Day 67 – The Vanishing American Hobo

The Vanishing American Hobo (1960)
Jack Kerouac

The American Hobo has a hard time hoboing nowadays due to the increase in police surveillance of highways, railroad yards, sea shores, river bottoms, embankments and the thousand-and-one hiding holes of the industrial night. — In California, the pack rat, the original old type who goes walking from town to town with supplies and bedding on his back, the “Homeless Brother”, has practically vanished, along with the ancient gold-panning desert rat who used to walk with hope in his heart through struggling Western towns that are now so prosperous they don’t want old bums any more. — “Man dont want no pack rats here even though they founded California” said an old man hiding with a can of beans and an Indian fire in a river bottom outside Riverside California in 1955. — Great sinister tax-paid police cars (1960 models with humorless searchlights) are likely to bear down at any moment on the hobo in his idealistic lope to freedom and the hills of holy silence and holy privacy. — There’s nothing nobler than to put up with a few inconveniences like snakes and dust for the sake of absolute freedom.

I myself was a hobo but only of sorts, as you see, because I knew some day my literary efforts would be rewarded by social protection — I was not a real hobo with no hope ever except that secret eternal hope you get sleeping in empty boxcars flying up the Salinas Valley in hot January sunshine full of Golden Eternity towards San Jose where mean-looking old bo’s ‘ll look at you from surly lips and offer you something to eat and a drink too — down by the tracks or in the Guadaloupe Creek bottom.

The original hobo dream was best expressed in a lovely little poem mentioned by Dwight Goddard in his Buddhist Bible:

Oh for this one rare occurrence
Gladly would I give ten thousand pieces of gold!
A hat is on my head, a bundle on my back,
And my staff, the refreshing breeze and the full moon.

In America there has always been (you will notice the peculiarly Whitmanesque tone of this poem, probably written by old Goddard) a definite special idea of footwalking freedom going back to the days of Jim Bridger and Johnny Appleseed and carried on today by a vanishing group of hardy old timers still seen sometimes waiting in a desert highway for a short bus ride into town for panhandling (or work) and grub, or wandering the Eastern part of the country hitting Salvation Armies and moving on from town to town and state to state toward the eventual doom of big-city skid rows when their feet give out. — Nevertheless not long ago in California I did see (deep in the gorge by a railroad track outside San Jose buried in eucalyptus leaves and the blessed oblivion of vines) a bunch of cardboard and jerrybuilt huts at evening in front of one of which sat an aged man puffing his 15¢ Granger tobacco in his corncob pipe (Japan’s mountains are full of free huts and old men who cackle over root brews waiting for Supreme Enlightenment which is only obtainable through occasional complete solitude.)

In America camping is considered a healthy sport for Boy Scouts but a crime for mature men who have made it their vocation. — Poverty is considered a virtue among monks of civilized nations — in America you spend a night in the calaboose if you’re caught short without your vagrancy change (it was fifty cents last I heard of, Pard—-what now?)

In Brueghel’s time children danced around the hobo, he wore huge and raggy clothes and always looked straight ahead indifferent to the children, and the families didnt mind the children playing with the hobo, it was a natural thing. But today mothers hold tight to their children when the hobo passes through town because of what newspapers made the hobo to be — the rapist, the strangler, child-eater. — Stay away from strangers, they’ll give you poison candy. Though the Brueghel hobo and the hobo today are the same, the children are different. — Where is even the Chaplinesque hobo? The old Divine Comedy hobo? The hobo is Virgil, he leadeth. — The hobo enters the child’s world (like in the famous painting by Brueghel of a huge hobo solemnly passing through the washtub village being barked at and laughed at by children, St. Pied Piper) but today it’s an adult world, it’s not a child’s world. — Today the hobo’s made to slink — everybody’s watching the cop heroes on TV.

Benjamin Franklin was like a hobo in Pennsylvania; he walked through Philly with three big rolls under his arms and a Massachusetts halfpenny on his hat. — John Muir was a hobo who went off into the mountains with a pocketful of dried bread, which he soaked in creeks.

Did Whitman terrify the children of Louisiana when he walked the open road?

What about the Black Hobo? Moonshiner? Chicken snatcher? Remus? The black hobo in the South is the last of the Brueghel bums, children pay tribute and stand in awe making no comment. You see him coming out of the piney barren with an old unspeakable sack. Is he carrying coons? Is he carrying Br’er Rabbit? Nobody knows what he’s carrying.

