Eye Wish I Knew
October 13, 2021 6:16 PM   Subscribe

What have great (or not so great) writers, poets, lyricists. et. al. said about "eyes"?

Anything, how they look, what they say, stories they tell. Romantic. Not Romantic. Beautiful. Not Beautiful.
posted by falsedmitri to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Rose, oh reiner widerspruch, lust,
Niemandes schlaf zu sein under soviel lidern

Rose, o pure contradiction, desire,
to be no one’s sleep beneath so many lids.

- Rainer Maria Rilke
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 6:28 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

We are all very little creatures,
each of us have different features,
One of us in glass is set,
another you will find in jet,
this other you will find in tin,
or if you don`t see, then look within.
Yet if this one you should pursue, then it can never fly from you.
What are we?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:32 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Haddocks' Eyes is a famous poem about "eyes".
But it's not really about eyes, if you know what I'm saying.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:34 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Czeslaw Milosz - Eyes

My most honorable eyes, you are not in the best of shape.
I receive from you an image less than sharp,
And if a color, then it's dimmed.
And you were a pack of royal greyhounds once,
With whom I would set out in the early mornings.
My wondrously quick eyes, you saw many things,
Lands and cities, islands and oceans.
Together we greeted immense sunrises
When the fresh air set us running on trails
Where the dew had just begun to dry.
Now what you have seen is hidden inside me
And changed into memories or dreams.
I am slowly moving away from the fairgrounds of the world
And I notice in myself a distaste
For the monkeyish dress, the screams and drumbeats.
What a relief. To be alone with my meditation
On the basic similarity in humans
And their tiny grain of dissimilarity.
Without eyes, my gaze is  fixed on one bright point,
That grows large and takes me in.
posted by diamondsky at 7:08 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

I really hate the Eagles song Lyin’ Eyes, but it exists: “There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”
posted by FencingGal at 7:10 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Matthew 7:
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:12 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Margaret Atwood:

[you fit into me]

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:15 PM on October 13 [9 favorites]

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.
Laura Gilpin, "Two-Headed Calf"
posted by praemunire at 7:19 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Milton's sonnet on his blindness?

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
posted by microscopiclifeform at 7:22 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Here are a couple of other things I remember liking.

The firecrew boss is vinegar down 
to his bones, eyes like pepper. 

- from Marian Boyer, “Once, When the Sky Was Copper”

This next one is long. I couldn’t find a working page that had the whole text so I can’t just link to it.

Cate Marvin - An Etiquette for Eyes

I don’t know
if I wore glasses
when I met you

but I know
the last time
I saw you you

drank a drink
I bought you
with another

woman who
was far uglier
than I have

ever been. I have brown eyes, did I ever tell you?
Your eyes are too too blue, tell-all awful, and too
too pretty; you make all the girls swoon, and then
lament how harpies pound on your door, plucking
the very shingles off your roof, conducting through
their unanimous will a plot to kill your hive’s queen,
fix a hose from the car’s tailpipe to pump barnyard
dread straight into your ken, therefore you demand
I ought never wish to lie in your bed. I have black eyes,

did I tell you? But your eyes are damp blue, fingers
in winter blue, worrying about a prom date blue, never
washed a dish blue. Have I mentioned my eyes are
dead brown, dirt brown, stone brown, done with you
brown, screaming out in the streets I’m so drunk brown,
I’m just ignoring the noise rising up from streets asleep
brown? As in, as brown as dead leaves because my love’s
eyes were dead brown and when he shouted down at
that drunk on the street that New Year’s Eve from

my third floor window that drunk man called him
Whiskey Whore Boy. And his eyes were not wish-
wash blue, his eyes were mostly moss and trees,
not mojitos in a barroom, no, his eyes all gin-lit in
a hotel room on our last night were ice-cold, even
in his farewell he was bold, his eyes anyone might
have called plain, but they could at least cry. I am
sick to death of your blue eyes, fabric eyes, flower
eyes. I have brown eyes, plain and saying eyes behind

thick frames, glassy eyes handing themselves over
to you in buckets eyes, dig your hands into my black
soil eyes, my ugly eyes reaching into your eyes for
my twin eyes, look back at me eyes while your eyes
crawl the walls, cloud-blue, wandering off as milky
bosomed maids will look away from the eyes that
seek the crevices deep between their heavy breasts
that sway beneath the cows they bend to milk eyes.
Won’t you have another drink from my silty yonder

eyes? I may look
plain but I’ve got
roses in my blood,

can bloom right
out the soil of these
here brackish eyes,

wander a limb across
the chest of your
country, unlock

the footlocker of your
desire with the tip
of my vine eyes.
posted by diamondsky at 7:27 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Emerson's essay Nature has an interesting bit about a transparent eyeball.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 7:28 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Regina Spektor - Silly Eye Color Generalizations
posted by eponym at 7:40 PM on October 13

Eyes without a face Billy Idol, with a possible deeper backstory to a French film of the same name. I imagine the fire imagery stands in for the film (sure has some unusual imagery in his vids).

