...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Agenbite of inwit. Inwit's agenbite. Misery! Misery!"

These are the two most heartbreaking, poignant, melancholy passages of Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (the first passage) and Ulysses by James Joyce (the second). In the Joyce passage, "agenbite of inwit" is a Middle English phrase meaning "remorse of conscience;" "me" is Stephen Dedalus and "she" is his younger sister. Having brought himself out of the misery of his family and home, Stephen feels at once obligated to save his sister, drowning in poverty, and suffocated by the possibly that she might pull him back down with her. Reading the Jacob's Room passage was one of the few times I've cried this semester, so evocative is it of how I was feeling at the end of last semester.

****

…For she had loved too; and been a fool.

“One’s grandmother ought to have told one,” said Fanny, looking in at the window of Bacon, the mapseller, in the Strand—told one that it was no use making a fuss; this is life, they should have said, as Fanny said it now, looking at the large yellow globe marked with steamship lines.

“This is life. This is life,” said Fanny.

"A very hard face," though Miss Barrett, on the other side of the glass, buying maps of the Syrian desert and waiting impatiently to be served. "Girls look old so soon nowadays."

The equator swam behind tears.

"Piccadilly?" Fanny asked the conductor of the omnibus, and climbed to the top. After all, he would, he must, come back to her.

But Jacob might have been thinking of Rome; of architecture; of jurisprudence; as he sat under the plane tree in Hyde Park.

****

She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death.

We.

Agenbite of inwit.

Inwit's agenbite.

Misery! Misery!