Wednesday, December 13, 2017

'Tis a Fearful Thing To Love What Death Can Touch


Judah Halevi-- first name also spelled Yehuda and second named sometimes spelled ha-Levi-- was an 12th Century Jewish philosopher and poet living in Spain. Among those who keep track of such things, he's considered one of the greatest Hebrew poets. There's even a statue of "him," in Toledo, although I suspect that was put up relatively recently. That's the statue next to the poem 'Tis A Fearful Thing.
‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be--

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.<
To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.
Above is the trailer from Scott Frank's new Netflix series, a western called Godless. It's how I heard of Judah Halevi, since a preacher reads a couple of lines in it. I haven't watched it but I may. I just wanted the poem. Vanity Fair included it in their list this week of the best new TV shows of 2017. I don't watch much TV but I did like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and VEEP (kind of) so maybe I should trust their list enough to watch an episode or two. There are only 7 in total. The other shows they on the list include Alias Grace, American Vandal and The Handmaid's Tale. Here's what Richard Lawson had to say about Godless:
For all of Netflix’s crowing about how this mini-series is a Western centered on women, there sure are a lot of men leading the story. Jack O’Connell-- finally clearly stating his case for stardom to American audiences-- plays an outlaw on the run from his old gang, led by a mean and saturnine Jeff Daniels. That great hangdog Scoot McNairy plays a former sharpshooter sheriff who’s losing his eyesight, while little Thomas Brodie-Sangster, mostly grown up, is his cocksure but sweet deputy. That’s a bunch of guys! But near about everyone else-- including Michelle Dockery as a flinty homesteader and the great Merritt Wever as a lesbian who used to be married to the mayor of her small town-- is a lady. Godless tells the story of a bunch of bad dudes invading a community mostly populated by women (a mining accident killed all the husbands and fathers and sons) and laying waste to it-- until the women stand up to defend themselves in the series’s rousing, bullet-riddled finale. I don’t think Godless-- created by Scott Frank and produced by Steven Soderbergh-- should pat itself on the back too much; despite its telegraphed feminism, it is ultimately the tale of a lone rebel cowboy. But what’s good about Godless is really good: a gorgeously filmed, finely acted tweak on a well-worn genre that also graciously honors many of the form’s classic tropes.
All that does-- my fault, of course-- is take us away from the chilling certitude of Halevi's "'Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch," which reminds me of why I'm friends with every dog in my neighborhood and buy them the best treats-- human grade-- money can buy but never get a dog of my own. That's one way to put it, I guess.

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