Love, an 11th-century Jewish Poem, and a Western on Netflix

“‘Tis a Fearful Thing”
by Yehuda HaLevi

“‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.”

As often happens, I was in the car and switched the dial in time to listen to a program called Fresh Air on NPR. This day Terry Gross was interviewing Scott Frank, the writer, director and producer of a 7-episode Netflix series entitled Godless.

A writer’s mind is intriguing to me. Scott Frank shared much of the brainwork along with a bit of chance/luck, affecting his decision to create a western. In this age of popular movies that resemble video game screens to me, with futuristic sci-fi plots, that seems a risky genre choice.

His researcher had him read some notable westerns and the results of her historical digging. I did not know there were some western towns that stayed on the map because the women left following mining disasters chose to carry on rather than leave. He stays true to the genre in locale, dress, and speech and expands it to focus on the women of the 1880’s.

Though becoming a fan of Scott Frank during the interview, I didn’t feel compelled to search for his series. Watching television westerns was a family affair in my childhood, and as a young adult I managed to sit through some big screen Clint Eastwood versions, rented some John Wayne classics and sat through most of the Lonesome Dove installments. Now as a retiree I haven’t watched an entire movie on TV in years, and infrequently go to the theater. Viewing a western certainly was not on my to-do list, until Scott Frank shared the poem above along with the rationale behind its inclusion near the end of the filming of Godless.

As soon as I updated my Netflix account and changed my password and fixed a snack, I found Godless and delved right into episode one. In spite of the gruesome scenes at the start that usually mean I divert my attention to a vastly different activity, I stayed with it. I am hooked. I want to see it through to the end, to the reading of the poem. I want to feel what the characters felt, what the actors playing them experienced. Yes, I know I could skip ahead and watch the end of the last episode, but I don’t read the ending of a novel before its time, either. I am an interactive, empathetic reader and movie-watcher. That’s not going to change.

Having seen just one episode, I am wholeheartedly recommending this series.

If you have already watched it, keep it to yourself, please. I don’t want to miss a moment.

About Teresa Pearson Lee

Retired after 33 years of teaching English and French (one year in private school in Memphis, TN and the rest in public school in Doniphan, MO. Enjoying new adventures - all those things I put off for lack of time, energy, now I can try them! Pottery, writing, traveling, camping, kayaking, dancing, listening to some of the best live music ever, and making lively new friendships. All christened with an appreciation for great red wine! Created and operated KC's on the Current, then sold it and managed it for new owners. You might still find me at the reservation desk when spring rolls around. Born and raised in St. Louis, MO near The Hill. Though a transplant to Southeast Missouri, still a city gal at the core with a deep love of the natural resources in these Ozark foothills. Currently I am a content coordinator for Poplar Bluff Living Magazine and a columnist/stringer for the local weekly The Prospect News. My rescue Siamese helps with most of the proofreading; he has a great ear. I relish the solitude easily had in the Mark Twain Forest but thoroughly enjoy lively outings for music, wine, conversation close to home or in my beloved hometown. Technology is my greatest challenge but so worth the shared connections. There may be a need for solitude but there is little loneliness. The material in this blog written by Teresa Lee is her property and cannot be used without express written consent to do so.
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