I'm all out of hope
One more bad break
Could bring a fall

When I'm far from home
Don't call me on the phone
To tell me you're alone

It's easy to deceive
It's easy to tease
But hard to get release

Eyes without a face
(Les yeux sans visage) Eyes without a face
(Les yeux sans visage) Eyes without a face
Got no human grace
Your eyes without a face

I spend so much time
Believing all the lies
To keep the dream alive

Now it makes me sad
It makes me mad at truth
For loving what was you

Eyes without a face [chorus]

When you hear the music you make a dip
Into someone else's pocket then make a slip
Steal a car and go to Las Vegas, ooh, the gigolo pool
Hanging out by the state line, turning holy water into wine
Drinking it down, oh-oh-oh

Aw, I'm on a bus on a psychedelic trip
Reading murder books, tryin' to stay hip
I'm thinkin' of you, you're out there so

Say your prayers
Say your prayers
Say your prayers

Now I close my eyes
And I wonder why
I don't despise

Now all I can do
Love what was once
So alive and new

But it's gone from your eyes
I'd better realize

Eyes without a face [chorus]
Your eyes without a face

And now it's getting worse
posted by unearthed at 7:51 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Bette Davis eyes.
posted by Melismata at 8:05 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

TO what serves mortal beauty ' —dangerous; does set danc-
ing blood—the O-seal-that-so ' feature, flung prouder form
Than Purcell tune lets tread to? ' See: it does this: keeps warm
Men’s wits to the things that are; ' what good means—where a glance
Master more may than gaze, ' gaze out of countenance.
Those lovely lads once, wet-fresh ' windfalls of war’s storm,
How then should Gregory, a father, ' have gleanèd else from swarm-
ed Rome? But God to a nation ' dealt that day’s dear chance.
To man, that needs would worship ' block or barren stone,
Our law says: Love what are ' love’s worthiest, were all known;
World’s loveliest—men’s selves. Self ' flashes off frame and face.
What do then? how meet beauty? ' Merely meet it; own,
Home at heart, heaven’s sweet gift; ' then leave, let that alone.
Yea, wish that though, wish all, ' God’s better beauty, grace.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, "To What Serves Mortal Beauty?")
posted by praemunire at 8:10 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

I can feel it in the rotten air tonight
In the tips of my fingers, in the skin on my face
In the weak last gasp of the evening's dying light
In the way those eyes I've always loved illuminate this place
Like a trash can fire in a prison cell
Like the searchlights in the parking lots of hell
(Mountain Goats, "Old College Try")
When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me
("His Eye is on the Sparrow," trad.)
posted by praemunire at 8:23 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

I had my annual eye exam today (no changes). This is a delight.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:28 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Hall and Oates: Private Eyes
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:13 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

The Fury of Hating Eyes
by Anne Sexton

I would like to bury
all the hating eyes
under the sand somewhere off
the North Atlantic and suffocate
them with the awful sand
and put all their colors to sleep
in that soft smother.
Take the brown eyes of my father,
those gun shots, those mean muds.
Bury them.
Take the blue eyes of my mother,
naked as the sea,
waiting to pull you down
where there is no air, no God.
Bury them.
Take the black eyes of my love,
coal eyes like a cruel hog,
wanting to whip you and laugh.
Bury them.
Take the hating eyes of martyrs,
presidents, bus collectors,
bank managers, soldiers.
Bury them.
Take my eyes, half blind
and falling into the air.
Bury them.
Take your eyes.
I come to the center,
where a shark looks up at death
and thinks of my heart
and squeeze it like a doughnut.
They’d like to take my eyes
and poke a hatpin through
their pupils. Not just to bury
but to stab. As for your eyes,
I fold up in front of them
in a baby ball and you send
them to the State Asylum.
Look! Look! Both those
mice are watching you
from behind the kind bars
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:15 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

The song Grey-Eyed Girl by the Fresh & Onlys. Eye-related lyrics:

There’s nothing in the world
Quite like a grey-eyed girl
She has the statue inside
But when she cries
Blue become the eyes
They’re always the color
Of near and distant skies

posted by ejs at 9:23 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Another take... and if you watch the video you will not doubt it.

In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke

in aa.nkho.n kii mastii ke mastaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The intoxicating beauty of these eyes attracts thousands of admirers.
in aa.nkho.n se vaabastaa afsaane hazaaro.n hai.n
Indeed, there are thousands of stories associated with these eyes.

ek tum hii nahii.n tanhaa ulfat me.n merii rusvaa
You are not the only one disgraced by your love for me,
is shahar me.n tum jaise diivaane hazaaro.n hai.n
There are thousands of madmen like you in this city.

ek sirf ham hii mai ko aa.nkho.n se pilaate hai.n
It is only I who can serve you wine with my eyes,
kahne ko to duniyaa me.n maikhaane hazaaro.n hai.n
Though it is said that there are thousands of taverns in this world.

is shamm-e-farozaa.n ko aa.ndhii se Daraate ho
Although you attempt to scare this bright candle with a storm,
is shamm-e-farozaa.n ke parvaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The light from this candle attracts thousands of moths.

in aa.nkho.n kii mastii ke mastaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The intoxicating beauty of these eyes attracts thousands of admirers.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:23 PM on October 13

Blue Eyes by Paul Baribeau
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:26 PM on October 13

Sonnet 130: My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun, by W. "Eyeball" Shakespeare

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.- Whitman's Leaves of Grass

From the same text, org. preface, This is what you shall do: [...] Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . .

[I fell in love with you / First time I looked into] Them There Eyes, by Maceo Pinkard, Doris Tauber, and William Tracey (1930 jazz standard) Holiday, Fitzgerald
Velvet Underground, Pale Blue Eyes
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:32 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

From Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

“No sooner then was the cloth removed than she again began her operations. First, having planted her right eye sidewise against Mr Jones, she shot from its corner a most penetrating glance; which, though great part of its force was spent before it reached our hero, did not vent itself absolutely without effect. This the fair one perceiving, hastily withdrew her eyes, and levelled them downwards, as if she was concerned for what she had done; though by this means she designed only to draw him from his guard, and indeed to open his eyes, through which she intended to surprize his heart. And now, gently lifting up those two bright orbs which had already begun to make an impression on poor Jones, she discharged a volley of small charms at once from her whole countenance in a smile. Not a smile of mirth, nor of joy; but a smile of affection, which most ladies have always ready at their command, and which serves them to show at once their good-humour, their pretty dimples, and their white teeth.

“This smile our hero received full in his eyes, and was immediately staggered with its force. He then began to see the designs of the enemy, and indeed to feel their success. A parley now was set on foot between the parties; during which the artful fair so slily and imperceptibly carried on her attack, that she had almost subdued the heart of our hero before she again repaired to acts of hostility. To confess the truth, I am afraid Mr Jones maintained a kind of Dutch defence, and treacherously delivered up the garrison, without duly weighing his allegiance to the fair Sophia. In short, no sooner had the amorous parley ended and the lady had unmasked the royal battery, by carelessly letting her handkerchief drop from her neck, than the heart of Mr Jones was entirely taken, and the fair conqueror enjoyed the usual fruits of her victory.”
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:38 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

The chorus of The Reasons, by The Weakerthans:

I know you might roll your eyes at this
But I'm so glad that you exist
posted by creepygirl at 9:44 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Ode to Celia: Drink to me only with thine eyes...
posted by Cranberry at 12:12 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

The Ecstasy by John Donne:

Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;
So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.

… and so on for another 60-odd lines of eye-free metaphysical clever-cleverness.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:35 AM on October 14 [3 favorites]

In the Iliad and the Odyssey, one of the epithets used to describe the goddess Athena is "glaukopis". The literal meaning is owl-eyed, reflecting her role as goddess of wisdom. But it has been translated in lots of ways: grey or blue-eyed, bright-eyed, with shining eyes, with darting eyes, with flashing eyes, steely-eyed, and so on.
posted by greycap at 2:39 AM on October 14 [2 favorites]

Her eyes are a blue million million miles - Captain Beefheart.
posted by rongorongo at 4:37 AM on October 14 [2 favorites]

W.B. Yeats:

"Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh."

And yes, Donne. I especially like:

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres, Without sharp north, without declining west?
posted by BibiRose at 5:09 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

Toni Morrison's first novel was The Bluest Eye.

There's a Van Morrison song called Brown-Eyed Girl.

And a Sugarloaf song called Green-Eyed Lady.
posted by FencingGal at 5:48 AM on October 14 [2 favorites]

The Tempest

Witches were thought to have special eye powers. To be "overlooked" by a witch implied that the look equaled some sort of magical spell.
posted by effluvia at 8:27 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

In R&J, Mercutio iz teasing Romeo, saying, " I conjure thee by Rosalinds bright eye. her high forehead, and her quivering thigh!"

Eyes I Last Saw in Tears, by TS Eliot

Eyes Without a Face, Billy Idol

I have k own the eyes, known them all, eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, and when I am for.ulated, sprawling on a pin, then how do I begin to spit out the butt ends of my days and ways, and how do I presume. TS Eliot from The Lovesong Of J Alfred Prufrock.
We see the sun go down in your eyes. U2, One Tree Hill

In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel
posted by Oyéah at 1:37 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]

Tim Buckley: Song to the Siren (an excerpt)

Long afloat
Shipless Ocean

I tried all my best to smile

'til your singing eyes drew me to your isle...
posted by effluvia at 2:18 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]

I often think of a couplet from A Midsummer Night's Dream, especially when I'm dealing with chronic dryness and inflammation:
How came her eyes so bright? Not with salt tears:
If so, my eyes are oftener wash'd than hers.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:37 PM on October 14

"Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. Y'know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes."

From the movie 'Jaws'
posted by Homer42 at 11:13 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]

« Older Please tell me this clonazepam nightmare will end   |   Ooops Chrome Did It Again Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments