This weeks fabulous set of readings, as collected by Amanda of First Milk, bends towards the classics (see Part I). It ends with a passage that lights up my face, one Amanda selected without having any idea that I loved it so much I’d used it in a performance piece when I was just 21. So I give you images, readings, magical synergy. Amanda, take it away…
Gifts and ornaments, wishes, grins. For giving, for keeping, for sending off, raising high.
From THE ODYSSEY
–Homer, Translation by Robert Fitzgerald
There is our pact and pledge, our secret sign,
Built into that bed—my handiwork
And no one else’s!
An old trunk of olive
Grew like a pillar on the building plot,
And I laid out our bedroom round that tree,
Lined up the stone walls, built the walls and roof,
Gave it a doorway and smooth-fitting doors.
Then I lopped off the silver leaves and branches,
Hewed and shaped that stump from the roots up
Into a bedpost, drilled it, let it serve a model for the rest. I planed them all,
Inlaid them all with silver, gold and ivory,
And stretched a bed between—a pliant web
Of oxhide thongs died crimson.
There’s our sign!
And ye high heavens, the temple of the gods,
In which a thousand torches flaming bright
Doe burne that to us wretched earthly clods,
In dreadful darknesse lend desired light;
And all ye powers which in the same remayne
More than we men can fayne,
Poure out your blessing on us plenteously,
And happy influence upon us raine,
That we may raise a large posterity,
Which from the earth, which they may long possesse,
With lasting happinesse,
Up to your haughty palaces may mount,
And for the guerdon of theyr glorious merit
May heavily tabernacles there inherit,
Of blessed Saints for to increase the count.
So let us rest, sweet love, in hope of this,
And cease till then our timely joyes to sing,
The woods no more us answer, nor our eccho ring.
Song made in lieu of many ornaments,
With which m love should duly have bene dect,
Which cutting off through hasty accidents,
Ye would not stay your dew time to expect,
But promist both to recompens,
Be unto her a goodly ornament,
And for short time an endlesse moniment.
From ANNA KARENINA
There was only anticipation—fear and joy of the new and the unknown. And in a few moments now, the anticipation and the unknown, the remorse and the renunciation of her old life—everything would come to an end, a new life would begin…
Turning again to the lectern, the priest with some difficulty picked up Kitty’s little ring, and, asking Levin for his hand, put it on the top of his finger. “With this ring I wed thee, Konstantin, servant of God, to the servant of God, Katherine.” And putting the big ring on Kitty’s slender, rosy finger, pathetic in its weakness, the priest repeated the same words.
Several times Levin and Kitty tried to guess what they had to do, and every time they were wrong and the priest corrected them in a whisper. At last, having done what was necessary, he again made the sign of the cross over them with the rings and again gave the large ring to Kitty and the little one to Levin, again they got confused and twice passed the rings backward and forward without getting it right.
Dolly, Chirikov, and Koznyshev came forward to help them. The result was more confusion, whispering, and smiles, but the touchingly solemn expression on the faces of the young couple did not change; on the contrary, while mixed up over their hands, they looked more serious and solemn than before, and the smile with which Oblonksy whispered to them to put on their rings involuntarily died on his lips. He could not help feeling that any kind of smile would hurt them.
From LEAVES OF GRASS
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there
without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it and
twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana
solitary in a wide in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.
From MOBY DICK
He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mind, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be…
After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room together. He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and mechanically dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one towards me, and said it was mine.
From STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER
Who knows how to make love stay?
1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.
2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic l
anguage. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.
3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.