I was reading T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets today when this section from “East Coker” hit me right in the heart like a jolt from a defibrillator.
On it’s own, it’s an amazing and brilliant passage. But, in addition to that, it pretty much sums up everything I’m going through and everything I need to hear right now.
“I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again,
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.”
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: “East Coker”
I can remember thinking, when I read it the first time, that this was a brilliant and deep passage, but it didn’t quite jump out at me. I guess I didn’t need it as much then. This time, reading it was like being resuscitated. Everything about it is perfect for me, at this very moment. It’s as if it were written just for me.
I’ve been learning to be still and sit with the discomfort, but it isn’t easy and I still needed someone to “say it again.” Who better to have say it than the supreme T. S. Eliot? 🙂
[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] is probably the first E.E. Cummings poem I ever came across. I fell in love with it then. It’s so beautiful and effortless, simple and deep. I think it’s one of the most romantic of all poems and superlative in it’s embodiment and encapsulation of love’s transcendent power.
It’s always been one of my favorites. I had a hard time not including it in my Poetry Month Celebration blog post, last year, but I’d limited myself to only choosing one of my favorite poems from each of my favorite poets, so I went with [love is more thicker than forget]. I figured it was a lesser known poem.
Then, in May, I came across this video. It’s one of the best analyses of a poem, I’ve ever come across. It may seem a little long, but it’s well worth the time.
It starts off with a recording of Cummings, himself, reading the poem and then goes on to analyse the poem and how it relates to Cummings and his poetry in a broader sense. It’s fascinating, especially the part where it shows how brilliantly Cummings used parentheses to overlap and add another level of depth to the poem and, also, where it touches on Cummings’ views on love and truth and how they can only be “known” by being experienced.
“…Cummings believes that truth and poetry and love cannot be comprehended, only experienced. With his poetry and all it’s intense experimentation, he attempts to short circuit our impulse toward knowing so that we might experience language anew.”
I think Cummings certainly found a way to allow the reader to experience the beauty of “truth and poetry and love” through this poem.
This video definitely gave me a much deeper appreciation for this poem and for Cummings’ poetry, in general, and I’ve been wanting to blog about it for almost a year now. I figure, with yesterday being Valentine’s Day, today is a good day to. 🙂
Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
–Gerard Manley Hopkins
I never thought I’d come across a poet I liked as much as T. S. Eliot, but I have. His name is Gerard Manley Hopkins and the more I read him, the more I’m struck by his brilliance. I’ve been meaning to blog about him for two years now, so I suppose this Easter is a good place to start.
This isn’t, by far, my favorite Hopkins poem, but it’s probably my favorite Easter poem. I think it perfectly sums up the joy, hope, happiness and celebration of Easter. Hopkins is especially good at evoking emotions, be they jubilant or despondent. In this case, you can feel the jubilation in every stanza and the imagery is splendid.
Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?
Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.
Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.
Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.
–Gerard Manley Hopkins
Happy Easter! 🙂
More on it later. At the moment, I’m just happy to know I have the rest of my life to meditate on and explore this collection of poems. 🙂
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: “Little Gidding”
I’ve decided to change the title of my “This Week’s Books” posts to “What I’m Reading” as it better suits these posts. These are the books I’m reading, or intend to read, this summer.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
T. S. Eliot: Selected Poems by T. S. Eliot
The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins edited by W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie
T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land: A Casebook by Charles Brian Cox Arnold P. Hinchliffe
Most of these books I’ve been reading for awhile and have already read a good portion of. I’m nearly finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s been every bit as wonderful to read now as when I read it for the first time about fifteen years ago. Actually, it’s even better than I remember it to be. I’m also nearly finished reading Anam Cara, which I’m borrowing from a friend. I’m hoping to finish it this week.
Paper Towns is the only John Green novel I haven’t read yet (aside from Will Grayson Will Grayson which he coauthored). I intend to read it after I finish To Kill a Mockingbird and have high expectations for it. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is the first book I will read by Stephen Leacock, whom I have been wanting to read for over a year now. I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve also decided to take on T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and really dig into it, so I’m hoping that T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land: A Casebook will help. And speaking of poetry, I have been so enamored with The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins since I came across his poetry, earlier this year. His poetry will probably end up on every “What I’m Reading” list from now on. You will also, likely, see me blogging about him A LOT, so consider yourself warned. 🙂