The Broken Tower
by Hart Crane
The bell-rope that gathers God at dawn
Dispatches me as though I dropped down the knell
Of a spent day - to wander the cathedral lawn
From pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.
Have you not heard, have you not seen that corps
Of shadows in the tower, whose shoulders sway
Antiphonal carillons launched before
The stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray?
The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower;
And swing I know not where. Their tongues engrave
Membrane through marrow, my long-scattered score
Of broken intervals ... And I, their sexton slave!
Oval encyclicals in canyons heaping
The impasse high with choir. Banked voices slain!
Pagodas campaniles with reveilles out leaping-
O terraced echoes prostrate on the plain! ...
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
My world I poured. But was it cognate, scored
Of that tribunal monarch of the air
Whose thighs embronzes earth, strikes crystal Word
In wounds pledges once to hope - cleft to despair?
The steep encroachments of my blood left me
No answer (could blood hold such a lofty tower
As flings the question true?) -or is it she
Whose sweet mortality stirs latent power?-
And through whose pulse I hear, counting the strokes
My veins recall and add, revived and sure
The angelus of wars my chest evokes:
What I hold healed, original now, and pure ...
And builds, within, a tower that is not stone
(Not stone can jacket heaven) - but slip
Of pebbles, - visible wings of silence sown
In azure circles, widening as they dip
The matrix of the heart, lift down the eyes
That shrines the quiet lake and swells a tower...
The commodious, tall decorum of that sky
Unseals her earth, and lifts love in its shower.
Eledhwen, who writes some lovely LOTR fic, has translated the Viggo Mortensen interview from the December 2002 Studio magazine, which is in French. It's here.
From The Wall Street Journal, to make up for that Landover Baptist TTT review:
HOUSES OF WORSHIP
Myth at the Multiplex
Tolkien poured Christian values into a pagan world.
BY JOHN J. MILLER
Friday, December 6, 2002
Wall Street Journal
The movie version of "The Two Towers" opens on Dec. 18, the second installment in what is already a blockbuster J.R.R. Tolkien film trilogy. The new movie begins (at least it did at a recent screening) by replaying part of a scene from last year's "The Fellowship of the Ring." As his companions flee, the good wizard Gandalf turns to face the demonic Balrog and yells: "You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire!"
The line about the Secret Fire is a curious one. Gandalf certainly speaks it in Tolkien's novel, but its real meaning is never made clear on the book's pages, and certainly not on screen. That would seem to make it a prime candidate for the cutting-room floor, since director Peter Jackson must delete all kinds of material to cram Tolkien's epic into a few hours of film.
Yet the line is there--as it should be. As Bradley J. Birzer explains in "J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth" (ISI Books), it is "the most important religious statement in the book." The Secret Fire, Tolkien once told a friend, is really the Holy Spirit.
Most readers understand that "The Lord of the Rings" is more than just Harry Potter for grown-ups. Some have interpreted it as an allegory of World War II. Others have embraced its proto-environmentalism, reveled in its linguistic complexity or simply enjoyed its grand sweep and scope.
Secular readings of Tolkien, however, yield only so much. Mr. Birzer's excellent new book is the latest in a bumper crop of studies--including those by Kurt Bruner, Joseph Pearce, Mark Eddy Smith and Jim Ware--that plumb the religious meaning of Middle Earth. Thanks in part to them, it has become increasingly obvious that Tolkien deserves a place alongside T.S. Eliot, Russell Kirk and C.S. Lewis as one of the 20th century's great Christian humanists.
Tolkien's deep faith is familiar to those who know his life story. When he was eight years old, in 1900, his widowed mother converted to Catholicism, an act that made her a virtual outcast within her family. Tolkien always blamed her death four years later on the resulting stress.
The orphaned Tolkien was left in the care of a severe priest, the Rev. Francis Morgan, who nonetheless secured Tolkien's everlasting loyalty to the Catholic Church. Tolkien became a kind of evangelist among his academic friends; he was instrumental in convincing C.S. Lewis to become a Christian in 1931.
Between his Oxford lectures on medieval literature, Tolkien invented a mythology of Middle Earth. It was published posthumously as "The Silmarillion" in 1977 but written well before "The Lord of the Rings" first appeared in the 1950s; indeed, it served as a hidden backdrop to this much-loved saga. The mythology of Middle Earth was Tolkien's own creation, of course, but he strived to make it correlate to events in the Bible. He called it a "sub-creation," in deference to the real Creator.
Those who don't realize any of this may still derive enormous pleasure from "The Lord of the Rings," with its well-told tale of good vs. evil, courage vs. cowardice, redemption vs. ruin. At its core, however, the book is a piece of piety. "The Lord of the Rings," Tolkien once wrote to a Jesuit friend, is a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first but consciously in the revision."
Christians have been good at appropriating pagan traditions for their own ends--scheduling Christmas and Easter on pagan holidays, for instance. Tolkien moves in the reverse direction, taking Christian values and pouring them into a pagan world. His heroes aren't Christians because the truth of Christianity hasn't been revealed to them. But they do have inklings of it, as when Aragorn ponders mortality: "We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory."
Peter Jackson, the director, appears to grasp all this. His films can't be called religious, but they contain important moments of religious feeling. At the end of "Fellowship," when Aragorn looks down upon the slain Boromir, he nearly crosses himself--his gesture might best be described as a half-cross. It's a fitting symbol for Middle Earth, Tolkien's devotional sub-creation.
Mr. Miller is a writer for National Review.
And from Popular Science on the science and engineering behind The Two Towers:
Last year's biggest cinematic cliffhanger continues as the second chapter of the J.R.R. Tolkien "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Two Towers," opens this month. And its epic Battle of Helm's Deep, involving about 50,000 mostly computer-generated fighters, represents a milestone in filmmaking. The film's "crowd supervisor" Stephen Regelous, created a new software program-Massive-that generates crowds whose interaction is based not on particle dynamics, but on unique and unpredictable choices made by individual characters within a scene. For more about the fuzzy logic used to create this epic film, see Popular Science.
Also, while I'm doing public service announcements, someone on one of my mailing lists noted that Bravo's Page to Screen series will be doing Lord of the Rings starting this Monday. TV Guide description: "The adaptation of 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is studied, using interviews and clips." It airs at 8 and 11 p.m. on Monday and at 4 p.m. on Tuesday EST.
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