February 1, 2013

"The tears coursed down her cheeks — not freely, however..."

"... for when they came into contact with her heavily beaded eyelashes they assumed an inky color, and pursued the rest of their way in slow black rivulets."

That's the sentence from "The Great Gatsby" today, in the "Gatsby" project.

Tears coursed. The subject and the predicate are right up there at the outset. No teasing about where the foundation of this sentence is. Course is a strange verb for ran. There are reasons to choose the odder word. Course, for example, is more woody, less tinny than ran. The tears coursed, but not freely, because they got stuck on the woman's mascaraed eyelashes. It's thickly applied black mascara. We know it's thickly applied, because it's the excess blobs of mascara that give the impression of beads, and inky means black. So the tears got stuck on the blobs and became a coagulated black liquid, slowed down, but still, on each cheek, a little river, a rivulet.

Is rivulet a strange word? Classical Latin had the word rīvulus and there's rivoletto in Italian. John Milton used rivulet, in 1667, in "Paradise Lost," one of the books my readers urge upon me as they imagine they see the light at the end of the "Gatsby" tunnel. "As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight...," I found the rivulet sentence in "Paradise Lost":
In Bowre and Field he sought, where any tuft
Of Grove or Garden-Plot more pleasant lay,
Thir tendance or Plantation for delight,
By Fountain or by shadie Rivulet
He sought them both, but wish'd his hap might find
EVE separate, he wish'd, but not with hope
Of what so seldom chanc'd, when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, EVE separate he spies,
Veild in a Cloud of Fragrance, where she stood,
Half spi'd, so thick the Roses bushing round
About her glowd, oft stooping to support
Each Flour of slender stalk, whose head though gay
Carnation, Purple, Azure, or spect with Gold,
Hung drooping unsustaind, them she upstaies
Gently with Mirtle band, mindless the while,
Her self, though fairest unsupported Flour,
From her best prop so farr, and storn so nigh.
Oh, come on now! That sentence is absurdly long! And the spelling is so perverse — Bowre and Flour for bower and flower. I like the Roses bushing round as the Snake finds EVE alone. The gay flowers — floursdrooping... interestingly vulnerable. But storn... what is it? Storn! I know it's woody.

No, no, no! I'm too smart to succumb to that temptation. I am not a stooping, drooping blogger. I'm shrinking back into my "Gatsby" tunnel. Tomorrow is Groundhog Day, but I've seen my shadie shadow this evening. I'm frightened, terrified. The unfree tears course down my cheeks, slowed by the speed bumps of inky mascara.

33 comments:

mccullough said...

Milton tried to turn English into Latin, with no success. He is so inferior to Chaucer it has hard to believe he actually wrote after Chaucer and Shakespeare. Like James Joyce, another nearly blind at times great writer, he is over-rated.

Synova said...

I think that a river courses... so that tears coursing implies the sort of flow pattern of a river which may be meandering or even braided, instead of a single vertical line downward.

mccullough said...

This sentence is right on the line of overwrought and mawkish but I like it. Reminds me of a silent movie image.

rcocean said...

If only Scott had written: "She cried. The tears made black marks on her face."

And then some Althouse commentators would like him.

kentuckyliz said...

It reminded me of the fat boy in the Bronx who is getting bullied.

edutcher said...

Now that's poetry.

I'm glad you're continuing with this project. I know it gave you a lot of enjoyment.

kentuckyliz said...

All this Gatsby! I am enjoying Jameson coffees this evening. And pistachios.

Lem said...

Riachuelo

The Tracks of My Tears

So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears..

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Course is a strange verb for ran

It is about horse racing and the associated degenerated, loose, roaring twenties life style.

Course is a term associated with race
horses and/or jumping horses. A race horse runs freely (courses)until it runs into a sludge of mud (or mascara) which would slow it down.

The "course" of tears which should run swiftly and naturally like a race horse..are mired down as would be any striving athletic animal by the artificial applications of thickly applied glop.

Of 'course' unless we know the whole context of the paragraph, we are not able to completely parse the sentence.

:=)

Chip Ahoy said...

The tears coursed freely down her cheeks, first a right turn then a left turn then a straightway then a sharp dangerous hairpin turn then back up again where they picked up minute traces of facial debris along the way, darkening and froze there in the gelid night as they streamed like the snow plowed up and piled so that it's frozen black filth by the end of the season but still twinkled in the glaring blinking neon lights then melted again by warmth of her face which was well red by a full night of boozing, "She's my sister," I said, "I'll handle it."

Lem said...

...we are not able to completely parse the sentence.

Remind me to shed a tear.

exiledonmainst said...

God bless the inventor of waterproof mascara.

Lem said...

...and pursued the rest of their way in slow black rivulets.

edutcher said...

kentuckyliz said...

All this Gatsby! I am enjoying Jameson coffees this evening. And pistachios.

You and The Blonde.

(I can say that to her, can't I?)

