From Book VII
By John Milton
Silence, ye troubled Waves, and thou Deep, peace,
Said then the Omnific Word; your discord end!
Nor staid; but, on the wings of Cherubim
Uplifted, in paternal glory rode
Far into Chaos, and the world unborn;
For Chaos heard his voice: Him all his train
Followed in bright procession, to behold
Creation, and the wonders of his might.
Then staid the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God's eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things:
One foot he centered, and the other turned
Round through the vast profundity obscure;
And said, Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy just circumference, O World!
Thus God the Heaven created, thus the Earth,
Matter unformed and void: Darkness profound
Covered the abyss: but on the watery calm
His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread,
And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth
Throughout the fluid mass; but downward purged
The black Tartareous cold infernal dregs,
Adverse to life: then founded, then conglobed
Like things to like; the rest to several place
Disparted, and between spun out the air;
And Earth self-balanced on her center hung.
I actually wanted Spenser, not Milton, but it is hard to find a brief section of The Faerie Queene to excerpt; the language is so dense and difficult, and the imagery so dependent on the context of the whole, that I thought I'd just link to it instead. Spenser taught me to read Milton and I am just so fond of the creation of the universe, loaded though it is. It's inherently an act of anti-Fundamentalism to rewrite Genesis, isn't it?
Friday Five today is about being daring. Either I'm a total wimp or I'm just brain-dead, but I can't think of much that I've done that qualifies as being daring in any traditional sense, so I'm skipping it. The risks I've taken have been pretty ordinary.
1. What scene always makes you cry?
Sam's speech near the end of The Two Towers about the people in the old stories. That is the one scene in all of LOTR that unfailingly makes me a basket case; I know that everyone I know will say Boromir's death for this one, and that has made me cry, but it's not the same feeling, not the same kind of bittersweet and not the same sense of universality watching the warrior fall as listening to Sam explain why a hobbit would save the world.
2. What scene always makes you laugh?
In Life of Brian, the scene where the two Judean revolutionary groups run into each other on the way to kidnap Pilate's wife and issue demands and start fighting one another over who thought of the plan first. Brian cries out, "Brothers!" and begs that they think of the common enemy, and everyone in both groups immediately says, "The Judean People's Front?" and Brian replies, with a look of despair, "No, the Romans!" and they shake their heads at him and go back to killing each other (the Romans in turn are shaking their heads at all of them). The incisiveness of that commentary on thousands of years of Middle Eastern politics absolutely kills me.
3. What scene always makes you cringe?
Jack Nicholson doing what he does to Kathleen Turner at the end of Prizzi's Honor. In general that sort of amoral cruelty makes me sick, particularly in mob movies, which I generally avoid as a matter of principle, even The Godfather. But that one in particular, with its attendant commentary on love and marriage and the duplicity of women and the rest...it's just revolting.
4. What scene always confuses you?
The end of Thelma and Louise (a scene which I could have used for the next question, as I have had that response to it more than once). How is suicide supposed to represent triumphant escape and freedom? It's the absolute, ultimate victory of the intolerable male-dominated world in which they live: that the only way they can find peace and justice is to die. Don't give me any film-school bullshit about how they escape the narrative frame of the movie because we don't actually see the car fall and blow up, either. That's a death scene whether the deaths happen on or off camera, and to this day no one has ever successfully explained to me why I should view it as in any way as a positive or powerful message for women.
5. What scene always makes you want to kill the writers?
The scene I have reacted most violently to in my life is at the end of The Purple Rose of Cairo, after which I swore I would never see another Woody Allen movie. (I lied.) I thought the film was utterly contemptuous of film audiences, and it took years before it hit me that, successful actor, writer and director or not, Allen was putting the focus of identification not on the Hollywood star but on the girl in the audience. I don't think there is any writer-director who has given me as many violent mood swings over the years as Allen at the top of his form, so I don't really want to kill him even when I want to kill him.
The ice storm arrived, not badly, but they've closed schools anyway so I will be spending another day this week in the house with my children. Please forgive me if I can speak about nothing but Mario and Yu-Gi-Oh by this evening, as my attempts to get them to watch gladiator movies with me thus far have failed.