctual.  Of course he was now running to get there by nine if at all possible, although he had not even been given a specific hour at which to appear."

"'I'm completely detached from this whole affair, so I can judge it calmly…'"

"'Forget about my danger; I only fear danger when I want to.'"

"'…knowing that I'm not at all concerned about the outcome of the trial, and would only laugh at a conviction.'"

"…he had suffered defeat only because he had sought to do battle.  If he stayed home and led his normal life he was infinitely superior to any of these people, and could kick any one of them out of his path.  And he pictured how funny it would be, for example, to see this miserable student, this puffed-up child, this bandy-legged, bearded fellow, kneeling at Elsa's beside, clutching his hands and begging for mercy.  This vision pleased K. so greatly that he decided, if the opportunity ever arose, to take the student along to Elsa one day."

"'Perhaps none of us is hard-hearted, perhaps we'd all like to help, but as court officials it can easily appear that we're hard-hearted and don't want to help anyone.  That really bothers me.'"

"'Josef,' his uncle cried, trying to twist away from him so he could pause, which K. prevented, 'you've undergone a total metamorphosis; you've always had such a keen grasp of things, has it deserted you now, of all times?  Do you want to lose this trial?  Do you know what that means? it means you'll simply be crossed off.  And that all your relatives will be drawn in, or at least dragged through the mud.  Pull yourself together, Josef.  Your indifference is driving me crazy.  Looking at you almost makes me believe the old saying: 'Trials like that are lost from the start.''"

"'You misjudge her,' said the lawyer, without defending her further; perhaps he wished to show by this that she needed no defense."

"Nevertheless, the most important factor is still the lawyer's personal contacts…"

"For instance the following story is told, and has every appearance of truth.  An elderly official, a decent, quiet gentleman, had studied a difficult case, rendered particularly complex due to the lawyer's petitions, for one entire day and night without a break- these officials are truly the most industrious of people.  Now as morning approached, after twenty-four hours of probably not very productive work, he went to the outer door, waited in ambush, and threw every lawyer who tried to enter down the steps.  The lawyers gathered on the landing below and discussed what they should do; on the one hand they have no real right to be admitted, so they can hardly start legal proceedings against the official, and as already mentioned, they have to be careful not to arouse the ire of the bureaucracy.  On the other hand each day missed at court is a day lost, so it was important to them to get in.  Finally they decided to try to wear the old gentleman down.  One lawyer at a time would rush up the stairs and, offering the greatest possible passive resistance, allow himself to be thrown back down, where he would then be caught by his colleagues.  That lasted for about an hour; then the old gentleman, who was already tired from working all night, grew truly exhausted and went back into his office.  At first those below could hardly believe it, so they sent someone up to check behind the door to make sure there was really no one there.  Only then did they enter, probably not even daring to grumble.  For the lawyers- and even the least important of them has at least a partial overview of the circumstances- are far from wishing to introduce or carry out any sort of improvement in the court system, while- and this is quite characteristic- almost every defendant, even the most simple-minded among them, starts thinking up suggestions for improvement from the moment the trial starts, and in doing so often wastes time and energy that would be better spent in other ways.  The only proper approach is to learn to accept existing conditions.  Even if it were possible to improve specific details- which, however, is merely an absurd superstition- one would have at best achieved something for future cases, while in the process of damaging oneself immeasurably by having attracted the attention of an always vengeful bureaucracy.  Just don't attract attention!  Keep calm, no matter how much it seems counter to good sense.  Try to realize that this vast judicial organism remains, so to speak, in a state of eternal equilibrium, and that if you change something on your own where you are, you can cut the ground out from under your own feet and fall, while the vast organism easily compensates for the minor disturbance at some other spot- after all, everything is interconnected- and remains unchanged, if not, which is likely, even more resolute, more vigilant, more severe, more malicious."

"How could he possibly sustain himself alone, once he has enlisted aid?"

"He didn't have time right now to examine the truth of everything the painter said, let alone to disprove it; the best he could hope for was to induce the painter to help him somehow…"

"'How can any person in general be guilty?  We're all human after all, each and every one of us.'"

"'You're deceiving yourself about the court,' said the priest, 'in the introductory texts to the Law it says of this deception:  Before the Law stands a doorkeeper.  A man from the country comes to this doorkeeper and requests admittance to the Law.  But the doorkeeper says that he can't grant him admittance now.  The man thinks it over and then asks if he'll be allowed to enter later.  'It's possible,' says the doorkeeper, 'but now now.'  Since the gate to the Law stands open as always, and the doorkeeper steps aside, the man bends down to look through the gate into the interior.  When the doorkeeper sees this he laughs and says: 'if you're so drawn to it, go ahead and try to enter, even though I've forbidden it.  But bear this in mind: I'm powerful.  And I'm only the lowest doorkeeper.  From hall to hall, however, stand doorkeepers each more powerful than the one before.  The mere sight of the third is more than even I can bear.'  The man from the country has not anticipated such difficulties; the Law should be accessible to anyone at any time, he thinks, but as he now examines the doorkeeper in his fur coat more closely, his large, sharply pointed nose, his long, thin, black tartar's beard, he decides he would prefer to wait until he receives permission to enter.  The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down at the side of the door.  He sits there for days and years.  He asks time and again to be admitted and wearies the doorkeeper with his entreaties . The doorkeeper often conducts brief interrogations, inquiring about his home and many other matters, but he asks such questions indifferently, as great men do, and in the end he always tells him he still can't admit him.  The man, who has equipped himself well for his journey, uses everything he has, no matter how valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper.  And the doorkeeper accepts everything, but as he does so he says: 'I'm taking this just so you won't think you've neglected something.'  Over the many years, the man observes the doorkeeper almost incessantly.  He curses his unhappy fate, loudly during the first years, later, as he grows older, merely grumbling to himself.  He turns childish, and since he has come to know even the fleas in the doorkeeper's collar over his years of study, he asks the fleas too to help him change the doorkeeper's mind.  Finally his eyes grow dim and he no longer knows whether it's really getting darker around him or if his eyes are merely deceiving him.  And yet in the darkness he now sees a radiance that streams forth inextinguishably from the door of the Law.  He doesn't have much longer to live now.  Before he dies, everything he has experienced over the years coalesces in his mind into a single question he has never asked the doorkeeper.  He motions to him, since he can no longer straighten his stiffening body.  The doorkeeper has to bend down to him, for the difference in size between them has altered greatly to the man's disadvantage.  'What do you want to know now,' asks the doorkeeper, 'you're insatiable.'  'Everyone strives to reach the Law,' says the man, 'how does it happen, then, that in all these years no one but me has requested admittance.'  The doorkeeper sees that the man is nearing his end, and in order to reach his failing hearing, he roars at him: 'No one else could gain admittance here, because this entrance was meant solely for you.  I'm going to go and shut it now.''"

"…the correct understanding of a matter and misunderstanding the matter are not mutually exclusive."

"'Why should I want something from you.  The court wants nothing from you.  It receives you when you come and dismisses you when you go.'"

"…the responsibility for this final failure lay with whoever had denied him the remnant of strength necessary to do so."

"'Like a dog!' he said; it seemed as though the shame was to outlive him."

The Refusal (1920)

Story of a small town under complete control of their leaders without any question of authority
The citizens annually submit a petition that is always refused


"Now it is remarkable and I am continually being surprised by the way we in our town humbly submit to all orders issued in the capital.  For centuries no political change has been brought about by the citizens themselves."

"One is almost under the impression that the people here say: 'Now that you've taken all we possess, please take us as well.' In reality of course, it was not he who seized the power, nor is he a tyrant.  It has just come about over the years that the chief tax-collector is automatically the top official, and the colonel accepts the tradition just as we do.
Yet while he lives among us without laying too much stress on his official position, he is something quite different from the ordinary citizen.  When a delegation comes to him with a request, he stands there like the wall of the world.  Behind him is nothingness, one imagines hearing voices whispering in the background, but this is probably a delusion; after all, he represents the end of all things, at least for us."

"Actually a single soldier would have been quite enough, such is our fear of them."

"They don't actually do anything evil, and yet they are almost unberarable in an evil sense."

"'The petition has been refused,' he announced.  'You may go.' An undeniable sense of relief passed through the crowd, everyone surged out, hardly a soul paying any special attention to the colonel, who, as it were, had turned once more into a human being like the rest of us.  I still caught one last glimpse of him as he wearily let go of the poles, which fell to the ground, then sank into an armchair produced by some officials, and promptly put his pipe in his mouth."

