Conrad Aiken Quotes

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About Conrad Aiken

Conrad Potter Aiken (5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973) was an American writer and poet.

Born: August 5th, 1889

Died: August 17th, 1973

Categories: American poets, Unitarians, 1970s deaths

Quotes: 68 sourced quotes total

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Words (count)459 - 230
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All lovely things will have an ending, All lovely things will fade and die, And youth, that's now so bravely spending, Will beg a penny by and by.
Music I heard with you was more than music, And bread I broke with you was more than bread; Now that I am without you, all is desolate; All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Conrad Aiken
• I, This section is also known as "Bread and Music"
• Source: Wikiquote: "Conrad Aiken" (Quotes, Discordants (1916): Published in Turns and Movies and Other Tales in Verse (1916) )
Separate we come, and separate we go, And this be it known, is all that we know.
And the shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves Interlace with low voices and footsteps and sunlight To divide us forever.
Conrad Aiken
• Source: Wikiquote: "Conrad Aiken" (Quotes, Chance Meetings (1917): Originally published as section VII of "Variations" in Contemporary Verse, Vol. 3, No. 5 (May 1917), p. 86)
The wandering one, the inquisitive dreamer of dreams, The eternal asker of answers, stands in the street, And lifts his palms for the first cold ghost of rain.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!— But time goes on, and will, unheeding, Though hands will reach, and eyes will yearn, And the wild days set true hearts bleeding.
In the mazes of loitering people, the watchful and furtive, The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves, In the drowse of the sunlight, among the low voices, I suddenly face you
Conrad Aiken
• Source: Wikiquote: "Conrad Aiken" (Quotes, Chance Meetings (1917): Originally published as section VII of "Variations" in Contemporary Verse, Vol. 3, No. 5 (May 1917), p. 86)
I do believe in this evolution of consciousness as the only thing which we can embark on, or in fact, willy-nilly, are embarked on; and along with that will go the spiritual discoveries and, I feel, the inexhaustible wonder that one feels, that opens more and more the more you know. It’s simply that this increasing knowledge constantly enlarges your kingdom and the capacity for admiring and loving the universe.
Death is a meeting place of sea and sea.
In one room, silently, lover looks upon lover, And thinks the air is fire.
From some, the light was scarcely more than a gloom: From some, a dazzling desire.
Something had changed—but it was not the street— The street was just the same—it was himself.
'When you are dead your spirit will find my spirit, And then we shall die no more.'
Lovers walk in the noontime by that fountain. Pigeons dip their beaks to drink from the water. And soon the pond must freeze.
We flow, we descend, we turn . . . and the eternal dreamer Moves among us like light, like evening air . . .
We reach vague-gesturing hands, we lift our heads, Hear sounds far off,—and dream, with quivering breath, Our curious separate ways through life and death.
My veins are afire with music, Her eyes have kissed me, my body is turned to light; I shall dream to her secret heart tonight...
His thoughts were blown and scattered like leaves; He thought of the pail . . . Why, then, was it forgotten? Because he would not need it?
A chorus of elfin voices blowing about me Weaves to a babel of sound. Each cries a secret. I run among them, reach out vain hands, and drown.
Weave, weave, weave, you streaks of rain! I am dissolved and woven again... Thousands of faces rise and vanish before me. Thousands of voices weave in the rain.
Each gleaming point of light is like a seed Dilating swiftly to coiling fires. Each cloud becomes a rapidly dimming face, Each hurrying face records its strange desires.
There, in the high bright window he dreams, and sees What we are blind to,—we who mass and crowd From wall to wall in the darkening of a cloud.
The poet walked alone in a cold late rain, And thought his grief was like the crying of sea-birds; For his lover was dead, he never would love again.
Our hands are hot and raw with the stones we have laid, We have built a tower of stone high into the sky, We have built a city of towers.
'I am the one who stood beside you and smiled, Thinking your face so strangely young . . . ' 'I am the one who loved you but did not dare.'
The young boy whistles, hurrying down the street, The young girl hums beneath her breath. One goes out to beauty, and does not know it. And one goes out to death.
Was forty, then, too old for work like this? Why should it be? He'd never been afraid— His eye was sure, his hand was steady . . . But dreams had meanings.
Through soundless labyrinths of dream you pass, Through many doors to the one door of all. Soon as it's opened we shall hear a music: Or see a skeleton fall . . .
The wind shrieks, the wind grieves; It dashes the leaves on walls, it whirls then again; And the enormous sleeper vaguely and stupidly dreams And desires to stir, to resist a ghost of pain.
My heart has become as hard as a city street, The horses trample upon it, it sings like iron, All day long and all night long they beat, They ring like the hooves of time.
My heart is torn with the sound of raucous voices, They shout from the slums, from the streets, from the crowded places, And tunes from the hurdy-gurdy that coldly rejoices Shoot arrows into my heart.
Before him, numberless lovers smiled and talked. And death was observed with sudden cries, And birth with laughter and pain. And the trees grew taller and blacker against the skies And night came down again.
