Monthly Archives: March 2017

CLXXXIV

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

There is a reason why certain literary motifs are old enough to have been named in the ancient tongue of Latin, yet still persist today.  It is the nature of our experience in time.  It is life.

Snow Wolf Lodge at Sunset in the Rockies

Snow Wolf Lodge at Sunset in the Rockies

LITERARY MOTIFS

Dusk to dusk and dawn to dawn,

Starlight, sunlight slip away.

Ubi Sunt, where have they gone?

All the sages cannot say.

 

Many things will be restored:

Sanctity in flesh of men;

But hours squandered from the hoard

Never will be seen again.

 

Ubi Sunt, where have they gone?

All the sages cannot say.

Hence the message of the dawn:

Carpe Diem!  Seize the day.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

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CLXXXIII  

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

I am, as those who follow this blog can tell, committed to playing tennis with a net.  I am devoted to meter and rhyme and to bringing traditional form back to life.  Nevertheless, I write one free-verse poem a decade, just to prove that I can.  On rare occasions, that is, free verse is the form (if you will pardon the expression) that is called for.  It is simply what the buzzards below asked of me.

 image-buzzard2

ECCENTRIC

The buzzards circled silently,

Hardly needing to move their wings at all.

There were four of them,

And I stood stone still in their midst.

They were intent on something,

And their circle narrowed;

And I stood stone still,

Hardly daring to breathe

As their many-fingered wings floated motionless,

Not even twenty feet from my face.

And the circle narrowed,

And I stood stone still.

And I was glad

To have beheld their gaunt, ungainly grace

As their circle narrowed

And I stood stone still;

And I rejoiced

To find myself alive and still

Somewhat removed from their center.

And I remembered

How the ancient theologians defined God as a circle

Whose center was everywhere and whose circumference

Was nowhere.

And I understood

That if a man can find his center there,

He need not then concern himself thereafter

With his relationship to any other circle.

And their circle narrowed,

And I stood . . .

Stone . . .

Still.

 Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

Human Again: A Review of Beauty and the Beast

BeautyBeast

photo by Disney UK

This summer I had the opportunity to visit Egypt, specifically Cairo. It was magical, a place I only read about in books but felt like I would never actually experience myself. I crawled into the only surviving Ancient Wonder of the World; viewed at least two dozen mummies, many of them the remains of people I learned about in history class; and explored various mosques and churches I had never heard of. I even got to view the Sahara, a vast, bright, brown wasteland stretching beyond the horizon.

When I returned to the States, I saw at least two films set completely or partly in Cairo. I could not help but be distracted by how very un-Cairo-like the movies were. The chaotic streets, the dirty alleyways, the lingering smog were all gone, replaced by a cleaner, shiner version of the historic city I visited and slightly admire.

I felt a similar feeling as I left Disney’s newest release in their live-action remake line-up. When I was a child, 1991’s animated Beauty and the Beast captured and inspired my imagination. I remember my father and I building re-creating the Beast’s castle out of Legos, and I would wonder sometimes about what household object I would be if I were turned into one. (I pose this question to my students when we read the actual French fairy tale in class. Every year, the vote is the same: a coffee mug.) To this day, it remains one of my favorite stories and one of my favorite films. So it was not with a bit of nostalgia that I walked into the theater hoping that the 2017 version would be just as magical.

It was, to some degree. It was brighter, flashier, and wittier than the original. But it was not really the same, though I still enjoyed my time.

The film was a decent remake that honored the old story we loved watching as children while deviating enough to create a new tale. The plot remains the same as the animated version, though it develops the old characters more and introduces new ones for us to enjoy. The film presents the backstory of the Beast’s parentage and reveals what happened to Belle’s mother. Maurice is an artist and toymaker, rather than an inventor, and Belle seems more assertive and independent. Almost all of the old songs are there as well as few new ones. (I did not care for the newer songs. Disney would have done well to incorporate the songs from their Broadway adaptation, which has better songs than the new ones written for this production, mostly notably the ballad “If I Can’t Love Her” sung by the Beast. Chills.) However, it is the movie’s human characters (well as one beast) that carry the movie.

The casting and acting was nearly perfect. Dan Stevens was a perfect choice for the Beast, showing emotional range in both human and beast forms. Kevin Kline was another solid casting decision as Belle’s artistic and protective father, Maurice. However, it is Josh Gad’s performance as Gaston’s sidekick LaFou that outshines in the film. Contrary to the animated film source, Gad’s character initially admires the excessively vain Gaston but slowly develops a sympathetic disposition toward Belle and Maurice as Gaston increasingly mistreats them. I did not really care for Emma Watson’s Belle. She was cute and she could sing. But that was about it. Luke Evans’ take on Gaston was confusing. I had trouble deciding if he was going for goofy (like the animated version) or terrifyingly evil–or should I say beastly (something the new version overtly stated at one point).

The chemistry between the titular characters was another highlight of the film. The story takes its time here, as the two characters interact and develop true genuine feelings for each other. Something normal people in a normal world would do. They start off bickering and hating each other, as they do in the original film. But after the Beast saves Belle’s life and she in turn heals his injuries sustained in rescuing her, they begin an honest conversation about books and learning that eventually leads to their close friendship. They eventually reveal the secrets about their past relationships with their parents, bringing them closer together. The interplay is a great set-up for the most rememberable part of both the animated and live-action versions: the ballroom dance. (Brilliantly done!) And I would have to acknowledge here the only part of Emma Watson’s performance that I think deserves the most praise. Acting against a CGI character is not easy, let alone pretending to fall in love with one.

And the effects are where the film falls apart for me. The sets and costumes were lavish and glamorous, much like the country in which the story takes place–France. And their is defintely something French about the atmosphere. But the film becomes way too glitzy at times, especially with the CGI effects. The household servants’ witty banter kept me engaged, but I did not care for their animation in this version. (I had no problems with the Beast–the Beast was fantastic.) Disney seems to have taken the success of 2016’s The Jungle Book a little too well and thought that candlesticks and clocks could translate from animation to live-action as well as panthers, tigers, and bears. The story also dragged here a bit by going into the lives and relationships of the servants, though I appreciated their response when Belle asked them if the Enchantress was right in cursing them as well–something the original movie glosses over but we were all thinking upon reflection. Their answer–which I will not reveal in this article–is deep and powerful.

But I understand what the movie was trying to do. It was trying to get to the humanity of the Beast and his servants, showing us that the relationships we develop with others and the kindness in which we treat other people make us human. And it reminds us that our choices have repercussions on others as well as others. And here, the movie could have used a song cut from the original that made it into the Broadway version: “Human Again.” In this song the servants sing about what they would do when the curse is lifted and they transform back into their normal forms. But in a small way it shows that the Beast himself must find his own humanity before he can literally turn back into a man. He must find companionship and kindness and joy and laughter that only comes when he develops a true relationship with another. And Belle is there to help him become human again.

CLXXXII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

The sufferings of Christ on the Cross at that singular moment of space-time history were sufficient to pay for all our sins forever.  But they strangely do not end, not yet.  For He suffers continually along with His persecuted people, asking Saul why he was persecuting Him—and He feels acutely also the wounds they inflict upon themselves.  What the ultimate purpose of these additional sufferings is we do not know.  But they certainly serve to highlight the depths of Christ’s identification with His people.

Crucifixion-Glass 

COMMENTARY, HEB. 6:6

 

Behold it, battered beyond recognition:

It gazes, hardly human, through the thorns.

Weeping tears of shame, yet still it scorns

To call down angels and abort the mission.

Wonder, then, how long in this condition

It can endure to be so bruised and torn,

To bear fresh wounds on those already born

And still remain strung up on exhibition.

 

The world looks on and thinks it comprehends:

“Another Promise failed, a Name besmirched;

So must all false Messiahs make amends.”

You recognize, impaled upon its perch,

The Body of our Savior?  Oh, my friends—

This is the other Body of Christ:  the Church.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

CLXXXI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

Habakkuk is supremely the prophet who wrestles with the mystery of how God works even through evil to accomplish His purposes of good for His people (cf. Rom. 8:18-30, esp. 8:28).  This means that we often cannot see the good in the short run.  Yet still we must trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty.  “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, thought the yield of the olive should fail and the field produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”  We each have to find our own way to that place.

CSLComfortableLife

SONG

Paraphrase: Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

Though all my friends should fade like the stars from the sky

Before the dawn,

Like the leaves in June that greet the breeze with a sigh

But soon are gone

When the Autumn winds blow sharp and cold, and nigh

The hearth you’re drawn

And the winter snows, so deathly still, seem to lie

A lifetime long.

Though this and worse should be my lot of woe

Or grief or care,

Though all of joy should be forgot and go

I know not where,

Though all the streams of time should seem to flow

Toward despair,

Still this would be my strength and song, to know

That You are there—

Unchanged since You laid down your life just so

I could be spared;

Yes this would be my strength and song, just to know

That You are there.

ResurrectionJesus-998x665

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CLXXXII

 

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

The sufferings of Christ on the Cross at that singular moment of space-time history were sufficient to pay for all our sins forever.  But they strangely do not end, not yet.  For He suffers continually along with His persecuted people, asking Saul why he was persecuting Him—and He feels acutely also the wounds they inflict upon themselves.  What the ultimate purpose of these additional sufferings is we do not know.  But they certainly serve to highlight the depths of Christ’s identification with His people.

 

COMMENTARY, HEB. 6:6

 

Behold it, battered beyond recognition:

It gazes, hardly human, through the thorns.

Weeping tears of shame, yet still it scorns

To call down angels and abort the mission.

Wonder, then, how long in this condition

It can endure to be so bruised and torn,

To bear fresh wounds on those already born

And still remain strung up on exhibition.

 

The world looks on and thinks it comprehends:

“Another Promise failed, a Name besmirched;

So must all false Messiahs make amends.”

You recognize, impaled upon its perch,

The Body of our Savior?  Oh, my friends—

This is the other Body of Christ:  the Church.

 

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!