Category Archives: Poetry

INVICTUS: I am the captain of my soul…

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

-William Ernest Hemmigway

Nelson Mandela kept a copy of the above poem with him during his 27 years of captivity in South African prison. This very inspiring film is directed by Clint Eastwood and has Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon playing the key roles of South African President Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar, the captain of the South Africa rugby union team, the Springboksood respectively.  The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid.

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Brenda Mazibuko: You’re risking your political capital, you’re risking your future as our leader.

Nelson Mandela: The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead.

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Nelson Mandela: Forgiveness liberates the soul.

Nelson Mandela: It removes fear.

Nelson Mandela: That is why it is such a powerful weapon.

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Nerine: Thinking about tomorrow?

Francois Pienaar: No. Tomorrow’s taken care of, one way or another. I was thinking about how you spend 30 years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put you there.

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[appearing at the South African Sports Committee, after they had elected to disband the Springbok rugby team]

Nelson Mandela: Brothers, sisters, comrades: I am here because I believe you have made a decision with insufficient information and foresight. I am aware of your earlier vote. I am aware that it was unanimous. Nonetheless, I believe we should restore the Springboks; restore their name, their emblem and their colors, immediately. Let me tell you

why. On Robben Island, in Pollsmoor Prison, all of my jailers were Afrikaners. For 27 years, I studied them. I learned their language, read their books, their poetry. I had to know my enemy before I could prevail against him. And we DID prevail, did we not? All of us here… we prevailed. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaner. They are our fellow South Africans, our partners in democracy. And they treasure Springbok rugby. If we take that away, we lose them. We prove that we are what they feared we would be. We have to be better than that. We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint and generosity; I know, all of the things they denied us. But this is no time to celebrate petty revenge. This is the time to build our nation using every single brick available to us, even if that brick comes wrapped in green and gold. You elected me your leader. Let me lead you now.

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Nerine: [after Francois returns from his tea with President Mandela] So, what’s he like?

Francois Pienaar: [pauses] He’s unlike any person I’ve ever met.

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Nelson Mandela: You criticize without understanding. You seek only to address your own personal feelings. That is selfish thinking, Zindzi. It does not serve the nation.

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Nelson Mandela: We need inspiration Francois. Because in order to build our nation we must exceed our own expectations.

 

Dead Poets Society: ‘But only in their dreams can men truly be free…’

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One of Robin Williams most inspiring films, Dead Poets Society is about an unconventional English teacher -John Keating (played by Williams) and his students who are inspired by their teacher’s very original method of appreciating poetry and other deeper things in life.

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John Keating: We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

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McAllister: “Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I’ll show you a happy man.”

John Keating: “But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”

McAllister: Tennyson?

John Keating: No, Keating.

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John Keating : “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

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 John Keating: There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.

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Henry David Thoreau

In movie, in one scene a poem by Henry David Thoreau is featured in a book lying on a students desk, however in reality it is a collection of extracts from his work “Where I Lived”, Chapter 2 :

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, …”

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John Keating: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

The phrase ‘carpe diem’ is a Latin aphorism usually translated to “seize the day”, taken from a poem in the Odes book 1, number 11) in 23 BC by the poet Horace which goes like this….”be wise, be truthful, strain the wine, and scale back your long hopes to a short period. While we speak, envious time will have {already} fled: seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next day”

Horace was a leading Roman poet at the time of Augustus.

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John Keating: Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!

Henry David Thoreau was an American writer and philosopher, and the full quote is :

‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’

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In one scene, one of Keating’s student – Todd Anderson under his teacher’s cajoling composes the following poem impromptu: 

A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.

His hands reach out and choke me.

And all the time he’s mumbling.

Mumbling truth.

Truth like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.

You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying, it’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.

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John Keating: This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.

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John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is – Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba?

[pause]

John Keating: Mr. Perry?

Neil: To communicate.

John Keating: No! To woo women!

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John Keating: O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.

O Captain ! My Captain !

By Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

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MAN ON FIRE: Because in your eyes are my wings…..

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This movie is set in Mexico where kidnapping of children from rich families for a hefty ransom is of common occurrence. In this backdrop of a  crime ridden society of thugs and corrupt cops blossoms a very beautiful bond between a little girl, superbly portrayed by Dakota Fanning and her body guard, played by Denzel Washington,who is really good at playing  complex characters with suppressed emotions.

