Saturday, August 8, 2020

Song Lyric of the Day (Noel Coward, on ‘This Unkind Familiar Now’)

“Here in the light of this unkind familiar now
Every gesture is clear and cold for us
Even yesterday's growing old for us
Everything's changed somehow.”—English playwright, actor, and songwriter Sir Noel Coward (1899-1973), “Then,” from The Noel Coward Reader, edited by Barry Day (2010)

When Sir Noel Coward wrote these lyrics for the one-act “musical fantasy” “Shadow Play,” as part of his 1936 play cycle Tonight at 8.30, he conceived of a duet between husband and wife, about the initial love in their now-collapsing marriage. Reading the lyrics now, though, I can’t help reinterpreting them in light of COVID-19.

Everything has indeed “changed somehow” now. The longer the crisis lasts, the less likely that any remnants of our past assumptions or way of life will remain. Yesterday has only just passed, but it will feel like a millennium ago before all this is over.

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