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Poems for September

Page history last edited by Ann Vipond 3 years, 1 month ago

THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT

T.S. Eliot

 

Born St  Louis, Missouri 26 September 1888 died in London 4 January 1965.

 

T.S.Eliot is not easy, but well worth examining his work.

Possibly well-known as the author of: 'The Waste Land' and 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

On a lighter note: 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'which was made into a wonderful musical.

 

'Four Quartets was published in New York, in 1943, London, 1944. The Four appeared separately; 'Burnt Norton, 1936; East Coker 1940; The Dry Salvages 1941; 'Little Gidding 1942.

 

To Listen to Four Quartets click here it's read by Sir Alec Guinness 

 

 

While reading this poem it is helpful to bear in mind T.S. Eliot's words: "A poem has its own existence, wherein author and audience meet in a shared experience, not as an address from author to reader.'

The main thrust of the poem is:' time, eternity, immortality.'

 

Burnt Norton is a manor in Gloucestershire visited by Eliot in 1934. Its rose garden suggested the imagery of the opening section:

                                                           

BURNT NORTON I

 

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. My words echo.

Thus, in your mind.

                        But to what purpose

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.

                           Other echoes

Unhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,

Round the corner. Through the first gate,

 

Into our first world, shall we follow

The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.

There they were, dignified, invisible,

Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,

In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,

And the bird called, in response to

The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,

And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses

Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.

So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,

Along the empty alley, into the box circle,

To look down into the drained pool,

Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,

And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,

The surface glittered out of heart of light,

And they were behind us, reflected in the pool,

Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,

Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human-kind

Cannot bear much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

 

(T.S. ELIOT Collected Poems

            1909-1962 Faber and faber  pp. 189-90)

 

I think that the imagery in this poem is wonderful and well-worth the effort. It's all very true, don't you think?

 

                                                         .. . . . . . . . . . .

I present another poem from T.S. Eliot's 'Collected Poems'

 

Burnt Norton II

 

Garlic and sapphires in the mud

Clot the bedded axle-tree.

The trilling wire in the blood

Sings below inveterate scars

Appeasing long forgotten wars.

The dance along the artery

The circulation of the lymph

Are figured in the drift of stars

Ascend to summer in the tree

We move above the moving tree

In light upon the figured leaf

And hear upon the sodden floor

Below, the boarhound and the boar

Pursue their pattern as before

But reconciled among the stars.

 

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor

      fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement

         from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say how long, for that is to place it in time.

The inner freedom from the practical desire,

The release from action and suffering, release from the

          inner

And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded

By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,

'Eerhebung' without motion, concentration

Without elimination, both a new world

And the old made explicit, understood

In the completion of its patrial ecstasy,

The resolution of its partial horror,

Yet the enchainment of past and future

Woven in the weakness of the changing body,

Protects mankind from heaven and damnation

Which flesh cannot endure.

                                      Time past and time future

Allow but a little consciousness,

To be conscious is not to be in time

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,

The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

 

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
Wtih slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plentitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

      Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Internal darkness, deprivation
And destitution of all property,
Dessication of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movememnt; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.

 

Time and the bell have buried the day,
the black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Chill
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher's wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

 

 

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.


And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

 

      The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.


Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always-
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.

 

 

Note: "Erhebung"  Elevation/exaltation (German)

 

To continue reading  the rest of the Four Quartets Click here  or just continue listening to Sir Alec Guinness

 


 

I was chatting with one of the resident poets at Caroline and Davids' tea party - we were, of course, discussing poetry! The conversation turned to our shared admiration of the poems of T.S.Eliiot, during which the writer told me that it was Eliot's poem: 'Journey of the Magi,' which had inspired him as an undergraduate.      

 

If you would like to listen to this being read, again by Sir Alec Guinness then click here

 

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

 

 'A cold coming we had ot it,

Just the worse time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.'

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices: 

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,

With a running stream, and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

 

  All this was along time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer a ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death. 

 

(SOURCE: IBID P. 109-10)

 

Note: There are many specific references in this poem but I suggest it is read first of all for the ultimate poetic experience.

 

 

Contribution Olive September 2011

YouTube links Ann September 2017

 

Next up How to handle the digital life that you’ll leave behind

 

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