John Wayne and Edgar Allan Poe

16 Nov

A lot of blog subjects passed through my mind today. I contemplated sharing my classroom experiences and even the lunch I had with my friend Dave. However, I am not in the right frame of mind to write about Latin America, World War II or the experience of eating at the Colonel’s Buffet.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the Natalie Merchant concert. I attend many concerts, but it is the rare occasion when I continue to think about them a few days later. However, this one reached me to the core. I found her poetry songs interesting and have perused iTunes (there goes my iAddiction again) while contemplating purchasing a few. While listening, I began to think about my favorite poems. I am not a big poetry fan, but, as with everyone, some catch my fancy.

“Eldorado”, by Edgar Allan Poe, is my all-time favorite. The weird part is that I didn’t learn it from an English class or from discussing poetry in a coffeehouse. I learned it by watching a John Wayne movie.El Dorado

While I was growing up, my dad and older brother watched John Wayne movies all of the time. Wanting to be involved, I watched them too and began to memorize some of them. I especially latched on to “El Dorado”, which starred Wayne, Robert Mitchum and James Caan. Wayne played Cole Thornton, a gunfighter who owed a local ranching family for a tragic accident. Mitchum was J.P. Harrah, friend of Thornton who became a drunken sheriff. Caan played Mississippi, a young gambler that Thornton befriends. As the movie unfolds, the three of them, along with the comedic sidekick, fight against and defeat the rich, bad guy rancher.

Throughout the film, Mississippi recited lines from a poem about a gallant knight that I thought the writers of the movie came up with. As I researched the movie, I learned that it was the poem by Poe. Goes to show you that anything can be learned from any source. John Wayne taught me poetry and led me to become a historian who researches the history of the American West.

So, today’s mindset led me to poetry, and, for those who have never read it, here is “Eldorado”.

Gaily bedight,

A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,

Had journeyed long,

Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-

This knight so bold-

And o’er his heart a shadow

Fell as he found

No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength

Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow-

“Shadow,” said he,

“Where can it be-

This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains

Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

Ride, boldly ride,”

The shade replied-

“If you seek for Eldorado!”

7 Responses to “John Wayne and Edgar Allan Poe”

  1. fekesh May 19, 2012 at 10:40 #

    This is the only film I’ve ever seen where Robert Mitchum looks small, and that’s only because he’s standing beside John Wayne. I don’t love it quite as much as Rio Bravo, but it’s still a favourite and it was nice to be reminded of it.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles May 20, 2012 at 19:40 #

      It’s not a classic like Rio Bravo, but I’m always entertained by it.


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