Monday, April 5, 2010
Is it age or is it just the DNA? This irrepressible sentimentalism only gets worse with the passing of time. It’s been awhile since Shakespeare lines got to me. But Sonnet 116 bowled me over.
I’m big on car chases and battle scenes; acts of bravery and conquering heroes. Blasts and explosions lighting up the sky get me into the movie theater, just like most guys. Life threatening moments, when our protagonist comes within a hare’s breath of horrific calamity; surprises that trigger a potent shot of adrenaline while sitting comfortably in an overstuffed chair, well, that’s my kind of entertainment.
Now that I’ve established my masculinity, I am ready to admit that I enjoy date-night movies, too. Like when the marriage on the rocks finds its way into safe harbor. Or the geeky guy wins the impossible girl. I enjoy writers who put witty lines into the banter, and the dialog that spins set-ups and comebacks; the sort most of us can only imagine after the fact. Too late, but oh so satisfying. Then give me actors who can deliver those lines, and one more time – that’s entertainment.
So put a couple of high strung New Yorkers together in the Big Apple determined to make it there (if there, anywhere) and in spite of the upscale, uptown accoutrements oversized paychecks afford, they are exceedingly unhappy; at each others’ throats. His indiscretion pushed them right over the edge, and their commitment is in freefall. They’ve been aiming at perfection all their lives, and now that the perfection card has been trumped by reality, the whole house of cards is collapsing in slo-mo. His efforts to bridge the infidelity gap fall hopelessly short of the mark. “Don’t even think about it,” she cries.
So our scriptwriter (Marc Lawrence) puts the two estranged sophisticates in Wyoming, unwillingly, in a witness protection program, which would be a terrific get-away if Paul and Meryl Morgan were not resolutely separated. The government keeps their first names on the phony identification documents, but changes their last – to Foster. What ensues is a charming, if not predictable, series of Wild West adventures; and the guard drops. Under the tutelage of a weathered pair of gun-toting, wood chopping, rodeo loving ranchers who also moonlight as Federal Government house parents, Paul and Meryl gradually uncover the magic that got them together in the first place.
So one starry night, reminiscent of our years out in the country with no city lights to dim the constellations, Meryl grabs Paul by the arm and pulls him outside to see for himself. Before those days when we would sit in the bubbling hot spa on clear, chilly nights gazing at the heavens, I would not have noticed how the twin Dippers, Big and Little, trace the sky directly to Polaris, the North Star, the one fixed point in the sky. It’s been there as long as Planet Earth has rotated on its axis and may well be responsible for most of history’s successful ocean crossings up until the invention of GPS. Meryl looks at the sky, as young lovers do, with wonder and awe and memories of their wedding day when she quoted Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 as her vow. She repeated it again as Paul listened in.Let me not to the marriage of two minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken, It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error, and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Since then, I looked it up myself. Sonnet 116. Line by line. Made me wish I could read Shakespeare anywhere close to the way we heard it at the Royal Theater in Stratford Upon Avon. When I read it out loud, you’d think my tongue swollen and my brain dyslexic. But I plow through it anyway as Carolyn listens in. Then I parse it, like a good preacher. Love does not open the door to obstacles (impediments), or change when the other changes; when the intruder intrudes, with intent to diminish what’s there, love doesn’t bend. It is, like Polaris, an “ever-fixed mark.” Familiar with storms. Wandering all around. Love is not the victim of Time, or Aging. It holds on, right up to the drop-off, the cliff, the sheer face that threatens utter calamity. And then Shakespeare makes a wager – if you can prove me wrong, then I never wrote a line. And no man ever loved.
Paul feigns ignorance. “Shakespeare… was he at the wedding?”
Then Meryl smiles and asks if he remembers the vows he made that day. No, he says. She is so captured by the heavens and the lofty thoughts from the Bard that she is all right with his forgetfulness. But then Paul begins as he did ten years before…I promise never to take you for granted Or utter a word unkind Never allow my affections to be recanted Or stop marveling at your behind To also marvel at your warmth Your wit, your refusal to condone animal slaughter Your wisdom, your laugh, your inability to boil water To be your best friend for the rest of my life And to thank the God you are not sure about For fooling you into being my wife.
And as these two Morgans (Have You Heard About the Morgans?), New Yorkers out there under the stars, recapture something that got lost in the tempest, right there on the edge of doom.
Call me an incurable, hopeless romantic. It happens.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2010