Tuesday, May 04, 2010

On a note of wistfulness

What you are about to hear is a voice -- a voice lost. A voice faded into the haze of the memories of old men and old women, a world lost in the fog of history.

The voice speaks in an unfamiliar dialect. It speaks of strange things in a strange manner.

This voice -- this lost voice -- calls to us from a nation that is no more. A people who are no more.

The voice is strident. It is confident. It is imperfect, and its sins are as manifest as its hope for the future and its determination to do better tomorrow.

This alien voice sounds like Shakespeare, performed in a tavern. By Broderick Crawford.

who hear this voice are strangers to its cadences. The future that plucks this voice from the ether -- from the past -- belongs to an alien people, a weary people, a frightened people. They, I think, are a beaten people, though I am not sure they would recognize this.

They would not recognize this voice
on a note of triumph. Nor would they any longer recognize the name Broderick Crawford.

Certainly they will not recognize the name Norman Corwin.

This program,
On a Note of Triumph, was regarded as his masterpiece -- a masterpiece among many Corwin masterpieces -- aired on every radio network on the occasion of the end of the European War, May 8, 1945.

Adolf Hitler was dead. The Third Reich was vanquished. Americans remembered, and took stock, and gave thanks.
On a Note of Triumph.
Lord God of trajectory and blast,
Whose terrible sword has laid open the serpent
So it withers in the sun for the just to see,
Sheathe now the swift avenging blade with the names of nations writ on it,
And assist in the preparation of the plowshare.
Lord God of fresh bread and tranquil mornings,
Who walks in the circuit of heaven among the worthy,
Deliver notice to the fallen young men
That tokens of orange juice and a whole egg appear now before the hungry children;
That night again falls cooling on the earth as quietly as when it leaves Your hand;
That freedom has withstood the tyrant like a Malta in a hostile sea,
And that the soul of man is surely a Sevastopol
Which goes down hard and leaps from ruin quickly.
Lord God of the topcoat and the living wage
Who has furred the fox against the time of winter
And stored provender of bees in summer's brightest places,
Do bring sweet influences to bear upon the assembly line:
Accept the smoke of the milltown among the accredited clouds of the sky:
Fend from the wind with a house and a hedge
Him who You made in Your image,
And permit him to pick of the tree and the flock,
That he may eat today without fear of tomorrow,
And clothe himself with dignity in December.
Lord God of test-tube and blueprint,
Who jointed molecules of dust and shook them till their name was Adam,
Who taught worms and stars how they could live together,
Appear now among the parliaments of conquerors
and give instruction to their schemes;
Measure out new liberties so none shall suffer for his father's color
or the credo of his choice:
Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream
as those who profit by postponing it pretend:
Sit at the treaty table and convoy the hopes of little peoples through
expected straits,
And press into the final seal a sign that peace will come
for longer than posterities can see ahead,
That man unto his fellow man shall be a friend forever.
LORD GOD of history and culture . . . we do not understand. This world is lost to us.

Lord God of reality TV and bling, what is the past trying to tell us?

Lord God Almighty, are we all the better or all the worse for all the "progress" we, Thy unfaithful creation, hath wrought?

We laugh at the strange cadences. We laugh at the naiveté. We laugh at the world-weary optimism. We laugh at the reverence.

We, the sophisticates of monosyllabic mindlessness, have no time for these earnest ghosts.

Norman Corwin, the genius of glowing vacuum tubes and the "Golden Age of Radio," turned 100 on Monday.
Unfortunately, this is no country for old men.

Or their genius. Or their poetic prose. Glorious words lovingly set so gently, so precisely onto the airwaves of a lost civilization.

I can't unders. . . .

Gone. The signal --
I lost it.

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