O sweet clean earth, from whom the green blade cometh! When we are dead, my best belovèd and I, Close well above us, that we may rest forever, Sending up grass and blossoms to the sky.
Two lovers move in the crowd like a link of music, We press upon them, we hold them, and let them pass; A chord of music strikes us and straight we tremble; We tremble like wind-blown grass.
We were all born of flesh, in a flare of pain, We do not remember the red roots whence we rose, But we know that we rose and walked, that after a while We shall lie down again.
He would not yield, he thought, and walk more slowly, As if he knew for certain he walked to death: But with his usual pace,—deliberate, firm, Looking about him calmly, watching the world, Taking his ease . . .
'One white rose . . . or is it pink, to-day?' They pause and smile, not caring what they say, If only they may talk. The crowd flows past them like dividing waters. Dreaming they stand, dreaming they walk.
And, growing tired, we turn aside at last, Remember our secret selves, seek out our towers, Lay weary hands on the banisters, and climb; Climbing, each, to his little four-square dream Of love or lust or beauty or death or crime.
'I am the one you saw to-day, who fell Senseless before you, hearing a certain bell: A bell that broke great memories in my brain.' 'I am the one who passed unnoticed before you, Invisible, in a cloud of secret pain.'
We rub the darkness from our eyes, And face our thousand devious secret mornings . . . And do not see how the pale mist, slowly ascending, Shaped by the sun, shines like a white-robed dreamer Compassionate over our towers bending.
Let us retrace our steps: I have deceived you: Nothing is here I could not frankly tell you: No hint of guilt, or faithlessness, or threat. Dreams—they are madness. Staring eyes—illusion. Let us return, hear music, and forget . . .
And there was one, beneath black eaves, who thought, Combing with lifted arms her golden hair, Of the lover who hurried towards her through the night; And there was one who dreamed of a sudden death As she blew out her light.
Two lovers, here at the corner, by the steeple, Two lovers blow together like music blowing: And the crowd dissolves about them like a sea. Recurring waves of sound break vaguely about them, They drift from wall to wall, from tree to tree.
And we recall, with a gleaming stab of sadness, Vaguely and incoherently, some dream Of a world we came from, a world of sun-blue hills . . . A black wood whispers around us, green eyes gleam; Someone cries in the forest, and someone kills.
Over the darkened city, the city of towers, The city of a thousand gates, Over the gleaming terraced roofs, the huddled towers, Over a somnolent whisper of loves and hates, The slow wind flows, drearily streams and falls, With a mournful sound down rain-dark walls.
What was this dream we had, a dream of music, Music that rose from the opening earth like magic And shook its beauty upon us and died away? The long cold streets extend once more before us. The red sun drops, the walls grow grey.
The days, the nights, flow one by one above us, The hours go silently over our lifted faces, We are like dreamers who walk beneath a sea. Beneath high walls we flow in the sun together. We sleep, we wake, we laugh, we pursue, we flee.
From high black walls, gleaming vaguely with rain, Each yellow light looked down like a golden eye. They trembled from coign to coign, and tower to tower, Along high terraces quicker than dream they flew. And some of them steadily glowed, and some soon vanished, And some strange shadows threw.
'I bound her to me in all soft ways, I bound her to me in a net of days, Yet now she has gone in silence and said no word. How can we face these dazzling things, I ask you? There is no use: we cry: and are not heard.
What did we build it for? Was it all a dream? . . . Ghostly above us in lamplight the towers gleam . . . And after a while they will fall to dust and rain; Or else we will tear them down with impatient hands; And hew rock out of the earth, and build them again.
One of us sings in the street, and we listen to him; The words ring over us like vague bells of sorrow. He sings of a house he lived in long ago. It is strange; this house of dust was the house I lived in; The house you lived in, the house that all of us know.
Time is a dream, he thinks, a destroying dream; It lays great cities in dust, it fills the seas; It covers the face of beauty, and tumbles walls. Where was the woman he loved? Where was his youth? Where was the dream that burned his brain like fire? Even a dream grows grey at last and falls.
A small but brilliant advance made today by someone’s awareness may for the moment reach a very small audience, but insofar as it’s valid and beautiful, it will make its way and become part of the whole world of consciousness. So in that sense it’s all working toward this huge audience, and all working toward a better man.
'I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams, I will hold my light above them and seek their faces. I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .' The eternal asker of answers becomes as the darkness, Or as a wind blown over a myriad forest, Or as the numberless voices of long-drawn rains.
I walk in a cloud of wonder; I am glad. I mingle among the crowds; my heart is pounding; You do not guess the adventure I have had! . . . Yet you, too, all have had your dark adventures, Your sudden adventures, or strange, or sweet . . . My peril goes out from me, is blown among you. We loiter, dreaming together, along the street.
As darkness falls The walls grow luminous and warm, the walls Tremble and glow with the lives within them moving, Moving like music, secret and rich and warm. How shall we live tonight? Where shall we turn? To what new light or darkness yearn? A thousand winding stairs lead down before us; And one by one in myriads we descend By lamplit flowered walls, long balustrades, Through half-lit halls which reach no end.
