Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unpacking Sighs, cont'd.

Since I posted "Funeral Blues" yesterday I can't stop thinking about another of my favorite Auden poems, "O Tell Me the Truth About Love." Also, probably the most common example of what I was talking about, in fact, is the Broadway Musical.  Isn't that what's great about musicals after all? Everything stops and someone expresses something so strong she just has to belt it out. I think Brook's point still holds, for a serious actor the decision lies in choosing if you suspend your acting work for those three minutes to indulge in what is at its core a sort of silly reiteration of a generic requirement, or if you rather understand your character as a person who really sings to express himself.  For a director the matter hinges upon understanding what the difference is from the house.  I'm not sure yet.  In the meantime here's the poem and a clip from one of my favorite sighs unpacked in a song, from My Fair Lady.

Tell Me the Truth About Love, by W. H. Auden

Some say that love's little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go round,
And some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in the temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway-guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first rate imitation
On a saw or Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn't ever there:
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what thye tulip said;
But it wasn't in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its times at the races,
Or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous ror rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love?

Here's the song (jump to about 2:03):

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