01 October 2009

Byron, Bryon

Byron* has been popping up in my line of sight again lately. Sara Joy is rehearsing Arcadia and her Facebook status updates are peppered with Hannah's dialogue; John Malkovich appears in the film version of J.M. Coetzee's novel Disgrace and has this comment about his character, a professor of Romantic poetry: "Probably if you spend your whole life reading Byron and Keats and Shelley, partaking of their worldview, then you might have a different moral compass than those who don't."

So the lame brat is on my mind again.

A couple of nights ago I was reading a Time magazine from a few weeks back and came across a book review. The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes** describes "an era when science was both glamorous and dangerous" and the review by Lev Grossman notes that at that time "Poetry and science weren't wholly separate yet: they were seen as complementary ways of piercing the veil of everyday phonomena. William Wordsworth, Lord Byron and the Shelleys (Percy Bysshe and Mary) followed scientific breakthroughs like sports scores."

And the single hardest part of Arcadia for me to memorize is back in my head:

I had a dream which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air... ***

In rehearsals, before those words were secure (which nearly required a nail gun) I would get to that point in the script, look intelligently**** at Patrick and say "Bryon, Bryon, end of Byron" and we'd go on with the scene. I think the director was a little afraid that I would do that in performance, too, but I did not.

Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something. Perhaps while I am between scripts, I'll read some Romantic poetry and see what - if anything - it does to my moral compass.

Assuming I have one, that is.

* George Gordon, Lord Byron

** I don't think it's the same Richard Holmes as the baritone who sings for NYGASP, but that would also be a nice piece of serendipity, wouldn't it.

*** Darkness

**** Or so I like to think.

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