Friday, April 19, 2013

T.S. Eliot and Recent Events

The events of the last few days keep reminding me of lines from The Wasteland, the masterful 1922 poem by T.S. Eliot.  The Wasteland is a famously complicated and difficult poem, and it would be foolish to try to summarize it quickly or claim that it applies directly to any particular situation.  But one of the benefits of poetry is that it give you a great collection of images and lines to keep in mind when you face difficult situations.  Here are some lines from The Wasteland that have been running through my head in recent days.  They may not make sense to anyone else, but they resonate with me:

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?  Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.  Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust."

"Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet."

"But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear."

"What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only."

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