Thursday, 22 February 2007

On T. S. Eliot

One of the most impressive people I met on my recent visit to Mexico was Christopher Southgate, who is not only a scientist and theologian, but also a poet. In Cancun, we talked a little about T. S. Eliot (one of my favourite poets) – so I was delighted the other day to receive in the post a copy of Chris’s book, A Love and Its Sounding: Explorations of T. S. Eliot (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1997), 96 pp. This work, a long poem in seven sections, is a poetic biography of Eliot. And it’s truly delightful. Here’s a sample from section VII (p. 63):

I sit in the Church at East Coker
Your ashes’ resting place. Above them
An understated epitaph –

You ask us from an oval tablet
To pray for the repose of the soul
Of Thomas Stearns Eliot, Poet.

There is a sense of our petitions
Being sought for yet longer struggle –
That the pale purgatorial fires

That beckoned you from the desert burn
Still. I do not believe it. The church,
The high dark Jacobean panelling,

The plain space of nave, checked floor, plain swept,
Sturdy house for the elusive God
Of earth and air, rose and fire, shelter

From our storm-flung present anarchy,
Speaks of stillness, clarity of light,
And of the Furies finally befriended.

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