The Forty Niner, the ghost of the plains, Old Zacatecan Jack the Walking Saint, the prospector, the spirits and the ghosts of hoboism are gone — but they (the prospectors) wanted to fill their unspeakable sacks with gold. — Teddy Roosevelt, political hobo—-Vachel Lindsay, troubadour hobo, seedy hobo — how many pies for one of his poems? The hobo lives in a Disneyland, Pete-the-Tramp land, where everything is human lions, tin men, moondogs with rubber teeth, orange-and-purple paths, emerald castles in the distance looming, kind philosophers of witches. — No witch ever cooked a hobo. — The hobo has two watches you can’t buy in Tiffany’s, on one wrist the sun, on the other wrist the moon, both bands are made of sky.

Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark,
The beggars are coming to town;
Some in rags, some in tags,
And some in velvet gowns.

The Jet Age is crucifying the hobo because how can he hop a freight jet? Does Louella Parsons look kindly upon hobos, I wonder? Henry Miller would allow the hobos to swim in his swimming pool. — What about Shirley Temple, to whom the hobo gave the Bluebird? Are the young Temples bluebirdless?

Today the hobo has to hide, he has fewer places to hide, the cops are all looking for him, calling all cars, calling all cars, hobos seen in the vicinity of Bird-in-Hand — Jean Valjean weighed with his sack of candelabra, screaming to youth, “There’s your sou, your sou!” Beethoven was a hobo who knelt and listened to the light, a deaf hobo who could not hear other hobo complaints. — Einstein the hobo with his ratty turtleneck sweater made of lamb, Bernard Baruch the disillusioned hobo sitting on a park bench with voice-catcher plastic in his ear waiting for John Henry, waiting for somebody very mad, waiting for the Persian epic. —

Sergei Esenin was a great hobo who took advantage of the Russian Revolution to rush around drinking potato juice in the backward villages of Russia (his most famous poem is called Confessions of a Bum) who said at the moment they were storming the Czar “Right now I feel like pissing through a window at the moon.” It is the egoless hobo that will give birth to a child someday — Li Po was a mighty hobo. — ego is the greatest hobo — Hail Hobo Ego! Whose monument someday will be a golden tin coffee can.

Jesus was a strange hobo who walked on water. —

Buddha was also a hobo who paid no attention to the other hobo. —

Chief Rain-In-The-Face, weirder even. —

W. C. Fields — his red nose explained the meaning of the triple world, Great Vehicle, Lesser Vehicle, Diamond Vehicle.

The hobo is born of pride, having nothing to do with a community but with himself and other hobos and maybe a dog. — Hobos by the railroad embankments cook at night huge tin cans of coffee. — Proud was the way a hobo walked through a town by the back doors where pies were cooling on window sills, the hobo was a mental leper, he didnt need to beg to eat, strong Western bony mothers knew his tinkling beard and tattered toga, come and get it! But proud be proud, still there was some annoyance because sometimes when she called come and get it, hordes of hobos came, ten or twenty at a time, and it was kind of hard to feed that many, sometimes hobos were inconsiderate, but not always, but when they were, they no longer held their pride, they became bums — they migrated to the Bowery in New York, to Scollay Square in Boston, to Pratt Street in Baltimore, to Madison Street in Chicago, to 12th Street in Kansas City, to Larimer Street in Denver, to South Main Street in Los Angeles, to downtown Third Street in San Francisco, to Skid Road in Seattle (“blighted areas” all) —

The Bowery is the haven for hobos who came to the big city to make the big time by getting pushcarts and collecting cardboard. — Lots of Bowery bums are Scandinavian, lots of them bleed easily because they drink too much. — When winter comes bums drink a drink called smoke, it consists of wood alcohol and a drop of iodine and a scab of lemon, this they gulp down and wham! they hibernate all winter so as not to catch cold, because they dont live anywhere, and it gets very cold outside in the city in winter. — Sometimes hobos sleep arm-in-arm to keep warm, right on the sidewalk. Bowery Mission veterans say that the beer-drinking bums are the most belligerent of the lot.

