Monday, January 12, 2015

T.S. Eliot*

T.S. Eliot (1888—1965) is not only known as the author of such influential poems as The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943). He is also known for such plays as Murder in the Cathedral (1935), and for his literary criticism, including the influential essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1920). The whimsical poems he originally wrote for his godchildren, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), were eventually transposed into the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, which premiered in London's West End in 1981. In 1948 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

His "Choruses From 'The Rock'" were written for a pageant play in 1934, and yet seem to have been written for the twenty-first century.

from "Choruses From 'The Rock'" (II)

Thus your fathers were made
Fellow citizens of the saints, of the household of GOD, being built
-----upon the foundation
Of apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself the chief corner¬stone.
But you, have you built well, that you now sit helpless in a
-----ruined house?
Where many are born to idleness, to frittered lives and squalid
-----deaths, embittered scorn in honey-hives,
And those who would build and restore turn out the palms of
-----their hands, or look in vain towards foreign lands
-----for alms to be more or the urn to be filled.
Your building not fitly framed together, you sit ashamed and
-----wonder whether and how you may be builded together
-----for a habitation of GOD in the Spirit, the Spirit
-----which moved on the face of the waters like a lantern
-----set on the back of a tortoise...
You, have you built well, have you forgotten the cornerstone?
Talking of right relations of men, but not of relations of men
-----to GOD...

Of all that was done in the past, you eat the fruit, either rotten
-----or ripe.
And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying.
-----and always being restored.
For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of God.
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.
And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands
-----alone on the other side of death,
But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that
-----was done by those who have gone before you...
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble
-----repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers...
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying
-----within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while
-----there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity
-----they will decry it.

What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD...

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about T.S. Eliot: first post, second post, fourth post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.