Going Long

I was thinking about the scene in the movie Henry V, when Kenneth Branagh, rowdy-boy-turned-fey-warrior, becomes sobered and suddenly aged by the dead bodies of his soldiers on the battlefield. In my recollection, he discovers and picks up the body of the young man he knew from his days drinking at the pub and carries him through the field, the No Nobis soaring in the background. Later we see his meeting with his French bride and his wedding. He beams, on top of the world. But we, the audience, know he will shortly become the victim of history — as are we all the victims of history, an idea we must live with, at least for that moment. I love when art foists us into the long view. I’m thinking too, as I see far above a vulture or hawk riding the updrafts, of one of my favorite lines in poetry, a line that gives me chills no matter how often I encounter it, its foreboding so timely, no matter how much time passes, no matter what mess we’re currently making in the world: “What rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

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