1. She looked over his shoulder
    For vines and olive trees,
    Marble well-governed cities
    And ships upon untamed seas,
    But there on the shining metal
    His hands had put instead
    An artificial wilderness
    And a sky like lead.

    A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
    No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
    Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
    Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
    An unintelligible multitude,
    A million eyes, a million boots in line,
    Without expression, waiting for a sign.

    Out of the air a voice without a face
    Proved by statistics that some cause was just
    In tones as dry and level as the place:
    No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
    Column by column in a cloud of dust
    They marched away enduring a belief
    Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

    She looked over his shoulder
    For ritual pieties,
    White flower-garlanded heifers,
    Libation and sacrifice,
    But there on the shining metal
    Where the altar should have been,
    She saw by his flickering forge-light
    Quite another scene.

    Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
    Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
    And sentries sweated for the day was hot:

    A crowd of ordinary decent folk
    Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
    As three pale figures were led forth and bound
    To three posts driven upright in the ground.

    The mass and majesty of this world, all
    That carries weight and always weighs the same
    Lay in the hands of others; they were small
    And could not hope for help and no help came:
    What their foes like to do was done, their shame
    Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
    And died as men before their bodies died.

    She looked over his shoulder
    For athletes at their games,
    Men and women in a dance
    Moving their sweet limbs
    Quick, quick, to music,
    But there on the shining shield
    His hands had set no dancing-floor
    But a weed-choked field.

    A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
    Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
    Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
    That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
    Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
    Of any world where promises were kept,
    Or one could weep because another wept.

    The thin-lipped armorer,
    Hephaestos, hobbled away,
    Thetis of the shining breasts
    Cried out in dismay
    At what the god had wrought
    To please her son, the strong
    Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
    Who would not live long.

    W.H. Auden

  2. My love is of a birth as rare
    As ’tis for object strange and high;
    It was begotten by Despair
    Upon Impossibility.

    Magnanimous Despair alone
    Could show me so divine a thing
    Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown,
    But vainly flapp’d its tinsel wing.

    And yet I quickly might arrive
    Where my extended soul is fixt,
    But Fate does iron wedges drive,
    And always crowds itself betwixt.

    For Fate with jealous eye does see
    Two perfect loves, nor lets them close;
    Their union would her ruin be,
    And her tyrannic pow’r depose.

    And therefore her decrees of steel
    Us as the distant poles have plac’d,
    (Though love’s whole world on us doth wheel)
    Not by themselves to be embrac’d;

    Unless the giddy heaven fall,
    And earth some new convulsion tear;
    And, us to join, the world should all
    Be cramp’d into a planisphere.

    As lines, so loves oblique may well
    Themselves in every angle greet;
    But ours so truly parallel,
    Though infinite, can never meet.

    Therefore the love which us doth bind,
    But Fate so enviously debars,
    Is the conjunction of the mind,
    And opposition of the stars.

  3. “When the judicial is united to the executive power, it is scarce possible that justice should not frequently be sacrified to, what is vulgarly called, politics. The persons entrusted with the great interests of the state may, even without any corrupt views, sometimes imagine it necessary to sacrifice to those interests the rights of a private man. But upon the impartial administration of justice depends the liberty of every individual, the sense which he has of his own security. In order to make every individual feel himself perfectly secure in the possession of every right which belongs to him, it is not only necessary that the judicial should be separated from the executive power, but that it should be rendered as much as possible independent from that power”. 

    Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
  4. Who made the world?
    Who made the swan, and the black bear?
    Who made the grasshopper?
    This grasshopper, I mean-
    the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
    I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
    which is what I have been doing all day.
    Tell me, what else should I have done?
    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    Mary Oliver

  5. Tú no tienes nombre.
    Tal vez nada lo tenga.

    Pero hay tanto humo repartido en el mundo,
    tanta lluvia inmóvil,
    tanto hombre que no puede nacer,
    tanto llanto horizontal,
    tanto cementerio arrinconado,
    tanta ropa muerta
    y la soledad ocupa tanta gente,
    que el nombre que no tienes me acompaña
    y el nombre que nada tiene crea un sitio
    en donde está de más la soledad.

    Roberto Juarroz

  6. I sat there singing her
    Songs in the dark.

    She said;
    ‘I do not understand
    The words’.

    I said;
    ‘There are
    No words’.

    Langston Hughes

  7. Harlequin without his mask is known to present a very sober countenance, and was himself, the story goes, the melancholy patient whom the Doctor advised to go and see Harlequin — a man full of cares and perplexities like the rest of us, whose Self must always be serious to him, under whatever mask or disguise or uniform he presents it to the public..

    William Makepeace Thackeray, Jonathan Swift
  8. If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.

    U.S. Supreme Court in re “Stanley vs. Georgia”
  9. The progress of science in furnishing the government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wire tapping. Ways may some day be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home.

    Louis D. Brandeis, in re “Olmstead vs. United States” (1928)
  10. When forty winters shall besiege thy brow
    And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
    Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
    Will be a tattered weed, of small worth held.
    Then being asked where all thy beauty lies—
    Where all the treasure of thy lusty days—
    To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes
    Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
    How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use
    If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine
    Shall sum my count and make my old excuse”,
    Proving his beauty by succession thine.
    This were to be new made when thou art old,
    And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

    William Shakespeare

  11. Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
    And I was filled with such delight
    As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
    Winging wildly across the white
    Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

    Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
    And beauty came like the setting sun:
    My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
    Drifted away … O, but Everyone
    Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

    Siegfried Sassoon

  12. Under the wide and starry sky
    Dig the grave and let me lie:
    Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.

    This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
    Here he lies where he long’d to be;
    Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.

  13. Remember me when I am gone away,
    Gone far away into the silent land;
    When you can no more hold me by the hand,
    Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
    Remember me when no more day by day
    You tell me of our future that you planned:
    Only remember me; you understand
    It will be late to counsel then or pray.
    Yet if you should forget me for a while
    And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
    For if the darkness and corruption leave
    A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
    Better by far you should forget and smile
    Than that you should remember and be sad.

    Christina Rossetti

  14. To be happy in this life, as much as the wretchedness of our nature will permit, what do we need? To be indulgent.

    Voltaire, Treatise on Toleration
  15. We soon forget the crowd of victims who have fallen in the course of innumerable battles, not only because this is a destiny inevitable in war, but because those who thus fell might also have given death to their enemies, and did not lose their lives without defending themselves. Where the danger and the advantage are equal, our wonder ceases, and even pity itself is in some measure lessened; but where the father of an innocent family is delivered up to the hands of error, passion, or fanaticism; where the accused person has no other defense but his virtue; where the arbiters of his destiny have nothing to risk in putting him to death but their having been mistaken, and where they may murder with impunity by decree, then every one is ready to cry out, every one fears for himself, and sees that no person’s life is secure in a court erected to watch over the lives of citizens, and every voice unites in demanding vengeance.

    Voltaire, Treatise on Toleration


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