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John Gielgud in Prospero's Books: A Poem by Charles Bryant

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Uploaded on Mar 27, 2010

My beloved father's personal good looks and profile bore some resemblance to those of John Gielgud. He had a similarly deeply resonant speaking voice; and his habit of half-humorously addressing me as his 'dear boy' had a touch of the stage about it. So that whenever I watch and listen to Gielgud it seems as if I am in presence of the paternal principle. John was 87 when he made the film of Prospero's Books with Peter Greenaway. (I hope I'm as hale if ever I reach that age!) The film had what are called 'mixed reviews' but for me it's a wonderful piece of cinema. Unfortunately it's not available on DVD although you can apparently obtain copies of it on VHS - if you have a machine capable of playing these casettes. You can get a taster from my video and further excerpts are on You Tube. The music is by Michael Nyman - it's ideal for reading to (with or against) since it has almost no development; it just goes on - and for that reason it echoes and echoes in the mind, in my mind, along with the similarly unforgettable voices of Johnnie and my own dear father and the eternal cadences of the immortal William. (OTT? - oh well......)


John Gielgud in Prospero's Books

A Poem by Charles Bryant


Music and text both admirable,
concept intriguing, performance beyond reproach;
for shapeliness unbeaten. Age is here the apogee.
His voice, coached through the decades,
now so clear it equally can soar or fall
with minimal conscious effort, an instrument
tuned to perfection, crammed with music,
meaning, beauty; his mind a blank
or filled with simply images unspoken,
only seen. The island and the water and the sky;
things that crawl the earthen slime
on viscous bellies; images of aerial purity
disrobed, angelic, ministering in need
to whom they feed, respondent
to the feeling of the seer. Couples and coupling
or solitary vices, each single page a vision.
Bound into wisdom's bulging book
which opening releases like a storm
wracked mariners and dukes and sprites and sports
that cram his insular imagination, fill
his inner atoll. While in the sea all slithering,
in the shining sea that sings and blinds
with coruscation of the noonday sun,
his deeps are dark, tumultuously descend
the liftshaft of eternity, vertiginously verbal;
whose music is endless melody
whose tune a universal harmony
whose song replete.
These gifts they bring to us who watch and hear
like dreamers lying on the lapping shore
laved by verbal wavelets,
supinely moved and lifted in endless tides.

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