Fred Bunz is the great Howard Johnson’s of the bums — it is located on 277 Bowery in New York. They write the menu in soap on the windows. — You see the bums reluctantly paying fifteen cents for pig brains, twenty-five cents for goulash, and shuffling out in thin cotton shirts in the cold November night to go and make the lunar Bowery with a smash of broken bottle in an alley where they stand against a wall like naughty boys. — Some of them wear adventurous rainy hats picked up by the track in Hugo Colorado or blasted shoes kicked off by Indians in the dumps of Juarez, or coats from the lugubrious salon of the seal and fish. –Bum hotels are white and tiled and seem as though they were upright johns. — Used to be bums told tourists that they once were successful doctors, now they tell tourists they were once guides for movie stars or directors in Africa and that when TV came into being they lost their safari rights.

In Holland they dont allow bums, the same maybe in Copenhagen. But in Paris you can be a bum — in Paris bums are treated with great respect and are rarely refused a few francs. — There are various kinds of classes of bums in Paris, the high-class bum has a dog and a baby carriage in which he keeps all his belongings, and that usually consists of old France Soirs, rags, tin cans, empty bottles, broken dolls. — This bum sometimes has a mistress who follows him and his dog and carriage around. — The lower bums dont own a thing, they just sit on the banks of the Seine picking their nose at the Eiffel Tower. —

The bums in England have English accents, and it makes them seem strange — they don’t understand bums in Germany. — America is the motherland of bumdom. —

American hobo Lou Jenkins from Allentown Pennsylvania was interviewed at Fred Bunz’s on the Bowery. — “What you wanta know all this info for, what you want?”

“I understand that you’ve been a hobo travelin’ around the country.”

“How about givin’ a fella a few bits for some wine before we talk.”

“Al, go get the wine.”

“Where’s this gonna be in, the Daily News?”

“No, in a book.”

“What are you young kids doing here, I mean where’s the drink?”

“Al’s gone to the liquor store — You wanted Thunderbird, wasn’t it?”

“Yair.”

Lou Jenkins then grew worse—-“How about a few bits for a flop tonight?”

“Okay, we just wanta ask you a few questions like why did you leave Allentown?”

“My wife. — My wife, — Never get married. You’ll never live it down. You mean to say it’s gonna be in a book hey what I’m sayin’?”

“Come on say something about bums or something.”

“Well, whattya wanta know about bums? Lot of ’em around, kinda tough these days, no money — lissen, how about a good meal?”

“See you in the Sagamore.” (Respectable bums’ cafeteria at Third and Cooper Union.)

“Okay kid, thanks a lot.” — He opens the Thunderbird bottle with one expert flip of the plastic seal. — Glub, as the moon rises resplendent as a rose he swallows with big ugly lips thirsty to gulp the throat down, Sclup! and down goes the drink and his eyes be-pop themselves and he licks tongue on top lip and says “H-a-h!” And he shouts “Don’t forget my name is spelled Jenkins, J-e-n-k-y-n-s. –”

Another character — “You say that your name is Ephram Freece of Pawling New York?”

“Well, no, my name is James Russell Hubbard.”

“You look pretty respectable for a bum.”

“My grandfather was a Kentucky colonel.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.”

“Whatever made you come here to Third Avenue?”

“I really cant do it, I don’t care, I cant be bothered, I feel nothing, I dont care anymore. I’m sorry but –somebody stole my razor blade last night, if you can lay some money on me I’ll buy myself a Schick razor.”

“Where will you plug it in? Do you have such facilities?”

“A Schick injector.”

“Oh.”

“And I always carry this book with me – The Rules of St. Benedict. A dreary book, but well I got another book in my pack. A dreary book too I guess.”

“Why do you read it then?”

“Because I found it — I found it in Bristol last year.”

“What are you interested in? You like interested in something?”

“Well, this other book I got there is er, yee, er, a big strange book — you shouldn’t be interviewing me. Talk to that old nigra fella over there with the harmonica — I’m no good for nothing, all I want is to be left alone — ”

“I see you smoke a pipe.”

“Yeah — Granger tobacco. Want some?”

“Will you show me the book?”

“No, I aint got it with me, I only got this with me.” — He points to his pipe and tobacco.

“Can you say something?”

“Lightin flash.”

