ellen_kushner (ellen_kushner) wrote,

Elizabeth: the Golden Age

Loved it. Lush & romantic without ever being stupid or condescending (except for the final 120 seconds, which I want to cut out with a razor blade) - and I want that blue dress! I cannot understand why the critics hate it - probably because, as the director (an established Bollywood great) explained in a recent NPR interview, it's Mythic. They're just not equipped for Mythic, poor sods. I even liked her Annie Lennox turn in the nightdress watching the Armada burn. Yay, Bess.

Made me think of two favorite poems that I was worried you might not all know. The first, by Rudyard Kipling, is called

The Looking-Glass

The Queen was in her chamber, and she was middling old,
Her petticoat was satin and her stomacher was gold.
Backwards and forwards and sideways did she pass,
Making up her mind to face the cruel looking-glass.
The cruel looking-glass that will never show a lass
As comely or as kindly or as young as once she was!

The Queen was in her chamber, a-combing of her hair,
There came Queen Mary's spirit and it stood behind her chair,
Singing, 'Backwards and forwards and sideways you may pass,
But I will stand behind you till you face the looking-glass.
The cruel looking-glass that will never show a lass
As lovely or unlucky or as lonely as I was!'

The Queen was in her chamber, a-weeping very sore,
There came Lord Leicester's spirit and it scratched upon the door,
Singing, 'Backwards and forwards and sideways may you pass,
But I will walk beside you till you face the looking-glass.
The cruel looking-glass that will never show a lass
As hard and unforgiving or as wicked as you was!'

The Queen was in her chamber; her sins were on her head;
She looked the spirits up and down and statelily she said:
'Backwards and forwards and sideways though I've been,
Yet I am Harry's daughter and I am England's Queen!'
And she faced the looking-glass (and whatever else there was),
And she saw her day was over and she saw her beauty pass
In the cruel looking-glass that can always hurt a lass
More hard than any ghost there is or any man there was!

and the second, by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?-1618),

The Lie*

GO, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless arrant:
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die, 5
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good: 10
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give, 15
Not strong, but by a faction:
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

[cutting for space - find the whole poem here]

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it is but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply, 35
For thou must give the lie.

[cutting for space - find the whole poem here]

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply, 65
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell, manhood shakes off pity;
Tell, virtue least preferreth: 70
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing,—
Although to give the lie 75
Deserves no less than stabbing,—
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

*to "give the lie" meant to call someone a liar to his face. I feel sure that Alec is very fond of this poem.
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