...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

February 09, 2005

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

It's also Ash Wednesday, so i had no choice but to post an excerpt from T. S. Eliot's long poem of the same name.

i've given up trying to figure out Eliot. i've concluded that it's more about how his art makes you feel. Just like looking at a Kandinsky, or listening to Ornette Coleman. If the message could have been communicated in prose, it would have been. But that was not what the artist intended.

Still i get the vague feeling that Eliot is writing about mortality here, but then the title is a big clue. By mortality, i mean more than just death, but all the limitations of a mortal life. All those things that are so maddeningly finite while we are here on earth: our knowledge, our understanding, and our strength of will.

If you are able to, try reading this thing out loud. For meter and rhyme, it is a fabulous piece of writing.

Ash Wednesday (excerpt)

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

The rest of the poem is similar, although different religious themes are explored, in an equally indecipherable manner. What fascinates me the most is how the rhythm becomes almost hip-hop in places.

Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

      O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

i swear that sounds like rap. Someone should really put a beat to it.

Posted by annika, Feb. 9, 2005 |
Rubric: Poetry


As always, Annie, you have a splendid ear for rhythm!

Posted by: Hugo on Feb. 9, 2005