One of my favorite songs, among many in this movie, is Una Palabra. It is written and performed

by the Cuban singer, Carlos Valera who at one time was a part of Nueva Trova musical movement, a political and poetic musical genre connected with the Cuban Revolution. The songs and its lyrics touch a myriad of human emotions:

Una palabra no dice nada
y al mismo tiempo lo esconde todo
igual que el viento que esconde el agua
como las flores que esconde el lodo.

Una mirada no dice nada
y al mismo tiempo lo dice todo
como la lluvia sobre tu cara
o el viejo mapa de algun tesoro.

Una verdad no dice nada
y al mismo tiempo lo esconde todo
como una hoguera que no se apaga
como una piedra que nace polvo.

Si un dia me faltas no sere nada
y al mismo tiempo lo sere todo
porque en tus ojos estan mis alas
y esta la orilla donde me ahogo,
porque en tus ojos estan mis alas
y esta la orilla donde me ahogo.

Translation

A word does not say anything
And at the same time it hides everything
Just as the wind that hides the water
Like the flowers that mud hides.

A glance does not say anything
And at the same time it says everything
Like rain on your face
Or an old treasure map

A truth does not say anything
And at the same time it hides everything
Like a bonfire that does not go out
Like a stone that is born dust.

If one day you need me, I will be nothing
And at the same time I will be everything
Because in your eyes are my wings
And the shore where I drown,
Because in your eyes are my wings
And the shore where I drown

Another beautiful song sung by Australia based Irish singer, Lisa Gerrard in her haunting voice is called ‘Coming Home‘. She is the same singer who sang ‘Now we are Free’ in the film ‘Gladiator’. I was unable to find the lyrics of this song, but as they say, the language of music needs no translation:

And finally a  Mexican/Spanish song by Gabriel Gonzales and written by Meri Gavin called ‘ Angel Vengador‘, I presume it means, the avenging angel. The lyrics go something like this:

I am all alone and lost,

and to ease the pain i curse them one by one (uno a uno los maldigo),

I am an avenging angel.

FRACTURE: The Waiting Place….

Another piece of brilliant acting by Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling in this movie about a jealous husband (Hopkins), who’s a millionaire and structural engineer. He schemes a clever plot to kill his unfaithful wife and get away with it. When  is found innocent of the attempted murder of his wife (Davidtz), the young hot shot district attorney (Gosling) who is prosecuting him decides to put his career at risk in his for the pursuit of  justice.

During the course of the moive, Willy (Gosling) reads out a poem at Jennifer’s (Davidtz) bedside when she is in a coma from the gunshot to her head. It’s from Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990) by American children’s book author Theodor Seuss Geisel, popularly known as Dr Seuss. In it, Seuss writes about the ‘waiting place.’ Rather intriguing, I think:

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

“Do you dare stay out?
Do you dare go in?
And IF you go in –
Should you turn left or right?
Or right and three-quarters?
Or maybe not quite.
You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race,
Down long wiggled roads at break- necking pace
And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
Headed I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
For people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
Or the mail to come, or the rain to go
Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
Or waiting around for a Yes or No
Or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
Or waiting for wind to fly a kite
Or waiting around for Friday night
Or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake
Or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
Or a wig with curls…
Or Another Chance.”

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Pride: Beautiful Song About Oppression and the Undying Human Spirit

The back drop is a mining village in Wales in the year 1984.This movie is the story about a  unique alliance between gay and lesbian activists and a mining community on a lengthy strike and their    fight against oppression and prejudice of the Thatcher government, police and orthodox society. This movie is loosely based on real life event.

There is a very moving song in the movie : at a community gathering of miners and their families titled’ Bread and Roses’, taken from a poem with similar title by James Oppenheim.

Its lyrics are as follows:

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler—ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

Incidentally, the leading female Welsh singer, Bronwen who sang this song was actually rejected by the judges of the popular music reality show, ‘The Voice’, UK, but she found well deserved fame in this film.

The macabre yet fascinating world of Edgar Allan Poe in ‘The Raven’

This American mystery thriller film directed by James McTeigue deals with the subconscious fascinations of the human psyche. The  screenplay is by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare.[5] It stars John Cusack, Alice Eve,Brendan Gleeson and Luke Evans.

