Archive for Wagner

The Remorseful Day

Posted in Biographical, Poetry with tags , , , on May 17, 2010 by telescoper

Not for the first time, I’m going to make an admission that will no doubt expose me to public ridicule. I can’t watch the last episode of the TV series Inspector Morse (The Remorseful Day) without bursting into tears at the end when it is revealed that the eponymous detective has died. Not that it comes as a surprise – the story has plenty of scenes that make it clear that Morse knows his days are numbered. Take this one, for example, wonderfully acted by John Thaw who was himself very ill while this episode was being filmed; he died in 2002.

The poignant quotation is from a poem by A. E. Housman. Here’s the poem in its entirety.

 Yonder see the morning blink:
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
And work, and God knows why.

Oh often have I washed and dressed
And what’s to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I’ve done my best
And all’s to do again.

How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.

Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.

When Morse talks about Wagner in the clip, you know this is a man coming to terms with his own mortality. It even makes me feel a bit guilty for not being all that keen on Wagner myself. Perhaps I should persevere too. In that respect, as well as many others, I’m rather more like Lewis than Morse, although I do share the Chief Inspector’s love of crossword puzzles.

I watched this episode when it was first broadcast in 2000 and cried at the end then. I’ve seen it many times since, including a late-night repeat last saturday night, and it’s always had the same effect. The very first episode, The Dead of Jericho, was screened way back in 1987 and I’d enjoyed the series right from the word go. Morse became like an old friend to me over the following twenty-odd years and it’s never easy saying goodbye to people you’ve grown accustomed to for a long time.

Should I be embarrassed about crying whenever Inspector Morse dies? Perhaps.  But I’m not.