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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

For the Nothing that Remains (finally a reply to T.S. Eliot)

This morning I clicked on a link on Twitter and found myself reading The Four Quartets.  What a gloomy Gus T.S. Eliot was.  Really. This poem is part of my ongoing series of responses to the great poems I've read and enjoyed (or tried to enjoy) over the years.  Eliot was never one of my favorites - so sonorous and liturgical in his phrasing - but even with that daub of Lenten ash on his forehead, he is always worthy of a closer look and listen.

For those of you not familiar with the 4 Quartets, this poem is more specifically in response to the final stanza of East Coker, which is the second part of Eliot's poem.  It's interesting (at least to me) that when Eliot wrote East Coker he was supposedly struggling with an issue similar to what I'm currently mulling over - does it really make any sense to keep writing poetry?  Well at least in the present case I decided in the affirmative, if only in order to muster my reply to gloomy TS.

Home is not just where we start
But where we arrive in the end
As the world becomes more familiar
Not less so once we notice
(despite all pride and learning)
The recurring patterns of our dreams

Sure there will be time for this and that
Until we begin to comprehend
A present that consists of no single moment
But a great chain of being and nothingness
Connecting stone to plant and plant to man
Yet all immortal in our yearnings to make
A new beginning from each end

All dolmens speak of time forgotten
In starlight that sweeps across the heavens
And lamplight that flickers and dims
Words elide and worlds collide
Photographs curl at their edge
And fall into desuetude
But it’s the endless waves
Of wind water and light
That propagate and proclaim
To petrel and porpoise alike

Not in things themselves
But in the undulation unceasing
There we'll find unity and perpetuity
Neither in what is or is not there
But in the Nothing that remains


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