Deducant te angeli.

"Endeavour" S1E0 : Un bel dì/In Paradisum

/This is #01 of several small essays [mostly] about the use of music as code/means of expression in the "Endeavour" series./


It is in limbo that we first see Endeavour.

The town where he lives and works is a fictional place. He has no face, not yet. No self. No reality beyond awkwardly tentative, but still relentlessly neat, meticulous typing. That's how we'll see him operate in the future, won't we, - clear, impeccably formed solutions that often, well... don't come to be in the most graceful of ways.

Behind glass and with his back to the camera, he is in the left part of the screen: in film language, that indicates the past. He, after all, is the past of the Morse we know; but he is clearly being pulled back by his own pain and resentment, too. The place on the left - to which Morse is glued for the scene's duration - also suggests a departing point for moving into the future. (Most people have a "timeline" that stretches from left to right in their mind's view; visual connotations are automatic.)

What is the future? The future is to the right, and it's Rosalind Calloway singing "Un bel dì" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Аs we will find out in a most extraordinarily crushing way, she was a great influence of the past, but suddenly - a possible future? Unlikely, isn't it? Yet she is stubbornly there, present as voice and image both. Another future - a clear mismatch, this one - comes knocking (literally, and very loudly) but Morse doesn't hear (literally - it has to interrupt the "program", i.e. Rosalind, to get through). With its offerings of drink and merriment, it's decisively sent away; Madama resumes after having been temporarily silenced. As if we could ever doubt the choice.

...and now let's follow the camera's eye. Our eye. Down it glides from the gray-blanketed sky: back to earth, end of absence, an indication of Morse's inner origins, and possibly a final fall from any past grace. Down along the tall building with "Get away from it all" advert on top, then backwards to reveal the nonexistent location - Carshall Newtown [back through time again], and backwards through a window, to the inside of Morse's room. The whole world is an ever contracting spiral with Morse inside, on the tight end. In this sequence, we’re given small clues - some quietly humorous, some somber and very important, and we watch meanings form as picture and sound - we’re hearing “Un bel dì” - entwine:

Un bel dì, vedremo / One beautiful day, we will see Levarsi un fil di fumo / A strand of smoke rising Sull'estremo confin del mare / At the farthest reach of the sea [Get away from it all - he could, but instead we're going back down and backwards, exactly into it all again.] E poi la nave appare / And then, a ship appears [La nave. La nave! A ship. "Endeavour".] E poi la nave è bianca. / And then, we see that the ship is white [So he is. White shirt like a sail, blond head. There is also a white Jaguar outside the window, exactly the kind that'll be his "nave" in the future that he is just now refusing... in typing.] Entra nel porto / Enters the port [The water pitcher on the desk is hopelessly empty. Our "porto" has no water.] Romba il suo saluto / Rambles its salutation [ON A TYPEWRITER. This is endearing to a proper heartsqueeze. The "saluto", just like in Madama Butterfly, heralds not a joyous reunion, but declares intent to flee. Our "tender resignation"...] Vedi? È venuto! / Do you see? He is coming! [The limbo stage is about to end.] A small digression. Between Rosalind/the record player and Morse, there is space filled with things that are him at that point, one way or another. The empty water pitcher. A rusty alarm clock. Clean (well, one has to assume) socks :). Several weeks' worth of crossword puzzles. Books.


The Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English (very likely 3rd edition, 1941). God, Morse. Never good enough, are you.

A book open on a reproduction of the title page of Edmund Spenser's unfinished Faerie Queene (the volume is either a commentary on the work itself or, just as likely, a bibliographical study). The title-page facsimile is for the second part of Spenser’s Queene, published in London in 1596. The printer's device on the reproduction is that of Thomas Vautrollier; it’s an anchor [anchor for our ship - contrary to his declarations, he won't leave, we know, we know] suspended from the clouds. The motto in Latin, "Anchora Spei", translates to "Anchor of Hope". The book contains the fourth, the fifth and the sixth Books of Faerie Queene, titled "Friendship", "Justice" and "Courtesy", respectively.

In Good King Charles's Golden Days, a play by George Bernard Shaw, subtitled "A True History that Never Happened". Endeavour's is a first edition, 1939, in original dust jacket.


But back to "Un bel dì" and madam Butterfly's story; as the aria sets the stage for ours, so the opera will go on to inform it, albeit indirectly. The reflection is there, but it follows a dream logic, and the more bitter kind: the narrative’s pressure points do remain, but the string that holds them together it twisted and broken, they scatter like beads, and it's difficult to see what's what... who's what. Like Cio-Cio-san, Rosalind dies at her own hand, and love is, too, her ultimate reason. But while Butterfly's motives are pure, Rosalind's harbour unspeakable malice. Like Cio-Cio-san, Endeavour has had a life-transforming "marriage" with Rosalind's voice and image - and now she is Pinkerton to him, a man utterly unable to comprehend the strength of Butterfly's love. Rosalind now has Stromming - her Kate; she does let Endeavour in, lets him get close, but denies him even a kiss; he is left with a hand-written non-promise instead: "Un bel dì...". Yet Endeavour is Pinkerton too: as Rosalind kills herself, one of the last straws must have been what she perceives as a catastrophic change in him - from shy, trembling lover to ruthless conduit of justice. She's right: his pain is in being one. And she's wrong: there wasn't a change; least of all in his love. They're both butterflies, both olezzi de verbena to each other's cruel sailor.

