“His leaden act was done”: C. Day Lewis’s “Epitaph for an Enemy”

A week or two ago, Emily wrote a post about the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game (haven’t seen, never will, thanks for asking), and how, on the whole, books are generally better than their film adaptations. Then asked her readers if they could think of any movies that are better than the books they’re based on.

The one that immediately leaps to mind for me is The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Michael Mann’s loose adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel. I did not care for the novel, to say the least, though many people love it.

The movie features a gorgeous soundtrack, excellent acting (some awesome Daniel Day-Lewis strong-but-silent action), inaccurate portrayals of historic events, and scenery that’s beautiful but that doesn’t pass for upstate New York, even 250 years ago upstate New York.

It is, despite its flaws, magnificent.

This is supposed to be a poetry post, so: Emily’s question made me think of The Last of the Mohicans, which made me think of Daniel Day-Lewis, which made me think of C. Day-Lewis (the ‘C’ is for Cecil), who was Daniel’s father. And C. Day Lewis was a poet.

He was also a successful writer of detective fiction (under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake), a friend to many other notable poets of his day (including W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender), and the poet laureate of Great Britain. You can read a brief biography and highlights of his major works here. 

Day-Lewis’s short but powerful “Epitaph for an Enemy” is this week’s poem of the week; let me know what you think!