The American Hobo is on the way out as long as sheriffs operate with as Louis-Ferdinand Céline said, “One line of crime and nine of boredom,” because having nothing to do in the middle of the night with everybody gone to sleep they pick on the first human being they see walking. — They pick on lovers on the beach even. They just dont know what to do with themselves in those five-thousand-dollar police cars with the two-way Dick Tracy radios except pick on anything that moves in the night and in the daytime on anything that seems to be moving independently of gasoline, power, Army or police. — I myself was a hobo but I had to give it up around 1956 because of increasing television stories about the abominableness of strangers with packs passing through by themselves independently — I was surrounded by three squad cars in Tucson Arizona at 2 A.M. as I was walking pack-on-back for a night’s sweet sleep in the red moon desert:

“Where you goin’?”

“Sleep.”

“Sleep where?”

“On the sand.”

“Why?”

“Got my sleeping bag.”

“Why?”

“Studyin’ the great outdoors.”

“Who are you? Let’s see your identification.”

“I just spent a summer with the Forest Service.”

“Did you get paid?”

“Yeah.”

“Then why don’t you go to a hotel?”

“I like it better outdoors and it’s free.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m studying hobo.”

“What’s so good about that?”

They wanted an explanation for my hoboing and came close to hauling me in but I was sincere with them and they ended up scratching their heads and saying “Go ahead if that’s what you want.” — They didn’t offer me a ride four miles out to the desert.

And the sheriff of Cochise allowed me to sleep on the cold clay outside Bowie Arizona only because he didn’t know about it. —

There’s something strange going on, you cant even be alone any more in the primitive wilderness (“primitive areas” so-called), there’s always a helicopter comes and snoops around, you need camouflage. — Then they begin to demand that you observe strange aircraft for Civil Defense as though you knew the difference between regular strange aircraft and any kind of strange aircraft. — As far as I’m concerned the only thing to do is sit in a room and get drunk and give up your hoboing and your camping ambitions because there aint a sheriff or fire warden in any of the new fifty states who will let you cook a little meal over some burning sticks in the tule brake or the hidden valley or anyplace any more because he has nothing to do but pick on what he sees out there on the landscape moving independently of the gasoline power army police station. — I have no ax to grind: I’m simply going to another world.

Ray Rademacher, a fellow staying at the Mission in the Bowery, said recently, “I wish things was like they was when my father was known as Johnny the Walker of the White Mountains. — He once straightened out a young boy’s bones after an accident, for a meal, and left. The French people around there called him ‘Le Passant’ (He who passes through.)

The hobos of America who can still travel in a healthy way are still in good shape, they can go hide in cemeteries and drink wine under cemetery groves of trees and micturate and sleep on cardboards and smash bottles on the tombstones and not care and not be scared of the dead but serious and humorous in the cop-avoiding night and even amused and leave litters of their picnic between the grizzled slabs of Imagined Death, cussing what they think are real days, but Oh the poor bum of the skid row! There he sleeps in the doorway, back to wall, head down, with his right hand palm-up as if to receive from the night, the other hand hanging, strong, firm, like Joe Louis hands, pathetic, made tragic by unavoidable circumstance — the hand like a beggar’s upheld with the fingers forming a suggestion of what he deserves and desires to receive, shaping the alms, thumb almost touching finger tips, as though on the tip of the tongue he’s about to say in sleep and with that gesture what he couldnt say awake: “Why have you taken this away from me, that I cant draw my breath in the peace and sweetness of my own bed but here in these dull and nameless rags on this humbling stoop I have to sit waiting for the wheels of the city to roll,” and further, “I dont want to show my hand but in sleep I’m helpless to straighten it, yet take this opportunity to see my plea, I’m alone, I’m sick, I’m dying — see my hand up-tipped, learn the secret of my human heart, give me the thing, give me your hand, take me to the emerald mountains beyond the city, take me to the safe place, be kind, be nice, smile — I’m too tired now of everything else, I’ve had enough, I give up, I quit, I want to go home, take me home O brother in the night — take me home, lock me in safe, take me to where all is peace and amity, to the family of life, my mother, my father, my sister, my wife and you my brother and you my friend — but no hope, no hope, no hope, I wake up and I’d give a million dollars to be in my own bed — O Lord save me –” In evil roads behind gas tanks where murderous dogs snarl from behind wire fences cruisers suddenly leap out like getaway cars but from a crime more secret, more baneful than words can tell.

The woods are full of wardens.