"In all important matters, however, the citizens can always count on a refusal.  And now the strange fact is that without this refusal one simply cannot get along, yet at the same time these official occasions designed to receive the refusal are by no means a formality. Time after time one goes there full of expectation and in all seriousness and then one returns, if not exactly strengthened or happy, nevertheless not disappointed or tired.  About these things I do not have to ask the opinion of anyone else, I feel them in myself, as everyone does; nor do I have any great des8ire to find out how these things are connected.
As a matter of fact there is, so far as my observations go, a ertain age group that is not content- these are the young people roughly between seventeen and twenty.  Quite young fellows, in fact, who are utterly incapable of foreseeing the consequences of even the least significant, far less a revolutionary, idea.  And it is among just them that discontent creeps in."

Virginia Woolf

May 17, 2006


Born Adeline Virginia Stephen
British author, feminist and modernist literary figure of the 20th century
Married to Leonard Woolf
Founded the Bloomsbury Group and the Hogarth Press
Strong emotional ties with women, bisexually involved with members of the Group
Sexually abused by half brothers, loss of both parents led to brief institutionalization
Suffered 2 major nervous breakdowns, believed she was to suffer a third and commited suicied by filling her pockets with stones and drowning herself in the River Ouse, near her home in Rodmell
Left two suicide notes for her husband and her sister:

“I feel certain that I am going mad again: I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness… I can’t fight it any longer, I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work”

Jacob’s Room (1922)

Considered to be Woolf’s first piece of experimental fiction
Woolf breaks down traditional ways of representing character and experience
Portrait of a young man (Jacob) who is both representative and victim of the social values which led Edwardian society into war
Traces Jacob’s life from the time he is a small boy through his years in Cambridge, in London, and on his trip to Greece
Jacob is presented in glimpses and fragments


“‘So of course,’ wrote Betty Flanders, pressing her heels rather deeper in the sand, ‘there was nothing for it but to leave.’
Slowly welling from the point of her gold nib, pale blue ink dissolved the full stop; for there her pen stuck; her eyes fixed, and  tears slowly filled them. The entire bay quivered; the lighthouse wobbled; and she had the illusion that the mast of Mr Connor’s little yacht was bending like a wax candle in the sun. She winked quickly. Accidents were awful things. She winked again. The mast was straight; the waves were regular; the lighthouse was upright; but the blot had spread.
‘… nothing for it but to leave,’ she read.”

“‘How could I think of marriage!’ she said to herself bitterly, as she fastened the gate with a pice of wire. She had always disliked red hair in men, she thought, thinking of Mr Floyd’s appearance, that night when the boys had gone to bed. And pushing her workbox away, she drew the blotting-paper towards her, and read Mr Floyed’s letter again, and her breast went up and down when she came to the word ‘love’, but not so fast this time, for she saw Johnny chasing the geese, and knew that it was impossible for her to marry anyone – let alone Mr Floyd, who was so much younger than she was, but what a nice man – and such a scholar too.
‘Dear Mr Floyd,’ she wrote. -‘Did I forget about the cheese?’ she wondered, laying down her pen. No, she had told Rebecca that the cheese was in the hall. ‘I am much surprised…’ she wrote.
But the letter which Mr Floyd found on the table when he got up early next morning did not begin ‘I am much surprised,’ and it was such a motherly, respectful, inconsequent, regretful letter that he kept it for many years; long after his marriage with miss Wimbush, of Andover; long after he had left the village. For he asked for a parish in Sheffield, which was given him; and, sending for Archer, Jacob, and John to say good-bye, he told them to choose whatever they liked in his study to remember him by. Archer chose a paper-knife, because he did not like to choose anything too good; Jacob chose the works of Byron in one volume; John, who was still too young to make a proper choice, chose Mr Floyd’s kitten, which his brothers thought an absurd choice, but Mr Floyd upheld him when he said: ‘It has fur like you.’ Then Mr Floyd spoke about the King’s Navy (to which Archer was going); and next day he received a silver salver and went – first to Sheffield, where he met Miss Wimbush, who was on a visit to her uncle, then to Hackney – then to Maresfield House, of which he became principal, and finally, becoming editor of a well-known series of Ecclesiastical Biographies, he retired to Hampstead with his wife and daughter, and is often to be seen feeding the ducks on Leg of Mutton Pond. As for Mrs Flanders’s letter – when he looked for it the other day he could not find it, and did not like to ask his wife whether she had put it away. Meeting Jacob in Piccadilly lately, he recognized him after three seconds. But Jacob had grown such a fine young man that Mr Floyd did not like to stop him in the street.”

“Nobody sees any one as he is, let alone an elderly lady sitting opposite a strange young man in a railway carriage. They see a whole – they see all sorts of things – they see themselves … Mrs Norman now read three pages of one of Mr Norris’s novels. Should she say to the young man (and after all he was just the same age as her own boy): ‘If you want to smoke, don’t mind me’? No: he seemed absolutely indifferent to her presence… she did not wish to interrupt.
But since, even at her age, she noted his indifference, presumably he was in some way or other – to her at least – nice, handsome, interesting, distinguished, well built, like her own boy? One must do the best one can with her report. Anyhow, this was Jacob Flanders, aged nineteen. It is no use trying to sum people up. One must follow hints, not exactly what is said, nor yet entirely what is done – for instance, when the train drew into the station, Mr Flanders burst open the door, and put the lady’s dressing-case out for her, saying, or rather mumbling: ‘Let me’ very shyly; indeed he was rather clumsy about it.”

“No doubt if this were Italy, Greece, or even the shores of Spain, sadness would be routed by strangeness and excitement and the nudge of a classical education. But the Cornish hills have stark chimneys standing on them; and, somehow or other, loveliness is infernally sad. Yes, the chimneys and the coastguard stations and the little bays with the waves breaking unseen by anyone make one remember the overpowering sorrow. And what can this sorrow be?
It is brewed by the earth itself. It comes from the houses on the coast. We start transparent, and then the cloud thickens. All history backs our pane of glass. To escape is vain.”

“Oh yes, human life is very tolerable on the top of an omnibus in Holborn, when the policeman holds up his arm and the sun beats on your back, and if there is such a thing as a shell secreted by man to fit man himself here we find it, on the banks of the Thames, where the great streets join and St Paul’s Cathedral, like the volute on the top of the snail shell, finishes it off. Jacob, getting off his omnibus, loitered up the steps, consulted his watch, and finally made up his mind to go in …Does it need an effort? Yes. These changes of mood wear us out.”

“It seems then that men and women are equally at fault. It seems that a profound, impartial, and absolutely just opinion of our fellow-creatures is utterly unknown. Either we are men, or we are women. Either we are cold, or we are sentimental. Either we are young, or growing old. In any case, like is but a procession of shadows, and God knows why it is that we embrace them so eagerly, and see them depart with such anguish, being shadows. And why, if this and much more than this is true, why are we yet surprised in the window corner by a sudden vision that the young man in the chair is of all things in the world the most real, the most solid, the best known to us – why indeed? For the moment after we know nothing about him.
Such is the manner of our seeing. Such the conditions of our love.”

“But something is always impelling one to hum, vibrating, like the hawk moth, at the mouth of the cavern of mystery, endowing Jacob Flanders with all sorts of qualities he had not at all – for though, certainly, he sat talking to Bonamy, half of what he said was too dull to repeat; much unintelligible (about unknown people and Parliament); what remains is mostly a matter of guess work. Yet over him we hang vibrating.”

“The problem is insoluble. The body is harnessed to a brain. Beauty goes hand in hand with stupidity. There she sat staring at the fire as she had stared at the broken mustard-pot. In spite of defending indecency, Jacob doubted whether he liked it in the raw. He had a violent reversion towards male society, cloistered rooms, and the works of the classics; and was ready to turn with wrath upon whoever it was who had fashioned life thus.
Then Florinda laid her hand upon his knee.
After all, it was none of her fault. But the thought saddened him. It’s not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it’s the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.
Any excuse, though, serves a stupid woman. He told her his head ached.
But when she looked at him, dumbly, half-guessing, half-understanding, apologizing perhaps, anyhow saying as he had said, ‘It’s none of my fault,’ straight and beautiful in body, her face like a shell within its cap, then he knew that cloisters and classics are no use whatever. The problem is insoluble.”

“Well, people have tried. Byron wrote letters. So did Cowper. For centuries the writing-desk has contained sheets fit precisely for the communications of friends. Masters of language, poets of long ages, have turned from the sheet that endures to the sheet that perishes, pushing aside the tea-tray, drawing close to the fire (for letters are written when the dark presses round a bright red cave), and addressed themselves to the task of reaching, touching, penetrating the individual heart. Were it possible! But words have been used too often; touched and turned, and left exposed to the dust of the street. The words we week hang close to the tree. We come at dawn and find them sweet beneath the leaf.”

