HAFEZ: “Dead Poets Society”:
If you haven’t seen this movie, I couldn’t recommend it enough. (directed by Peter Weir – his “Gallipoli” with Mel Gibson, is also a gem.) The film stars Robin Williams as an inspiring English professor – with Ethan Hawke as one of the “sensitive” students. It’s all performed very delicately.
“Understanding Poetry”: Robin Williams, as the English professor of boys’ boarding school, teaches the students that the term “understanding poetry” is an oxymoron. We don’t “understand” poetry – the intention of the arts isn’t to increase our “understanding” ie. via our heads. Poetry is to be experienced by the students, via their hearts. So… early in the movie, Robin Williams asks the students to rip out that chapter from their English text book. The chapter prescribes a logical formula as to how to assess the quality of a poem – even going so far as to encourage students to draw a graph, as an analysis tool for the poem.
The clip below is from the end of the movie. Robin Williams has been fired. He comes to collect his belongings from the classroom and finds the headmaster teaching from the same book, and be furious that “understanding poetry” has been ripped out of all the pages! Even the most conservative students, had ripped them out. They “start over” and the headmaster asks them to “turn to page 21” and they learn the “excellent” essay on Understaning Poetry. Since no one has this chapter, the headmaster loans his own copy to one of the conformist students.
“O Captain! My Captain!”: At this point, as Robin Williams packs his personal belongings and starts to leave the classroom, the students, one by one, start standing up on their chairs and saying: “O Captain! My Captain!” – the poem by Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman wrote this for Abraham Lincoln right after he’d been assassinated. The poem has Walt Whitman speak to Abraham Lincoln, and in effect tell him that even though he died, the civil war ended, slavery ended, and his tremendous work was not in vain. So, it seems like the boys in this scene are saying the same to Robin Williams – that what he taught them, how he changed their lives, even though he’s now being fired, will stay with the them forever.
A CLIP: A clip of this final scene is at the bottom of the page.
HAFEZ: In today’s Beyt/Couplet, we have Hafez also reminding us that “love” cannot be learned from books on “wisdom.” Hafez was always reminding us not to use our “head” and to think we can “study” love. And “Love” like the arts, or poetry, can be sensed via our hearts – our del/heart – one of Hafez’s favorite places of refuge.
Hafez, too, didn’t recommend “Understanding Poetry”:
ای که از دفتر عقل آیت عشق آموزی
ترسم این نکته به تحقیق ندانی دانست
Ey keh az daftar-eh aghl Ayat-eh eshgh amouzi
Tarsam in nokteh beh tahghigh nadani danest
You who turn to books of wisdom for a glimpse of a sign from the miracle of Love
I am afraid and fear that the truth will slip through your pursuit of research and studies
Dead Poet’s society was written by Ton Schulman and got the Best Screenwriter Award at the Oscars 1989. And I think Peter Weir directing this movie, is what created a near perfect product. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
CLIP of the Final Scene: