the archivist April 18, 2013

Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering — this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary daytime advice for everyone. But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work — and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day. At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible by retiring into an infantile dream — but one is continually startled out of this by various contacts with the world. One meets these occasions as quickly and carelessly as possible and retires once more back into the dream, hoping that things will adjust themselves by some great material or spiritual bonanza. But as the withdrawal persists there is less and less chance of the bonanza — one is not waiting for the fade-out of a single sorrow, but rather being an unwilling witness of an execution, the disintegration of one’s own personality…

Unless madness or drugs or drink come into it, this phase comes to a dead end, eventually, and is succeeded by a vacuous quiet. In this you can try to estimate what has been sheared away and what is left.   — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up part 2, “Pasting It Together”

3am (Photo credit: Bluelemur)

Choruses from “The Flight into Egypt”

 —W.H. Auden

“In the really dark night of the soul it is always three o’ clock in the morning.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Come to our bracing desert,
Where eternity is eventful,
Where the weather-glass
Is set at Alas,
The thermometer at Resentful.

Come to our old-world desert
Where everyone goes to pieces;
You can pick up tears
For souvenirs
Or genuine diseases.

Come to our well-run desert
Where anguish arrives by cable,
And the deadly sins
May be bought in tins
With instructions on the label.

Come to our jolly desert
Where even the dolls go whoring;
Where cigarette-ends
Become intimate friends,
And it’s always three in the morning.

The Crack-Up: With Other Uncollected Pieces, Note-Books and Unpublished Letters

Collected Poems: Auden

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