T.S.Eliot asserted ‘that genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.’
I appreciate that. I read one of his poems ‘La Figlia Che Piange’ as a schoolgirl, understanding nothing but loving it all. I loved the musicality of it, and the mystery. I continue to be drawn to mystery and musicality, longing to be offered moments of transendence by poets, novelists, painters, the natural world These are my entry points to life.
I know little, have read little and understand less of everything I have seen and read. I share a sense of disconnection from a purposefulness with him. I think that is why he speaks to me across language and not with it.
He wrote “The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him “personal.” Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”
When T. S. Eliot died, wrote Robert Giroux, “the world became a lesser place.” and Igor Stravinsky thought of him “not only as a great sorcerer of words but as the very key keeper of the language.”
Here are some excerpts from “The Four Quartets” that are particular favourites of mine
from Burnt Norton (1935)
Time present and time pastAre both perhaps present in time futureAnd time future contained in time past
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.Go, go, go, said the bird: human kindCannot bear very much reality.
from East Coker (1940)
Home is where one starts from. As we grow olderThe world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicatedOf dead and living.
In my beginning is my end.
Love is most nearly itselfWhen here and now cease to matter.Old men ought to be explorersHere or there does not matterWe must be still and still movingInto another intensityFor a further union, a deeper communionThrough the dark cold and the empty desolation,The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast watersOf the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
from The Dry Salvages (1941)
The river is within us, the sea is all about us
For most of us, there is only the unattendedMoment, the moment in and out of time,The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightningOr the waterfall, or music heard so deeplyThat it is not heard at all, but you are the musicWhile the music lasts.
and from other poems:
Between the ideaAnd the realityBetween the motionAnd the actFalls the Shadow
Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. For I have known them all already, known them all; Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume? ( from the love song of J. Alfred Prucock)
I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. (from the love song of J. Alfred Prucock)
“[Poetry] may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.”
I hope I have whetted your appetite to either discover or rediscover this beacon of light.
Enjoy your weekend.