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, March 20, 2010

Poem of the Day: Edwin Muir

The Horses

Barely a twelvemonth after 
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came. 
By then we had made our covenant with silence, 
But in the first few days it was so still 
We listened to our breathing and were afraid. 
On the second day 
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer. 
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north, 
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day 
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter 
Nothing. The radios dumb; 
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens, 
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms 
All over the world. But now if they should speak, 
If on a sudden they should speak again, 
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak, 
We would not listen, we would not let it bring 
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick 
At one great gulp. We would not have it again. 
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep, 
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow, 
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness. 
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening 
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting. 
We leave them where they are and let them rust: 
"They'll moulder away and be like other loam." 
We make our oxen drag our rusty ploughs, 
Long laid aside. We have gone back 
Far past our fathers' land.   
                                            And then, that evening 
Late in the summer the strange horses came. 
We heard a distant tapping on the road, 
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again 
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder. 
We saw the heads 
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid. 
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time 
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us 
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield 
Or illustrations in a book of knights. 
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited, 
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent 
By an old command to find our whereabouts 
And that long-lost archaic companionship. 
In the first moment we had never a thought 
That they were creatures to be owned and sued. 
Among them were some half-a-dozen colts 
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world, 
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden. 
Since then they have pulled our ploughs and borne our loads, 
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts. 
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning. 
--Edwin Muir 

Muir lived through two World Wars, so it's no wonder that the threat of yet another should have stirred him to verse. And to a poem, written during the Cold War, that predicts a cataclysmic "seven days war" eliminating the industrial civilization of radios and tractors for a return to a horse-powered "Eden."