We developed a shorthand language of our own which we fell into for the rest of our lives whenever we met, no holds barred — all a matter of past reference, a common language, but basically affection, along with humor, and appreciation of each other’s minds, and of Krazy Kat . Faced with England, and the New World, and Freud and all, we always managed to relax, and go back to the kidding, and bad punning, and drinking, to the end. It really was marvelous.
Of what she said to me that night—no matter. The strange thing came next day. My brain was full of music—something she played me—; I couldn't remember it all, but phrases of it Wreathed and wreathed among faint memories, Seeking for something, trying to tell me something, Urging to restlessness: verging on grief. I tried to play the tune, from memory,— But memory failed: the chords and discords climbed And found no resolution—only hung there, And left me morbid . . . Where, then, had I heard it? . . .
You know, without my telling you, how sometimes A word or name eludes you, and you seek it Through running ghosts of shadow,—leaping at it, Lying in wait for it to spring upon it, Spreading faint snares for it of sense or sound: Until, of a sudden, as if in a phantom forest, You hear it, see it flash among the branches, And scarcely knowing how, suddenly have it— Well, it was so I followed down this music, Glimpsing a face in darkness, hearing a cry, Remembering days forgotten, moods exhausted, Corners in sunlight, puddles reflecting stars—
I love you, what star do you live on?
Conrad Aiken
• Source: Wikiquote: "Conrad Aiken" (Quotes, Chance Meetings (1917): Originally published as section VII of "Variations" in Contemporary Verse, Vol. 3, No. 5 (May 1917), p. 86)
Whitman had a profound influence on me. … He was useful to me in the perfection of form, as a sort of compromise between the strict and the free.
Walk with me world, upon my right hand walk, speak to me Babel, that I may strive to assemble of all these syllables a single word before the purpose of speech is gone.
Once I loved, and she I loved was darkened. Again I loved, and love itself was darkened. Vainly we follow the circle of shadowy days. The screen at last grows dark, the flutes are silent. The doors of night are closed. We go our ways.
The music ends. The screen grows dark. We hurry To go our devious secret ways, forgetting Those many lives . . . We loved, we laughed, we killed, We danced in fire, we drowned in a whirl of sea-waves. The flutes are stilled, and a thousand dreams are stilled.
Let us describe the evening as it is:— The stars disposed in heaven as they are: Verlaine and Shakspere rotting, where they rot, Rimbaud remembered, and too soon forgot; Order in all things, logic in the dark; Arrangement in the atom and the spark; Time in the heart and sequence in the brain— Such as destroyed Rimbaud and fooled Verlaine. And let us then take godhead by the neck— And strangle it, and with it, rhetoric.
More towers must yet be built—more towers destroyed— Great rocks hoisted in air; And he must seek his bread in high pale sunlight With gulls about him, and clouds just over his eyes . . . And so he did not mention his dream of falling But drank his coffee in silence, and heard in his ears That horrible whistle of wind, and felt his breath Sucked out of him, and saw the tower flash by And the small tree swell beneath him . . . He patted his boy on the head, and kissed his wife, Looked quickly around the room, to remember it,— And so went out . . . For once, he forgot his pail.
I think Ushant describes it pretty well, with that epigraph from Tom Brown’s School Days: “I’m the poet of White Horse Vale, sir, with Liberal notions under my cap!” For some reason those lines stuck in my head, and I’ve never forgotten them. This image became something I had to be. … I compelled myself all through to write an exercise in verse, in a different form, every day of the year. I turned out my page every day, of some sort — I mean I didn’t give a damn about the meaning, I just wanted to master the form — all the way from free verse, Walt Whitman, to the most elaborate of villanelles and ballad forms. Very good training. I’ve always told everybody who has ever come to me that I thought that was the first thing to do. And to study all the vowel effects and all the consonant effects and the variation in vowel sounds.
I’ve been carrying the corpus of my grandfather — to change the famous saying—with me all my life. I was given very early two volumes of his sermons; and I never go anywhere without them. … He actually took his parish out of the Unitarian Church. As he put it, “They have defrocked not only me, but my church.” For thirty years he and the church, the New Bedford parish, were in the wilderness. Then the Unitarians, about 1890, caught up with him and embraced him. By this time he was president of the Free Religious Association and was lecturing all over the country on the necessity for a religion without dogma. And this inheritance has been my guiding light: I regard myself simply as a continuance of my grandfather, and primarily, therefore, as a teacher and preacher, and a distributor, in poetic terms, of the news of the world, by which I mean new knowledge. This is gone into at some length in Ushant. And elsewhere I have said repeatedly that as poetry is the highest speech of man, it can not only accept and contain, but in the end express best everything in the world, or in himself, that he discovers. It will absorb and transmute, as it always has done, and glorify, all that we can know. This has always been, and always will be, poetry’s office.

End Conrad Aiken Quotes