DEPARTED FRIENDS. James Fenton, the poet, was involved in adding two scenes to Les Mis: the prologue with the prisoners, and the scene where Marius sings Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Kretzmer says that Fenton felt that the show needed a song where the survivor Marius would express his grief in a deserted cafe. Thinking about the lyrics of the song, I am reminded of a poem by Fenton that has comforted me at funerals. The title is “For Andrew Wood”. I posted on it here.
This is a passage from the song Marius sings:
“Oh my friends, my friends forgive me.
That I live and you are gone
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Phantom faces at the window
Phantom shadows on the floor
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.”
This is a passage from Fenton’s poem “For Andrew Wood”:
“And time would find them generous
As they used to be
And what else would they want from us
But an honoured place in our memory,
A favourite room, a hallowed chair,
Privilege and celebrity?
And so the dead might cease to grieve
And we might make amends
And there might be a pact between
Dead friends and living friends.
What our dead friends would want from us
Would be such living friends.”