So, the first poem is -and it is a total surprise to me, as strange as that may seem - "And Did Those Feet In Ancient Times," by William Blake. I say strange, because I only knew this poem as a hymn, from the opening and the ending of "Chariots of Fire," my favorite film of all time! YES. OF ALL TIME!!!
Those who know me well know I am an indefatigable Anglophile - a lover of all things English. I love to read about England - the England of today (the Aga Sagas); the England of the past. The England of Arthurian legends, of Elizabethan times, of Cavaliers and Roundheads, of Shakespeare, the Celts, the Druids, the pastoral times of the 1800s, the Victorian times, the Edwardian Era, the Brits in WWII, I don't care. If it's about England, bring it on!
So, to the time of the movie, Cambridge University, England, in 1920. An entire GENERATION of Englishmen has been lost as cannon fodder to World War I. But who of the new crop of young men from Cambridge will work and push himself hard enough to represent England in the 1924 Olympics as a runner? Is it Andrew, Lord Lindsey, an aristocrat, or is it the Jew, Harold Abrahams? Abrahams is so driven, so determined to prove himself, that we sympathize with him in his quest.
But, in the Highlands of Scotland, we find Eric Liddell, born in China of of Scottish missionaries. Now returned to Scotland ("A Scot whilst I live and breathe") to study in Edinburgh, he is a natural athlete, revered in Scotland first as a famous footballer (soccer player) and then as a runner.
This is the story of how the two come together in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Fierce rivals, with Liddell having previously beaten Abrahams, they were meant to compete in a race in Paris. But Liddell, a staunch Christian, will not run on Sundays. Because of his faith, he will not run the Olympic heat for his race on Sunday. Can you - can you REALLY - imagine having such principles as that? He has the British Olympic committee over a barrel. How can they fault a man putting his God above his country?
I am not going to reveal who won. I love this film so much I would like you to rent it and find out for yourself.
This film is not for everyone. After extolling its virtues to my niece Lisa for years, I purchased "Chariots of Fire" for her for her birthday. She could not get into it (basically saying "What the
This is getting way too long for Poetry Fest, so I will now proceed to the poem. But know that I have always heard it sung, as it was in the film, at elder British statesman Harold Abrahams' funeral:
Bring me my CHARIOTS OF FIRE!
Ben Cross (Abrahamson) left, Ian Charleson (Liddell) right
Thanks to Rowan from England for telling me the name of the hymn is "Jerusalem." See her comment.