Autumn 2020

David Sorich (Flickr/dsorich)
David Sorich (Flickr/dsorich)

We should build parks that students from afar
Would choose to starve in, rather than go home …
We must have many Lincoln-hearted men.

—Vachel Lindsay, “On the Building of Springfield,” 1912

When the researchers posed as pedestrians waiting to cross a street, all the drivers in cheap cars respected their right of way, while those in expensive cars drove right on by 46.2 percent of the time, even when they’d made eye contact with the pedestrian waiting to cross. … When [the Berkeley psychologists] left a jar of candy at the entrance to their lab with a sign saying whatever was left over would be given to kids at a nearby school, they found that wealthier people stole more candy from the babies.

—Christopher Ryan, “Why Are Rich People So Mean?” Wired, September 2019

Too much rain
loosens trees.
In the hills giant oaks
fall upon their knees.
You can touch parts
you have no right to—
places only birds
should fly to.

—Kay Ryan, “Crown,” 2000

[W]hen I think of all the books I have read, and of the wise words I have heard spoken, and of the anxiety I have given to parents and grandparents, and of the hopes that I have had, all life weighed in the scales of my own life seems to me a preparation for something that never happens.

—W. B. Yeats, Reveries Over Childhood and Youth, 1915

How this oozing away hurts notwithstanding the pumpkins and the glaciale of frost and the onslaught of books and pictures and music and people. It is finished, Zarathustra says; and one goes to the Canoe Club and has a couple of Martinis and a pork chop and looks down the spaces of the river and participates in the disintegration, the decomposition, the rapt finale.

—Wallace Stevens to José Rodriguez Feo, October 25, 1948

I remembered, of course, that the World’s Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people—with the singlemindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

“My father’s name is Ezra B. Miller,” he announced. “My father ain’t in Europe; my father’s in a better place than Europe.”

Winterbourne imagined for a moment that this was the manner in which the child had been taught to intimate that Mr. Miller had been removed to the sphere of celestial reward. But Randolph immediately added, “My father’s in Schenectady.”

—Henry James, Daisy Miller, 1879

To my mind there is scarcely a more splendid beast in the world than a large Locomotive: if it loses something of mystery through being the work of man, it surely gains in a corresponding degree the pride of possession. I cannot imagine a finer sight than the Express, with two engines, rushing down this incline at the edge of dusk.

—Beatrix Potter, September 26, 1892

One need not be a Chamber—to be Haunted—
One need not be a House—
The Brain has Corridors—surpassing
Material Place—

—Emily Dickinson, 1863

Perhaps there are tasks that octopuses find it hard to learn. Or perhaps they just have better things to do.

Captive octopuses appear to be aware of their captivity; they adapt to it but also resist it. When they try to escape, which is often, they tend to wait for a moment they aren’t being watched. Octopuses have flooded laboratories by deliberately plugging valves in their tanks with their arms. At the University of Otago, an octopus short-circuited the electricity supply—by shooting jets of water at the aquarium lightbulbs—so often that it had to be released back into the wild.

—Amia Srinivasan, “The Sucker! the Sucker!” London Review of Books, September 2017

Thunder scares. Lightning lets us see. Then,
Heads covered, we wait for rain. Dear Lord,
Let me watch for his arrival and hang my head

And shake it like a man who’s lost and lived.
Something keeps trying, but I’m not killed yet.

—Jericho Brown, “Psalm 150,” 2014

[In 1952] Senator Smith was asked by an interviewer: “I know you don’t want to be President, Senator Smith, but suppose you woke up one morning and found yourself in the White House, what would you do?”

“Well,” said Margaret [Chase ]Smith, in her sober down-East twang, “I’d go straight to Mrs. Truman and apologize, and then I’d go home.”

—Susan J. Tolchin, Women in Congress, 1917–1976, 1976

Hurled headlong flaming from th’ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition …
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames

No light, but rather darkness visible …

—John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.

—Samuel Johnson

Mast-fruiting trees spend years making sugar, and rather than spending it little by little, they stick it under the proverbial mattress, banking calories as starch in their roots. …

If one [nut] tree fruits, they all fruit—there are no soloists. Not one tree in a grove, but the whole grove; not one grove in the forest, but every grove; all across the county and all across the state. The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t yet know. But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together. All flourishing is mutual.

—Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 2013

Always make time for baseball.

—Pablo Casals to Yo-Yo Ma

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Anne Matthews is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


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