But I don't understand. Why do you want me to think that this is great architecture? He pointed to the picture of the Parthenon. That, said the Dean, is the Parthenon. - So it is. - I haven't the time to waste on silly questions. - All right, then. - Roark got up, he took a long ruler from the desk, he walked to the picture. - Shall I tell you what's rotten about it? - It's the Parthenon! - said the Dean. - Yes, God damn it, the Parthenon! The ruler struck the glass over the picture. - Look, - said Roark. - The famous flutings on the famous columns - what are they there for? To hide the joints in wood - when columns were made of wood, only these aren't, they're marble. The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden shacks. Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are, making copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Why?
The saddest thing I have ever experienced is watching a fellow nerd I've known forever and befriended, trying to unnerdify themselves. It was painful because that great geeky personality I loved so much is hidden behind a plaster of trends, and he may end up with a girl who will never understand him.
Melanie Kay Taylor
Thomas Jefferson went through the New Testament and removed all the miracles, leaving only the teachings. Take a source, extract what appeals to you, discard the rest. Such an act of editorship is bound to reflect something of the individual doing the editing: a plaster cast of an aesthetic-not the actual thing, but the imprint of it.
We are all potentially such sick men. The sanest and best of us are of one clay with lunatics and prison-inmates. And whenever we feel this, such a sense of the vanity of our voluntary career comes over us, that all our morality appears as a plaster hiding a sore it can never cure, and all our well-doing as the hollowest substitute for that well-being that our lives ought to be grounded in, but alas! are not so.
Almost every day I can feel myself suffering mainly in the head, I can explain the pain to myself but knowing it comes from an inflammation of my imagination doesn't prevent it being reality itself. What's more I'd be crazy not to go crazy. We don't know what an illness is. On awful hurts we plaster little old words, as if we could think hell with a paper bandage.
Why is it that, when we want to think outside the proverbial box, we often put ourselves in one? We gather our team in a conference room, plaster the walls with sticky paper, and wait for the ideas to flow in a stream of marker scribbles. How often has your quest for innovation peaked at renovation - new dressing on old ideas?
In trying to escape the fatality of memory, he discovered with an immense sadness that pursuing the past inevitably only leads to greater loss. To hold a gesture, a smell, a smile was to cast it as one fixed thing, a plaster death mask, which as soon as it was touched crumbled in his figures back into dust.
Vishous: "...we both would slaughter anything that so much as startled you." Jane: "I'm scared of mice and spiders. But you don't need to use that gun on your hip to blow a hole in a wall if I ran into one, okay? Havaheart traps and rolled newspapers work just as well. Plus, you don't need a Sheetrock patch and plaster job afterward. I'm just saying.
I was too ashamed and afraid to confide in friends, and wanted to convince others and myself that my marriage was a success. I lost myself in my writing. Finding ways for my characters to overcome their problems and make their relationships work helped plaster over the wound caused by my inability to make things right at home.
When we believe that God hears us, it is but natural that we should be eager to hear Him. Only from Him can come the word which can speak peace to troubled spirits; the voices of men are feeble in such a case, a plaster far too narrow for the sore; but God's voice is power, He speaks and it is done, and hence when we hear Him our distress is ended.
Alas, God's poor ministers are just as much in the dark as we are. You must believe like old women believe, the ones that look like witches, who mumble to themselves in churches under the nose of cheap, plaster saints. As soon as you start to use your reason, to look for a rainbow, you always run up against the great excuse, mystery. You will be advised to light some candles, put coins in the box, say a few rosaries, and make yourself stupid.
Now then, if we were to go the lowest road and plaster my face on the bottle of oil and vinegar dressing just to line our pockets, it would sink. But to go the low road to get to the high road- shameless exploitation for charity, for the common good- now that's an idea worth the hustle, a reciprocal trade agreement.
I have always hated biography, and more especially, autobiography. If biography, the writer invariably finds it necessary to plaster the subject with praises, flattery and adulation and to invest him with all the Christian graces. If autobiography, the same plan is followed, but the writer apologizes for it.
You're awesome, remember that.' She continued, harsh and bitter. 'Who cares what anyone says about you? And they will talk shit. People are going to verbally destroy you, plaster your image all over the Net, say hateful things about you as if they're fact, and you need to be indifferent. Got that? You don't give a shit. About anything.' She removed her grip from his chin. 'Why?' 'Because I am awesome.
I took Eugene Sue's Arthur from the reading-room. It's indescribable, enough to make you vomit. You have to read this to realize the pitifulness of money, success, and the public. Literature has become consumptive. It spits and slobbers, covers its blisters with salve and sticking-plaster, and has grown bald from too much hair-slicking. It would take Christ of art to cure this leper.
I take leave of Prome and her towering god, Shwa Lan-dau, at whose base I have been laboring with the kindest intentions for the last three months and a half. Too firmly founded art thou to be overthrown at present; but the children of those who now plaster thee with gold will yet pull thee down, nor leave one brick upon another.
When I got home from hospital, and I was in a wheelchair in a plaster body cast, an aeroplane flew over. And I thought to myself, 'Well, if I can't walk, then I might as well fly.' And I was lifted into the aeroplane for the first time. And when I took the controls of the aeroplane, I knew this was something I could do. I thought, 'I can fly.'
Do not regard the feelings of a person who speaks to you about his neighbor disparagingly, but rather say to him: "Stop, brother! I fall into graver sins every day, so how can I criticize him? In this way you will achieve two things; you will heal yourself and your neighbor with one plaster. This is one of the shortest ways to the forgiveness of sins; I mean, not to judge. 'Judge not, and ye shall not be judged."
He never looks you straight in the eye; or if he does, it is somehow vaguely, indefinitely; he does not pierce you with the hawk's eye or the falcon's gaze of a cavalry officer. The reason for that is that he sees, at one and the same time, both your features and those of some plaster Hercules standing in his room, or else he imagines a painting of his own that he still means to produce. That is why his responses are often incoherent, not to the point, and the muddle of things in his head increases his timidity all the more.
As soon as she was close, she whispered, "you've got to get out of here." "No, you've got to get out of here," he told her. "Go downstairs. Go now." "No," she countered. "You go." "Why?" he asked. "You tell me first." But before they could say another word, the last elevator slid slowly open and two men in masks rushed out. From the opposite side of the of the ballroom, shots rang out, rapid fire, piercing the ceiling, plaster falling onto the dance floor like snow. And then Hale and Macey whispered in unison, "Because of that.
Berlin is a skeleton which aches in the cold: it is my own skeleton aching. I feel in my bones the sharp ache of the frost in the girders of the overhead railway, in the iron-work of balconies, in bridges, tramlines, lamp-standards, latrines. The iron throbs and shrinks, the stone and the bricks ache dully, the plaster is numb.
There is a part of me that no one ever sees. I hide behind a mask of heavy make-up and ever-changing hair and clothing. I try to reinvent myself. It doesn't work. There are times when I am bone-crushingly sad. I just want to curl into a ball and hide from the rest of the world. But, I plaster on a smile and play the game for my family and friends. They call me a free spirit. I wish I were free. I feel like I am imprisoned by my own mind.
If there is one thing I will never have, it is an eating disorder. I won't have girls -- even if it is just one or two who care -- thinking that. Because it is a serious sickness, not something to plaster on the cover of a magazine. And I am the opposite. I want girls to love themselves. I want them to feel good about who they areThe thing is, I'm lucky because I was loved. But I have seen so many young women who can't feel good about themselves because they just don't have that love.
I recognized the great monument from the illustration in the copy of /The Jungle Book/ that my mother kept in the top drawer of my bedside table. When I went with Sophia to the Taj Mahal for the first time, I was not as enchanted by the real mausoleum as I had been by its plaster, paint, and paper replica in the studio; the original posed a dreadfully seductive promise in cool marble of a strangely painful loveliness, a lover's lie that death itself might in some mysterious way, because of love, be lovely.
The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster-dust. (Housecleaners in that country earned unusually good wages.) If you lived in that country, you had to de-scale your kettle of its encrustation of magic at least once a week, because if you didn't, you might find yourself pouring hissing snakes or pond slime into your teapot instead of water.
Spaces devoted to Hannibal Lecter's earliest years differ from the other archives in being incomplete. Some are static scenes, fragmentary, like painted attic shards held together by blank plaster. Other rooms hold sound and motion, great snakes wrestling and heaving in the dark and lit in flashes. Pleas and screaming fill some places on the grounds where Hannibal himself cannot go. But the corridors do not echo screaming, and there is music if you like.
