A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Poem of the Day: William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: 
Little we see in Nature that is ours; 
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; 
The winds that will be howling at all hours, 
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. -- Great God! I'd rather be 
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. 
--William Wordsworth

I made a discovery last night. I wanted to use a Wordsworth poem because, back when I was a young and foolish graduate student, I rather liked his poetry. But then I started combing through the anthology for something appropriate and found myself nodding off. I think if I ever suffer from insomnia (these days I suffer gladly from the opposite), I'll sit down with a copy of The Prelude. It won't take five minutes before a slumber does my spirit seal. 

Of course, The Prelude's many thousands of lines disqualify it from anything but excerpting here. But I remembered some passages -- the boy rowing out onto the lake at night, the crossing of the Alps, the "spots of time" section that links Wordsworth with Joyce's epiphanies and Proust's moments of involuntary memory -- that stood out for me. But I found even those buried so deep in the blankest of blank verse that I couldn't pluck them forth. And even some of the shorter poems, like "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" and "Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood" seem to smother their best parts under lines that thud and blunder. 

But then I rediscovered this sonnet, which binds up an emotional state as concisely as any of Shakespeare's, and I remembered why Wordsworth is, after all, a great poet.