At least the pistachios.

Ann Althouse said...

Course is a strange verb for ran.

DBQ has a point, but I think the verb has more to do with describing a course, in this case, on her face.

More rapid than eagles,
His coursers they came


As Clement Moore said.

Lem said...

My mistake...

Tracks = train, not meandering.

I caught it after watching the train link.

wyo sis said...

It sounds like she has two sets of eyes, the ones that cry clear tears and the ones halfway down her cheeks where the tears course past and get black.

Lem said...

After a rainstorm, a race of matchsticks down a gutter.

Darrell said...

I think that a river courses... so that tears coursing implies the sort of flow pattern of a river which may be meandering or even braided, instead of a single vertical line downward.

This. Of course.

Lem said...

The gutter was not symbolic when I was a child.

betamax3000 said...

So its back to spanking. (Butt) of course.

"The tears coursed down her cheeks — not freely, however, for when they came into contact with her heavily bedded buttocks they assumed an inky color. She went out of the room calling 'Ewing!' and returned in a few minutes accompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man, with shell-rimmed glasses and scanty blond hair. Tears coursed down his cheeks, too, an indefinite procession of cheeks, that rouged and powdered on an invisible ass.

"My buttocks are a frosted wedding-cake" he said, then proceeded to ripple over the wine-colored rug.

"I am feeling the hot whips of panic," she replied.

A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar.

"Do not tug my collar so hard," she said, her eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears. "I wish my tears to course down your cheeks and become bewitched to a dark gold."

Ewing said nothing in return, but there was now an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her buttocks were continually smouldering.

Ewing brought down his hand again, hard.

"Your expression is curiously familiar," he said: "it is an expression I have often seen on women’s faces... from behind."

"Am i the serf, or am I the peasantry?" she asked, trembling, tipping a little of her warm human magic upon the air. The room was still, with a ripe mystery about it, a hint of spankings up-stairs more beautiful and stinging than other spankings.

"Suck on the pap of life," Ewing said calmly, his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets -- but only for a moment...


betamax3000 said...

"Gently with Mirtle band": Myrtle tread.

betamax3000 said...

Re: "but still, on each cheek"

See above.

Megaera said...

I believe the "beaded" look for mascara was actually the result of artful application at the time, not inept heavy-handedness ... beaded lashes were all the rage during that period, and took some practice to achieve the effect.

Nichevo said...

How about runnels? When I had finished with you on the pool table, silvery runnels would have coursed...mmm, trickled maybe...pulsed?...down the insides of your stockinged thighs. Rivulets-freshets? gouts?-would seem excessive, recasting the mood, but runnels could be as much or as little, fast or slow as the occasion requires.

Lem said...

Liza Minnelli Cabaret

Lem said...

"There are reasons to choose the odder word."... odder as in odd.

I swear to god, I'm just getting that... for some reason I was reading cow's udder.

Woke Up with a picture of Liza Minnelli eyelashes in my head and a second reading of the sentence found a cleared, unobstructed rivulet?

Darrell said...

A writer paints a picture with words. With 64 million possible colors in his paint kit, why would he chose the same thousand words that you would?

Fritz said...

Coursing is the pursuit of game or other animals by dogs—chiefly greyhounds and other sighthounds—catching their prey by speed, running by sight and not by scent. "Coursing was a common hunting technique, practised by the nobility, the landed and wealthy, and commoners with sighthounds and lurchers. In its oldest recorded form in the Western world, as described by Arrian, the sport was practised by all levels of society, as remained the case until Carolingian hunting law (Forest Law) appropriated hunting grounds, or commons, for the king, the nobility, and other land owners."

So maybe the tears are chasing down her cheeks like greyhounds...

Astro said...

From Judges, 5:20, King James version.
"They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera."
From whence Shelby Foote got the title for his book about the Gettysburg campaign.
Thus, a path; coursed is to take a path.

betamax3000 said...

Re: "I swear to god, I'm just getting that... for some reason I was reading cow's udder."

Naked Fitzgerald Cow has entered the barn.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think that a river courses... so that tears coursing implies the sort of flow pattern of a river which may be meandering or even braided, instead of a single vertical line downward."

"This. Of course."

Of course not. Look up "course," the verb in a dictionary. It means straightforward running, quite direct. There is no connotation of meandering, even though the "course" of a particular river — "course" being a noun — may be twisted.

Ann Althouse said...

"I believe the "beaded" look for mascara was actually the result of artful application at the time, not inept heavy-handedness ... beaded lashes were all the rage during that period, and took some practice to achieve the effect."

I don't think I said it was inept. But it is done, as a deliberate technique, by using an excessive amount and getting blobs to coagulate on the tips.

You can see the effect clearly in this famous Man Ray photograph, 2 copies of which I have displayed in our kitchen (for some reason, the reason being that they are trays, Man Ray trays).

annie bennett said...

Sorry, but the whole Gatsby thing is getting a bit boring.