Saturday, December 22, 2012

Poetry in Movies: "Strong in will to strive..."

Recently, I saw the latest Bond film Skyfall , M recites the end of Tennyson's "Ulysses." Judy Drench's M only quotes the lines in bold below, but I couldn't resist these preceding lines. In poetry, lines build on one another like stones in a pyramid - here the conclusion resonates like its climatic apex.

Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought
               with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The scene in Skyfall juxtaposes the poetry with cutaways of violent scenes of armed assassins that are coming to kill M. In the wake of Newton, CT, the poem as well as the violence elicited unsettling feels yet consoling in the final lines. Indeed, hearing the words "heroic heart" made me think of the young teacher that shielded her students, sacrificing her life while saving theirs. While we are left in horror and sorrow, I hope we find our "will" for a way to end gun violence.

As families morn for lost loved ones, we all mourn for those innocent women and children in CT.
Which reminds me, there may be no finer elegy than...

W. H. Auden's "Funeral Blues"

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

My hope is that they will not have died in vain and we will not yield until we do more to make this a safer world for all children.

Auden's poem creates a powerful moment of grief and catharsis in one of the funniest films I have seen, Four Weddings and a Funeral - a moving commentary on love.

More movies with poetry.

1 comment:

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