In the Small Hours

by Thomas Hardy

I lay in my bed and fiddled
With a dreamland viol and bow,
And the tunes flew back to my fingers
I had melodied years ago.
It was two or three in the morning
When I fancy-fiddled so
Long reels and country-dances,
And hornpipes swift and slow.

And soon anon came crossing
The chamber in the gray
Figures of jigging fieldfolk –
Saviours of corn and hay –
To the air of “Haste to the Wedding,”
As after a wedding-day;
Yea, up and down the middle
In windless whirls went they!

There danced the bride and bridegroom,
And couples in a train,
Gay partners time and travail
Had longwhiles stilled amain! . . .
It seemed a thing for weeping
To find, at slumber’s wane
And morning’s sly increeping,
That Now, not Then, held reign.


By Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

“The power of coming up to the mark every night, with spirits and spirit, may co-exist with the nearest approach to sinking under it.”  ~ Charles Dickens

“If there is a book that you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Toni Morrison

“Whenever Mr Richardson thought himself sick, it was because he had not a pen in his hand.” ~ Elizabeth Carter

“To live is so startling that it leaves little time for anything else.” ~ Emily Dickinson

“But after all and above all it depends on who is diseased, who mad, who epileptic or paralytic: an average dull-witted man, in whose illness any intellectual or cultural aspect is non-existent; or a Nietzsche or Dostoyevsky. In their case something comes out in illness that is more important and conductive to life and growth than any medical guaranteed health or sanity… in other words: certain conquests made by the soul and the mind are impossible without disease, madness, crime of the spirit.” ~ Thomas Mann

“Is it not possible that the accent falls a little differently, that the moment of importance came before or after, that, if one were free and could set down what one chose, there would be no plot, little probability, and a vague general confusion in which the clear-cut features of the tragic, the comic, the passionate, and the lyrical were dissolved beyond the possibility of separate recognition? The mind, exposed to the ordinary course of life, receives upon its surface a myriad impressions–trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms, composing in their sum what we might venture to call life itself; and to figure further as the semi-transparent envelope, or luminous halo, surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. It is not perhaps the chief task of the novelist to convey this incessantly varying spirit with whatever stress or sudden deviation it may display, and as little admixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; but suggesting that the proper stuff for fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Modern Novels

“Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness. Let us not take it for granted that life exists more in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Modern Novels

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“Be one on whom nothing is lost.” ~ Henry James

“People may not read you at sight, may not like you, but there’s a chance they’ll come round, and the only way to court the chance is to keep it up—always to keep it up.” ~ The Tragic Muse, Henry James

“Experience, already reduced to a swarm of impressions, is ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality through which no real voice has ever pierced on its way to us, or from us, to hear that which we can only conjecture to be without.  Everyone of those impressions is of an individual in his isolation, each mind keeping a solitary prisoner in its own dream of a world.”  –Walter Pater

 “ut studiis se literarum a mortalitate vindicet”  (Seek in literature deliverance from mortality) ~ Pliny

“When winter is striven through, there is another year, whose wind is meek, and whose sun fulfilleth all.” ~ D.G. Rossetti

“Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” ~ Mark Twain

“Language is the main instrument of man’s refusal to accept the world as it is. . .ours is the ability, the need, to gainsay or unsay the world, to image and speak it otherwise.” ~ George Steiner

“My friend! Be not so solitary in preparing the banquet lest you die with hunger.” ~ Walter Pater

“All literature is a criticism of life.” ~ Matthew Arnold

“Not to love my university would be to undo the very buttons of my being.” ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins

“Constant toil is the law of art as it is of life. . .

To pass from conception to execution, to produce, to bring the idea to birth, to raise the child laboriously from infancy, to put it nightly to sleep surfeited, to kiss it in the morning with the hungry heart of a mother, to clean it, to clothe it fifty times over in new garments which it bears and casts away and yet not revolt against the trails of this agitated life—the unwearying maternal love, the habit of creation— this is execution and its toils.” ~ Balzac

“Thus considered, what a strange chaos is this wide atmosphere we breathe! Every atom, impressed with good and with ill, retains at once the motions which philosophers and sages have imparted to it, mixed and combined in ten thousand ways with all that is worthless and base. The air itself is one vast library, on whose pages are forever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered. There, in their mutable but unerring characters, mixed with the earliest, as well as with the latest sighs of mortality, stand for ever recorded, vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled, perpetuating in the united movements of each particle, the testimony of man’s changeful will.” ~  Charles Babbage, Ninth Bridgewater Treatise

“Give me truth, for I am weary of surfaces.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Veritatis simplex oratio est.” (The language of truth is simple) ~ Seneca

“You don’t know writers. . .They’ll use anything and anybody.  They’ll eat their own young.”  ~ Dennis Potter

“Not our logical, mensurative faculty, but our imaginative one is King over us. . .the understanding is indeed thy window. . .but fantasy is thy eye.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

“The only thing worth writing about is the development of the soul.” ~ Robert Browning

“To have memories of any kind is to be softened for an awareness of the past dissolves the tyranny of the present, creates a reality that is now vital and rich in interconnectedness that which fits in only an instant of time.” ~ James Marlow

“Those who can do, those who cannot and suffer because they can’t, write about it.” ~ William Faulkner

“All men are to an extent crusted over by idle matter.” ~ Charles Ruskin

“You cannot cross the narrow bridge of art with all the tools in your hand.  Some you must leave behind you or you will drop them in midstream, or what is worse, overbalance and be drowned yourself.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“By way of going in for anything that might be on the cards, I call to mind that Mr. Micawber, about this time, composed a petition to the House of Commons, praying for an alteration in the law of imprisonment for debt. I set down this remembrance here, because it is an instance to myself of the manner in which I fitted my old books to my altered life, and made stories for myself, out of the streets, and out of men and women; and how some main points in the character I shall unconsciously develop, I suppose, in writing my life, were gradually forming all this while.” ~ Charles Dickens (David Copperfield)

“The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies.” ~ George Eliot

“Language is fossil poetry.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Only connect! . . .Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.” ~ E.M. Forster, Howard’s End

“The characters is my novels are my own unrealized possibilities.  That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them.  Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.”  ~ Milan Kundera

“The object of a writer is not simply to write evermore diminutive domestic dramas about himself.  Rather it is to state, to elucidate, how we are all part of something larger, something grander.” ~ Thomas Sanchez

“One of the most obvious characteristics of works of literature is their manifest strangeness.” ~ J.Hillis Miller

“A writer’s injuries are his strengths and from his wounds will flow his sweetest, most startling dreams.” ~ Salman Rushdie

“Perhaps, I thought,  while her words still hung in the air between us like a wisp of tobacco smoke — a thought to fade and vanish like smoke without a trace — perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols; a hill of many invisible crests; doors that open as in a dream to reveal only a further stretch of carpet and another door; perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search,  each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

“What nobler marvels than the mind,/May in life’s daily prospect find,/ May find or there create?” “Peter Bell,” ~ William Wordsworth

“Are not our lives too short for that full utterance for which through all our stammering is of course our only and abiding intention?”  ~ Joseph Conrad

“To fill the hour—that is happiness.” ~ Emerson

“The undying scenes we can all see if we shut our eyes are not the scenes that we have stared at under the direction of guide-books; the scenes we see are the scenes at which we did not look at all — the scenes in which we walked when we were thinking about something else — about a sin, or a love affair, or some childish sorrow. We can see the background now because we did not see it then.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

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