Sunday, October 4, 2009

Power of Words, Spoken and Otherwise

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors-
No - yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to near her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever - or else swoon to death.
~ John Keats

We are just going to pause a moment to wrap ourselves in the blanket of those words for a moment... Ending a love poem with the word "death" is gutsy, but bright stars fade the fastest so I should expect it though I never do.

Every Tuesday, without fail, I take myself to a movie before work. Though alone, Tuesday quickly became my favorite day of the week. It is liberating to be able to name exactly which film you are going to see when, without having to negotiate with your co-viewers horrible tastes in film (of course I always blame my friends when a movie is rotten). Last week I had an internal tug-of-war about which movie to see: 9 or Bright Star. I knew that this would be my last chance to see 9 in the theater, but I've been holding my breath for Bright Star.

Bright Star it was!

Armed with Paul Newman's Peanut Butter Cups and a book for that awkward pre-movie lull, I voyaged into the theater for what I had hoped would be my new favorite hopelessly Romantic, beautifully costumed, period film. Unfortunately that was not the case.

But I refuse to write any disparaging remarks about this film (it was really nice, but not awesome) for one reason: the closing credits.

Over the scrolling names, the actor who played Keats read a poem, not the one lovingly quoted above but one with equal power. His soft and breathy voice, sometimes faint and sometimes sharp, read and read. By the time the credits were rolling up the screen for the production group, I was leaning back in my chair with my eyes closed and my gaping mouth was obscured by my hand.

Even though I have read Keats' poems many times before, I had never heard them read aloud. My profession and demeanor give me a passion for the power of the written word (just see the latest free e-book from NetLibrary, Burn this Book - very interesting perspective on the power of the written word), but I often forget the heart stopping quality of the well-spoken word.

I think that is the part of me book readings speak to and is a reason I should seek them out more often. The written word without voice is dead - be it a true physical voice, or a more mental one.

So, I thank Bright Star for reminding me of this and for having such spectacular costumes - quite lovely, really, with all of the pretty dresses and coats and what-have-you.


  1. To Autumn, by Keats:

    SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
    Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
    Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;
    Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


    Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
    And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
    The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

  2. Wow! Why have I never read that one before, it is so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that! I've printed it out and plan on sticking it on the fridge, especially this time of year.