Day 308: Lili of the Lamplight

When Laetitia arrived at the Emerald Victorian and went into the kitchen to make coffee, the day’s pack was marked Dallmayr, München. It was a blend and a lighter roast than she was used to, but it produced a delicious aroma when it brewed and a taste to match. She looked on the Internet and found that it was a specialty food and wine shop in Munich that had been in business since the seventeenth century. Walking into the library with a steaming cup of coffee in her hand, she decided to play some German music.

She browsed through a stack of vinyl records and found one that had Lili Marlene, recorded by Marlene Dietrich, as its first track. Hans Leip, a World War I German soldier wrote Lili Marlene as a poem. After it was published in 1937, Norman Schultze set it to music. The German version, recorded originally by Lale Andersen, was so popular that an English version was soon published. The song had universal appeal among soldiers that transcended national boundaries. The first verse translated into English is:

Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate
Darling I remember the way you used to wait
‘Twas there you whispered tenderly
That you loved me
You’d always be
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene.

Laetitia wasn’t ready to go to Germany yet, so she put the record away. She needed to find a locale for the day’s tour. She browsed through Rude UK and eventually decided on Cockhaven Close, a street in Bishopsteignton, a village in south Devon. The village is not large, consisting of three churches, a post office, a small supermarket, a pharmacy, and a brewery.

Laetitia decided to take her group on an excursion train ride around the Devon countryside before going to the village, so they didn’t do their walk down Cockhaven Close until dusk. The street is a mostly residential cul-de-sac ending in a recreation of a Victorian village complete with gas street lamps. The lamps had just come on, illuminating a Cockhaven Close street sign on a lamppost and the woman standing beneath it. Laetitia couldn’t see the woman’s face clearly, but her clothes were a bit gaudy and her skirt was exceedingly short, exposing the tops of her nylons. “Lili Marlene,” thought Laetitia, “Or could it be the woman in the lamplight from T. S. Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night.”

Half-past one,
The street-lamp sputtered,
The street-lamp muttered,
The street-lamp said, Regard that woman
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.

The moment passed. Laetitia and her group walked through the recreated village and back to their hotel, where Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

In the light of the street lamp, her pose
With her skirt hiked up high showing hose
And a sheer blouse of red
Looked ready for bed
Near a sign that read “Cockhaven Close.”