Saturday, 4 June 2016

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy 2010

A very short book, given how much of life it covers.
“He found he had forgotten nothing but what he wanted to forget.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 12).

“it was impossible because she could not get out of the habit of regarding him as her husband and loving him.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 13).

“It would seem that nothing could be simpler tan for him, a man of good family, rich rather than poor, and thirty-two years of age to propose to the Princess Sherbatskaya. In all likelihood he would have been considered quite a suitable match. But Levin was in love, and therefore Kitty seemed to him so perfect in every respect, so transcending everything earthly, and he seemed to himself so very earthly and insignificant a creature that the possibility of his being considered worthy of her by others or by herself was to him unimaginable.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 30).

 “Oblonsky smiled. He understood that feeling of Levin’s so well, knew that for Levin all the girls in the world were divided into two classes: one class included all the girls in the world except her, and they had all the usual human failings and were ordinary girls; while the other class – herself alone – had no weaknesses and was superior to all humanity.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 51).

“Anna read and understood, but it was unpleasant to read, that is to say, to follow the reflection of other people’s lives. She was eager to live herself.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 138).

“But it is really funny; her aim is to do good, she is a Christian and yet she is always angry and always has enemies – all on account of Christianity and philantrophy!” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 150).

“Karenin was being confronted with life – with the possibility of his wife’s loving somebody else, and this seemed stupid and incomprehensible to him, because it was life itself. He had lived and worked all his days in official spheres, which deal with reflections of life, and every time he had knocked up against life itself he had stepped out of its way.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 196).

“Levin frowned. The insult of the refusal he had had to face burned in his heart like a fresh, newly-received wound. But he was at home and the walls of home are helpful.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 237).

“As a child that has been hurt skips about making his muscles move in order to dull its pain so Karenin needed mental activity to smother those thoughts about his wife which in her presence and in the presence of Vronsky, and amid the continual mention of his name, forced themselves upon him. And as it is natural for the child to skip about, so it was natural for him to speak cleverly and well.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 287).

“To Constantine the country was the place where one lives – that is to say, where one rejoiced, suffered and laboured; but to Koznyshev the country was, on the one hand, a place of rest from work, and on the other hand, a useful antidote to depravity, an antidote to which he resorted with pleasure and with a consciousness of its utility.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 327).

“Had Constantine been asked whether he liked the peasants, he would not have known what to answer. He both liked and disliked them, just as he liked and disliked all human beings.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 328).

“Oblonsky had gone to Petersburg to fulfil a very necessary duty – which to officials seems most natural and familiar, though to laymen it is incomprehensible – that of reminding the Ministry of his existence, without the performance of which rite continuance in Government service is impossible.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 357).

“Though the children did not know Levin well and did not remember when they had last seen him, they did not feel toward him any of that strange shyness and antagonism so often felt by children toward grown-up people who ‘pretend’, which causes them to suffer so painfully.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 368).

“All had been drowned in the sea of their joyful common toil. God had given them the day and the strength, and both the day and the strength had been devoted to labour which had brought its own reward. For whom they had laboured and what the fruits of their labour would be was an extraneous and unimportant affair.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 380).

“death would come and end everything, so that it was useless to begin anything, and that there was no help for it. Yes it was terrible, but true.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 481).

“He dressed in haste, and as if he were carrying a cup brimful of wrath and were afraid of spilling any and of losing with his anger the energy he needed for an explanation with his wife, he went to her room as soon as he knew that she was up.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 500).

“’What is the use arguing? No one ever convinces another.’” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 545).

“his pity for her, remorse at having wished for her death, and above all the joy of forgiving, in itself gave him not only relief from suffering but inward peace such as he had never before experienced.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 545).

“But quite on the contrary, it is precisely of this loss of freedom that I am glad.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 608).

“One impulse, an habitual one, drew him to shift the blame from himself and lay it upon her, but another, and more powerful one, drew him to smooth over the breach as quickly as quickly as possible and not allow it to widen. To remain under so unjust an accusation was painful, but to justify himself and hurt her would be still worse.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 661).

“They made it up. Having realised that she was in the wrong, though she did not acknowledge it, she became more tender to him, they enjoyed a new and doubled happiness in their love.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 661).

“Nevertheless, her chief preoccupation was still herself – herself in so far as Vronsky held her dear and in so far as she could compensate him for all he had given up.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 879).

“’Then why do you go on with it (the estate and agriculture), if it is a clear loss?’
‘Well you see …  one goes on! What would you have? It’s a habit, and one knows that it’s necessary!
‘Yes, yes,’ said Levin, ‘that is quite so! I always feel that I am getting no real profit out of my estate and yet I go on … One feels a sort of duty toward the land.’” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 898).

“He only knew and felt that what was happening (birth) was similar to what had happened the year before in the hotel of the provincial town on the deathbed of his brother Nicholas. Only that was sorrow and this was joy. But that sorrow and this joy were equally beyond the usual conditions of life: they were like openings in that usual life through which something higher became visible. And, as in that case, what was now being accomplished came harshly, painfully; and while watching it, the soul soared, as then, to heights it had never known before, at which reason could not keep up with it.
‘Lord, pardon and help us!’” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 974).

“Kitty was alive, her sufferings were over; and he was full of unspeakable bliss. This he comprehended, and it rendered him entirely happy. But the child? Whence and why had he come? Who was he? … He could not at all accustom himself to the idea. It seemed something superfluous, something overflowing, and for a long time he was unable to get used to it.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 978).

“You see, he who sits down to play against me, wishes to leave me without a shirt, and I treat him the same! So we struggle, and therein lies the pleasure!” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1022).

“It was as impossible not to look after his brother’s and sister’s affairs, and those of all the peasants who came for advice and were accustomed to do so, as it is impossible to abandon a baby you are already holding in your arms.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1080).

“Thinking about it led him into doubts and prevented him from seeing what he should and should not do. But when he did not think, but just lived, he unceasingly felt in his soul the presence and infallible judge deciding which of two possible action was the better and which the worse; and as soon as he did what he should not have done, he immediately felt this.
In this way he lived, not knowing and seeing any possibility of knowing what he was or why he lived in the world.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1081).

“’To live not for one’s needs but for God! For what God? What could be more senseless than what he said? He said we must not live for our needs – that is, we must not live for what we understand and what attracts us, what we wish for, but must live for something incomprehensible, for God whom nobody can understand or define.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1086).

“Nobody is free from doubt about other things, but nobody ever doubts this one thing, everybody always agrees with it.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1086).

“’Theodore says that Kirilov, the innkeeper, lives for his belly. That is intelligible and reasonable. We all, as reasoning creatures, cannot live otherwise. And then that same Theodore says that it is wrong to live for one’s belly, and that we must live for Truth, for God and at the first hint I understand him!” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1087).

“this knowledge cannot be explained by reason: it is outside reason, has no cause, and can have no consequences.
‘If goodness has a cause, it is no longer goodness if it has a consequence – a reward, it is also not goodness. Therefore goodness is beyond the chain of cause and effect.
‘It is exactly this that I know and that we all know.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1087).

“Having then for the first time clearly understood that before every man, and before himself, there lay only suffering, death, and eternal oblivion, he had concluded that to live under such conditions was impossible: that one must either explain life to oneself so that it does not seem to be an evil mockery by some sort of devil or one must shoot oneself.
But he had done neither the one nor the other, yet he continued to live, think, and feel, had even at that very time got married, experienced many joys, and been happy whenever he was not thinking of the meaning of his life.
What did that show? It showed that he had lived well, but thought badly.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1089).

“’I looked for an answer to my question. But reason could not give me an answer – reason is incommensurable with the question. Life itself has given me the answer, in my knowledge of what is good and what is bad. And that knowledge I did not acquire in any way, it was given to me as to everybody, given because I could not take it from anywhere.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1089).

“Not reason! Reason has discovered the struggle for existence and the law that I must throttle all those who hinder the satisfaction of my desires. That is the deduction reason makes. But the law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1090).

“’I shall still get angry with Ivan the coachman in the same way, shall dispute in the same way, shall inopportunely express my thoughts; there will still be a wall between my soul’s holy of bodies and other people; even my wife I shall still blame for my own fears and shall repent of it. My reason will still not understand why I pray, but I shall still pray, and my life, my whole life, independently of anything that may happen to me, is every moment of it no longer meaningless as it was before, but has an unquestionable meaning of goodness with which I have the power to invest it.” (Tolstoy, 2010, p. 1116).

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Now and then – Robert Penn Warren 1976

“And I, too, went on my way, the winning and losing, or what
Is sometimes of all things the worst, the not knowing
One thing from the other.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘American Portrait Old Style’, 1976, p.5).

“But what can you say -
Can you say – when all-to-be-said is the done?” (Robert Penn Warren ‘American Portrait Old Style’, 1976, p.6).

“Late, late, toward sunset, I wandered
Where old dreams had once been Life’s truth.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘American Portrait Old Style’, 1976, p.6).

