14 October 2015

Christine Daaé: Open-Eyed

They say
that Beauty once redeemed the Beast,
that love can heal
what was marred by hate
- why me?

Am I the lamb of sacrifice,
to quell your anger
and save those I love,
to give myself
to save your soul?
Must I be damned
whatever I do?

I can only redeem you
by damning myself
forever to look
upon this monstrous face,
forever to belong
to what I cannot love,
in living hell.

And yet -
is this face
who you truly are,
or are you what you are
because of your face?
Are you a monster
or is the monster what they made
by their fear
and by their hate?

As I recoil,
repulsed by what I see,
as I turn away in horror,
and disgust tells me to flee -
am I not becoming
one of the many
who made a monster
out of a man?

Not my imprisonment
will set you free,
not a forced 'yes'
twisted from me -

Only love,
that looks upon the monster
but sees a man,
that looks upon evil
but sees good -
only love.


[January 2014]

Inspired by "The Phantom of the Opera". I recently watched the 1925 silent film version, and listened to the musical again, and that made me think.
If you don't know the story... whoops. (Because this is all spoilers.)

This poem is based in particular on the part where Erik, the phantom, places Christine before a choice: she can refuse Erik and Raoul, the man she loves, will die - or she can become Erik's wife and Raoul goes free. As Raoul says in the musical: "Either way you choose, he has to win."

I had to think of how "The Phantom of the Opera" is a kind of 'Beauty and the Beast' story - except when you think of Beauty and the Beast, the beast was someone turned into a monster so that his inner ugliness would be visible on the outside. Is it the same with Erik? Erik has been ostracised for most of his life because his face was so ugly even his mother wouldn't kiss it. His outer ugliness led to inner ugliness - he became a killer, but could it have all been different, if people had shown him love? I think this is a challenge for us: where do we treat people differently just because of how they look, where do we, by our actions and words, turn people into monsters?

I only thought of "open-eyed" when I got to the end. We often speak of love being "blind". But shouldn't true love be open-eyed? Isn't true love about seeing all the bad there is to a person, all the ugliness, not ignoring it, and loving that person all the same? Not meaning one excuses the evil that person has done - but loving him despite the evil, loving away the evil.

I feel that is the kind of love God has towards us - and so for me this is also a "spiritual" poem. Writing this I had to think of how God has loved us, selflessly, unconditionally and freely (He never had to), and despite all the evil and ugliness there is in us. It also made me think of the Christian responsibility to do to others as God has done to us - to love the unlovable, to kiss the Phantom.

Picture is from the 1925 silent film.

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