Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after, And the poetry he invented was easy to understand; He knew human folly like the back of his hand, And was greatly interested in armies and fleets; When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
This captivating short documentary profiles the young Canadian long-distance runner Bruce Kidd at 19 years old. Kidd eventually went on to win a gold and bronze medal at the 1962 Commonwealth Games, and was a competing member of the 1964 Canadian Olympic team. Directed by Don Owen (Nobody Waved Good-bye, Toronto Jazz), the film is luminously photographed by John Spotton and features poetic commentary composed and spoken by the great Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden. The camera follows Kidd’s sprightly movements as he runs on piers, practice tracks, and finally, in an international race. Oblivious to the clapping crowds and the flash of cameras, he knows full well that in the long run it is the cold stopwatch that tells the truth.
All visible visibly Moving things Spin or swing, One of the two, Move, as the limbs Of a runner do, To and fro, Forward and back, Or, as they swiftly Carry him In orbit go Round an endless track: So, everywhere, every Creature disporting Itself according To the law of its making In the rivals' dance Of a balanced pair Or the ring-dance Round a common centre, Delights the eye By its symmetry As it changes place Blessing the unchangeable Absolute rest Of the space all share
The camera's eye Does not lie But it cannot show The life within, The life of a runner, Of yours or mine, That race which is neither Fast nor slow, For nothing can ever Happen twice, That story which moves Like music when Begotten notes New notes beget Making the flowing Of time a growing Till what it could be At last it is, Where Fate is Freedom, Grace, and Surprise.
About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating On a pond at the edge of the wood: They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
Consider this and in our time As the hawk sees it or the helmeted airman The clouds rift suddenly - look there At cigarette-end smouldering on a border At the first garden party of the year. Pass on, admire the view of the massif Through plate-glass windows of the Sport hotel; Join there the insufficient units Dangerous, easy, in furs, in uniform And constellated at reserved tables Supplied with feelings by an efficient band Relayed elsewhere to farmers and their dogs Sitting in kitchens in the stormy fens.
Long ago, supreme Antagonist, More powerful than the great northern whale Ancient and sorry at life's limiting defect, In Cornwall, Mendip, or the Pennine moor Your comments on the highborn mining-captains, Found they no answer, made them wish to die - Lie since in barrows out of harm. You talk to your admirers every day By silted harbours, derelict works, In strangled orchard, and the silent comb Where dogs have worried or a bird was shot. Order the ill that they attack at once: Visit the ports and, interrupting The leisurely conversation in the bar Within a stone's throw of the sunlit water, Beckon your chosen out. Summon Those handsome and diseased youngsters, those women Your solitary agents in the country parishes; And mobilise the powerful forces latent In soils that make the farmer brutal In the infected sinus, and the eyes of stoats. Then, ready, start your rumour, soft But horrifying in its capacity to disgust Which, spreading magnified, shall come to be A polar peril, a prodigious alarm, Scattering the people, as torn up paper Rags and utensils in a sudden gust, Seized with immeasurable neurotic dread.
Financier, leaving your little room Where the money is made but not spent, You'll need your typist and your boy no more; The game is up for you and for the others, Who, thinking, pace in slippers on the lawns Of College Quad or Cathedral Close, Who are born nurses, who live in shorts Sleeping with people and playing fives. Seekers after happiness, all who follow The convolutions of your simple wish, It is later than you think; nearer that day Far other than that distant afternoon Amid rustle of frocks and stamping feet They gave the prizes to the ruined boys. You cannot be away, then, no Not though you pack to leave within an hour, Escaping humming down arterial roads: The date was yours; the prey to fugues, Irregular breathing and alternate ascendancies After some haunted migratory years To disintegrate on an instant in the explosion of mania Or lapse for ever into a classic fatigue.
It is time for the destruction of error. The chairs are being brought in from the garden, The summer talk stopped on that savage coast Before the storms, after the guests and birds: In sanatoriums they laugh less and less, Less certain of cure; and the loud madman Sinks now into a more terrible calm. The falling leaves know it, the children, At play on the fuming alkali-tip Or by the flooded football ground, know it-- This is the dragon's day, the devourer's: Orders are given to the enemy for a time With underground proliferation of mould, With constant whisper and the casual question, To haunt the poisoned in his shunned house, To destroy the efflorescence of the flesh, To censor the play of the mind, to enforce Conformity with the orthodox bone, With organised fear, the articulated skeleton.
You whom I gladly walk with, touch, Or wait for as one certain of good, We know it, we know that love Needs more than the admiring excitement of union, More than the abrupt self-confident farewell, The heel on the finishing blade of grass, The self-confidence of the falling root, Needs death, death of the grain, our death. Death of the old gang; would leave them In sullen valley where is made no friend,
The old gang to be forgotten in the spring, The hard bitch and the riding-master, Stiff underground; deep in clear lake The lolling bridegroom, beautiful, there.