Showing 91 - 100 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack
Woolf wonders why illness "has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature." After all, illness is a consuming personal experience that brings about great "spiritual change." Why do we write only about the mind and ideas? Why not the body?
Woolf takes us through the experience of lying in bed ill; the world looks different, feels different, is different. "It is only the recumbent who know what, after all, Nature is at no pains to conceal--that she in the end will conquer." Toward the end of this short essay, Woolf discusses how illness changes our reading habits. We turn to poetry, instead of prose.
Summary:The old sit "on the porch in rockers / Letting the faded light / Of afternoon carry them off." The narrator visualizes them mulling over the past as they rock back and forth. Although the old people cover "ground / They did not know was there," they learn nothing new in this. They receive no redemptive message, not even "a reason / To make it seem worthwhile." In fact, evening comes and soon it will be time for them to go to their solitary beds and fall into the "sheepless / Pastures of a long sleep."
The poet stands before an ancient Lycian tomb, upon which is carved the sorrowful face of a woman: "One woman garbed in sorrow’s every mood." He reflects on the constancy of loss in human life. He asks the woman to weep for him, also, because [I] "Share thy stilled sadness, which must ever be / Too changeless, and unending like my own . . . . "
Though the Lycian woman’s grief is old, the poet’s is young. He has lost a child: "With that too human wail in pain expressed, / The parent cry above the empty nest." He is skeptical about dreams of a better life. He rejects "The first confusing, mad bewilderment, / Life’s unbelief in death . . . . " Death is real and final. He concludes with full understanding that "life is but a tender instrument / Whereon the master hand of grief doth fall."
Starchenko, a country doctor, and Lyzhin, an acting coroner, travel through a snowstorm to reach the village of Syrna, where they are to hold an inquest regarding the death of Lesnitsky. Three days earlier, Lesnitsky had shot himself in the office of the village council.
When the two officials finally arrive after sundown, the witnesses have gone home for tea; only the talkative old constable remains. Starchenko and Lyzhin eventually proceed to the von Taunitz mansion for comfortable quarters and an evening of entertainment. The storm is so severe that the next day they remain at the mansion, rather than conducting the inquest.
On the third day, as they prepare to return to the village, where the witnesses have been waiting for them, they see the old constable standing in the snow. "Very restive them peasants are," he says. "Have pity on them, kind sirs."
The poet describes a loving scene "entwined with you / on the long sofa . . . . " She playfully clips hairs from her husband’s nose as they listen to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Later the same year, he kills himself, "you were dead / by your own hand . . . / I have never understood."
On the night before Easter, a traveler waits to cross the river to a monastery. Finally, a lay brother named Jerome brings the ferry across. As the ferry moves slowly to the other bank, Jerome reveals his sadness over the death of Nicholas, a fellow monk who wrote beautiful prayers for saints’ days. "Can you tell me, kind master," Jerome asks, "why it is that even in the presence of great happiness a man cannot forget his grief?"
Jerome loved Nicholas who was very quiet, kind and tender, not at all like the other monks, who are loud and harsh. At the monastery the traveler participates in services throughout the night, then returns to the ferry after sunrise on Easter morning. Jerome is still working the ferry. His promised relief has not arrived.
Gerald has just married into a close knit Kentucky family. So when the kin receive word that Ory, one of his wife’s brothers, was shot by his girlfriend, Gerald gets the job of driving to Nebraska to pick him up. When he arrives in Wahoo, the Indian doctor at the hospital tells him that Ory had a "blood clot" and died.
The sheriff takes Gerald to the jail to meet Ory’s girlfriend, who shot him in an argument about a wig. Later, he decides to take Ory back to Kentucky. Two days later he arrives home with the corpse covered with dirt in the back of his pickup. "The stench was bad and getting worse." (p. 31)
A poem in a patient’s voice. He brings "a minor issue" to the doctor’s attention, something so trivial he ought not mention it. The doctor sees so many more important problems, like John Butler who "had a terrible / case of prostate cancer." He went downhill so quickly, unlike the patient’s mother who "died of old age / the way it should be, just pooped out . . . . " She didn’t have "the big C." In any case, the patient’s problem "probably / isn’t much of anything. Don’t you agree?"
This tale is subtitled, "A Provincial’s Story." The narrator is Misail Poloznev, who lives in a provincial town with his father, an uninspired architect, and his sister, Cleopatra. Misail has no interest in the standard, clerical-type employment of gentlemen, but wishes to earn his living by manual labor. This is outrageous! It is totally immoral for a gentleman to cross the line and act like a common workman. When Misail goes to work for Radish the painter and contractor, his father first has the local governor warn the young man that he had better shape up or the genteel community will make him an outcast; when Misail persists, his father disowns him.
Misail’s friend, Dr. Blagovo, is a physician who articulates the beliefs of many of Russian intellectuals: "In this land of ours cultural life hasn’t even begun. There’s that same savagery that existed five hundred years ago." Through Dr. Blagovo, Misail meets Masha Dolzhikov, the engineer’s daughter. By falling in love with the idea of working the land and helping the peasants, she falls in love with and marries Misail, who embodies her ideal. They move to the country and try to farm, but the peasants cheat them. Masha tries to start a school for peasant children, but the peasants sabotage her plan. Finally, she gives up and moves to Petersburg, eventually asking Misail for a divorce.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra has fallen in love with Dr. Blagovo, who gets her pregnant and leaves. The outcast brother and sister then live together, until Cleopatra dies of tuberculosis after having the baby. Years later, Misail continues his principled career as a workman and cares for his orphaned niece.
Matvey Terekhov lives with his cousin Yakov, who runs an inn. Matvey was once extremely religious and ascetic, but now has left asceticism behind. Yakov, on the other hand, is obsessively religious. At one point Matvey initiates an argument with Yakov about a religious issue. Yakov is overcome with anger and Aglaya, Yakov’s wife, hits Matvey over the head with a bottle, and kills him. Husband and wife are sent to prison in Siberia. While Yakov loses his faith after the murder, he regains it in prison.