Day 66 – Letter #4

Letters to a Young Poet
Letter # 4
Rainer Maria Rilke

Worpswede, near Bremen
July 16, 1903

About ten days ago I left Paris, tired and quite sick, and traveled to this great northern plain, whose vastness and silence and sky ought to make me well again. But I arrived during a long period of rain; this is the first day it has begun to let up over the restlessly blowing landscape, and I am taking advantage of this moment of brightness to greet you, dear Sir.

My dear Mr. Kappus: I have left a letter from you unanswered for a long time; not because I had forgotten it – on the contrary: it is the kind that one reads again when one finds it among other letters, and I recognize you in it as if you were very near. It is your letter of May second, and I am sure you remember it. As I read it now, in the great silence of these distances, I am touched by your beautiful anxiety about life, even more than when I was in Paris, where everything echoes and fades away differently because of the excessive noise that makes Things tremble. Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable. But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don’t hate anything. Sex is difficult; yes. But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious. If you just recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own talent and nature, out of your own experience and childhood and strength, to achieve a wholly individual relation to sex (one that is not influenced by convention and custom), then you will no longer have to be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your dearest possession.

     Bodily delight is a sensory experience, not any different from pure looking or the pure feeling with , which a beautiful fruit fills the tongue; it is a great, an infinite learning that is given to us, a knowledge of the world, the fullness and the splendor of all knowledge. And it is not our acceptance of it that is bad; what is bad is that most people misuse this learning and squander it and apply it as a stimulant on the tired places of their lives and as a distraction rather than as a way of gathering themselves for their highest moments. People have even made eating into something else: necessity on the one hand, excess on the other; have muddied the clarity of this need, and all the deep, simple needs in which life renews itself have become just as muddy. But the individual can make them clear for himself and live them clearly (not the individual who is dependent, but the solitary man). He can remember that all beauty in animals and plants is a silent, enduring form of love and yearning, and he can see the animal, as he sees plants, patiently and willingly uniting and multiplying and growing, not out of physical pleasure, not out of physical pain, but bowing to necessities that are greater than pleasure and pain, and more powerful than will and withstanding. If only human beings could more humbly receive this mystery which the world is filled with, even in its smallest Things, could bear it, endure it, more solemnly, feel how terribly heavy it is, instead of taking it lightly. If only they could be more reverent to ward their own fruitfulness, which is essentially one, whether it is manifested as mental or physical; for mental creation too arises from the physical, is of one nature with it and only like a softer, more enraptured and more eternal repetition of bodily delight. “The thought of being a creator, of engendering, of shaping” is nothing without its continuous great confirmation and embodiment in the world, nothing without the thousand-fold assent from Things and animals – and our enjoyment of it is so indescribably beautiful and rich only because it is full of inherited memories of the engendering and birthing of millions. In one creative thought a thousand forgotten nights of love come to life again and fill it with majesty and exaltation. And those who come together in the nights and are entwined in rocking delight perform a solemn task and gather sweetness, depth, and strength for the song of some future poet, who will appear in order to say ecstasies that are unsayable. And they call forth the future; and even if they have made a mistake and embrace blindly, the future comes anyway, a new human being arises, and on the foundation of the accident that seems to be accomplished here, there awakens the law by which a strong, determined seed forces its way through to the egg cell that openly advances to meet it. Don’t be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law. And those who live the mystery falsely and badly (and they are very many) lose it only for themselves and nevertheless pass it on like a sealed letter, without knowing it. And don’t be puzzled by how many names there are and how complex each life seems. Perhaps above them all there is a great motherhood, in the form of a communal yearning. The beauty of the girl, a being who (as you so beautifully say) “has not yet achieved anything,” is motherhood that has a presentiment of itself and begins to prepare, becomes anxious, yearns. And the mother’s beauty is motherhood that serves, and in the old woman there is a great remembering. And in the man too there is motherhood, it seems to me, physical and mental; his engendering is also a kind of birthing, and it is birthing when he creates out of his innermost fullness. And perhaps the sexes are more akin than people think, and the great renewal of the world will perhaps consist in one phenomenon: that man and woman, freed from all mistaken feelings and aversions, will seek each other not a opposites but as brother and sister, as neighbors, and will unite as human beings, in order to bear in common, simply, earnestly, and patiently, the heavy sex that has been laid upon them.

