22 February 2007


There was a brief respite yesterday when we interrupted classes for an Ash Wednesday mass. It was as if someone poked holes in the crystal brick (see Cortázar) in which I live. Later, I wanted to sit in this room and write about Eliot's poem, but (of course) there was no time. Even now, there are only small scraps of it.
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 blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And so in two seconds I tried and found something more to think about...
The first long poem after his conversion was "Ash Wednesday" (1930), a religious meditation in a style entirely different from that of any of the earlier poems. "Ash Wednesday" expresses the pangs and the strain involved in the acceptance of religious belief and religious discipline. This and subsequent poems were written in a more relaxed, musical, and meditative style than his earlier works, in which the dramatic element had been stronger than the lyrical. "Ash Wednesday" was not well received in an era that held that poetry, though autonomous, is strictly secular in its outlook; it was misinterpreted by some critics as an expression of personal disillusion.
I love this tension between the content of "strain" and the form of "a more relaxed [...] style". Both and. All at once. At the same time. Opposites only helping each other...

Oh to lock myself away with a stack of books for days on end! But for now there is this, and it will have to be enough.
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

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