Friday, January 30, 2009

land of lost content


That is the land of lost content,
I see it through a scrim
of memory that time has bent,
both indistinct and dim.

Where has the content disappeared,
I wonder? Can I find
some remnants that are less than weird
within my aging mind?

The content, so it seems to be,
has been replaced by dis-
content. Within its lost debris
are treasures that I miss.

No Shropshire lad, I come from Hen-
don, Golders Green
the continent and mise-en-scène
that I see through a screen.

These are the places where I lost
the content of the life
I had before my Pentecost
epiphany, my wife.

This is the place where I would waste
my time in useless prayer.
Although for both I’ve lost my taste,
my content is still there.

My sister Esther writes to me this morning from Israel that at a concert performance of “Don Giovanni” in Jerusalem a lady came up to her and told her: “My name is Sandra. The first time I ever saw ‘Don Giovanni’ was with your brother in the Royal Festival Hall.”

I have no memory of that event, but it connects me to a verse by A. E. Housman that Kenneth Turan quotes on the same day in his LA Times review of Terence Davies’ poetic documentary looking at life, loss and Liverpool, “Of Time and the City”:

On one level, the tone of "Of Time and the City" is one of regret, sadness at the disappearance of the working-class city the filmmaker grew up in. Davies begins the film with a quote from A.E. Housman's "A Shropshire Lad" that emphasizes this melancholy that the past is no more: "That is the land of lost content / I see it shining plain/ The happy highways where I went / And cannot come again." But filmmaker Davies, who narrates the film himself in a gruff, acerbic voice, is not one for sentimental nostalgia. Yes, he loves and misses the Liverpool of his youth, on display in that lovely black-and-white newsreel footage, but he still boils with fury at some of what he experienced there, and he's far from shy about expressing his resentments. Sometimes that anger sounds grating and overwrought, but it also provides a stern counterpoint to the beautiful images and melodies it accompanies. Davies, raised Catholic, is especially vocal about his experiences with organized religion, striking out against "the years wasted in useless prayer." He's none too happy with the monarchy either, lambasting the extravagances of the future Queen Elizabeth's wedding, calling it "The Betty and Phil Show."

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 1/30/09

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