“But why should I lie here longer?
I am not dead yet, though in years,
And the world’s way is yet long to go
And I love the world even in my anger
And love is a hard thing to outgrow.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘American Portrait Old Style’, 1976, p.7).

“And now, when all voices were stilled and the lamps
Long out in the tent, and stars
Had changed place in the sky, I yet lay
By the spring with one hand in the cold black water
That showed one star in reflection, alone – and lay
Wondering and wondering, how many
A morning would I rise up to greet
And what grace find.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Amazing grace in the back country’, 1976, p.10).

 “We found nothing to say, for what can a voice say when
The world is a voice, no ear needing.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Star-Fall’, 1976, p.24).

“Moonlight stumbles with bright heel
In the stream, and the stones sing.
What they sing is nothing, nothing,
But the joy Time plies to feel
In fraternal flux and glimmer
With the stream that does not know
Its destination and knows no
Truth but its own moonlit shimmer.
In my dream Time and water interflow,
And bubbles of consciousness glimmer ghostly as they go.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Dream of a Dream’, 1976, p.30).

 “All will be in vain unless – unless what? Unless
You realize that what you think is Truth is only

A husk for something else. Which might,
Shall we say, be called energy, as good a word as any. (…)


At night I have stood there, and the wide world
Was flat and circular under the storm of the

Geometry of stars. The mountains, in starlight, were black
And black-toothed to define the enormous circle

Of desert of which I was the center. This
Is one way to approach the question.

All is in vain unless you can, motionless, standing there,
Breathe with the rhythm of stars.

You cannot, of course, see your own face, but you know that it,
Lifted, is stripped to white bone by starlight. This is happening.

This is happiness.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Unless’, 1976, p.36).

“… I wake
From my dream, and know that the shadow

Of the great spruce close by my house must be falling
Black on the white roof of winter. The spruce
Wants to hide the house from the moon, for
The moon’s intentions have never been quite clear.

The spruce does not know that a square of moonlight lies cunningly on
The floor by my bed.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘The mission’, 1976, p.41).

“What does the veery say, at dusk in shad-thicket?
There must be some meaning, or why should your heart stop,

As though, in the dark depth of water, Time held its breath,
While the message spins on like a spool of silk thread fallen.


What meaning, when at the unexpected street corner,
You meet some hope long forgotten, and your old heart,

Like neon in shore fog, or distance, glows dimly again?
Will you waver, or clench stoic teeth and move on?” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Code Book Lost’, 1976, p.43).

“Yes, message on message, like wind or water, in light or in dark,
The whole world pours at us. But the code book, somehow, is lost.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Code Book Lost’, 1976, p.44).

“… You cannot pray. But
You can wash your face in cold water.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Sister Water, 1976, p.48).

“There are many things in the world and you
Are one of them. Many things keep happening and
You are one of them, and the happening that
Is you keeps falling like snow
On the landscape of not-you, hiding hideousness, until
The streets and the world of wrath are choked with snow.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Love recognized’, 1976, p.52).

“Mellow, mellow, at thrush-hour
Swells the note to redeem all – Sweat and swink and daytime’s rancor
And the thought that all’s not worth all.

Blue in distance while the sun dips,
Talus, cliff, and forest melt
Into the promise that soon sleep
Will heal the soul’s identity.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘The smile, 1976, p.53).

“This is the season when cards are exchanged, or
Addresses scribbled on paper, with ragged edges. Smiles
Are frozen with a mortuary precision to seal friendships. Time is up.” (Robert Penn Warren ‘Departure’, 1976, p.72).

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The two Gentlemen of Verona - William Shakespeare

Sir Proteus, save you. Saw you my master?
But now he parted hence, to embark for Milan.
Twenty to one, then, he is shipp’d already,
And I have play’d the sheep in losing him.
Indeed, a sheep doth very often stray,
An if the shepherd be awhile away.
You conclude that my master is a shepherd then,
And I a sheep?
I do.
Why, then, my horns are his horns, whether I
wake or sleep?
A silly answer, and fitting well a sheep.
This proves me still a sheep.
True; and thy master a shepherd.
Nay, that I can deny by a circumstance.
It shall go hard but I’ll prove it by another.
The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep
The shepherd; but I seek my master, and my
Master seeks not me: therefore I am no sheep.
The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd,
The shepherd for food follows not the sheep;
Thou for wages follows thy master, thy master
For wages follows not thee: therefore thou art a
Such another proof will make me cry ‘ba’.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.188).

Thus I have shunn’d the fire for fear of burning,
Ad drench’d me in the sea, where I am drowned.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.191).