Lo! and behold and hear!
Hearken to his song!
Out come the nightingales,
right about the guns.
Presently a misty moon came up,
a nightingale began to sing…
It was strange to stand there and listen,
for the song seemed to come
all the more sweetly and clearly
in the quiet intervals between
the firing. There was something
infinitely sweet and sad about it,
as if the countryside
were singing gently to itself,
in the midst of all our noise
and confusion and muddy work;
so that you felt the nightingale’s song
was the only real thing
which would remain when all the rest
was long past and forgotten.
Gradually the night wore on,
until day began to break,
and I could see clearly the daisies
in the long grass about my feet.
(From a letter from the Western Front, 1915.)
Owls move in a buoyant manner, as if
lighter than air, herons seem incumbered
with too much sail for their light bodies.
The green-finch exhibits such languishing
and faltering gestures as to appear
like a wounded and dying bird.
Fernowls, or goat-suckers, glance in the dusk
over the tops of trees like a meteor;
starlings as it were swim along. White-throats
use odd jerks and gesticulations
over the tops of hedges and bushes,
woodpeckers fly volatu undosu,
opening and closing their wings at
every stroke, and so are always rising
or falling in curves.
(English naturalist Gilbert White, 1778)
Dear mother dad sweetheart gang wife
hubby girls boys old kid
How are you? I am fine
happy lonesome sad broke flying
high enjoying the desert
Wish I had you a letter more ambition
someone to love me more sleep
Things are wonderful lovely exciting
I have seen the mountains the desert
lots of pretty girls
lots of handsome men
the desert sunset desert wildflowers
Doing lots of sightseeing loafing
sleeping hiking sun-bathing
swimming golfing celebrating
playing tennis bicycle riding
I rode horseback to Palm Canyon
on the Skyline trail in the moonlight
on the desert on the Araby trail
to Andreas Canyon to Seven Palms
I’m staying at the
I danced at
I dined at
Will be seeing you away a little longer
thinking of you writing you again
hitting the hay stepping out
Yours ‘till the cows come home
with love forever sincerely
(The Lazy Person’s Correspondence Card from Palm Springs)
I feel a great love for grass, thorns in the palm
of the hand, ears red against the sun,
and the little feathers of bottles.
Not only does all this delight me,
but also the grapevines and the donkeys
that crowd the sky.
In the sky
are donkeys with parrot heads, grass and sand
from the beach, all about to explode, all clean,
incredibly objective, and the scene
is awash in an indescribable blue,
the green, the red and yellow of a parrot,
an edible white, the metallic white
of a stray breast. How beautiful!
dear sir! Yessirree, you must be rich.
If I were you I would be your whore
to cajole you and steal peseta notes
to dip in donkey piss…
with a little money, with five hundred
pesetas, we could bring out an issue
of the ANTI-ARTISTIC magazine
and shit on everyone and everything
from the Orfeo Catalan to Juan Ramon.
(From Salvador Dali’s letter to Federico Garcia Lorca, December 1927)
It makes me remember
all the times we’ve been together
absolutely alone in some suspended hour
a holiday from Time
prowling about in those quiet places
alienated from past and future
where there is no sound save listening
and vision is an anesthetic…
When I see how handsome you are
my stomach will fall
with many unpleasant emotions
like a cake with too many raisins
and I will want to shut you up in a closet
like a dress too beautiful to wear.
(Zelda Fitzgerald writes to her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1931. Submitted by Grace Andreacchi)
off duty without a friend, a hobby to console me,
or the price of a cinema ticket, what can I do?
I enter a little shop down the road, furtively,
and ask the woman for my favourite brand.
I sneak back to my room and lock the door
against everyone. Then out comes the teaspoon
I filched from the dining room. I indulge in an orgy
of onions, gherkins, piccalilli, mustard and spice.
Yes, I finish the whole jar. Then I wash my hands,
clean my teeth, and can face the world. Maybe
it’s because pickles aren’t provided in our meals.
Or maybe my nature requires still more acid.
Mother says the vinegar will dry up my blood
and I’ll be preserved. But, oh, what a glorious end.
(From a letter to an old edition of Woman magazine. Submitted by Angela Readman)
I know I am not the only woman in the world
with a sort of hurt feeling about fruit shops.
The windows are always so full of delicious
looking fruit. The rosiest of apples, succulent
black grapes, oranges and grapefruit that make
my mouth water. The greenest of watercress,
and sprightly mustard cress just ask for a plate
of thin bread and butter and a cup of strong tea.
Brussel sprouts are so neat and compact.
And every potato is round, neat and eyeless,
– just right to bake with half a dozen of its brothers.
Why is it then, when I get home with my basket
I find little shapeless many eyed potatoes, sprouts
dirty and loose-leaved, cress yellow and limp?
I know every fruit and vegetable can’t be perfect.
But I think some of the window fruit should get
into the shopping basket more often – in fact I know.
(From a letter to Woman magazine in the late 1940s. Submitted by Angela Readman)
Mummy, I’m not afraid to die.
Why do you talk of dying
and you so young
do you want a lollipop?
No, but I shall be with Peter and June.
Mummy, let me tell you about my dream last night.
Darling, I’ve no time now. Tell me again later.
No, Mummy, you must listen.
I dreamt I went to school
and there was no school there.
Something black had come down all over it.
You mustn’t have chips for supper for a bit.
The next day off to school went her daughter
as happy as ever.
In the communal grave she was buried
with Peter on one side
and June on the other.
(From an account of 10-year-old Eryl Mai’s premonition of the 1966 Aberfan avalanche disaster)
My Most Illustrious Lord,
I know how, in the course of the siege of a terrain,
to remove water from the moats and how to make
an infinite number of bridges, mantlets
and scaling ladders and other instruments
necessary to such an enterprise.
I have also types of cannon, most convenient
and easily portable, with which to hurl small stones
almost like a hail-storm; and the smoke from the cannon
will instil a great fear in the enemy
on account of the grave damage and confusion.
I have means of arriving at a designated
spot through mines and secret winding passages
constructed completely without noise, even if
it should be necessary to pass underneath
moats or any river.
Also I will make cannon, mortar and light ordnance
of very beautiful and functional design
that are quite out of the ordinary.
I will assemble catapults, mangonels,
trebuckets and other instruments of wonderful
efficiency not in general use.
And should a sea battle be occasioned,
I have examples of many instruments
which are highly suitable either in attack
or defence, and craft which will resist the fire
of all the heaviest cannon and powder and smoke.
Also I can execute sculpture in marble,
bronze and clay. Likewise in painting, I can do
everything possible as well as any other.
From a letter Leonardo da Vinci wrote to Ludovico Sforza around 1483, commending himself for court employment. Via Letters of Note. Submitted by Gabriel Smy.
Learn to say “Fuck You”
to the world once in a while.
You have every right to.
Just stop thinking, worrying,
looking over your shoulder,
wondering, doubting, fearing,
hoping for some easy way out,
struggling, gasping, confusing,
itching, scratching, mumbling,
scrambling, hatching, bitching,
groaning, horse-shitting, nit-picking,
evil-eyeing, back-scratching, grinding
grinding grinding away at yourself.
Stop it. Don’t worry about cool.
Make your own uncool.
Make your own, your own world.
Letter from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse, quoted in Michael Kimmelman, The Accidental Masterpiece (Penguin Books, 2006). Submitted by Howie Good.