T. S. Eliot

A Song for Simeon

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An Armenian icon of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple
    A Song for Simeon

    Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
    The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
    The stubborn season has made stand.
    My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
    Like a feather on the back of my hand.
    Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
    Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

    Grant us thy peace.
    I have walked many years in this city,
    Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
    Have taken and given honour and ease.
    There went never any rejected from my door.
    Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
    When the time of sorrow is come ?
    They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
    Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

    Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
    Grant us thy peace.
    Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
    Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
    Now at this birth season of decease,
    Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
    Grant Israel’s consolation
    To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

    According to thy word,
    They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
    With glory and derision,
    Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
    Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
    Not for me the ultimate vision.
    Grant me thy peace.
    (And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
    Thine also).
    I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
    I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
    Let thy servant depart,
    Having seen thy salvation.

    T.S. Eliot

For the Solstice

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O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody’s funeral, for there is no one to bury.
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.

—T. S. Eliot, from East Coker

Cultural Recusancy in Quotations from Men Whose Names Start with Initials

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…the spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and many-headed in its incarnations that there seems nothing more to do than personally refuse to worship any of the hydras’ heads. – J. R. R. Tolkien, from a 1969 letter to Amy Ronald

The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time; so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and to save the world from suicide. – T.S. Eliot, “Thoughts After Lambeth”

The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. – C. S. Lewis, from his introduction to St. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation

The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man. – G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 1906

My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday. – GKC, Orthodoxy, 1908

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.ibid.

Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back. – GKC, What’s Wrong With the World, 1910

Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever that he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it. – GKC, Commonwealth, 1933

…In the brown bark
Of the trees I saw the many faces
Of life, forms hungry for birth,
Mouthing at me. I held my way
To the light, inspecting my shadow
Boldly; and in the late morning
You, rising towards me out of the depths
Of myself. I took your hand,
Remembering you, and together,
Confederates of the natural day,
We went forth to meet the Machine.

– R. S. Thomas, “Once”