But everything that may someday be possible for many people, the solitary man can now, already, prepare and build with his own hands, which make fewer mistakes. Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away, you write, and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast. And if what is near you is far away, then your vastness is already among the stars and is very great; be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust. Avoid providing material for the drama, that is always stretched tight between parent and children; it uses up much of the children’s strength and wastes the love of the elders, which acts and warms even if it doesn’t comprehend Don’t ask for any advice from them and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.

It is good that you will soon be entering a profession that will make you independent and will put you completely on your own, in every sense. Wait patiently to see whether your innermost life feels hemmed in by the form this profession imposes. I myself consider it a very difficult and very exacting one, since it is burdened with enormous conventions and leaves very little room for a personal interpretation of its duties. But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths. All my good wishes are ready to accompany you, and my faith is with you

Yours,

Rainer Maria Rilke

Day 64 – Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities,
of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House.  But different
men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it
will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do
opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my
sentiments freely and without reserve.  This is no time for ceremony.
The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country.
For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of
freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject
ought to be the freedom of the debate.  It is only in this way that
we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility
which we hold to God and our country.  Should I keep back my opinions
at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself
as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty
toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope.
We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the
song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts.  Is this the part
of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty?
Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not,
and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their
temporal salvation?  For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost,
I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of
experience.  I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.
And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct
of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with
which  gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House.
Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?
Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet.  Suffer not yourselves
to be betrayed with a kiss.  Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our
petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and
darken our land.  Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and
reconciliation?  Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that
force must be called in to win back our love?  Let us not deceive ourselves,
sir.  These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to
which kings resort.  I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if
its purpose be not to force us to submission?  Can gentlemen assign any other
possible motive for it?  Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of
the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?  No, sir,
she has none.  They are meant for us:  they can be meant for no other.
They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British
ministry have been so long forging.  And what have we to oppose to them?
Shall we try argument?  Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years.
Have we anything new to offer upon the subject?  Nothing.  We have held the
subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain.
Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication?  What terms shall we
find which have not been already exhausted?  Let us not, I beseech you, sir,
deceive ourselves.  Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert
the storm which is now coming on.  We have petitioned; we have remonstrated;
we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have
implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and
Parliament.  Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced
additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded;
and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne!
In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and
reconciliation.  There is no longer any room for hope.  If we wish to be free--
if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which
we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble
struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged
ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest
shall be obtained--we must fight!  I repeat it, sir, we must fight!
An appeal to arms  and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable
an adversary.  But when shall we be stronger?  Will it be the next week,
or the next year?  Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British
guard shall be stationed in every house?  Shall we gather strength by
irresolution and inaction?  Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance
by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until
our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?  Sir, we are not weak if we make
a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.
The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a
country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy
can send against us.  Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone.
There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will
raise up friends to fight our battles for us.  The battle, sir, is not to the
strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.  Besides, sir,
we have no election.  If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late
to retire from the contest.  There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!
Our chains are forged!  Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston!
The war is inevitable--and let it come!  I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter.  Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--
but there is no peace.  The war is actually begun!  The next gale that sweeps
from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!
Our brethren are already in the field!  Why stand we here idle?
What is it that gentlemen wish?  What would they have?  Is life so dear,
or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take;
but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Day 63 – The Ecstasy

The Ecstasy
John Donne
Where, like a pillow on a bed
         A pregnant bank swell’d up to rest
The violet’s reclining head,
         Sat we two, one another’s best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
         With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
         Our eyes upon one double string;
So to’intergraft our hands, as yet
         Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
         Was all our propagation.
As ‘twixt two equal armies fate
         Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
         Were gone out) hung ‘twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
         We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
         And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin’d
         That he soul’s language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
         Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
         Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
         And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
         We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
         We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
         Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix’d souls doth mix again
         And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
         The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
         Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
         Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
         Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
         Of what we are compos’d and made,
For th’ atomies of which we grow
         Are souls, whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
         Our bodies why do we forbear?
They’are ours, though they’are not we; we are
         The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
         Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses’ force to us,
         Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven’s influence works not so,
         But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
            Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
         Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
         That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers’ souls descend
         T’ affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
         Else a great prince in prison lies.
To’our bodies turn we then, that so
         Weak men on love reveal’d may look;
Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
         But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
         Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
         Small change, when we’are to bodies gone.

Day 62 – Alone

Alone
By Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

I am Much Too Alone in this World, Yet not Alone
Rainer Maria Rilke

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother’s face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

 

Day 61 – The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life
By Albert Einstein

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow-creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.