Sunday, February 26, 2017

Beckett's White Horse

George Stubbs
Grey Horse
1793
oil on canvas
Royal Collection, Windsor

"But let me get on now with the day I have hit on to begin with, any other would have done as well, yes, on with it and out of my way and on to another, enough of my mother for the moment.  Well then for a time all well, no trouble, no birds at me, nothing across my path except at a great distance a white horse followed by a boy, or it might have been a small man or woman.  This is the only completely white horse I remember, what I believe the Germans call a Schimmel, oh I was very quick as a boy and picked up a lot of hard knowledge, Schimmel, nice word, for an English speaker.  The sun was full upon it, as shortly before on my mother, and it seemed to have a red band or stripe running down its side, I thought perhaps a bellyband, perhaps the horse was going somewhere to be harnessed, to a trap or such-like.  It crossed my path a long way off, then vanished behind greenery, I suppose, all I noticed was the sudden appearance of the horse, then disappearance.  It was bright white, with the sun on it, I had never seen such a horse, though often heard of them, and never saw another.  White I must say has always affected me strongly, all white things, sheets, walls and so on, even flowers, and then just white, the thought of white, without more.  But let me get on with this day and get it over."

 from the fragment, From an Abandoned Work, written by Samuel Beckett in 1954-55

Anonymous German Jeweler
Galloping Horse ridden by Blindfolded Cupid
ca. 1550-1600
enameled gold, rubies, emeralds, pearls
British Museum

Giandomenico Tiepolo
Punchinellos with Horseman
1790s
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Domenico Capriola
Portrait of a man
1512
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this, saying it's me?  Answer simply, someone answer simply.  It's the same old stranger as ever, for whom alone accusative I exist, in the pit of my inexistence, of his, of ours, there's a simple answer.  It's not with thinking he'll find me, but what is he to do, living and bewildered, yes, living, say what he may.  Forget me, know me not, yes, that would be the wisest, none better able than he.  Why this sudden affability after such desertion, it's easy to understand, that's what he says, but he doesn't understand.  I'm not in his head, nowhere in his old body, and yet I'm there, for him I'm there, with him, hence all the confusion.  That should have been enough for him, to have found me absent, but it's not, he wants me there, with a form and  a world, like him, in spite of him, me who am everything, like him who is nothing."

 from the fragment, Texts for Nothing, written by Samuel Beckett in 1950-52

Luca Ferrari
Allegory of Love and Jealousy
1640s
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Edgar Degas
Interior with two figures
ca. 1869
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Raoul Dufy
Portrait of Suzanne Dufy, the artist's sister
1904
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"I visited, not so long ago, my father's grave, that I do know, and noted the date of his death, of his death alone, for that of his birth had no interest for me, on that particular day.  I set out in the morning and was back by night, having lunched lightly in the graveyard.  But some days later, wishing to know his age at death, I had to return to the grave, to note the date of his birth. These two limiting dates I then jotted down on a piece of paper, which I now carry about with me.  I am thus in a position to affirm that I must have been about twenty-five at the time of my marriage.  For the date of my own birth, I repeat, my own birth, I have never forgotten, I never had to note it down, it remains graven in my memory, the year at least, in figures that life will not easily erase.  The day itself comes back to me, when I put my mind to it, and I often celebrate it, after my fashion, I don't say each time it comes back, for it comes back too often, but often."

 from the fragment, First Love, written by Samuel Beckett in 1946

Anne-Louis Girodet
Self-portrait
ca. 1795
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Anne-Louis Girodet
Portrait of woman with turban
ca. 1820
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Jean-Baptiste Regnault
Andromeda's Return
1782
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Jean-Baptiste Regnault
Education of Achilles by Chiron
ca. 1782
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"It was not so dark now in the stable, I could make out the manger, the rack, the harness hanging, what else, buckets and brushes. I went to the door but couldn't open it. The horse didn't take its eyes off me. Don't horses ever sleep? It seemed to me the cabman should have tied it, to the manger for example. So I was obliged to leave by the window. It wasn't easy. But what is easy? I went out head first, my hands were flat on the ground of the yard while my legs were still thrashing to get clear of the frame. I remember the tufts of grass on which I pulled with both hands, in my effort to extricate myself. I should have taken off my greatcoat and thrown it through the window, but that would have meant thinking of it. No sooner had I left the yard than I thought of something. Weakness. I slipped a banknote in the match box, went back to the yard and placed the box on the sill of the window through which I had just come. The horse was at the window. But after I had taken a few steps on the street I returned to the yard and took back my banknote. I left the matches, they were not mine. The horse was still at the window. I was sick and tired of this cabhorse. Dawn was just breaking. I did not know where I was. I made towards the rising sun, towards the light, I would have liked a sea horizon, or a desert one. When I am abroad in the morning I go to meet the sun, and in the evening, when I am abroad, I follow it, till I am down among the dead. I don't know why I told this story. I could just as well have told another. Perhaps some time I'll be able to tell another. Living souls, you will see how alike they are."  

 from the fragment, The Expelled, written by Samuel Beckett in 1946

Henri Matisse
Woman in Green
1909
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Bonifazio Veronese
Portrait of a Young Man
ca. 1510-20
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Quoted passages from The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989 by Samuel Beckett, edited by S.E. Gontarski (New York : Grove Press, 1995)