I saw the movie Out of Africa so many years ago, and I didn't want to watch it again. The movie had made me cry, and I didn't want to go through such sadness again.
But there it was, Out of Africa, on TV, and I did watch the last half or so.
I had forgotten most of it. Then, as now, I didn't want the author (played by Meryl Streep) to have to leave Africa. I didn't want Africa to be without her. I didn't want the author's lover (Robert Redford) to die in a plane crash or in any way -- or ever. I wanted the author to stay there and always be right there in beautiful Africa.
The author, Karen Blixen (Isaak Dinneson) went bankrupt and lost her estate and coffee farm there, and was returning to Denmark. I was very sad to see her leave. But what I couldn't bear most of all was that her faithful servant who could not read or write and who yet was wise and truly loved Karen would be without her and have no way to serve her as he so desired.
This little man with a huge heart asked her when she was coming back. She said she wouldn't be coming back. And he said from the sweetness of his heart: "Well, then, you must light a big fire where you are so I can find you."
Those may be the saddest words I ever heard because you know he will never see that fire, and he must have known it too.
But there was also more that wrenched my heart. At Karen's lover's funeral, she read out loud the poem, To an Athlete Dying Young by A.E. Housman. We used to read that in my eighth grade classes, so my heart yearned for her lover who died and the children I once taught.
You may find this poem just a poem, a sad and good one, but nevertheless only a poem. To me, it is a poem that became a part of me and, to some degree, with all the children I ever had the pleasure to share a classroom with, and who are now blown to the winds I know not where. At this moment, I feel very human and at a loss without my classes and without Karen Blixen in Africa.
Here's the poem by A.E. Housman:
TO AN ATHLETE DYING YOUNG
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before the echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.