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When The Tudors Waxed Poetic

When The Tudors Waxed Poetic

In a pathetic bid to pretend I wasn’t working past 11 pm, I recently had the Showtime period piece "The Tudors" on in the background, and stumbled on this surprising scene. It stood out in stark contrast to most of the show for its quiet introspection and for its inclusion of a poem of the Tudor period.  

The scene centers around the Earl of Surrey (David O’Hara) who is translating it in sonnet form from the Latin. The original is an epigram by the ancient Roman poet Martius on the subject of what constitutes “the happy life.”  

He is interrupted by Lord Suffolk (Henry Cavill), and invites him to read the following excerpt: 

"...The happy life be these, I find:
The riches left, not got with pain,
The fruitful ground; the quiet mind;

The equal friend; no grudge, no strife;
No charge of rule nor governance;
Without disease the healthful life…

  ...Wisdom joined with simplicity;
The night discharged of all care.”

Suffolk is moved by its portrait of an inner peace he has lost. He seems almost jealous of Surrey as he muses on the words:

Suffolk: The quiet mind…A night discharged of all care…Wisdom joined with simplicity. My God, how I wish these things were true.

Surrey: Which of these, your grace, do you not have? 

Suffolk: All of them.

Then, this amazing turn in the scene:

Surrey: Then you are like me…and like all the Romans…and all the barbarians…and all the generations before us...and all those yet to come.  For who does not wish, your grace, with all their heart for the quiet mind? Tell me a single soul who has ever found it. 

A nice bit of writing there. Surrey ties the struggles of a troubled mind back in time to all the generations before us, and forward in time to us. And for a moment, this mostly trashy period piece made me feel connected to a Tudor poet, a Roman poet, and every human that has struggled their way through this world.

Well done, my lords.

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