Saturday, June 18, 2011

Paradise Lost

I first became acquainted with Clifford Odets' play Paradise Lost via a Public Television broadcast in early March 1971.  I was 17 years old at the time, a high school senior.  I was deeply moved by the play.  About two years ago I purchased a DVD of the play.  I recently watched the DVD and found myself again moved by the conclusion of the first act.  The character Pearl Gordon is playing the Brahms Intermezzo op. 118, no. 2 on the piano upstairs at the Gordon home.  Pearl's father, Leo, and the boarder, Gus, have been drinking cognac and are drunk.  After the tumult of the first act, the closing moments of the scene, late in the evening,  have a magically-serene quality.  It is impossible here to convey the utter nostalgia of the moment that is nonetheless suggested by the allusion to a poem by Longfellow, which concludes: "And the night shall be filled with music, And the cares, that infest the day, Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs, And as silently steal away."

GUS: (Pearl plays piano upstairs.)  And when the last day comes -- by ice or fire -- she'll be up there playing away lunes, martes, miercoles, she don't stop.  That's how we say Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Spanish.  You don't hear a word I'm sayin', Mr. G.

LEO:  What?

GUS:  "And as the Arabs of the desert fold up their tents and steal silently away" . . . (Tiptoes across the room, saying several times, "Shhh-shhh" -- salutes BEN's Olympic statue; says in drunken admiration "How like a god!"  Utters another "Shhh" and quickly tiptoes from the room.  LEO is completely self-absorbed.)

Slow Curtain


Gary Freedman said...

The Day is Done

THE DAY is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Gary Freedman said...

"The long day's task is done." Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra.

Gary Freedman said...

Oddly enough, there is a brief section of my book Significant Moments that captures the spirit of the close of Act 1 of Odets' Paradise Lost. ("The long day's task is done" is actually a line from Antony and Cleopatra not Othello. Wagner misrecalled the quote.)

And in the evening . . .
Cosima Wagner's Diaries (Tuesday, October 31, 1882).
... as the . . .
Mark Twain, Christian Science.
. . . deathly stillness grows ever deeper . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities.
— it was an . . .
Mark Twain, Christian Science.
. . . unforgettable moment . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life His Work, His Century
quoting Hermann Levi, Letter to His Father (Rabbi Levi of Giessen).

. . . when with weary eyes . . .
Celia Moss, Mordecai: A Tale of the English Jews in the Thirteenth Century.
... he remarked slowly,
Emma Goldman, Living My Life.
. . . laying down his pen, . . .
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
"I am like Othello. The long day's task is done."
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.