a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

The poet as T.S. Eliot

Posted on the October 2nd, 2013

From time to time some raise the question: “Does poetry matter?”

As counter-intuitive as it seems in a world strafed so often by brute force and brutal chaos, poetry matters most of all.

It’s the poet’s voice that reminds us, for instance, that if you have to murder children to win a war, you’ve already lost a lot more than just the war.

It’s the poet’s voice that restores heart.

From Eliot: Excerpt from “Preludes” (1917)

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled

Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing…


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Reader Comments (2) - Post a Comment
  1. Jennifer said, on October 2nd, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for this timely reminder that, regardless of what we may witness in events playing out around us, at the core of anything lasting and of value – is heart.

  2. Sam said, on October 2nd, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    We have all had these moments, perhaps more enduring than moments, or perception of places we live, visited, or passed through. That universality of experience is the attraction of T.S. Eliot’s poem, of these lines you have excerpted here.

    One critic’s comment on this poem was that it is an indictment of the “grimy, low urbanity” we find so much around us, especially in areas of urban decay of old cities or the cluttered sprawl of not so old cities I think we could find an equal indictment of the landscaped, manicured, neat and orderly, sparking banality of commercialism and materialism that reigns over vision in urban areas highly planned, partitioned, spaced and flourishing in the more gentrified metro environs and upper middle-class, even wealthy suburbs. It is that of the secure, innocent, untried, untested, inexperienced, smooth and glowing, beautiful child’s face vs the wizened old or the struggling tackiness of young, innocence lost, along with much else, given character from the struggles of living poorly, beset and poor.

    Neighborhoods, circles of satisfied hearts, settled minds, however intensely cycled they are in whatever great or small loops and ends of life, are as due the poet’s critical eye as are the scrubby, scroungy, decayed, spent, under-reached, depressed oppressed, disheveled, crushed, splintered, sagged. scared-eyed, worn and scarred, rudely or meekly inhabited scenes that may stretch out before us. For just as there is purpose to be found in all things, so, too, can be found futility. This tension on the one hand and gentle pools, placid scapes, and sumptuous grottoes on the other is a rich source of impetus for verse for the poet.

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