19 March 2009

A Poet Who Doesn't Slobber




There is a wonderful book that became a wonderful movie. Whenever someone asks for a favorite book, I usually say "To Kill A Mockingbird", but if given a top 10, the "84 Charing Cross Road" makes the list. When asked for a favorite movie, I usually say either "To Kill A Mockingbird" or "Same Time Next Year", but if given a top 10 "84 Charing Cross Road" makes the list.

Supposedly Anne Bancroft loved the book as well. Since she had the good fortune to be married to Mel Brooks, he bought the rights for her so that she could become Helene Hanff in the movie and cast Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel. From that point on, book lovers have simply sat down to memorize great lines and take notes on books by British authors that they will have to buy. I mean, are Charing Cross lovers the only people who still know about the multiple volumes of Landor's "Imaginary Conversations"?

But it is time for spring and the movie now echoes in real life:

Helene writes to Frank: “I require a book of love poems with Spring coming on. No Keats or Shelley. Send me poets who can make love without slobbering. Wyatt or Johnson or somebody. Use your own judgment. Just a nice book, preferably small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park.”

Late in the movie, Frank is shown, reflecting on her as a Yeats love poem runs through his mind. The moment, and the poem, are to all romantics out there, a poet who can make love without slobbering:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths,
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). The Wind Among the Reeds. 1899.

Now I love Yeats, with the above poem or the classic "Lake Isle of Inishfree"

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

But even more I like the harder to interpret elderly, bawdy, ironic, and ultimately wise Crazy Jane when she argues with the world or its representative in The Bishop. Within these short poems, Yeats uses plays on words (sole/soul hole/whole and rent meaning payment/torn) There are seven Crazy Jane poems but here are two: First the argument with the bishop and finally when she with her sins of loving to well presents herself for judgment. You can decide if St. Peter let her in.

Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
'Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.'

'Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,' I cried.
'My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.'

Crazy Jane On The Day Of Judgment

‘Love is all
Unsatisfied
That cannot take the whole
Body and soul’;
And that is what Jane said.
‘Take the sour
If you take me
I can scoff and lour
And scold for an hour.’

“That’s certainly the case,’ said he.

‘Naked I lay,
The grass my bed;
Naked and hidden away,
That black day’;
And that is what Jane said.
‘What can be shown?
What true love be?
All could be known or shown
If Time were but gone.’

‘That’s certainly the case,’ said he.

1 comment:

Travis said...

I haven't seen that film. But I enjoy both Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, I love poetry, and I'm a romantic. So perhaps we'll have to explore it.