The schools wear the blank faces of war buildings, their windows blown blind by rocks or guns or mortars. Their plaster is an acne of bullet marks. The huts and small houses crouch open and vulnerable; their doors are flimsy pieces of plyboard or sacks hanging and lank. Children and chickens and dogs scratch in the red, raw soil and stare at us as we drive through their open, eroding lives.
Society conspires against her from early infancy. Her brain is steadily filled with plaster until it sets: 'If you're not married by the time you're twenty-five, you'll have good reason to be ashamed'; 'if you laugh, you won't look dignified' ; 'if your face betrays your feelings, you'll look coarse'; 'if you mention the existence of a single body hair, you're repulsive' ; 'if a boy kisses you on the cheek in public, you're a whore'; if you enjoy eating, you're a pig'; 'if you take pleasure in sleeping, you're no better than a cow'; and so on. These precepts would be merely anecdotal if they weren't taken so much to heart.
There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built on the log cabin idea. First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed, a charm felt in Japanese architecture....The quiet rhythmic monotone of the wall of logs fills one with the rustic peace of a secluded nook in the woods.
For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm. There are not many such books. All the rest is either topical trash or what some call the Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash coming in huge blocks of plaster that are carefully transmitted from age to age until somebody comes along with a hammer and takes a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann.
A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart - love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly. And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love - how good will conquer evil. A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.
John of Kronstadt
I devoured hot-dogs in Baltimore 'way back in 1886, and they were then very far from newfangled...They contained precisely the same rubber, indigestible pseudo-sausages that millions of Americans now eat, and they leaked the same flabby, puerile mustard. Their single point of difference lay in the fact that their covers were honest German Wecke made of wheat-flour baked to crispiness, and not the soggy rolls prevailing today, of ground acorns, plaster-of-Paris, flecks of bath-sponge, and atmospheric air all compact.
H. L. Mencken
When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night, the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.
When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night,the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.
In Pliny I read about the invention of clay modeling. A Sicyonian potter came to Corinth. There his daughter fell in love with a young man who had to make frequent long journeys away from the city. When he sat with her at home, she used to trace the outline of his shadow that a candle's light cast on the wall. Then, in his absence she worked over the profile, deepening, so that she might enjoy his face, and remember. One day the father slapped some potter's clay over the gouged plaster; when the clay hardened he removed it, baked it, and "showed it abroad" (63).
You are God. You want to make a forest, something to hold the soil, lock up energy, and give off oxygen. Wouldn't it be simpler just to rough in a slab of chemicals, a green acre of goo? You are a man, a retired railroad worker who makes replicas as a hobby. You decide to make a replica of one tree, the longleaf pine your great-grandfather planted- just a replica- it doesn't have to work. How are you going to do it? How long do you think you might live, how good is your glue? For one thing, you are going to have to dig a hole and stick your replica trunk halfway to China if you want the thing to stand up. Because you will have to work fairly big; if your replica is too small, you'll be unable to handle the slender, three-sided needles, affix them in clusters of three in fascicles, and attach those laden fascicles to flexible twigs. The twigs themselves must be covered by 'many silvery-white, fringed, long-spreading scales.' Are your pine cones' scales 'thin, flat, rounded at the apex?' When you loose the lashed copper wire trussing the limbs to the trunk, the whole tree collapses like an umbrella. You are a sculptor. You climb a great ladder; you pour grease all over a growing longleaf pine. Next, you build a hollow cylinder around the entire pine... and pour wet plaster over and inside the pine. Now open the walls, split the plaster, saw down the tree, remove it, discard, and your intricate sculpture is ready: this is the shape of part of the air. You are a chloroplast moving in water heaved one hundred feet above ground. Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen in a ring around magnesium... you are evolution; you have only begun to make trees. You are god- are you tired? Finished?
I don't know if you realize this, but there are some researchers - doctors - who are giving this kind of drug to volunteers, to see what the effects are, and they're doing it the proper scientific way, in clean white hospital rooms, away from trees and flowers and the wind, and they're surprised at how many of the experiments turn sour. They've never taken any sort of psychedelic themselves, needless to say. Their volunteers - they're called 'subjects, ' of course - are given mescaline or LSD and they're all opened up to their surroundings, very sensitive to color and light and other people's emotions, and what are they given to react to? Metal bed-frames and plaster walls, and an occasional white coat carrying a clipboard. Sterility. Most of them say afterward that they'll never do it again.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?-Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks glasses! of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster- tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone?
