Sunday, July 31, 2011

All Our Memories

Beginning in his teens Noël Coward published more than 50 plays spanning as many years. He composed hundreds of songs, over a dozen musical theatre works, he wrote poetry, several volumes of short stories, a novel and a three-volume autobiography. Throughout this constant flow of written material Coward also appeared in countless plays, revues and films. On his seventieth birthday British statesman Lord Mountbatten said this about Coward: “There are probably greater painters than Noël, greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars. If there are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combined all fourteen different labels—The Master.”

Among the 185 poems included in Garrison Keillor’s anthology, Good Poems for Hard Times (2006) is one by Noël Coward from his book Collected Verse. Contrary to Coward’s usual image of cocktails, high society and witty banter, his poem “Nothing is Lost” shows us a more serious side of the writer.


Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told

Lie all our memories, lie all the notes

Of all the music we have ever heard

And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,

Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,

Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes

Each sentimental souvenir and token

Everything seen, experienced, each word

Addressed to us in infancy, before

Before we could even know or understand

The implications of our wonderland.

There they all are, the legendary lies

The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears

Forgotten debris of forgotten years

Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise

Before our world dissolves before our eyes

Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,

A word, a tune, a known familiar scent

An echo from the past when, innocent

We looked upon the present with delight

And doubted not the future would be kinder

And never knew the loneliness of night.

1 comment:

  1. No doubt about his immense talent. Most of us struggle to master even some part of our talent for something. Surely people like Coward do use more of their brain than the rest of us. How else to explain mastering so much in all those creative fields? And the poem is proof to the depth of that talent.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America