Bravo. Bravissimo. Divina.

"Un bel dì" does mockingly come: Morse solves the crime and gets his coveted kiss - a hellish inversion of one, to be sure, but still a kiss. And if he is ever to save a recording "from the waves", it will still be that of Rosalind's voice.


Let's move on - it's barely the sixth minute. At 7th, Endeavour's fate is turned round, and - needs must - fleeing "from it all" is not on the cards any longer. Morse is called to sail and be anchored ["on attachment"]; Oxford City police needs reinforcements.

"'Ere, what's this I heard you tried to get yourself taken off the inquiry?"

No answer. Morse? No answer.

He might've tried indeed; but we must assume the real trial has begun and ended within himself: police is neither army nor prison, he could have walked away any minute.

But no. No. And off he goes in a green intercity bus - leaving an imaginary place, knowingly heading to a very real town, where live his very real past and pain, where a very real schoolgirl would have needed saving if she weren't already dead. For her, it's only justice that remains to be done. For him, being born. Becoming.

It's damp outside, foggy. On the bus, Endeavour is silent and perfectly insular if not totally absent, locked in a mute dialogue with himself (and it is a dialogue, just look). The windows weep, wet greenery outside sloshes against glass like waves. The ship has finally left the port all thought was its final resting place.

...when Morse's ailing heart gives out in "The Remorseful Day", it's with Faure's Requiem that he goes, with "In Paradisum". Morse's head is against the weeping glass and Oxford draws closer, "In Paradisum" returns.

Heartbreakingly; but it’s not just that. Why?

Faure's is a very special Requiem; one of a kind, one may argue. Neither a sorrowful wail nor bracing against the fear and suffering of dying, it's... tender. It speaks of a difficult journey, but softly, with graceful acceptance and joy. Joy.

"It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death, and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience." (G. Faure)

Up to this second, Morse's birth has been uncertain; now we know: when old Morse died, what we heard was but a tender lullaby. "In paradisum" is the Requiem's finale - a sign that Endeavour's crossing from limbo to wakefulness is nearly at its end. His aspiration - endeavour - is "towards happiness above". This immediately speaks of impending change, and we know - already - that the detective stories, brilliant as they are, will be transport for what happens to him, within him. He is the endeavour.

And we think we know where he's heading - we know the old Morse! - but we don't. What happens in "Endeavour" informs - and changes, inevitably - our idea of what old Morse was.

Endeavour is being born. And look at how it's shown: he is in tight confines of a bus but is the only one looking out. His arrival at destination is imminent, conversations with self no matter, defiance no matter. He, again, is on the far left of the frame, still at his departing point, but as the bus - his green angeli - draws closer to its destination (moving to the left, into the past), Morse too moves across the screen - 6:46 to 07:00 - but from left side to right, from past to future, and the transition is reiterated once the bus arrives (and finally turns around): as Morse disembarks, he crosses the frame all the way from far left to far right again.

And we finally have him. The little one. The absolute bloody beginner.


In paradisum deducant [te] angeli / Into paradise may the angels lead you
[Green bus.] In tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres / Upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you Et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem / And guide you to the sacred city of Jerusalem [Oh, there will be martyrs in the holy city of Oxford; some Morse will save, to most he will bring justice post-mortem.] Chorus angelorum te suscipiat / A choir of angels will receive you [The noise, the commotion at Cowley police station.] Et cum Lazaro quondam paupere / And with Lazarus, once a beggar [Morse is himself a Lazarus in a way, once a beggar, once dead.] Aeternam habeas requiem / May you have eternal rest [So he came to the place of eternal rest? No. It's the initial transition that's over.]

In Requiem, the final destination is "civitatem sanctam Jerusalem", an aftermath of everything, a heavenly locus of all said and done. In “Endeavour”, paradisum is Oxford, the shabby police station with its dark-green walls, the table lamp backlighting E.’s eyelashes and warm tousled head. And said and done it all was when Morse died; but just as our angels are not winged creatures but an iron bus, just as our martyrs are not all exactly righteous and "chorus angelorum" is really a loud din of a police nick, our "holy city" isn't quite heavenly either. It's the place of becoming, just like the earthly Jerusalem was. What happened there, will happen to E., too, before he becomes. In a lesser reflection, certainly; but there is but one story, one way to the self, and Endeavour takes us along - to watch and learn.