When the sun shouts and people abound One thinks there were the ages of stone and the age of bronze And the iron age; iron the unstable metal; Steel made of iron, unstable as his mother; the tow-ered-up cities Will be stains of rust on mounds of plaster. Roots will not pierce the heaps for a time, kind rains will cure them, Then nothing will remain of the iron age And all these people but a thigh-bone or so, a poem Stuck in the world's thought, splinters of glass In the rubbish dumps, a concrete dam far off in the mountain...
Teddy was reminded of Paterson, but that polyglot population had appeared healthier, more hopeful, the American mood more fertile then in its promises, and the streets of Silk City with their little yards holding a fuchsia bush or a blue-robed plaster statue of the Virgin more livable than these stacked, stinking, ill-lit dens. He had been a part of the population then, a schoolboy immersed in its details of competition and expectation and childish collusion and hierarchy, alive in its struggle and too absorbed to judge or pity, whereas now he came upon it from outside, from above, as an agent of power and ownership, an enforcer and avenger, the representative of the system which squeezed the lowly by the same iron laws whereby it generation profits for the lucky and strong.
The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like sticky plaster-dust. (House-cleaners in that country earned unusually good wages.) If you lived in that country, you had to de-scale your kettle of its encrustation of magic at least once a week, because if you didn't, you might find yourself pouring hissing snakes or pond slime into your teapot instead of water. (It didn't have to be anything scary or unpleasant, especially in a cheerful household - magic tended to reflect the atmosphere of the place in which it found itself - but if you want a cup of tea, a cup of lavender-and-gold pansies or ivory thimbles is unsatisfactory.)
There are gentle souls who would pronounce Lolita meaningless because it does not teach them anything. I am neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction, and, despite John Ray's assertion, Lolita has no moral in tow. For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm. There are not many such books. All the rest is either topical trash or what some call the Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash coming in huge blocks of plaster that are carefully transmitted from age to age until somebody comes along with a hammer and takes a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann.
O'Shaughnessy is hitting Denholt on the side of his head with his free arm, great, walloping, pile-driver blows. The two of them stagger together, like partners in a crazy dance. Glass is breaking all around them. Gray smoke from the six shots, pink-and-white dust from the chipped brick-and-plaster walls, swirl around them in a rainbow haze. Something vividly green flares up from one of the overturned retorts, goes right out again. O'Shaughnessy tears the emptied gun away, flings it off somewhere. More breaking glass, and this time a tart pungent smell that makes the nostrils sting. The crunch of pulverized tube glass underfoot makes it sound as if they were scuffling in sand or hard-packed snow. ("Jane Brown's Body")
Aegean Islands 1940-41 Where white stares, smokes or breaks, Thread white, white of plaster and of foam, Where sea like a wall falls; Ribbed, lionish coast, The stony islands which blow into my mind More often than I imagine my grassy home; To sun one's bones beside the Explosive, crushed-blue, nostril-opening sea (The weaving sea, splintered with sails and foam, Familiar of famous and deserted harbours, Of coins with dolphins on and fallen pillars.) To know the gear and skill of sailing, The drenching race for home and the sail-white houses, Stories of Turks and smoky ikons, Cry of the bagpipe, treading Of the peasant dancers; The dark bread The island wine and the sweet dishes; All these were elements in a happiness More distant now than any date like '40, A. D. or B. C., ever can express.
