|PART 2: the 1930s|
|Newsreel by Cecil Day Lewis
Enter the dream-house, brothers and sisters, leaving
Your debts asleep, your history at the door:
This is the home for heroes, and this loving
Darkness a fur you can afford.
Fish in their tank electrically heated
Nose without envy the glass wall: for them
Clerk, spy, nurse, killer, prince, the great and the defeated,
Move in a mute day-dream.
Bathed in this common source, you gape incurious
At what your active hours have willed -
Sleep-walking on that silver wall, the furious
Sick shapes and pregnant fancies of your world.
There is the mayor opening the oyster season:
A society wedding: the autumn hats look swell:
An old crocks' race, and a politician
In fishing-waders to prove that all is well.
Oh, look at the warplanes! Screaming hysteric treble
In the low power-dive, like gannets they fall steep.
But what are they to trouble -
These silver shadows - to trouble your watery, womb-deep sleep?
See the big guns, rising, groping, erected
To plant death in your world's soft womb.
Fire-bud, smoke-blossom, iron seed projected -
Are these exotics? They will grow nearer home!
Grow nearer home - and out of the dream-house stumbling
One night into a strangling air and the flung
Rags of children and thunder of stone niagaras tumbling,
You'll know you slept too long.
|the dream-house': the cinema
'that silver wall': the cinema screen
'pregnant fancies': ideas that 'give birth' to others
'old crocks': vintage cars
'in fishing waders': the politician has been filmed off duty, fishing in a river, to show that there's nothing urgent calling him back to London
'gannets': sea birds that dive spectacularly fast from high up to spear fish swimming close to the sea's surface
'exotics': plants that normally grow in foreign countries
|This poem was published in 1938, in a collection called 'Overtures to Death'.
The poet knows war is on the way - it has already begun in Spain and the Far East, and will come 'nearer home'. In 1938 Hitler made himself Germany's 'War Minister', and German troops marched into Austria; and in the autumn they marched into Czechoslovakia as well.
This is by no means the only poem to comment on the escapist lure of movies, especially attractive to people who are poor and unhappy and can only dream of riches and success. In the darkness of the cinema, you can imagine anything, forget everything. And after the excitement and romance of the feature film, a newsreel can seem just as dreamlike: whatever is on film can be as true or fanciful as each cinema-goer makes it.