David's Commonplace Book

Man’s mind – what is it but a convex glass

Wherein are gathered all the scatter’d points

Picked out of the immensity of sky,

To reunite there, be our heaven on earth,

Our known unknown, our God revealed to man?

 

Extract from Book X ‘The Ring and the Book’ by Robert Browning

 

Ithaca

 

When you set out for Ithaca,

Ask that the journey be long,

Full of adventuress, full of discovery.

The Laestrygonians and the Cyclops,

Angry Poseidon – do not fear them.

Such as these you will not find on your way

If you have elevated thoughts,

If choice emotions touch your spirit and flesh.

The Laestrygonians, Cyclops,

Wild Poseidon you will n ot meet

Unless you carry them in your heart,

Unless your heart sets them in your path.

 

Pray that your journey be long

That there may be many summer mornings

When with what joy, what delight

You enter harbours you have not seen before;

And will stop at Phoenician trading stations

To acquire fine merchandise,

Mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

Sensual perfumes of every kind –

As many sensual perfumes as you can.

Visit many Egyptian cities

To gather stories of knowledge from the learned.

 

Keep Ithaca always in your mind,

Your destination is to arrive there;

But do not hurry your journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

That you may cast anchor at that island

When you are old,

Rich with all you have gained along the way,

Not expecting that Ithaca will make you wealthy;

Ithaca gave you that splendid journey;

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.

You have acquired such wisdom, so much wisdom,

That you will already understand what these Ithacas mean.

 

Kavakis (translated)

 

“She will have brightened up the world for a great many people; she will have brought the ideal nearer to them, held it fast for an hour with its feet on earth and its great wings trembling. That’s always something, for blessed is he who has dropped even the smallest coin into the little iron box that contains the precious savings of mankind. Miriam will doubtless have dropped a big gold piece. It will be found in the general scramble, on the day the race goes bankrupt. And then, for herself, she will have had a great go at life.”

 

Gabriel; Nash on Miriam Roth in ‘The Tragic Muse’ by Henry James

 

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