Slip, slide, perish, decay

Here is another reminder that April is poetry month. I came across some words by T.S.Eliot recently, and thought to myself that I must go back and reread him. I have two little stories connected with Eliot…

… when I had finished my degree and was wondering what to do next, I applied to a teacher training college. In the interview one of the questions they asked was would I teach eleven year-olds The Four Quartets; I answered yes, yes I would – but I wouldn’t teach all of the cycle of poems, I would choose particular parts, and I actually quoted the parts I would teach. (Good grief, I surprise myself!) I was offered a place at the college, but it wasn’t until two years later that I decided I maybe would do a teaching certificate, and then I went somewhere else to qualify!

… when I went to visit my friend in the USA in the 1980’s, I met Bill, who had been a friend of Eliot’s; we got into conversation about Eliot, and for a little while couldn’t work out who the man meant by ‘Tom’… yes, sometimes I do surprise myself!

Here are some lines from Burnt Norton V:

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

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