The movie opens with the following title card:

On October 7, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found, near death, on a park bench in Baltimore, Maryland. The last days of his life remain a mystery.

Set in 1849, it is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe‘s life, in which Poe along with a police detective  tries to track down a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe’s stories. While the plot of the film is fictional, it is inspired by  some accounts of real situations surrounding Edgar Allan Poe’s mysterious death. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, Nobody could figure out to  whom he was referring. The title of the movie derives from Poe’s poem “The Raven“, This poem is based on an hypnogogic experience that Poe had in real life while he was mourning the demise of his lost love – Lenore.

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The following is my favorite extract from the poem Raven:

……...Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.

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John Cussak, as Poe  is shown reciting the  following extract from the same poem  in the movie:

…..And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

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On another occasion Poe is shown writing down the following account describing slow suffocation of his lover, Emily:

 Her innocence was the first part of her soul to die.

And while it happened, he stood still watching to fully enjoy the dreadful metamorphosis from a life full of hope to death without purpose.

The gossamer white of bone was now visible beneath the tattered meat of her fingertips,as Emily clawed madly at the wooden slats of her coffin, a desperate, drowning animal.

The dirt rose around her, the inescapable sand of an hourglass, as her final breath of air slipped her into the twilight of consciousness until. He knew now that all hope was lost. 

He had failed his beloved, and there was one last thing left to do.

One last act. “A final desperate plea: one life offered for another’s.” 

 “Poe could feel the poison already feeding on his blood, “as the maggots were soon to do.”

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In the movie his  editor, Maddux, had the following to say about Poe:

” I believe that God gave him a spark of genius and quenched it in misery. But as far as something like this… The only thing he’s ever killed is a bottle of brandy.”

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In one of the scenes, while narrating the death of his wife and the effect it had on him, Poe says:

“the dark and morbid melancholy that has followed me like a black dog all my life.”

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In a pub scene where Poe is desperate for a drink he says:

“What brandy cannot cure  has no cure.”

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In the last scene where Poe is shown to be breathing his last, his following quote is heard in the background:

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now

Thus much let me avow

You are not wrong, who deem

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

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Finally the soundtrack of the movie, Burn My Shadow’, is performed by Unkle featuring Ian Astbury is equally dark and morbid:

I have burned my tomorrows
And I stand inside today
At the edge of the future
And my dreams all fade away

I have burned my tomorrows
And I stand inside today
At the edge of the future
And my dreams all fade away

And burn my shadow away
And burn my shadow away

I faced my destroyer
I was ambushed by a lie
And you judged me once for falling
This wounded heart will rise

And burn my shadow away
And burn my shadow away

When I see the light
True love forever
When I see the light
True love forever
When I see the light
True love forever
When I see the light
True love forever

When I see the light
True love forever (burn my shadow)
When I see the light
True love forever
When I see the light
True love forever (burn my shadow)
When I see the light
True love forever (away)

And burn my shadow away
And burn my shadow away

Oh, how I loved you

Beautiful Bulgarian folk song in ‘Hummingbird’ (also known as ‘Redemption’)

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This British production directed by Steven Knight  is about a  homeless ex-special forces soldier who is   on the run from a military court martial.  He is psychologically disturbed, and while navigating London’s criminal underworld seizes an opportunity to assume another man’s identity — transforming into an avenging angel in the process. He meets up with a nun and the two develop a special bond – both looking for redemption in each other…..

There is a beautiful Bulgarian folk song called Malka Moma Si Se Bogu Moli and  sung by Neli Andreeva with the Philip Koutev Choir:

Malka moma si se Bogu moli:             Little maiden prays to God:
Daj mi, Bože, oči golubovi              Give me, oh God, the eyes of a dove,
Daj mi, Bože, krilca sokolovi           Give me, oh God, the wings of a falcon,
Da si forknam otvăd beli Dunav        To fly away over the white Danube
Da si najda momče spored mene      To find myself a lad worthy of me

Ču ja Gospod,                                The Lord has heard her,
stori oči golubovi,                           made (her) the eyes of a dove,
krilca sokolovi,                               the wings of a falcon,
ta i dade krilca sokolovi,                  so he gave her the wings of a falcon

ta si najde momče spored neja.      and she found herself a lad worthy of her.

