I want to tell you about two performances I attended this weekend. In the first, there were several superb actors, a director, a well-rehearsed script, an intriguing plot about life, love, and responsibility. The setting was positively Shakespearean. The backdrop was an actual Neo-Gothic church complete with gold leafed columns and angelic stained glass.
The trouble was that no one there intended it to be a play. A good friend was having his second child christened as a child of the Catholic faith. Now I realize some of you think RCC is the whore of Babylon or at least the tramp of the Tiber and others of you Continue reading …
While many here in America were on holiday over the 4th of July, Joy and I were driving over-the-road. As we were crossing Arizona heading toward California we were able to watch fireworks from many communities at the same time. All around us were blasts in the sky of various colors and shapes. It wasn’t the same as spending time with the family, having a cook out and taking in our community display but it did give me time to reflect. I am not sure how many today realize the importance of the celebration of that weekend. After all the events it commemorates happened so long ago and we seem to have such short memories. It is more many little more than time off work, the official opening of beaches and public pools. I occured to me that some might be interested in the original cost which secured the freedom we enjoy. It is a reminder that freedom isn’t free. Continue reading …
“How Long is a Chinaman”
I have had great fun with this phrase over the years. When it is said rather than written it is fun to watch the eyes of the one I am talking to glaze over. The reason is their assumptions. You might note that there is no punctuation above and when I say it I don’t really give a tip off. Is it a question or is it a statement? Most assume it is a question. “How long” meaning what is the length or height of a Chinaman? In that context it is a question of physical dimension. But when they respond “I don’t know” I point out Continue reading …
“Everybody Loves a Lover,” sang Doris Day. Perhaps this explains why the medieval romance carried on by correspondence between a monk and a nun nearly nine centuries ago continues to cast its hypnotic spell on artists and audiences across the ages of pages in the dust-settled tomes of love lore. Before Cyrano de Bergerac (the fictional one, not the real one) pined for Roxanne, before John Alden stole the heart of Priscilla Mullins from Miles Standish, before Romeo gasped, “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?” at the sight of Juliet, before Petrarch’s jaw dropped at the sight of Laura attending Good Friday mass, and before Beatrice inspired Dante to write La Vita Nuova—before any of those rank amateurs came along, there was Abélard and Héloïse.
Their love has been celebrated in painting and architecture. Poetry has been versed, songs have been stanzaed, plays have been staged, and movies have been celluloided, all in their honor. The 18th century English poet Alexander Pope sought to capture Héloïse’s regretful passion in his poem “Eloisa to Abelard.” The couple was the subject of the less-than-successful 1988 film Stealing Heaven, directed by Clive Donner and starring Derek de Lint as Abélard and Kim Thomson as Héloïse. In 1935 Cole Porter introduced them to Broadway audiences when he wrote:
As Abelard said to Eloise
“Don’t forget to drop a line to me, please”
…It was just one of those things
Just one of those crazy flings
One of those bells that now and then rings
Just one of those things
More recently, Howard Brenton’s play, In Extremis: The Story of Abelard and Heloise, opened at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London in 2006.
In spite of all this, and even being mentioned in what has become a jazz standard, you might say that Abélard and Héloïse are the most famous lovers that most people today have never heard of, at least outside of their native France. One might conclude from these playful lines that Porter was at least aware of the letters they exchanged long after their passionate romance came to a tragic end.
As it turns out, those letters are far more interesting than the artistic representations of the ill-fated couple. Continue reading …