“Such faces as one sees. The little man fingering the meat must have squatted before the fire innumerable lodging-houses, and heard and seen and known so much that it seems to utter itself even volubly from dark eyes, loose lips, as he fingers the meat silently, his face sad as a poet’s, and never a song sung. Shawled women carry babies with purple eyelids; boys stand at street corners; girls look across the road – rude illustrations, pictures in a book whose pages we turn over and over as if we should at last find what we look for. Every face, every shop, bedroom window, public-house, and dark square is a picture feverishly turned – in search of what? It is the same with books. What do we seek through millions of pages? Still hopefully turning the pages- oh, here is Jacob’s room.”

“The worn voices of clocks repeated the fact of the hour all night long.”

“The dialogue draws to its close. Plato’s argument is done. Plato’s argument is stowed away in Jacob’s mind, and for five minutes Jacob’s mind continues alone, onwards, into the darkness. Then, getting up, he parted the curtains, and saw, with astonishing clearness, how the Springetts opposite had gone to bed; how it rained; how the Jews and the foreign woman, at the end of the street, stood by the pillarbox, arguing.”

“And down they sat cross-legged upon cushions and talked about Jacob, Helen’s voice trembled, for they both seemed heroes to her, and the friendship between them so much more beautiful than women’s friendships.”

“…the bright yet vague glance of the young.
Bright yet vague.”

“The fixed faces are the dull ones.”

“Then, at a top-floor window, leaning out, looking down, you see beauty itself; or in the corner of an omnibus; or squatted in a ditch – beauty glowing, suddenly expressive, withdrawn the moment after. No one can count on it or seize it or have it wrapped in paper. Nothing is to be won from the shops, and Heaven knows it would be better to sit at home than haunt the plate-glass windows in the hope of lifting the shining green, the glowing ruby, out of them alive. Sea glass in a saucer loses its lustre no sooner than silks do. Thus if you talk of a beautiful woman you mean only something flying fast which for a second uses the eyes, lips, or cheeks of Fanny Elmer, for example, to glow through.
She was not beautiful, as she sat stiffly; her underlip too prominent; her nose too large; her eyes too near together. She was a thin girl, with brilliant cheeks and dark hair, sulky just now, or stiff with sitting. When Bramham snapped his stick of charcoal she started. Bramham was out of temper. He squatted before the gas fire warming his hands. Meanwhile she looked at his drawing. He grunted. Fanny threw on a dressing-gown and boiled a kettle.
‘By God, it’s bad,’ said Bramham.
Fanny dropped on to the floor, clasped her hands round her knees, and looked at him, her beautiful eyes – yes, beauty, flying through the room, shone there for a second. Fanny’s eyes seemed to question, to commiserate, to be, for a second, love itself. But she exaggerated. Bramham noticed nothing. And then the kettle boiled, up she scrambled, more like a cold of a puppy than a loving woman.”

“The body after long illness in languid, passive, receptive of sweetness, but too weak to contain it.”

“Fanny thought it all came from Tom Jones. He could go alone with a book in his pocket and watch the badgers. He would take a train at eight-thirty and walk all night. He saw fireflies, and brought back glow-worms in pill-boxes. He would hunt with the New Forest Staghounds. It all came from Tom Jones; and he would go to Greece with a book in his pocket and forget her.
She fetched her hand-glass. There was her face. And supposed one wreathed Jacob in a turban? There was his face. She lit the lamp. But as the daylight came through the window only half was lip up by the lamp. And though he looked terrible and magnificent and would chuck the Forest, he said, and come to the Slade, and be a Turkish knight or a roman emperor (and he let her blacken his lips and clenched his teeth and scowled in the glass), still – there lay
Tom Jones.”

“Then Jinny Carslake, after her affair with Lefanu the American painter, frequented Indian philosophers, and now you find her in pensions in Italy cherishing a little jewler’s box containing ordinary pebbles picked off the road. But if you look at them steadily, she says, multiplicity becomes unity, which is somehow the secret of life, though it does not prevent her from following the macaroni as it goes round the table, and sometimes, on spring nights, she makes the strangest confidences to shy young Englishmen.”

“The moor accepted everything. Tom Gage cries aloud so long as his tombstone endures. The Roman skeletons are in safe keeping. Betty Flanders’ darning needles are safe too and her garnet brooch. And sometimes at midday, in the sunshine, the moor seems to hoard these little treasures, like a nurse.”

“Indeed there has never been any explanation of the ebb and flow in our veins – of happiness and unhappiness. That respectability and evening parties where one has to dress, and wretched slums at the back of Gray’s Inn- something solid, immovable, and grotesque- is at the back of it, Jacob thought probable. But then there was the Birtish Empire which was beginning to puzzle him; nor was he altogether in favour of giving Home Rule to Ireland. What did the Daily Mail say about that?”

“There are very few good books after all, for we can’t count profuse histories, travels in mule carts to discover the sources of the Nile, or the volubility of fiction.
I like books whose virtue is all drawn together in a page or two. I like sentences that don’t budge though armies cross them. I like words to be hard- such were Bonamy’s views, and they won him the hostility of those whose taste is all for the fresh growths of the morning, who trow up the window, and find the poppies spread in the sun, and can’t forbear a shout of jubilation at the astonishing fertility of English literature. That was not Bonamy’s way at all. That his taste in literature affected his friendships, and made him silent, secretive, fastidious, and only quite at his ease with one or two young men of his own way of thinking, was the charge against him.
But then Jacob Flanders was not at all of his own way of thinking- far from it. Bonamy sighed, laying th ethin sheets of notepaper on the table and falling into throught about Jacob’s character, not for the first time.
The trouble was this romantic vein in him. ‘But mixed with the stupidity which leads him into these absure predicaments,’ thought Bonamy, ‘there is something – something’- he sighed, for he was fonder of Jacob than of anyone in the world.”

“it was not that he himself happened to be lonely, but that all people are.”

“‘Everything seems to mean so much,’ said Sandra. But with the sound of her own voice the spell was broken. She forgot the peasants. Only there remained with her a sense of her own beauty, and in front, luckily, there was a looking-glass.
‘I am very beautiful,’ she thought.”

“Jacob’s intention was to sit down and read, and, finding a drum of marble conveniently placed, from which Marathon could be seen, and yet it was in the shade, while the Erechtheum blazed white in front of him, there he sat. And after reading a page he put his thumb in his book. Why not rule countries in the way they should be ruled? And he read again.
“No doubt his position there overlooking Marathon somehow raised his spirits. Or it may have been that a slow capacious brain has these moments of flowering. Or he had, insensibly, while he was abroad, got into the way of thinking about politics.
And then looking up and seeing the sharp outline, his meditations were given an extraordinary edge; Greece was over; the Parthenon in ruins; yet there he was.”

“The flight of time which hurries us so tragically along: the eternal drudge and drone, now bursting into fiery flame like those brief balls of yellow among green leaves (she was looking at orange trees); kisses on lips that are to die; the world turning, turning in mazes of heat and sound- though to be sure there is the quiet evening with its lovely pallor”

“It is no use trying to sum people up. One must follow hints, not exactly what is said, nor yet entirely what is done. Some, it is true, take ineffaceable impressions of character at once. Others dally, loiter, and get blown this way and that. Kind old ladies assure us that cats are often the best judges of character. A cat will always go to a good man, they say; but then, Mrs Whitehorn, Jacob’s landlady, loathed cats.”

“The salt gale blew in at Betty Flanders’ bedroom window, and the widow lady, raising herself slightly on her elbow, sighed like one who realizes, but would fain ward off a little longer- oh, a little longer!- the opression of eternity.”

“Strolling in at dusk, Sandra would open the books and her eyes would brighten (but not at the print), and subsiding into the armchair she would suck back again the soul of the moment; or, for sometimes she was restless, would pull out book after book and swing across the whole space of her life like an acrobat from bar to bar. She had had her moments. Meanwhile, the great clock on the landing ticked and Sandra would hear time accumulating, and ask herself, ‘What for? What for?'”

“‘The guns?’ said Betty Flanders, half asleep, getting out of bed and going to the window, which was decorated with a fringe of dark leaves.
‘Not at this distance,’ she thought. ‘It is the sea.’
Again, far away, she heard the dull sound, as if nocturnal women were beating great carpets. There was Morty lost, and Seabrook dead; her sons fighting for their country. But were the chickens safe? Was that someone moving downstairs? Rebecca with the toothache? No. The nocturnal women were beating great carpets. Her hens shifted slightly on their perches.”

“The eighteenth century had its distinction. These houses were bulit, say, a hundred and fifty years ago. The rooms are shapely, the ceilings high; over the doorways a rose or a ram’s skull is carved in the wood. Even the panels, painted in raspberry coloured paint, have their distinction.”

