A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill….
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
William Butler Yeats, Leda and the Swan
I love sonnets. They are the most passionate of poems: convex with energy pushing out, straining against form. A sonnet possesses 14 lines only, to say everything.
And when the valence shatters–O.
In my own experience, poetry comes from the inarticulate place. It is an Orphic activity, because the poet descends into hell and looks back and leaves language behind, and brings back things that can not be said any other way.
So, sonnets, so exquisite because of their restraint.
I read Yeats when my soul is hungry and predatory like a vampire and wants to feast. I read Rumi when my heart is sick and I founder, when despair threatens everything. I read sonnets to feel amorous. It’s all that restraint and boundedness–a big turn on.
Because when the restraint breaks–the sublime sweeps in.
But I think few Americans get it about restraint and how sexy it is. Our culture is so boringly obvious.
A friend of mine in the TV & movie industry recommended the British show Sherlock, saying, “It’s by smart people, about smart people, for smart people–and they don’t care who doesn’t get it.”
That was a kind of challenge. Naturally, I soon logged into Neflix to find out for myself.
Sherlock exceeded my expectations. The plots are intricate and interwoven, juicy and satisfying. They’re just so darn intelligent.
Enlivening the whole hour and a half is restraint: the restraint on which is founded the curious, brilliant character of Sherlock Holmes, played superbly by Benedict Cumberbatch. The restraint of Martin Freeman’s grounded, likable, heterosexual Dr. John Watson, who is constantly mistaken for Sherlock’s better half. Andrew Scott plays a chilling and unexpected Moriarty, not at all obvious. Louise Brealey plays a hapless but good-hearted pathologist who assists Sherlock in the laboratory. Mark Gatiss ably and well plays Mycroft Holmes.
A whole cast of intelligent, restrained actors bringing vivid yet thoughtful life to their characters.
When I wax rhapsodic about intelligence and restraint, some readers may incorrectly think, “lacking suspense.” To the contrary, each episode is breathtakingly taut and absorbing. Each episode flies by, holding the viewer rapt.
What a treat! Don’t restrain yourself, go immediately to Netflix and see firsthand what I mean.