Month: September 2006

G K Chesterton

It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.” They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complex picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.…

Judith Saunders

Mathematicians at Work hunker down on their hands and knees and sniff the problem poke it with ungentle fingers rub it raw with steel wool wad it up in a ball and cackle then pound it flat with little mallets watch it rise like dough (uh oh) resume its original shape screech, swing at it with hatchets spatter the walls with oozing fragments stare horrified at the shattered bits reassembling themselves, jump up attack the problem with icepicks gouge holes six inches deep and seven inches across (chew the mangled matter spit it out and belch) kick the thing into a corner, remove their belts and beat it senseless, walk off with the answer in their pockets.…

George Eliot

I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same kind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of literature and speech and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.…

Wendy Cope

He Tells Her He tells her that the earth is flat – He knows the facts, and that is that. In altercations fierce and long She tries her best to prove him wrong. But he has learned to argue well. He calls her arguments unsound And often asks her not to yell. She cannot win. He stands his ground. The planet goes on being round.…

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Crossing the Bar Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Turns again home. Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark; For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar.…

Piet Hein

A Maxim for Vikings Here is a fact that should help you fight a bit longer: Things that don’t actually kill you outright make you stronger.…

Kenneth Graham

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do.…

Ted Hughes

Crow’s Account of a Battle There was this terrific battle. The noise was as much As the limits of possible noise could take. There were screams higher groans deeper Than any ear could hold. Many eardrums burst and some walls Collapsed to escape the noise. Everything struggled on its way Through this tearing deafness As through a torrent in a dark cave. The cartridges were banging off, as planned, The fingers were keeping things going According to excitement and orders. The unhurt eyes were full of deadliness. The bullets pursued their courses Through clods of stone, earth, and skin, Through intestines pocket-books, brains, hair, teeth According to Universal laws And mouths cried “Mamma” From sudden traps of calculus, Theorems wrenched men in two, Shock-severed eyes watched blood Squandering as from a drain-pipe Into the blanks between the stars. Faces slammed down into clay As for the making of a life-mask Knew that even on the sun’s surface They could not be learning more or more to the point Reality was giving it’s lesson, Its mishmash of scripture and physics, With here, brains in hands, for example, And there, legs in a treetop. There was no escape except into death. And still it went on–it outlasted Many prayers, many a proved watch Many bodies in excellent trim, Till the explosives ran out And sheer weariness supervened And what was left looked round at what was left. Then everybody wept, Or sat, too exhausted to weep, Or lay, too hurt to weep. And when the smoke cleared it became clear This has happened too often before And was going to happen too often in the future And happened too easily Bones were too like lath and twigs Blood was too like water Cries were too like silence The most terrible grimaces too like footprints in mud And shooting somebody through the midriff Was too like striking a match Too like potting a snooker ball Too like tearing up a bill Blasting the whole world to bits Was too like slamming a door, Too like dropping in a chair Exhausted with rage Too like being blown up yourself Which happened too easily With too like no consequences. So the survivors stayed. And the earth and the sky stayed. Everything took the blame. Not a leaf flinched, nobody smiled.…

Joseph Conrad

from Heart of Darkness We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of the drums behind the curtain of trees would run up the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our heads, till the first break of day … The dawn were heralded by a chill stillness; the wood-cutters slept, their fires burned low; the snapping of a twig would make you start. We were wanderers on a prehistoric planet … But suddenly, as we struggled round a bend, there would be a glimpse of rush walls, of peaked grass-roof, a burst of yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping, of feet stamping, of bodies swaying, of eyes rolling, under the droops of heavy and motionless foliage.…

James Leigh Hunt

A Night-Rain in Summer Open the window, and let the air Freshly blow upon face and hair, And fill the room, as it fills the night, With the breath of the rain’s sweet might. Hark! the burthen, swift and prone! And how the odorous limes are blown! Stormy Love’s abroad, and keeps Hopeful coil for gentle sleeps. Not a blink shall burn to-night In my chamber, of sordid light; Nought will I have, not a window-pane, ‘Twixt me and the air and the great good rain, Which ever shall sing me sharp lullabies; And God’s own darkness shall close mine eyes; And I will sleep, with all things blest, In the pure earth-shadow of natural rest.…

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