“Listless is the air in an empty room, just swelling the curtain; the flowers in the jar shift. One fibre in the wicker armchair creaks, though no one sits there.
Bonamy crossed to the window. Pickford’s van swung down the street. The omnibuses were locked together at Mudie’s corner. Engines throbbed, and carters, jamming the brakes down, pulled their horses sharp up. A harsh and unhappy voice cried something unintelligible. And then suddenly all the leaves seemed to raise themselves.
‘Jacob! Jacob!’ cried Bonamy, standing by the window. The leaves sank down again.
‘Such confusion everywhere!’ exclaimed Betty Flanders, bursting open the bedroom door.
Bonamy turned away from the window.
‘What am I supposed to do with these, Mr Bonamy?’
She held out a pair of Jacob’s old shoes.”

Modern Fiction (1925)

Argues that modern fiction must break away from the traditional forms to explore unanswerable questions and embrace the ambiguity of life: narrative should be true to the artist and not concerned with plot or cohesion
Comments of Joyce’s form of writing
Explores the Russian influence on fiction
Justifies the use of a “stream of consciousness” narrative


“In making any survey, even the freest and loosest, of modern fiction, it is difficult not to take it for granted that the modern practice of the art is somehow an improvement upon the old. With their simple tools and primitive materials, it might be said, Fielding did well and Jane Austen even better, but compare their opportunities with ours! Their masterpieces certainly have a strange air of simplicity. And yet the analogy between literature and the process, to choose an example, of making motor cars scarcely holds good beyond the first glance. It is doubtful whether in the course of the centuries, though we have learnt much about making machines, we have learnt anything about making literature. We do not come to write better; all that we can be said to do is to keep moving, now a little in this direction, now in that, but with a circular tendency should the whole course of the track be viewed from a sufficiently lofty pinnacle. It need scarcely be said that we make no claim to stand, even momentarily, upon that vantage-ground. On the flat, in the crowd, half blind with dust, we look back with envy to htose happier warriors, whose battle we can scarcely refrain from whispering that the fight was not so fierce for them as for us. It is for the historian of literature to decide; for him to say if prose fiction, for down in the plain little is visible. We only know that certain gratitudes and hostilities inspire us; that certain paths seem to lead to fertile land, others to the dust and the desert; and of this perhaps it may be worth while to attempt some account.”

“We have tto admit that we are exacting, and, further, that we find it difficult to justify our discontent by explaining what it is that we exact. We frame our question differently at different times. But it reappears most persistently as we drop the finished novel on the crest of a sigh – Is it worth while? What is the point of it all? Can it be that, owing to one of those little deviations which the human spirit seems to make from time to time, Mr. Bennett has come down with hes magnificent apparatus for catching life just an inch or two on the wrong side? Life escapes; and perhaps without life nothing else is worth while. It is a confession of vagueness to have to make use of such a figures as this, but we scarcely better the matter by speaking, as critics are prone to do, of reality. Admitting the vagueness which afflicts all criticism of novels, let us hazard the opinion that for us at this moment the form of fiction most in vogue more often misses than secures the thing we seek.Whether we call it life or spirit, truth or reality, this, the essential thing, has moved off, or on, and refuses to be contained any longer in such ill-fitting vestiments as we provide.”

“Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being ‘like this.’ Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myraid impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all dises they come, an incessant shower of innumberable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps noat a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a simitransparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. It is not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?”

“In contrast with those whom we have called materialists, Mr. Joyce is spiritual; he is concerned at all costs to reveal the flickerings of that innermost flame which flashes its messages through the brain, and in order to preserve it he disregards with complete courage whatever seems to him adventitious, whether it be probability, or coherence, or any other of these signposts which for generations have served to support the imagination of a reader when called upon to imagine what he can neither touch nor see.”

“Is it the method that inhibits the creative power? Is it due to the method that we feel neither jovial nor magnanimous, but centred in a self which, in spite of its remor of susceptibility, never embraces or creates what is outside itself and beyond? Does the emphasis laid, perhaps didactically, upon indecency contribute to the effect of something angular and isolate? Or is it merely that in any effort of such originality it is much easier, for contemporaries especially, to feel what it lacks than to name what it gives? In any case it is a mistake to stand outside examining ‘methods’. Any method is right, every method is right, that expresses what we wish to express, if we are writers; that brings us closer to the novelist’s intention if we are readers.”

“However this may be, the problem before the novelist at present, as we suppose it to have been in he past, is to contrive means of eing gfree to set down what he chooses. He has to have the courage to say that what interests him is no longer ‘this’ but ‘that’: out of ‘that’ alone must he construct his work. For the moderns ‘that’, the point of interest, lies very likely in the dark places of psychology.”

“The conclusions of the Russian mind, thus comprehensive and compassionate, are inevitably, perhaps, of the utmost sadness. More accurately indeed we might speak of the inconclusiveness of the Russian mid. It is the sense that there is no answer, that if honestly examined life presents question after question which must be left to sound on and on after the story is over in hopeless interrogation that fills us with a deep, and finally it may be with a resentful, despair.”

“And if we can imagine the art of fiction come alive and standing in our midst, she would undoubtedly bid us break her and bully her, as well as honour and love her, for so her youth is renewed and her sovereignty assured.”

Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Stream of consciouness narrative
Follow main character, Clarissa Dalloway, through one day in post WWI England
Compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses
Focuses on themes of madness, feminism, colonialism, commericalism, politics, medicine, and sexuality


“For having lived in Westmister-how many years now? over twenty, -one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. first warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life.”

“She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.”

“..but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she kenw best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself.”

“Oh if she could have had her life over again! she thought, stepping on to the pavement, could have looked even differently!”

“She had a right to his arm, though it was without feeling. He would give her, who was so simple, so impulsive, only twenty-four, without friends in England, who had left Italy for his sake, a piece of bone.”

“…when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavement this Wednesday morning are but bones witha few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth.”

“…but it was plain enough, this beauty, this exquisite beauty, and tears filled his eyes as he looked at the smoke words languishing and melting in the sky and bestowing upon him in their inexhaustible charity and laughing goodness on eshape after another of unimaginable beauty and signalling their intention to provide him, for nothing, for ever, for looking merely, with beauty, more beauty! Tears ran down his cheeks.”

“To love makes one solitary, she thought.”

“…how moments like this are buds on the tree of life, flowers of darkness they are, she thought (as if some lovely rose had blossomed for her eyes only)…”

“Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, beings, collects, lets fall.”

“Well, I’ve had my fun; I’ve had it, he thought, looking up at the swinging baskets of pale geraniums. And it was smashed to atoms- his fun, for it was half made up, as he knew very well; invented, this escapade with the girl; made up, as one makes up the better part of life, he thought- making oneself up; making her up; creating an exquisite amusement, and something more. But odd it was, and quite true; all this one could never share- it smashed to atoms.”

“the word ‘time’ split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time.”

“It was seeing blue hydrangeas that made her think of him and the old days- Sally Seton, of course!”

“…so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for the sake of goodness.”

“…it must be the fault of the world then- that he could not feel…It might be possible, Septimus thought, looking at Englad from the train window, as they left Newhaven; it might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.”

“For the truth is (let her ignore it) that human beings have neither kindness, nor faith, nor charity beyond what serves to increase the pleasure of the moment.”

“it was precisely twelve o’clock; twelve by Big Ben; whose stroke was wafted over the northern part of London; blent with that of other clocks, mixed in a thin ethereal way with the clouds and wisps of smoke, and died up there among the seagulls- twelve o’clock struck as Clarissa Dalloway laid her green dress on her bed, and the Warren Smiths walked down Harley Street. Twelve was the hour of their appointment. Probably, Rezia thought, that was Sir William Bradshaw’s house with the grey motor car in front of it. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.”

“but Proportion has a sister, less smiling, more formidable, a Goddess even now engaged… Conversion is her name and she feasts on the wills of the weakly, loving to impress, to impose, adoring her own features stamped on the face of the populace.”

“The time comes when it can’t be said; one’s too shy to say it, he thought, pocketing his sixpence or two of change, setting off with his great bunch held against his body to Westminster to say straight out in so many words (whatever she might think of him), holding out his flowers, ‘I love you.’ Why not?…he repeated that it was a miracle that he should have married Clarissa; a miracle- his life had been a miracle, he thought… Because it is a thousand pities never to say what one feels…(But he could not bring himself to say he loved her; not in so many words.) But how lovely, she said, taking his flowers. She understood; she understood without his speaking; his Clarissa.”

“Both of them criticised her very unfairly, laughed at her very unjustly, for her parties. That was it! That was it! Well, how was she going to defend herself? Now that she knew what it was, she felt perfectly happy. They thought, or Peter at any rate thought, that she enjoyed imposing herlf; liked to have famous people about her; great names; was simply a snob in short. well, Peter might think so. Richard merely thought it foolish of her to like excitement when she knew it was bad for her heart. it was childish, he thought. And both were quite wrong. What she liked was simply life.”

