Борис Пастернак [Boris Pasternak] by Anna Akhmatova

He who compared himself to the eye of a horse,

Peers, looks, sees, recognizes,

And instantly puddles shine, ice

Pines away, like a melting of diamonds.

 

Backyards drowse in lilac haze. Branch-

Line platforms, logs, clouds, leaves…

The engine’s whistle, watermelon’s crunch,

A timid hand in a fragrant kid glove. He’s

 

Ringing, thundering, grinding, up to his breast

In breakers… and suddenly is quiet… This means

He is tiptoeing over pine needles, feaful lest

He should startle space awake from its light sleep.

 

It means he counts the grains in the empty ears,

And it means he has come back

From another funeral, back to Darya’s

Gorge, the tombstone, cursed and black.

 

And burns again, the Moscow tedium,

In the distance death’s sleigh-bell rings…

Who has got lost two steps from home,

Where the snow is waist-deep, an end to everything?

 

Because he compared smoke with Laocoön,

Made songs out of graveyard thistles,

Because he filled the world with a sound no-one

Has heard before, in a new space of mirrored

 

Verses, he has been rewarded with a form

Of eternal childhood, with the stars’ vigilant love,

The whole earth has been passed down to him,

And he has shared it with everyone.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(19 January 1936)

from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

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Leisure by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

 

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

 

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

 

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

 

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

 

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

 

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

 

by William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)


William Henry Davies or W. H. Davies (3 July 1871 – 26 September 1940) was a Welsh poet and writer. Davies spent a significant part of his life as a tramp or hobo, in the United Kingdom and United States, but became one of the most popular poets of his time. The principal themes in his work are observations about life’s hardships, the ways in which the human condition is reflected in nature, his own tramping adventures and the various characters he met. Davies is usually considered one of the Georgian Poets, although much of his work is not typical of the group, in either style or theme.

A Working Homunculus Heart

I walked to work in the early morning and the air seemed to be on fire burning my nostrils with every breath made visible by expelled water vapour. I can still taste the dull mint of the toothpaste from twenty minutes ago as the ground beneath me seems to ripple, on the verge of perception, undulating beneath the frost of mid-Winter. I arrive at work and hear no one speaking while we wait to be let in. I feel my homunculus heart sink. I touch the machine switching it on and the static electricity stings me as it has done every day but I do not react.

Our marionette minds are not taxed by the labour. It is a simple, repetitive, task and in the dying days of this year it is only we who are expected to work though there is no urgency in the completion of our task. They are, however, more than willing to find us more to do so we are not ‘just sitting there twiddling our thumbs’ vacantly.

I recall being unemployed years ago and being told I should not pursue a job in publishing or any creative industry even as behind-the-scenes office staff. I was told this by an advisor in a government funded recruitment agency who would soon be fired but regain his job when the company that won the contact subcontracted it to their failing predecessors. It was two years later I finally got a job having to live with that comment. My heart was replaced by this homunculus sometime back then.

I do not work the whole day. I leave after six hours though I am told we can do just five in order to get a full day’s pay. It is the only act of defiance I can muster without cutting the red strings that bind me to this society down the road.

I had once been skilled in drawing but, with time preoccupied fulfilling others agendas for low pay, I found I had no time to do this and my marionette mind was enslaved by the puppet masters whose lives are their careers. I attempt to doodle occasionally but find where once there was scale and texture there is only a caricature line art not even worthy of being crossed out. My mind is plagued by the demons and dark thoughts accumulated through the passage of time. Nothing is done once work is finished. I lie rotting on the floor sheathed in the blue glow of the television in power saving mode as it rests.

I feel nothing. I care for nothing.

I am not living but merely existing nowadays.I am not human. I am not even humane. I am a homunculus.

A little man made less by society’s demands.

My homunculus heart is incomplete.

And yet it moves.


There is a PS2 game called ‘Haunting Ground‘ (‘Demento‘ in Japan) and a character in it called Daniella who is an artificially created servant (everyone else seems to be some sort of homunculus made by the alchemist, Lorenzo, so I assume she is too) who goes crazy and chases the main character around as the second stalker ‘boss’ of the ‘Clock Tower’ style game (Which it was initially going to be part of the series of before being made a stand alone title). It’s based on the sort of Gothic Romanticism in novels written by Anne Radcliffe (1764 – 1823) amongst others. Long story short the alchemist, Lorenzo, has kept himself alive via cloning/homunculus creation and wants to be reborn in the womb of the main Character Fiona. (Who he kidnapped and is his last living descendant so there is a bit of a creepy incest aspect to it too in thhe grand tradition of Gothic literature). In one of the bad endings one of his clones, Riccardo actually achieves it and you see Fiona sat docile in a chair about 8 months pregnant having apparently lost her will to resist…

People really liked the character of Daniella as a sort of tragic villian because although she was insane and trying to kill Fiona it was Lorenzo’s fault due to her maltreatment in his service by Riccardo. Unfortunately I can’t find a comprehensive video of all the scenes of dialogue but this one has a few of the key ones before Daniella starts chasing the main character around the castle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nkhy16_zsAQ

Oddly I have watched play throughs of it a few times but never played it myself. Sometimes I feel the urge to get an old copy and do so but I just don’t have time.

… and that is what inspired this vignette as silly as it may seem.