Home, or, The Quality Itself

7. The more living patterns there are in a place – a room, a building, or a town – the more it comes to life as an entirety, the more it glows, the more it has that self-maintaining fire which is the quality without a name.

 

8. And when a building has this fire, then it becomes a part of nature. Like ocean waves, or blades of grass, its parts are governed by the endless play of repetition and variety created in the presence of the fact that all things pass. This is the quality itself.

 

~ Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

 

Home, or, The Quality Itself

Charles Baudelaire / Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edward Thomas

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman

Emily Dickinson

Herman Melville

Alan Seeger

Richard Howard

Je n’ai pas oublié, voisine de la ville
by Charles Baudelaire

 

Je n’ai pas oublié, voisine de la ville,
Notre blanche maison, petite mais tranquille;
Sa Pomone de plâtre et sa vieille Vénus
Dans un bosquet chétif cachant leurs membres nus,
Et le soleil, le soir, ruisselant et superbe,
Qui, derrière la vitre où se brisait sa gerbe
Semblait, grand oeil ouvert dans le ciel curieux,
Contempler nos dîners longs et silencieux,
Répandant largement ses beaux reflets de cierge
Sur la nappe frugale et les rideaux de serge.

 

A Memory

 

All this was long ago, but I do not forget
Our small white house, between the city and the farms;
The Venus, the Pomona, — l remember yet
How in the leaves they hid their chipping plaster charms;
And the majestic sun at evening, setting late,
Behind the pane that broke and scattered his bright rays,
How like an open eye he seemed to contemplate
Our long and silent dinners with a curious gaze:
The while his golden beams, like tapers burning there,
Made splendid the serge curtains and the simple fare.

 

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

The New House
by Edward Thomas

 

Now first, as I shut the door,

I was alone

In the new house; and the wind

Began to moan.

 

Old at once was the house,

And I was old;

My ears were teased with the dread

Of what was foretold,

 

Nights of storm, days of mist, without end;

Sad days when the sun

Shone in vain: old griefs and griefs

Not yet begun.

 

All was foretold me; naught

Could I foresee;

But I learnt how the wind would sound

After these things should be.

An upper chamber in a darkened house
by Frederick Goddard Tuckerman

 

An upper chamber in a darkened house,
Where, ere his footsteps reached ripe manhood’s brink,
Terror and anguish were his cup to drink,—
I cannot rid the thought, nor hold it close;
But dimly dream upon that man alone;—
Now though the autumn clouds most softly pass;
The cricket chides beneath the doorstep stone,
And greener than the season grows the grass.
Nor can I drop my lids, nor shade my brows,
But there he stands beside the lifted sash;
And with a swooning of the heart, I think
Where the black shingles slope to meet the boughs,
And—shattered on the roof like smallest snows—
The tiny petals of the mountain-ash.

I years had been from home
by Emily Dickinson

 

I Years had been from Home
And now before the Door
I dared not enter, lest a Face
I never saw before

Stare solid into mine
And ask my business there —
“My Business but a Life I left
Was such remaining there?”

I leaned upon the Awe —
I lingered with Before —
The Second like an Ocean rolled
And broke against my ear —

I laughed a crumbling Laugh
That I could fear a Door
Who Consternation compassed
And never winced before.

I fitted to the Latch
My Hand, with trembling care
Lest back the awful Door should spring
And leave me in the Floor —

That moved my fingers off
As cautiously as Glass
And held my ears, and like a Thief
Fled gasping from the House

The Ravaged Villa
by Herman Melville

 

In shards the sylvan vases lie,

Their links of dance undone,

And brambles wither by thy brim,

Choked fountain of the sun!

The spider in the laurel spins,

The weed exiles the flower:

And, flung to kiln, Apollo’s bust

Makes lime for Mammon’s tower.

The Old Lowe House, Staten Island
by Alan Seeger

 

Another prospect pleased the builder’s eye,
And Fashion tenanted (where Fashion wanes)
Here in the sorrowful suburban lanes
When first these gables rose against the sky.
Relic of a romantic taste gone by,
This stately monument alone remains,
Vacant, with lichened walls and window-panes
Blank as the windows of a skull. But I,
On evenings when autumnal winds have stirred
In the porch-vines, to this gray oracle
Have laid a wondering ear and oft-times heard,
As from the hollow of a stranded shell,
Old voices echoing (or my fancy erred)
Things indistinct, but not insensible.

Further Instructions to the Architect
by Richard Howard

 

Now about the attic: please allow

For easy access to the roof

So Cousin Agnes can get out there.

Fall, did you say? Remember all

The servants’ bedrooms must include

A dream book in the dresser, and there was

Always a gate across the stairs:

Our pantry sibyl walked in her sleep,

Read tea leaves, knew what “horses” meant.

 

Make sure the smell of apple peel

Lingers in the master bedroom,

Keep lewd prints for the Decameron

Locked in the library, and repair

The stained glass over the landing:

If the Lorelei’s hair is still clear

The amber can always be replaced.

I hear one ilex has fallen

Across the pond. Better plant rushes

So the frogs will come back, evenings,

And sing their songs; restore the allée

Of Lombardy poplars where the doves

Nested: we need all our mourners.

 

See that the four black junipers

Don’t overgrow the lawn: after dark

The silver grass is luminous

Around them. There should be a wheezing

French bulldog on my grandmother’s lap,

Of course, and the sound of grape seeds

Being flicked onto the porch floor

Where Ernestine is reading. Even

The corridor back to whatever

Surprise you have in store must be

Merely the one between the (witch’s)

Kitchen and the dim hall closet

Where velveteen hangers may have turned

By now to something else unlikely.

 

You can’t help getting it right if you

Listen to me. Recognition

Is not to be suppressed. Why the whole

Place seems just the way it was, I tell you

I was there last night: in dreams

We are always under house arrest.

See that the four black junipers

Don’t overgrow the lawn: after dark

The silver grass is luminous

Around them. There should be a wheezing

French bulldog on my grandmother’s lap,

Of course, and the sound of grape seeds

Being flicked onto the porch floor

Where Ernestine is reading. Even

The corridor back to whatever

Surprise you have in store must be

Merely the one between the (witch’s)

Kitchen and the dim hall closet

Where velveteen hangers may have turned

By now to something else unlikely.

 

You can’t help getting it right if you

Listen to me. Recognition

Is not to be suppressed. Why the whole

Place seems just the way it was, I tell you

I was there last night: in dreams

We are always under house arrest.

 

 

FIN.

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