March 1898 What a strange dream I had last night! I wandered in the warm streets of a port, in the low quarter of some Barcelona or Marseille. The streets were noisome, with their freshly-heaped piles of ordure outside the doors, in the blue shadows of their high roofs. They all led down towards the sea. The gold-spangled sea, seeming as if it had been polished by the sun, could be seen at the end of each thoroughfare, bristling with yard-arms and luminous masts. The implacable blue of the sky shone brilliantly overhead as I wandered through the long, cool and sombre corridors in the emptiness of a deserted district: a quarter which might almost have been dead, abruptly abandoned by seamen and foreigners. I was alone, subjected to the stares of prostitutes seated at their windows or in the doorways, whose eyes seemed to ransack my very soul. They did not speak to me. Leaning on the sides of tall bay-windows or huddled in doorways, they were silent. Their breasts and arms were bare, bizarrely made up in pink, their eyebrows were darkened, they wore their hair in corkscrew-curls, decorated with paper flowers and metal birds. And they were all exactly alike! They might have been huge marionettes, or tall mannequin dolls left behind in panic - for I divined that some plague, some frightful epidemic brought from the Orient by sailors, had swept through the town and emptied it of its inhabitants. I was alone with these simulacra of love, abandoned by the men on the doorsteps of the brothels. I had already been wandering for hours without being able to find a way out of that miserable quarter, obsessed by the fixed and varnished eyes of all those automata, when I was seized by the sudden thought that all these girls were dead, plague-stricken and putrefied by cholera where they stood, in the solitude, beneath their carmine plaster masks... and my entrails were liquefied by cold. In spite of that harrowing chill, I was drawn closer to a motionless girl. I saw that she was indeed wearing a mask... and the girl in the next doorway was also masked... and all of them were horribly alike under their identical crude colouring... I was alone with the masks, with the masked corpses, worse than the masks... when, all of a sudden, I perceived that beneath the false faces of plaster and cardboard, the eyes of these dead women were alive. Their vitreous eyes were looking at me... I woke up with a cry, for in that moment I had recognised all the women. They all had the eyes of Kranile and Willie, of Willie the mime and Kranile the dancer. Every one of the dead women had Kranile's left eye and Willie's right eye... so that every one of them appeared to be squinting. Am I to be haunted by masks now?
My lack of faith in God is not a dilapidated house. It does not need to be razed to the ground or burned down to cinders. I refuse to be the wounded woman on a cross that you crucify with your disapproval like nails; I will only be the woman who believes in thunderstorms the same way lightning loves the tops of trees it strikes every time it gets tired of being pent up in an unforgiving sky, the only difference is that I believe these are natural weather phenomenons, not God's belly rumbling or synapses firing. When my doorway is filled with groups of people wielding religious conversion pamphlets like crossbows, I will be the martyr who steps aside to let the arrows crack through the plaster in my wall instead of piercing my chest. This is not a eulogy to the believer I could have been. This is a battle cry to the believer I always have been, believer in sunsets like splashes of paint, handholding like willow branches brushing one another, new mornings after old nights spent drowning in despair, believer in love as an entire language instead of a single word. Just because my beliefs align themselves on a different spectrum does not mean they are the wrong wavelength or color. And even though I think the universe was created by the Big Bang instead of a God with magic dust shooting from his fingertips, my universe does not contain fewer stars.
To Have Without Holding: Learning to love differently is hard, love with the hands wide open, love with the doors banging on their hinges, the cupboard unlocked, the wind roaring and whimpering in the rooms rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds that thwack like rubber bands in an open palm. It hurts to love wide open stretching the muscles that feel as if they are made of wet plaster, then of blunt knives, then of sharp knives. It hurts to thwart the reflexes of grab, of clutch, to love and let go again and again. It pesters to remember the lover who is not in the bed, to hold back what is owed to the work that gutters like a candle in a cave without air, to love consciously, conscientiously, concretely, constructively. I can't do it, you say it's killing me, but you thrive, you glow on the street like a neon raspberry, You float and sail, a helium balloon bright bachelor's buttons blue and bobbing on the cold and hot winds of our breath, as we make and unmake in passionate diastole and systole the rhythm of our unbound bonding, to have and not to hold, to love with minimized malice, hunger and anger moment by moment balanced.
Above all, he encourages her to paint, nodding with approval at even her most unusual experiments with color, light, rough brushwork [... ]. She explains to him that she believes painting should reflect nature and life [... ]. He nods, although he adds cautiously that he wouldn't want her to know too much about life - nature is a fine subject, but life is grimmer than she can understand. He thinks it is good for her to have something satisfying to do at home; he loves art himself; he sees her gift and wants her to be happy. He knows the charming Morisots. He has met the Manets, and always remarks that they are a good family, despite e‰douard's reputation and his immoral experiments (he paints loose women), which make him perhaps too modern - a shame, given his obvious talent. In fact, Yves takes her to many galleries. They attend the Salon every year, with nearly a million other people, and listen to the gossip about favorite canvases and those critics disdain. Occasionally they stroll in the museums in the Louvre, where she sees art students copying paintings and sculpture, even an unchaperoned woman here and there (surely Americans). She can't quite bring herself to admire nudes in his presence, certainly not the heroic males; she knows she will never paint from a nude model herself. Her own formal training was in the private studios of an academican, copying from plaster casts with her mother present, before she married.
