Last Tuesday we began looking into the life of Nöel Coward. He was born Nöel Peirce Coward in 1899 in Middlesex, England. His body of work is enormous. He was a playwright, composer, poet, painter, he wrote short stories, he sang, and he acted.
What piqued my interest when I first started watching Coward’s plays and films was the depth of human experience and interaction. There is much within a small space. He would give us a one act play, perhaps 30 minutes long, and manage to punch into it such depth of feeling that one would have expected from a longer piece. For example, in the play and subsequent film,The Astonished Heart, that we discussed in part 1, we follow the characters along a relatively normal scenario. Surely the setting of marriage and cheating on one’s spouse is not new, especially in Film Noir. But just when you are relaxing into this simple story that you have heard before, pow! He lays something devastating upon you, in a quick twist of plot. I am fascinated by this sort of writing. I have dabbled in it myself but not anywhere near what Coward accomplished.
Since poetry is my favourite medium, I was delighted to discover that he also wrote poems. Here is a poem he wrote called “Nothing is Lost”, from his volume entitled Noel Coward Collected Verse :
Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.