New York City relaxes me. I can imagine all of the quizzical looks at this statement. REALLY, it does. Like many gen-xers, I grew up with pushing and rushing and striving being a normal function of life. When I walk down the streets of New York and see everyone going by so stressed and so anxious, I can’t help but stop and realize that life is too short to rush around and miss all of the moments life has to offer. When I decided on “Swiftly Tilting” I looked for background information–was this Madeleine L’Engle’s original phrasing or did it come from somewhere else? I found Conrad Aiken’s poem “Morning Song of Senlin” and when I read it, the poem only confirmed that these were the words that I wanted to use.
Aiken’s poem talks about a man who hurries through his days and only rarely stops to notice the beauty around him. That’s kind of what theatre does. Regardless of how crazy our life is, for an hour and a half to three hours, theatre helps us to stop and take a look around at the world and recognize its beauty, joy, pain, and heartbreak.
Morning Song of SenlinIt is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning When the light drips through the shutters like the dew, I arise, I face the sunrise, And do the things my father learned to do. Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops Pale in the saffron mist and seem to die And I myself upon a swiftly tilting planet Stand before a glass and tie my tie, Vine leaves tap my window, Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree Repeating three clear tones. It is morning. I stand by the mirror And tie my tie once more. While waves far off in a pale rose twilight Crash on a white sand shore. I stand by a mirror and comb my hair: How small and white my face! - The green earth tilts through a sphere of air And bathes in a flame of space. There are houses hanging above the stars And stars hung under a sea... And a sun far off in a shell of silence Dapples my walls for me... It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning Should I not pause in the light to remember god? Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable, He is immense and lonely as a cloud. I will dedicate this moment before my mirror To him alone, for him I will comb my hair. Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence! I will think of you as I descend the star. Vine leaves tap my window, The snail track shines on the stones. Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree Repeating two clear tones. It is morning, I awake from a cloud of silence, Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep. The walls are about me still as in the evening, I am the same, and the same name still I keep. The earth revolves around with me, yet makes no motion, The stars pale silently in a coral sky. In a whistling void I stand before my mirror, Unconcerned, and tie my tie. There are horses neighing on far-off hills Tossing their long white manes, And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk, Their shoulders black with the rains... It is morning. I stand by the mirror And surprise my soul once more; The blue air rushes above my ceiling, There are suns beneath my floor... ... it is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness And depart on the winds of space for I know not where, My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket, And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair. There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven, And a god among the stars; and I will go Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak And humming a tune I know... Vine-leaves tap at the window, Dew-drops sing to the garden stones, The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree Repeating three clear tones. -- Conrad Aiken