“After that, how unbelievable death was!- that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all; how, every instant…”

“Love and religion! thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing-room, tingling all over. how detestable, how detestable they are!… but love and religion would destroy that, whatever it was, the privacy of the soul.”

“For that made Septimus cry out about human cruelty- how they tear each other to pieces. The fallen, he said, they tear to pieces.”

“Clarissa once, going on top of an omnibus with him somewhere, Clarissa superficially at least, so easily moved, now in despair, now in the best of spirits, all aquiver in those days and such good company, spotting queer little scenes, names, people from the top of a bus, for they used to explore London and bring back bags full of treasures from the Caledonian market- Clarissa had a theory in those days-they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. it was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. it was unsatisfactory, they agreed , how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not ‘here, here, here’; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter-even trees, or barns. it ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her skepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death… perhaps-perhaps.”

“Every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that every one was unreal in one way; much more real in another.”

“Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was embrace in death.”

“She felt somehow very like him-the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun.”

“…and she felt that Peter was an old friend, a read friend- did absence matter? did distance matter? She had often wanted to write to him, but torn it up, yet felt he understood, for people understand without things being said, as one realises growing old and old she was…”

“Did they know, she asked, that they were surrounded by an enchanted garden? Lights and trees and wonderful gleaming lakes and the sky. Just a few fairy lamps, Clarissa Dalloway had said, in the back garden! But she was a magician!”

“‘…What does the brain matter,’ said Lady Rosseter, getting up, ‘compared with the heart?'”

To the Lighthouse (1927)

The freely, multiply discursive tale centers on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920
Plot is secondary to philosophical introspection, and the prose can be winding and hard to follow
Includes little dialogue and almost no action: most of it is written as thoughts and observations of the major characters
Recalls the power of childhood emotions and highlights the impermanence of adult relationships


“Indeed, she had the whole of the other sex under her protection; for reasons she could not explain, for their chivalry and valour, for the fact that they negotiated treaties, ruled India, controlled finance; finally for an attitude towards herself which n o woman could fail to feel or to find agreeable, something trustful, childlike, reverential; which an old woman could take from a young man without loss of dignity, and woe betide the girl – pray Heaven it was none of her daughters! – who did not feel the worth of it, and all that it implied, to the marrow of her bones!”

“When she looked in the glass and saw her hair grey, her cheek sunk, at fifty, she thought, possibly she might have managed things better – her husband; money; his books. But for her own part she would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties, or slur over duties. She was now formidable to behold, and it was only in silence, looking up from their plates, after she had spoken so severely about Charles Tansley, that her daughters, Prue, Nancy, Rose – could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves of a life different from hers; in Paris, perhaps; a wilder life; not always taking care of some man or other; for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry, of the Bank of England and the Indian Empire, of ringed fingers and lace, though to them all there was something in this of essence and beauty, which called out the manliness in their girlish hears, and made them, as they sat at the table beneath their mother’s eyes, honour her strange severity, her extreme courtesy, like a Queen’s raising from the mud to wash a beggar’s dirty foot, when she thus admonished them so very severely about that wretched atheist who had chased them – or, speaking accurately, been invited to stay with them – in Isles of Skye.”

“That was the view, she said, stopping, growing greyer-eyed, that her husband loved.”

“The gruff murmur, irregularly broken by the taking out of pipes and the putting in of pipes which had kept on assuring her, though she could not hear what was said (as she sat in the window which opened on the terrace), that the men were happily talking; this sound, which had lasted now half an hour and had taken its place soothingly in the scale of sounds pressing on top of her, such as the tap of balls upon bats, the sharp, sudden bark now and then, ‘How’s that? How’s that?’ of the children playing cricket, had ceased; so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, ‘I am guarding you – I am your support,’ but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, expecially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that itw as all ephemeral as a rainbow – this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror.”

“The jacmanna was bright violet; the wall staring white. She would not have considered it honest to tamper with the bright violet and the staring white, wince she saw them like that, fashionable though it was, since Mr. Paunceforte’s visit, to see everything pale, elegant, semitransparent. Then beneath the colour there was the shape. She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child. Such she often felt herself – struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage; to say: ‘But this is what I see; this is what I see,’ and so to clasp some miserable remnant of her vision to her breast, which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her. And it was then too, in that chill and windy way, as she began to paint, that there forced themselves upon her other things, her own inadequacy, her insignificance, keeping house for her father off the Brompton Road, and had much ado to control her impulse to fling herself (thank Heaven she had always resisted so far) at Mrs. Ramsay’s knee and say to her – but what could one say to her? ‘I’m in love with you?’ No, that was not true. ‘I’m in love with this all,’ waving her hand at the hedge, at the house, at the children. It was absurd, it was impossible. So now she laid her brushes neatly in the box, side by side, and said to William Banks:
‘It suddenly gets cold. The sun seems to give less heat,’ she said, looking about her, for it was bright enough, the grass still a soft deep green, the house starred in its greenery with purple passion flowers, and rooks dropping cool cries from the high blue. But something moved, flashed, turned a silver wing in the air. It was September, and past six in the evening. So off they strolled down the garden in the usual direction, past the tennis lawn, past the pampas grass, to that break in the thick hedge, guarded by red hot pokers like braisers of clear burning coal, between which the blue waters of the bay looked bluer than ever.
They came there regularly every evening drawn by some need. It was as if the water floated off and set sailing thoughts which had grown stagnant on dry land, and gave to their bodies even some sort of physical relief. First, the pulse of colour flooded the bay with blue, and the heart expanded with it and the body swam, only the next instant to be checked and chilled by the prickly blackness on the ruffled waves. Then, up behind the great black rock, almost every evening spurted irregularly, so that one had to watch for it and it was a delight when it came, a fountain of white water; and then, while one waited for that, one watched, on the pale semicircular beach, wave after wave shedding again and again smoothly, a film of mother of pearl.”

“So now she always saw, when she thought of Mr. Ramsay’s work, a scrubbed kitchen table. It lodged now in the fork of a pear tree, for they had reached the orchard. And with a painful effort of concentration, she focused her mind, not upon the silver-bossed bark of the tree, or upon its fish-shaped leaves, but upon a phantom kitchen table, one of those scrubbed board tables, grained and knotted, whose virtue seems to have been laid bare by years of muscular integrity, which struck there, its four legs in air. Naturally, if one’s days were passed in this seeing of angular essences, this reducing of lovely evening, with all their flamingo clouds and blue and silver to a white deal four-legged table (and it was a mark of the finest minds to so to do), naturally one could not be judged like an ordinary person.”

“How then did it work out, all this? How did one judge people, think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that it was liking one felt, or disliking? And to those words, what meaning attached, atfer all? Standing now, apparently transfixed, by the pear tree, impessions poured in upon her of those two men, and to follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one’s pencil, and the voice was her own voice saying without prompting undeniable, everlasting, contradictory things, so that even the fissures and humps on the bark of the pear tree were irrevocably fixed there for eternity.”

“That windows should be open, and doors shut – simple as it was, could none of them remember it? She would go into the maids’ bedrooms at night and find them sealed like ovens, except for Marie’s, the Swiss girl, who would rather go without a bath than without fresh air, but then at home, she had said, ‘the mountains are so beautiful.’ She had said that last night looking out of the window with tears in her eyes. ‘The mountains are so beautiful.’ Her father was dying there, Mrs. Ramsay knew. He was leaving them fatherless. Scolding and demonstrating (how to make a bed, how to open a window, with hands that shut and spread like a Frenchwoman’s) all had folded itself quietly about her, when the girl spoke, as, after a flight through the sunshine the wings of a bird fold themselves quietly and the blue of its plumage changes from bright steel to soft purple. She had stood there silent for there was nothing to be said. He had cancer of the throat. At the recollection – how she had stood there, how the girl had said, ‘At home the mountains are so beautiful,’ and there was no hope, no hope whatever, she had a spasm of irritation, and speaking sharply , said to James:
‘Stand still. Don’t be tiresome,’ so that he knew instantly that her severity was real, and straightened his leg and she measured it.”

“How many men in a thousand million, he asked himself, reach Z after all? Surely the leader of a forlorn hope may ask himself that, and answer, without treachery to the expedition behind him, ‘One perhaps.’ One in a generation. Is he to be blamed then if he is not that one? provided he has toiled honestly, given to the best of his power, and till he has no more left to give? And his fame lasts how long? It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter. His fame lasts perhaps two thousand years. And what are two thousand years? (asked Mr. Ramsay ironically, staring at the hedge). What, indeed, if you look from a mountain top down the long wastes of the ages? The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare.”

“He would argue that the world exists for the average human being; that the arts are merely a decoration imposed on the top of human life; they do not express it. Nor is Shakespeare necessary to it. Not knowning precisely why it was that he wanted to disparage Shakespeare and come to the rescue of the man who stands eternally in the door of the lift, he picked a leaf sharply form the hedge.”

“For him to gaze as Lily saw him gazing at Mrs. Ramsay was a rapture, equivalent, Lily felt, to the loves of dozens of young men (and perhaps Mrs. Ramsay had never excited the loves of dozens of young men). It was love, she thought, pretending to move her canvas, distilled and filtered; love that never attempted to clutch its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of the human gain. So it was indeed. The world by all means should have shared it, could Mr. Bankes have said why that woman pleased him so; why the sight of her reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a scientific problem, so that he rested in contemplation of it, and felt, as he felt when he had proved something absolute about the digestive system of plants, that barbarity was tamed, the reign of chaos subdued…
That people should love like this, that Mr. Bankes should feel this for Mrs. Ramsay (she glanced at him musing) was helpful, was exalting. She wiped one brush after another upon a piece of old rag, menially, on purpose. She took shelter from the reverence which covered all women; she felt herself praised. Let him gaze; she would steal a look at her picture.
She could have wept. It was bad, it was bad, it was infinitely bad! She could have done it differently of course; the colour could have been thinned and faded; the shapes etherised; that was how Paunceforte would have seen it. But then she did not see it like that. She saw the colour burning on a framework of steel; the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral. Of all that only a few random marks scrawled upon the canvas remained. And it would never be seen; never be hung, and there was Mr. Tansley whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint, women can’t write…'”

“…there could be no disputing this: an unmarried woman (she lightly took her hand for a moment), an unmarried woman has missed the best of life. The house seemed full of children sleepin and Mrs. Ramsay listening; shaded lights and regular breathing.”

“Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs. Ramsay one? for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs. Ramsay’s knee.”

“But it had been seen; it had been taken from her. This man had shared with her something profoundly intimate. And, thanking Mr. Ramsay for it and Mrs. Ramsay for it and the hour and the place, crediting the world with a power which she had not suspected – that one could walk away down that long gallery not alone any more but arm in arm with somebody – the strangest feeling in the world, and the most exhilarating- she nicked the catch of her paint-box to, more firmly than was necessary, and the nick seemed to surround in a circle forever the paint-box, the lawn, Mr. Bankes, and that wild villain, Cam, dashing past.”

“And so she went down and said to her husband, Why must they grow up and lose it all? Never will they be so happy again. And he was angry. Why take such a gloomy view of life? he said. It is not sensible. For it was odd; and she believed it to be true; that with all his gloom and desperation he was happier, more hopeful on the whole, than she was. Less exposed to human worries – perhaps that was it. He had always his work to fall back on. Not that she herself was ‘pessimistic,’ as he accused her of being. Only she thought life – and a little strip of time presented itself to her eyes – her fifty years. There it was before her – life. Life, she thought – but she did not finish her thought. She took a look at life, for she had a clear sense of it there, something real, something private, which she shared neither with her children nor with her husband. A sort of transaction went on between them, in which she was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her; and sometimes they parleyed (when she sat alone); there were, she remembered, great reconciliation scenes; but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance. There were the eternal problems: suffering; death; the poor. There was always a woman dying of cancer even here. And yet she had said to all these children, You shall go through it all. To eight people she had said relentlessly that (and the bill for the greenhouse would be fifty pounds). For that reason, knowing what was before them – love and ambition and being wretched and alone in dreary places – she had often the feeling, Why must they grow up and lose it all? And then she said to herself, brandishing her sword at life, Nonesense. They will be perfectly happy. And here she was, she reflected, feeling life rather sinister again, making Minta marry Paul Rayley; because whatever she might feel about her own transaction, she had had experiences which need not happen to every one (she did not name them to herself); she was driven on, too quickly she knew, almost as if it were an escape for her too, to say that people must marry; people must have children.”

“He had no right. The father of eight children – he reminded himself. And he would have been a beast and a cur to wish a single thing altered. Andrew would be a better man than he had been. Prue would be a beauty, her mother said. They would stem the flood a bit. That was a good bit of work on the whole – his eight children. They showed he did not damn the poor little universe entirely, for on an evening like this, he thought, looking at the land dwindling away, the little island seemed pathetically small, half swallowed up in the sea.
‘Poor little place,’ he murmured with a sigh.
She heard him. He said the most melancholy things, but she noticed that directly he had said them he always seemed more cheerful than usual. All this phrase-making was a game, she thought, for if she had said half what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now.
It annoyed her, this phrase-making, and she said to him, in a matter-of-fact way, that it was a perfectly lovely evening. And what was he groaning about, she asked, half laughing, half complaining, for she guessed what he was thinking – he would have written better books if he had not married.
He was not complaining, he said. She knew that he did not complain. She knew that he had nothing whatever to complain of. And he seized her hand and raised it to his lips and kissed it with an intensity that brought the tears to her eyes, and quickly he dropped it.”

“Brooding, she changed the pool into the sea, and made the minnows into sharks and whales, and cast vast clouds over this tiny world by holding her hand against the sun, and so brought darkness and desolation, like God himself, to millions of ignorant and innocent creatures, and then took her hand away suddenly and let the sun stream down.”

“It was her grandmother’s brooch; she would rather have lost anything but that, and yet Nancy felt, it might be rue that she minded losing her brooch, but she wasn’t crying only for that. She was crying for something else. We might all sit down and cry, she felt. But she did not know what for.”

“But nevertheless, the fact remained, it was almost impossible to dislike any one if one looked at them. She liked his eyes; they were blue, deep set, frightening.”

“It is so beautiful, so exciting, this love, that I tremble on the verge of it, and offer, quite out of my own habit, to look for a brooch on a beach; also it is the stupidest, the most barbaric of human passions, and turns a nice young man with a profile like a gem’s (Paul’s was exquisite) into a bully with a crowbar (he was swaggering, he was insolent) in the Mile End Road.”

“Now she need not listen. It could not last, she knew, but at the moment her eyes were so clear that they seemed to go round the table unveiling each of these people, and their thoughts and their feelings, without effort like a light stealing under water so that its ripples and the reeds in it and the minnows balancing themselves, and the sudden silent trout are all lit up hanging, trembling. So she saw them; she heard them; but whatever they said had also this quality, as if what they said was like the movement of a trout when, at the same time, one can see the ripple and the gravel, something to the right, something to the left; and the whole is held together; for whereas in active life she would be netting and separating one thing from another; she would be saying she liked the Waverley novels or had not read them; she would be urging herself forward; now she said nothing. For the moment, she hung suspended.”

“With her foot on the threshold she waited a moment longer in a scene which was vanishing even as she looked, and then, as she moved and took Minta’s arm and left the room, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past.”

“For it was windy (she stood a moment to look out). It was windy, so that the leaves now and then brushed open a star, and the stars themselves seemed to be shaking and darting light and trying to flash out between the edges of leaves. Yes, that was done then, accomplished; and as with all things done, became solemn. Now one thought of it, cleared of chatter and emotion, it seemed always to have been, only was shown now and so being shown, struck everything into stability. They would, she thought, going on again, however long they lived, come back to this night; this moon; this wind; this house: and her too. It lfattered her, where she was most susceptible of flattery, to think how, wound about in their hearts, however long they lived she would be woven; and this, and this, and this, she thought, going upstairs, laughing, but affectionately, at the sofa on the landing (her mother’s); at the rocking-chair (her father’s); at the map of the Hebrides. All that would be revived again in the lives of Paul and Minta; ‘the Rayleys’ – she tried the new name over; and she felt, with her hand on the nursery door, that community of feeling with other people which emotion gives as if the walls of partition had become so thin that practically (the feeling was one of relief and happiness) it was all one stream, and chairs, tables, maps, were hers, were theirs, it did not matter whose, and Paul and Minta would carry it on when she was dead.”

“Wherever they put the light (and James could not sleep without a light) there was always a shadow somewhere.”

“And seeing the gold watch lying in his hand, Mrs. Ramsay felt, How extraordinaryily luck Minta is! She is marrying a man who has a gold watch in a wash-leather bag!”

“Mrs. Ramsay raised her head and like a person in a light sleep seemed to say that if he wanted her to wake she would, she really would, but otherwise, might she go on sleeping, just a little longer, just a little longer? She was climbing up those branches, this way and that, laying hands on one flower and then another.”

“‘Well, we must wait for the future to show,; said Mr. Bankes, coming in from the terrace.
‘It’s almost too dark to see,’ said Andrew, coming up from the beach.
‘One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,’ said Prue.
‘Do we leave that light burning?’ said Lily as they took their coats off indoors.
‘No,’ said Prue, ‘not if every one’s in.’
‘Andrew,’ she called back, ‘just put out the light in the hall.’
One by one the lamps were all extinguished, except that Mr. Carmichael, who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil, kept his candle burning rather longer than the rest.”