Inching into the room, it's clear something is wrong here. There's a tingling sensation up my legs and back before I can even really focus on the parlor's details. There are silhouettes of people, but I can see through them. It's like shadows were cast and left behind to do as they please. Lost in the surreal sight of them for a moment, I inch further into the room without noticing that some were now moving behind me. There is no warning. I'm suddenly in the air, and moving backward rapidly toward the wall. It's almost a full second before my body registers the actual pain of the blow my stomach just took. Being hit by a car doesn't even compare to this, and I didn't even see it coming. 'For a shadow, you hit like a sledgehammer!' The words barely escape before something else slams into the base of my skull embedding most of my upper body in the wall and all but removing my head. These things are like Lucy; the disembodied dead who haven't moved on. I've never met others that can actually touch things physically, they must be fairly potent. I pull my face out of the hole it had been planted in, letting plaster dust fall, coating my chest and legs like snow. Looking around quickly I try to gauge my surroundings. I can't see them, but I know they're there. Is one easy night, without a huge dry-cleaning bill, too much to ask for these days? I only have time to dwell on it a moment before my head is bouncing off the hardwood floor; once, twice, and then a third time in quick succession. Now 'pick splinters out of my forehead' can be added to my Saturday night to-do list. Damn it, this is not going as planned.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago-never mind how long precisely-having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off-then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me. There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs-commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there. Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?-Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster-tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here? But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand-miles of them-leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues-north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither? Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries-stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.
The studio was immense and gloomy, the sole light within it proceeding from a stove, around which the three were seated. Although they were bold, and of the age when men are most jovial, the conversation had taken, in spite of their efforts to the contrary, a reflection from the dull weather without, and their jokes and frivolity were soon exhausted. In addition to the light which issued from the crannies in the stove, there was another emitted from a bowl of spirits, which was ceaselessly stirred by one of the young men, as he poured from an antique silver ladle some of the flaming spirit into the quaint old glasses from which the students drank. The blue flame of the spirit lighted up in a wild and fantastic manner the surrounding objects in the room, so that the heads of old prophets, of satyrs, or Madonnas, clothed in the same ghastly hue, seemed to move and to dance along the walls like a fantastic procession of the dead; and the vast room, which in the day time sparkled with the creations of genius, seemed now, in its alternate darkness and sulphuric light, to be peopled with its dreams. Each time also that the silver spoon agitated the liquid, strange shadows traced themselves along the walls, hideous and of fantastic form. Unearthly tints spread also upon the hangings of the studio, from the old bearded prophet of Michael Angelo to those eccentric caricatures which the artist had scrawled upon his walls, and which resembled an army of demons that one sees in a dream, or such as Goya has painted; whilst the lull and rise of the tempest without but added to the fantastic and nervous feeling which pervaded those within. Besides this, to add to the terror which was creeping over the three occupants of the room, each time that they looked at each other they appeared with faces of a blue tone, with eyes fixed and glittering like live embers, and with pale lips and sunken cheeks; but the most fearful object of all was that of a plaster mask taken from the face of an intimate friend but lately dead, which, hanging near the window, let the light from the spirit fall upon its face, turned three parts towards them, which gave it a strange, vivid, and mocking expression. All people have felt the influence of large and dark rooms, such as Hoffmann has portrayed and Rembrandt has painted; and all the world has experienced those wild and unaccountable terrors - panics without a cause - which seize on one like a spontaneous fever, at the sight of objects to which a stray glimpse of the moon or a feeble ray from a lamp gives a mysterious form; nay, all, we should imagine, have at some period of their lives found themselves by the side of a friend, in a dark and dismal chamber, listening to some wild story, which so enchains them, that although the mere lighting of a candle could put an end to their terror, they would not do so; so much need has the human heart of emotions, whether they be true or false. So it was upon the evening mentioned. The conversation of the three companions never took a direct line, but followed all the phases of their thoughts; sometimes it was light as the smoke which curled from their cigars, then for a moment fantastic as the flame of the burning spirit, and then again dark, lurid, and sombre as the smile which lit up the mask from their dead friend's face. At last the conversation ceased altogether, and the respiration of the smokers was the only sound heard; and their cigars glowed in the dark, like Will-of-the-wisps brooding o'er a stagnant pool. It was evident to them all, that the first who should break the silence, even if he spoke in jest, would cause in the hearts of the others a start and tremor, for each felt that he had almost unwittingly plunged into a ghastly reverie. ("The Dead Man's Story")
James Hain Friswell