Dawn in New York
The Dawn! The Dawn! The crimson-tinted comes
Out of the low still skies, over the hills,
Manhattan's roofs and spires and cheerless domes!
The Dawn! My spirit to its spirit thrills.
Almost the mighty city is asleep,
No pushing crowd, no tramping, tramping feet.
But here and there a few cars groaning creep
Along, above, and underneath the street,
Bearing their strangely-ghostly burdens by,
The women and the men of garish nights,
Their eyes wine-weakened and their clothes awry,
Grotesques beneath the strong electric lights.
The shadows wane. The Dawn comes to New York.
And I go darkly-rebel to my work.
-Claude McKay (1889 - 1948)
Aeneid (Book VII, lines 358 - 369)
Talking among themselves they came to the house of the impoverished Evander, and saw cattle here and there, lowing where the Roman Forum and the fashionable Carinae would be. When they reached the house, Evander said: "Victorious Hercules stooped to entering this doorway, this palace charmed him. My guest, dare to scorn wealth, and make yourself worthy too to be a god: don’t be scathing about the lack of possessions." He spoke, and led mighty Aeneas beneath the confines of his sloping roof, and allotted him a mattress stuffed with leaves, and the pelt of a Libyan bear: Night fell, and embraced the earth with her darkening wings.
-Publius Vergilius Maro [i.e. Vergil] (70 - 19 BCE)
Grand Central Station
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
-Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967)
Roman Road of Santa Agueda
“What should I say that there is for the living, as fame is denied
and the uncommon reader loves his times?”
Without doubt envy has these customs, Regulus:
that one always prefers the old to the new.
Thus, we seek the old shade of undeserving Pompey;
thus, old men praise the cheap temples of Catullus.
Ennius has been read for you, Rome, when Maro was alive,
even his own contemporaries laughed at Maeonides,
few theaters clapped for crowned Menander,
only Corinna knew her own Naso.
Still, you, oh my little books, don’t hurry:
if glory comes after life’s courses, I am in no hurry.
-Marcus Valerius Martialis [i.e. Martial] (41 - 104)
What These Children Are Like
Education is all a matter of building bridges, it seems to me. Environment is bouncing everything off everybody in this country. It is wide open; television is around. You see antennas on shacks, electric iceboxes on back porches, with the electricity brought in from a neighbor’s pole, cars are flying around, jazz musicians are invading the backwoods with modifications of language, verbal as well as musical, new styles of dress are being introduced.
-Ralph Ellison (1914 - 1994)
Pont du Gard
Metamorphoses (Book IX, lines 96 - 97)
Young men depart for they do not wait until streams have peace and quiet pools and all waters subside.
-Publius Ovidius Naso [i.e. Ovid] (43 BCE - 18 CE)
The Crowd at the Ball Game
The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly
by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them —
all the exciting detail
of the chase
and the escape, the error
the flash of genius —
all to no end save beauty
the eternal -
So in detail they, the crowd,
to be warned against
saluted and defied —
It is alive, venomous
it smiles grimly
its words cut —
The flashy female with her
mother, gets it —
The Jew gets it straight - it
is deadly, terrifying —
It is the Inquisition, the
It is beauty itself
day by day in them
the power of their faces
It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is
cheering, the crowd is laughing
-William Carlos Williams (1883 - 1963)
Dialogue about the Orators, XXIX
Now truly the particular and peculiar vices of this City seem to me to be conceived in the mother’s womb, a liking for actors and a zeal for gladiators and horses. How little of a place does the mind preoccupied and obsessed with such things leave for noble arts? How many and whom do you find who discusses anything else at home? What other conversations of kids do we intercept, if ever we entered their classrooms? Not even teachers have any more crowded stories with their own listeners.
-Publius Cornelius Tacitus [i.e. Tacitus] (56 - 117)
Statue of Liberty
Touched by an Angel
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
-Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)
Marble Bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian from Olympia, Greece
Farewell to the Soul
Little soul little stray
now where will you stay
all pale and all alone
after the way
you used to make fun of things.
—Publius Aelius Hadrianus (76 - 138)
*Excerpt from The Augustan History and translation by W.S. Merwin
I exist in between now,
between being killed
and being undead,
between life on earth
and life beyond it,
between all time,
which has no beginning
and no end
and all space,
which is both a seedling,
as well as the sun.
It yearns for
all that is available to me.
-Toni Morrison (1931 - present)
“I am human, and nothing of humanity I consider foreign to me."
-Publius Terentius Afer [i.e. Terrence] (195 - 159 BCE)