This poem by John Donne dates from 1592 and it still has great resonance today.
The Good Morrow
I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.
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?
Whatever dyes, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.
This film from 1972 is another from my childhood that I got to see only because I nagged my parents to take me. There was a lot of coverage on British television so it was an eagerly awaited movie. It is another example of a film with an ensemble cast made up of major American actors but, once again, this meant nothing to me. I was only interested in the action.
The SS Poseidon was on a final journey to Athens when it was overturned by a Tsunami, not that I knew or used that term back then. The film sets of an upside down ship were fascinating in themselves. A radical preacher leads a group of passengers to safety. The conventional wisdom is to stay put and await rescue but the preacher believes they are in greater danger if they do not head upwards to the ‘bottom’ of the ship. Some passengers are convinced by his arguments and agree to go with him, most stay behind.
The film shows the journey of the passengers as they head for safety. On the way, several of them die and there are inevitable fights as the group morale breaks down. Through it all, the preacher, played by Gene Hackman, acts as the inspirational leader. It was a brilliant night at the pictures!
‘The Poseidon Adventure’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
Here is a poem that I had to read in school and only, many years later, did I come to appreciate it.
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below–above the vaulted sky.
Going to the cinema in the 70s was a big event. My parents were not big cinema goers and, in fact, they didn’t like going out at all very much. It took quite a bit of nagging to get them to take me to the cinema. It was quite a liberation when I could go without them. ‘Tora Tora Tora’ was from the ear when I needed a parent in tow to make it to the pictures. we always talked about going to the ‘pictures’, never ‘going to the cinema’. The cinema was just the building back then!
The film, directed by Richard Fleisher, was released in 1970. I remember sitting through a lot of what I considered to be boring talk before the action started. Having watched it many times over the years, the ‘talk’ part has made more sense but to my ten year old self, I wanted the scenes of war. The attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese was well known to me but I did not realise at the time that the USA had not joined in the Second World War when Britain did.
There is a whole ensemble of famous American film stars in the movie but, back then, I didn’t know who any of them were!
The Japanese intended to inflict a blow on the USA by attacking them when they were not expecting it. This film suggests that issues between the two countries were a matter of diplomacy but military planning in Japan went ahead so that they could strike against the Americans. The event, which brought the USA into the Second World War, was shocking and vividly shown in this film version. I remember being keen to see what modern film techniques could do to this story when I went to see the film ‘Pearl Harbor’ and being disappointed that it did not come close to the 70s film depiction of the same calamity.
‘Tora Tora Tora’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
This poem reminds me of the time when I went through an ee Cummings phase and read so many poems whose meanings were just beyond the reach of my brain.
love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
The poetry of ee Cummings is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
I was recently looking through my DVD collection to prune it, an annual task that gets harder as the years go on. I hooked out my copy of this film from 1999 and was reminded of how much I liked it. Some films sit int he memory only to be disappointing on the second viewing, especially if there are many years between them. Others, though, stand the test of time and this gentle film from China is onesuch.
As is often the case, the route to the story is through the present. In this case, successful businessman Luo Yusheng returns to his home village for the funeral of his father. The story of how his mother and fther met and fell in love is then revealed to us. His father was the young school teacher, sent to the village to take up his post at a school that the local people are building for his arrival. As was traditional, the men built the school building while the young women prepared meals for the workers. Young Zhao Di is attracted to the young teacher and hopes every day that he will choose the meal she prepared.
Through glances and smiles, the courtship of the two young people begins. When the teacher is recalled to the city, Zhao Di waits for him even in the falling snow and becomes so ill everyone thinks she may die. The teacher returns to the village secretly on hearing this and their love is sealed.
In the modern section of the story, Zhao Di, now an old woman, insists that the coffin of her husband is carried back through the hills to their village by foot so that his spirit will always know the way back home. The local Mayor is worried that there are insufficient young men to do the task so the son insists on paying for porters. When the time of the funeral comes, over 100 people turn out and nobody will take payment. This was their way of honouring their teacher.
There are parts that are sentimental but the film as a whole is spare rather than sickly sweet and it reminds us that love is where it falls. The life long dedication of the couple is made more significant by the fact that we see their coming together while knowing that the son is arranging his father’s funeral under his mother’s instructions.
‘The Road Home’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
I went to London to see the National Theatre production about the phone hacking scandal. The play transferred to the West End which is where I saw it. I am predisposed to enjoy any play that attacks the morals of the tabloid press in this country. I am told we get the press we deserve but I wonder where the cycle gets broken. Journalists claim that celebrity stories sell newspapers and that they write them because the readers want to read them. Where the slide downwards is halted, I do not know. I thought the hacking scandal would have made a difference but it seems not.
This play takes into account the outcome of the trials held in this country over journalists who believed they were above the law, mostly because politicians treated them as such. It was full of good one liners even if the play itself lacked cohesion. Richard Bean writes fully dialogue and there were many ‘knowing’ comments. Maybe it will take a bit longer before a more considered play can be written but, it seems, the world will have moved on and the tabloid press is back to its own sense of entitlement and power; who will move against a press that has the power to crush you?
One of the impressive aspects of this play was the way it portrayed all journalists as complicit in the damaged culture; there were no rogue journalists here! The Asian Police Commissioner was a great character if only because he was a fool and it was refreshing in a diverse way to have an Asian fool.
Richard Bean has written a play for our times. I wonder if, when in the future some other playwright covers this period, audiences of the future will believe that journalists can really have acted with so little regard for the lives of the people they exposed.