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Art and Philosophy in ‘The Last Samurai’ – II

 Quotes from the movie The Last Samurai are and very inspiring. After centuries of relying on hired samurai for national defense, the Japanese monarchy decides to do away with the warriors in favor of a more contemporary military. Tom Cruise stars as Nathan Algren, a veteran of the U.S. Civil War who is hired by the Emperor Meiji to train an army capable of wiping out the samurai. But when Algren is captured by the samurai and taught about their history and way of life, he finds himself conflicted over who he should be fighting alongside. Billy Connelly, Tony Goldwyn, and Ken Watanabe co-star.

 
Following are some of my favourite quotes from this beautiful movie:
 
 
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Spring, 1877. This marks the longest I’ve stayed in one place since I left the farm at 17. There is so much here I will never understand. I’ve never been a church going man, and what I’ve seen on the field of battle has led me to question God’s purpose. But there is indeed something spiritual in this place. And though it may forever be obscure to me, I cannot but be aware of its power. I do know that it is here that I’ve known my first untroubled sleep in many years.

Nathan Algren

The Last SamuraiTom Cruise 

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Emperor Meiji: Tell me how he died.

Algren: I will tell you how he lived.

 

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Katsumoto: You believe a man can change his destiny?

Algren: I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.

 

life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remember everyone you meet has lost something, is afraid of something and loves something. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the moment they wake they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue.perfection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During a scene in the movie Nathan (played by Tom) walks up to Katsumoto as he is standing in a garden in contemplation. He tells Nathan he is writing a poem and has been searching for the last line for a long time. Part of the poem goes:

The perfect blossom is a rare thing
You could spend your life looking for one
And it would not be a wasted life

At the end of the movie when Katsumoto is cut down and he is breathing his last, the scene he sees are the same trees in blossom, and the realization dawns on him. He states:

Perfect, they are all perfect.

As he realizes that all the blossoms are prefect, as are we and the world as a whole. The fault lies in our perception of it……

 last: Slide courtesy Sompong  Yusoontong

 

Persian and Welsh sound tracks in the film ‘Crash’

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‘Crash’ was a film belonging to the hyperlink genre: which essentially is a story telling format where interlocking stories are combined.  This very sensitive film directed by Paul Haggis portrays racial prejudices in the U.S.A with shades of grey. There is inter-racial clash, confrontation and finally, redemption.

While the film has several soundtracks, none is as touching as the Persian -Welsh  medley that is played out in the background towards the end of the movie.  The song brings out the underlying current of   pathos (or the lack of it) which flows through the film.

The song composer is  Mark Isham and according to some websites, it  is sung by  Catherine Grant & Carol Ensley…However it seems unlikely that the Persian part of the song was sung by these artists. It sounds like the Persian singer, Pari Zangeneh . The Persian song is called   “Dokhtare Boyerahmadi”, is actually a folk song in Lori dialect. It means ‘A girl from Boyerahmad’. Boyerahmad is a province in Southwestern Iran. The lyrics are by Agha Mooshe.

 

دختر بویر احمدی نوم تو ندونم یار گلم
بیا بریم خونه خومون خونه خوتونه یار گلم
گلم ای یار گلم گل عزیز دلومه یار گلم

گل لیلا اومد و گل من نیومد یار گلم
خدای من امید من چرا نیومدی یار گلم
گلم ای یار گلم گل عزیز دلومه یار گلم


You can also hear other versions of this song on the following website:

http://persian.nmelrc.org/courses/507/TaranehayeMahalli.html

 
The Welsh part of the song is called “Sense of Touch.” It is sung by Carol Ensley; the lyrics are from an old Welsh  love song called “Lisa Lan.”
Its about a lover yearning for his lost love, Lisa:
 
I have loved you many times
Yes many an hour in prolonged tenderness
I have kissed you mysterious Lisa
And your company was better than honey.My pure bough, my warm embrace
You are the purest in the world
You cause pain and anguish
And it is you who steals my life.When I stroll during the day
My little heart becomes sad
On hearing the sound of the little birds
I feel great longing for fair Lisa.When I stroll at nightfall
My little heart melts like wax
On hearing the sound of the little birds
I feel great longing for fair Lisa.Lisa will you escort me
To place my body in black earth?
I hope you will come, my dear friend
To the graveside where I am going.Great longing for Lisa Lân.
Great longing for Lisa Lân.
 
You can hear the full version of this song in the link given below: