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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Poem of the Day: Philip Sidney

Strephon:
Ye goatherd gods, that love the grassy mountains, 
Ye nymphs which haunt the springs in pleasant valleys, 
Ye satyrs joyed with free and quiet forests, 
Vouchsafe your silent ears to plaining music, 
Which to my woes gives still an early morning, 
And draws the dolor on till weary evening. 

Klaius: 
O Mercury, foregoer to the evening, 
O heavenly huntress of the savage mountains, 
O lovely star, entitled of the morning, 
While that my voice doth fill these woeful valleys, 
Vouchsafe your silent ears to plaining music, 
Which oft hath Echo tired in secret forests. 

Strephon: 
I, that once was free burgess of the forests, 
Where shade from sun, and sport I sought in evening, 
I, that was once esteemed for pleasant music, 
Am banished now among the monstrous mountains 
Of huge despire, and foul affliction's valleys, 
Am grown a screech owl to myself each morning. 

Klaius: 
I, that was once delighted every morning, 
Hunting the wild inhabiters of forests, 
I, that was once the music of these valleys, 
So darkened am that all my day is evening, 
Heartbroken so, that molehills seem high mountains 
And fill the vales with cries instead of music. 

Strephon: 
Long since, alas, my deadly swannish music 
Hath made itself a crier of the morning, 
And hath with wailing strength climbed highest mountains; 
Long since my thoughts more desert be than forests, 
Long since I see my joys come to their evening, 
And state thrown down to overtrodden valleys. 

Klaius: 
Long since the happy dwellers of these valleys 
Have prayed me leave my strange exclaiming music, 
Which troubles their day's work and joys of evening; 
Long since I hate the night, more hate the morning; 
Long since my thoughts chase me like beasts in forests 
And make me wish myself laid under mountains. 

Strephon: 
Meseems I see the high and stately mountains 
Transform themselves to low dejected valleyus; 
Meseems I hear in these ill-changéd forests 
The nightingales to learn of owls their music; 
Meseems I feel the comfort of the morning 
Turned to the mortal serene of an evening. 

Klaius: 
Meseems I see a filthy cloudy evening 
As soon as sun begins to climb the mountains; 
Meseems I feel a noisome scent, the morning 
When I do smell the flowers of these valleys; 
Meseems I hear, when I do hear sweet music, 
The dreadful cries of murdered men in forests. 

Strephon: 
I wish to fire the trees of all these forests; 
I give the sun a last farewell each evening; 
I curse the fiddling finders-out of music; 
With envy I do hate the lofty mountains 
And with despite despise the humble valleys; 
I do detest night, evening, day, and morning. 

Klaius:  
Curse to myself my prayer is, the morning; 
My fire is more than can be made with forests, 
My state more base than are the basest valleys. 
I wish no evenings more to see, each evening; 
Shaméd, I hate myself in sight of mountains 
And stop mine ears, lest I grow mad with music. 

Strephon: 
For she whose parts maintained a perfect music, 
Whose beauties shined more than the blushing morning, 
Who much did pass in state the stately mountains, 
In straightness passed the cedars of the forests, 
Hath cast me, wretch, into eternal evening 
By taking her two suns from these dark valleys. 

Klaius: 
For she, with whom compared, the Alps are valleys, 
She, whose least word brings from the spheres their music, 
At whose approach the sun rose in the evening, 
Who where she went bare in her forehead morning, 
Is gone, is gone, from these our spoiléd forests, 
Turning to deserts our best pastured mountains. 

Strephon and Klaius:
These mountains witness shall, so shall these valleys, 
These forests eke, made wretched by our music, 
Our morning hymn this is, and song at evening. 
--Philip Sidney 

When I count my blessings, one of them ought to be that I'll never have to read Sidney's Arcadia again, as once I did in grad school. Let's just say that Elizabethan pastoral romance is not my thing. But square in the midst of it comes this gorgeous double sestina, with its hypnotic repetition of the end-words mountains, valleys, forests, music, morning, evening, in kaleidoscopic rotation. I guess I'm a sucker for fixed verse forms. They're a little like word puzzles to me. But Sidney manages to make this one as beautiful as it is clever.