“But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore.”

“Almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer.
[Mr. Ramsay, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his arms out, but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, his arms, though stretched out, remained empty.]”

“Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind, and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing, snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions – ‘Will you fade? Will you perish?’ – scarcely disturbed the peace, the indifference, the air of pure integrity, as if the question they asked scarcely needed that they should answer: we remain.”

“…she seemed to say how it was one long sorrow and trouble, how it was getting up and going to bed again, and bringing things out and putting them away again. It was not easy or snug this world she had known for close on seventy years. Bowed down she was with weariness. How long, she asked, creaking and groaning on her knees under the bed, dusting the boards, how long shall it endure?”

“As summer neared, as the evenings lengthened, there came to the wakeful, the hopeful, walking the beach, stirring the pool, imaginations of the strangest kind – of flesh turned to atoms which drove before the wind, of stars flashing in their hearts, of cliff, sea, cloud, and sky brought purposely together to assemble outwardly the scattered parts of the vision within. In those mirrors, the minds of men, in those pools of uneasy water, in which clouds for ever turn and shadows form, dreams persisted, and it was impossible to resist the strange intimation which every gull, flower, tree, man and woman, and the white earth itself seemed to declare (but if questioned at once to withdraw) that good triumphs, happiness prevails, order rules; or to resist the extraordinary stimulus to range hither and thither in search of some absolute good, some crystal of intensity, remote from the known pleasures and familiar virtues, something alien to the processes of domestic life, single, hard, bright, like a diamond in the sand, which would render the possessor secure. Moreover, softened and acquiescent, the spring with her bees humming and gnats dancing threw her cloak about her, veiled her eyes, averted her head, and among passing shadows and flights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her a knowledge of the sorrows of mankind.
[Prue Ramsay died that summer in some illness connected with childbirth, which was indeed a tragedy, people said, everything, they said, had promised so well.]”

“Let the broken glass and the china lie out on the lawn and be tanled over with grass and wild berries.”

“The extraordinary unreality was frightening; but it was also exciting. Going to the Lighthouse. But what does one send to the Lighthouse? Perished. Alone. The grey-green light on the wall opposite. The empty places. Such were some of the parts, but how bring them together? she asked. As if any interruption would break the frail shape she was building on the table she turned her back to the window lest Mr. Ramsay should see her. She must escape somewhere, be alone somewhere.”

Orlando: A Biography (1928)

Woolf’s sixth major novel
A fantastic historical biography, which spans almost 400 years in the lifetime of its protagonist
Was conceived as a “writer’s holiday” from more structured and demanding novels
Woolf allowed neither time nor gender to constrain her writing
Orlando ages only thirty-six years and changes gender from man to woman
Contains issues of gender, self-knowledge, and truth


“He- for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it- was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.”

“The river had gained its freedom in the night. It was as if a sulphur spring (to which view many philosophers inclined) had risen from the volcanic regions beneath and burst the ice asunder with such vehemence that it swept the huge and many fragments furiously apart. The mere look of the water was enough to turn one giddy. All was riot and confusion. The river was strewn with icebergs. Some of these were as broad as a bowling green and as high as a house; others no bigger than a man’s hat, but most fantastically twisted. Now would come down a whole convoy of ice blocks sinking everything that stood in their way. Now, eddying and swirling like a tortured serpent, the river would seem to be hurting itself between the fragments and tossing them from bank to bank, so that they could be heard smashing against the piers and pillars. But what was the most awful and inspiring of terror was the sight of the human creatures who had been trapped in the night and now paced their twisting precarious islands in the utmost agony of spirit. Whether they jumped into the flood or stayed on the ice their doom was certain. Sometimes quite a cluster of these poor creatures would come down together, some on their knees, others suckling their babies.”

“It was a ghastly sepulchre; dug deep beneath the foundations of the house as if the first Lord of the family, who had come from France with the Conqueror, had wished to testify how all pomp is built upon corruption; how the skeleton lies beneath the flesh; how we that dance and sing above must lie below; how the crimson velvet turns to dust; how the ring (here Orlando, stooping his lantern, would pick up a gold circle lacking a stone, that had rolled into a corner) loses its ruby and the eye which was so lustrous, shines no more. “Nothing remains of all these Princes,” Orlando would say, indulging in some pardonable exaggeration of their rank, “except one digit,’ and he would take a skeleton hand in his and bend the joints this way and that. ‘Whose hand was it?’ he went on to ask. ‘The right or the left? The hand of man or woman, of age or youth? Had it urged the war horse, or plied the needle? Had it plucked the rose, or grasped cold steel? Had it-‘ but here either his invention failed him, or what is more likely, provided him with so many instances of what a hand can do that he shrank, as his wont was, from the cardinal labour or composition, which is excision, and he put it with the other bones, thinking how there was a writer called Thomas Browne, a Doctor of Norwich, whose writing upon such subjects took his fancy amazingly.”

“But some were early infected by a germ said to be bred of the pollen of the asphodel and to be blown out of Greece and Italy, which was of so deadly a nature that it would shake the hand as it was raised to strike, cloud the eye as it sought its prey, and make the tongue stammer as it declared its love. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality, so that Orlando, to whom fortune had given every gift- plate, linen, houses, men-servants, carpets, beds in profusion- had only to open a book for the whole vast accumulation to turn to mist. The nine acres of stone which were his house vanished; one hundred and fifty indoor servants disappeared; his eighty riding horses became invisible; it would take too long to count the carpets, sofas, trappings, china, plate, cruets, chafing dishes and other movables often of beaten gold, which evaporated like so much sea mist under the miasma. So it was, and Orlando would sit by himself, reading, a naked man.”

A Room of One’s Own (1929)

Extended essay based on speeches given at two women’s colleges at Cambridge University
In order to be a successful novelist, a women needs a fixed income and private space
Provides an evolving history of the female sex: showing women as cultural contributors
Breaks with the masculine lecture form – wants the audience to come to their own conclusions


“Whatever may be their use in civilised societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action.”

“For if she beings to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgement, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?”

“The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case not indifference but hostility. The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing?”

“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.”

“The reason perhaps why we know so little of Shakespeare-compared with Donne or Ben Jonson or Milton- is that his grudges and spites and antipathies are hidden from us. We are not held up by some ‘revelation’ which reminds us of the writer. All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim an injury, to pay off a score, to make the world the sitness of some hardship or grievance was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows from him free and unimpeded. If ever a human being got his work expressed completely, it was Shakespeare. If ever a mind was incadescent, unimpeded, I thought turning again to the bookcase, it was Shakespeare’s mind.”

“When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about beng companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves.”

“Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for the great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so- I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals- and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings now always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.”

Thomas Mann

May 10, 2006


Great german novelist of the twentieth century
Statements on art, modern society, and the human codition
Visible disintegration of an entire society: universal conflicts between art and life, sensuality and intellect, individual and social will.

Death in Venice (1912)

Claimed as Mann's most important short narrative
Gustav von Aschenbach, a novelist, travels to Venice and becomes preoccupied with an adolescent boy named Tadzio.  An epidemic of Asiatic cholera breaks out and Aschenbach refuses to leave because of his homoerotic obsession with Tadzio.
Mann's wife claims the story's events came from an actual holidy taken in Venice


"But it seems that nothing so quickly or so thoroughly blunts a high-minded and capable spirit as the sharp and bitter charm of knowledge"

"Indeed, even on the personal level art provides an intensified version of life.  Art offers a deeper happiness, but it consumes one more quickly."

"But in empty, undivided space our sense of time fails us, and we lose ourselves in the immeasurable."

"Strangely fertile intercourse between a mind and a body!"

"There is nothing stranger or more precarious than the relationship between people who know each other only by sight"

"For beauty, Phaedrus-mark me well-only beauty is both divine and visible at the same time, and thus it is the way of the senses, the way of the artist, little Phaedrus, to the spirit.  But do you suppose, my dear boy, that anyone could ever attain to wisdom and genuine manly honor by taking a path to the spirit that leads through the senses?"

Luigi Pirandello

May 10, 2006

Luigi Pirandello.jpg

Italian dramatist
Awarded Nobel Prize in 1934

Themes in Writing:
There are as many truths as there are points of view
Difficulty of achieving a sense of identity
Impossibility of authentic communication between people
Overlapping frontiers of appearance and reality
The most “real” life is that which changes from moment to moment, exhibiting a fluidity that renders difficult and perhaps impossible any single formulation of either character or situation
Explores social, psychological, and metaphysical levels of identity

Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921/1925)


Father-  I want to try to show that one can be thrust into life in many ways, in many forms: as a tree or stone, as water or a butterfly- or as a woman.  It might even be as a character in a play.

Father-  But isn’t that the cause of all the trouble? Words! We all have a world of things inside ourselves and each one of us has his own private world.  How can we underrstand each other if the words I use have the sense and the value that I epect them to have, but whoever is listening to me inevitably thinks that those same words have a different sense and value, becausee of the private world he has inside himself too.  We think we understand each other: but we never do.

Father-  This is the real drama for me; the belief that we all, you see, think of ourselves as one single person: but it’s not true: each of us is several different people, and all these people live inside us.  With one person we seem like this and with another we seem very different.

Producer-  I know perfectly well that we’ve all got a life inside us and that we all want to parade it in front of other people.  But that’s the difficulty, how to present only the bits that are necessary in relation to the other characters

Father-  A character, my dear sir, can always ask a man who he is, because a character really has a life of his own, a life full of his own specific qualities, and because of these he is always ‘someone.’ While a man… can be an absolute ‘nobody.’

Father-  I only want to make you see that if we have no other reality outside our own illusion, perhaps you ought to distrust your own sense of reality: because whatever is a reality today, whatever you touch and believe in and that seems real for you today, is going to be-like the reality of yesterday- an illusion tomorrow.

Son-  There’s nothing of us inside you and you actors are only looking at us fromthe outside.  Do you think we coud go on living with a mirror held up in front of us that didnt’ only freeze our freflection for ever, but froze us in a reflection that laughed back at us with an expression that we didn’t even recognise as our own?

Father-  What do you mean, make-believe? It’s real! It’s real, ladies and gentlemen! It’s reality!

William Butler Yeats

May 10, 2006


The twentieth century’s greatest poet in the English language; a major figure in the Irish literary renaissance, Irish Nationalist
Sensuous imagery and fusion of historical references
Experiments with lyric poem by using quotations and change in narrator’s voice
Rebelled against scientific rationalism and believed in the higher knowledge of art
Had a life-long interest in mysticism, spiritualism, and astrology; became the head of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Mastery of images: highly visual poetry and dramatic interweaving of specific images
Embittered by the split between narrow Irish nationalism and the free expression of Irish culture
He and his wife dabbled with a form of automatic writing
Developed a strong friendship with Ezra Pound
Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923
Read his poetry in a heightened voice

“I sometimes compare myself with the mad old slum women I hear denouncing and remembering; ‘How dare you,’ I heard one say of some imaginary suitor, ‘and you without health or home!’ If I spoke my thoughts aloud they might be as angry and as wild.  It was a long time before I had made a language to my liking; I began to make it when I discovered twenty years ago that I must seek, not as Wordsworth thought, words in common use, but a powerful and passionate syntax, and a complete coincidence between period and stanza.  Because I need a passionate syntax for passionate subject matter I compel myself to accept those traditional metres that have developed with the language.”

-from “A General Introduction to My Work”

His tombstone reads an epitaph composed by himself:

“Cast a cold Eye / On Life, on Death. / Horseman, pass by!”


When you are old and grey and full of sleep, / And nodding by the fire, take down this book, / And slowly read, and dream of the soft look / Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace, / And loved your beauty with love false or true, / But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, / And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars, / Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled / And paced upon the mountains overhead / And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

-When You Are Old

Those masterful images because complete / Grew in pure mind, but out of what began? / A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street, / Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can, / Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut / Who keeps the till.  Now that my ladder’s gone, / I must lie down where all the ladders start, / In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.

-The Circus Animals’ Desertion

O sages standing in God’s holy fire / As in the gold mosaic of a wall, / Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, / And be the singing-masters of my soul. / Consume my heart away; sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal / It knows not what it is; and gather me / Into the artifice of eternity.

-Sailing to Byzantium

The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves, / The brilliant moon and all the milky sky, / And all that famous harmony of leaves, / Had blotted out man’s image and his cry.
A girl arose that had red mournful lips / And seemed the greatness of the world in tears, / Doomed like Odysseus and the laboring ships / And proud as Priam murdered with his peers;
Arose, and on the instant clamorous eaves, / A climbing moon upon an empty sky, / And all that lamentation of the leaves / Could but compose man’s image and his cry.

-Sorrow of Love

“I shall find the dark grow luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing bell.”

-A Vision

I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe; / Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, / Our stitching and unstitching has been naught. / Better go down upon your marrow-bones / And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones / Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; / For to articulate sweet sounds together / Is to work harder than all these, and yet / Be thought an idler by the noisy set / Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen / The martyrs call the world.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love; / We saw the last embers of daylight die, / And in the trembling blue-green of the sky / A moon, worn as if it had been a shell / Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell / About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one’s but your ears: / That you were beautiful, and that I strove / To love you in the old high way of love; / That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown / As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

-Adam’s Curse

Metaphoric for poetry, personified as a woman
Rejects the cultural mechanics of love, but doesn’t tell us where to go from there


Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand; / Surely the Second Coming is at hand. / The Second Coming! / Hardly are those words out / When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi / Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert / A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, / Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it / Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. / The darkness drops again; but now I know / That twenty centuries of stony sleep / Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, / And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-The Second Coming (in whole)

I whispered, ‘I am too young,’ / And then, ‘I am old enough’; / Wherefore I threw a penny / To find out if I might love. / ‘Go and love, go and love, young man, / If the lady be young and fair.’ / Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, / I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing, / There is nobody wise enough / To find out all that is in it, / For he would be thinking of love / Till the stars had run away / And the shadows eaten the moon. / Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, / One cannot begin it too soon.

-Brown Penny  (in whole)

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, / And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: / Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, / And live alone in the bee-loud glade
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping show, / Dropping from the beils of the morning to where the cricket sings; / There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, / And evening full of linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day / I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; / While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, / I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

-The Lake Isle of Innisfree (in whole)
See Poetry Speaks

I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea./ We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee; / And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky, / Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.
A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose; / Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes, / Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew: / For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you.
I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore, / Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more; / Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be, / Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea.

-The White Birds (in whole)

I know that I shall meet my fate / Somewhere among the clouds above; / Those that I fight I do not hate, / Those that I guard I do not love; / My country is Kiltartan Cross, / My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, / No likely end could bring them loss / Or leave them happier than before. / Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, / Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, / A lonely impulse of delight / Drove to this tumult in the clouds; / I balanced all, brought all to mind, / The years to come seemed waste of breath, / A waste of breath the years behind / In balance with this life, this death.

-An Irish Airman foresees his Death (in whole)

A pity beyond all telling / Is hid in the heart of love: / The folk who are buying and selling, / The coulds on their journey above, / The cold wet winds ever blowing, / And the shadowy hazel grove / Where mouse-grey waters are flowing, / Threaten the head that I love.

-The Pity of Love (in whole)

I have met them at close of day / Coming with vivid faces / From counter or desk among grey / Eighteenth-century houses. / I have passed with a nod of the head / Or polite meaningless words, / Or have lingered awhile and said / Polite meaningless words, / And thought before I had done / Of a mocking tale or gibe / To please a companion / Around the fire at the club, / Being certain that they and I / But lived where motley is worn: / All changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born.

Too long a sacrifice / Can make a stone of the heart. / O when may it suffice? / That is Heaven’s part, our part / To murmur name upon name, / As a mother names her child / When sleep at last has come / On limbs that had run wild. / What is it but nightfall? / No, no, not night but death; / Was it needless death after all? / For England may keep faith / For all that is done and said. / We know their dream; enough / To know they dreamed and are dead; / And what if excess of love / Bewildered them till they died? / I write it out in a verse – / MacDonagh and MacBride / And Connolly and Pearse / Now and in time to be, / Wherever green is worn, / Are changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born.

-Easter, 1916

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 thigs? / And how can body, laid in that white rush, / But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loin 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?

-Leda and the Swan (in whole)

In Greek mythology the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped Leda, a mortal. Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor, and Pollux were the children of this union. Yeats saw Leda’s rape as the beginning of a new age, analogous with the dove’s annunciation to Mary of Jesus’ conception

Constantine Cavafy

May 10, 2006


Private poet: circulated work to relatives and friends; never sold a book
Poetry draws his readers into astonishingly real personal universe; invites readers to enter the world of his poetic imagination and to draw their own connections to contemporary life and circumstances
Poetry falls into three broad categories: historical, philosophical, and erotic.


Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come. / And some who have just returned from the border say / there are no barbarians any longer. And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, those people, a kind of solution.

-Waiting for the Barbarians

As you've wasted your life here, in this small corner, / you've destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

-The City

There, now that he's sitting down at the next table, / I recognize every motion he makes- and under his clothes / I see again the limbs I loved, naked.

-The Next Table