Friday, February 02, 2007

A Little Poetry for You: Groundhog Day

It's Poetry Friday, again!

It's Poetry Friday, again!

And it's Groundhog Day.

Question: Did you have groundhogs, or woodchucks? I never knew they were the same animal until about a year ago.

Want to understand the history behind the holiday?
Want to find poetry about the holiday, perhaps some poems for kids?
It's a good day to look forward to Spring, but also a great day to celebrate Groundhog Day, the movie. This Bill Murray classic is one of the top 50 funniest movies according to the American Film Institute. But even while it makes you laugh till you cry or till you shoot soda through your nose, it has some pretty great currents of philosophy, ethics, and culture running through it. And it has a little bit of poetry.

The poem Rita (Andie McDowell) quoted to Phil (Bill Murray) was The Lay of the Last Minstrel (Canto 6) by Sir Walter Scott. It's a great excerpt from the longer poem, and it's pretty brilliant in saying a lot about both Phil and Rita in that moment.

Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.
The poem Phil quoted to Rita was actually not 16th-century French poetry, but rather a song by Jacques Brel called La bourrée du célibataire (Bachelor's Dance). I had trouble finding translated lyrics, other than this from wikipedia: "The girl I will love is like a fine wine that gets a little better every morning." I did use a web translator on the French lyrics, but they came out pretty shaky. If you try it, you'll be able to get the gist of the lyrics. Pretty good stuff. Of course, if you can read French, it will probably sound even better.

Know how many times Phil had to repeat his day in the movie Groundhog Day? We only saw about 30, but according to many sources, he repeated the day thousands of times. I think I have to rewatch the movie now with that in mind. I always knew it was more than what the movie showed, but I was thinking hundreds, not thousands.

Want to learn more about the connection between the movie Groundhog Day and Buddhism?

How about this write-up about Groundhog Day as "a movie for all time" from Jonah Goldberg at the National Review?

In the years since its release the film has been taken up by Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and followers of the oppressed Chinese Falun Gong movement. Meanwhile, the Internet brims with weighty philosophical treatises on the deep Platonist, Aristotelian, and existentialist themes providing the skin and bones beneath the film's clown makeup. ... Countless professors use it to teach ethics and a host of philosophical approaches. Several pastors sent me excerpts from sermons in which Groundhog Day was the central metaphor. And dozens of committed Christians of all denominations related that it was one of their most cherished movies.

When the Museum of Modern Art in New York debuted a film series on "The Hidden God: Film and Faith" two years ago, it opened with Groundhog Day.... In a wonderful essay for the Christian magazine Touchstone, theology professor Michael P. Foley wrote that Groundhog Day is "a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim's Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos." Charles Murray, author of Human Accomplishment, has cited Groundhog Day more than once as one of the few cultural achievements of recent times that will be remembered centuries from now. He was quoted in The New Yorker declaring, "It is a brilliant moral fable offering an Aristotelian view of the world."


Erin said...

Oh, that's such a fun movie. :) Happy Groundhog Day!

Jen Robinson said...

Groundhog Day is one of those movies that, when you see it on Directv, you have to stop and watch, at least for a little while. I love it.

featherbee said...

You can also go here to read Punxutawney Phil's official prediction (which is in the form of a poem.)

MotherReader said...

That was more Groundhog Day stuff that I would have thought possible.

I watched the movie tonight with my kids. I swear, I always enjoy it.

Michele said...

I ADORE that movie ! I only saw it for the first time last year, and ended up watching it three or four times in about 9 months... I've got the special edition, with the commentary and extras, so I knew that Phil repeated his day thousands of times before finally getting "the girl" !

Nancy said...

I haven't seen it in a while myself, but now that I wrote this post I'm inspired to watch it again.

And again.

Motherreader, yeah, I got on a bit of a roll there. But I even edited out a whole chunk on woodchucks and the "how much wood would a woodchuck chuck" tongue twister, and a girl I went to school with named Kim Slepchuck and how kids adapted the phrase especially for her....

Anonymous said...

@Nancy It was actually 19th century French poetry that Rita studied, not 16th century.