T.S. Eliot reads his poem, Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, by T.S. Eliot
Because I do not hope to turn againBecause I do not hopeBecause I do not hope to turnDesiring this man's gift and that man's scopeI no longer strive to strive towards such things(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)Why should I mournThe vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know againThe infirm glory of the positive hourBecause I do not thinkBecause I know I shall not knowThe one veritable transitory powerBecause I cannot drinkThere, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always timeAnd place is always and only placeAnd what is actual is actual only for one timeAnd only for one placeI rejoice that things are as they are andI renounce the blessed faceAnd renounce the voiceBecause I cannot hope to turn againConsequently I rejoice, having to construct somethingUpon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon usAnd pray that I may forgetThese matters that with myself I too much discussToo much explainBecause I do not hope to turn againLet these words answerFor what is done, not to be done againMay the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to flyBut merely vans to beat the airThe air which is now thoroughly small and drySmaller and dryer than the willTeach us to care and not to careTeach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our deathPray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-treeIn the cool of the day, having fed to satietyOn my legs my heart my liver and that which had been containedIn the hollow round of my skull. And God saidShall these bones live? shall theseBones live? And that which had been containedIn the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:Because of the goodness of this LadyAnd because of her loveliness, and becauseShe honours the Virgin in meditation,We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembledProffer my deeds to oblivion, and my loveTo the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.It is this which recoversMy guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portionsWhich the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawnIn a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.There is no life in them. As I am forgottenAnd would be forgotten, so I would forgetThus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God saidProphesy to the wind, to the wind only for onlyThe wind will listen. And the bones sang chirpingWith the burden of the grasshopper, saying
Lady of silencesCalm and distressedTorn and most wholeRose of memoryRose of forgetfulnessExhausted and life-givingWorried reposefulThe single RoseIs now the GardenWhere all loves endTerminate tormentOf love unsatisfiedThe greater tormentOf love satisfiedEnd of the endlessJourney to no endConclusion of all thatIs inconclusibleSpeech without word andWord of no speechGrace to the MotherFor the GardenWhere all love ends.
Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shiningWe are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,Forgetting themselves and each other, unitedIn the quiet of the desert. This is the land which yeShall divide by lot. And neither division nor unityMatters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.
At the first turning of the second stairI turned and saw belowThe same shape twisted on the banisterUnder the vapour in the fetid airStruggling with the devil of the stairs who wearsThe deceitul face of hope and of despair.
At the second turning of the second stairI left them twisting, turning below;There were no more faces and the stair was dark,Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.
At the first turning of the third stairWas a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruitAnd beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture sceneThe broadbacked figure drest in blue and greenEnchanted the maytime with an antique flute.Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,Lilac and brown hair;Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despairClimbing the third stair.
Lord, I am not worthyLord, I am not worthybut speak the word only.
Who walked between the violet and the violetWho walked betweenThe various ranks of varied greenGoing in white and blue, in Mary's colour,Talking of trivial thingsIn ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolourWho moved among the others as they walked,Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs
Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sandIn blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,Sovegna vos
Here are the years that walk between, bearingAway the fiddles and the flutes, restoringOne who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing
White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.The new years walk, restoringThrough a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoringWith a new verse the ancient rhyme. RedeemThe time. RedeemThe unread vision in the higher dreamWhile jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
The silent sister veiled in white and blueBetween the yews, behind the garden god,Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word
But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang downRedeem the time, redeem the dreamThe token of the word unheard, unspoken
Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yewAnd after this our exile
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spentIf the unheard, unspokenWord is unspoken, unheard;Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,The Word without a word, the Word withinThe world and for the world;And the light shone in darkness andAgainst the Word the unstilled world still whirledAbout the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the wordResound? Not here, there is not enough silenceNot on the sea or on the islands, notOn the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,For those who walk in darknessBoth in the day time and in the night timeThe right time and the right place are not hereNo place of grace for those who avoid the faceNo time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
Will the veiled sister pray forThose who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, betweenHour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who waitIn darkness? Will the veiled sister prayFor children at the gateWho will not go away and cannot pray:Pray for those who chose and oppose
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slenderYew trees pray for those who offend herAnd are terrified and cannot surrenderAnd affirm before the world and deny between the rocksIn the last desert before the last blue rocksThe desert in the garden the garden in the desertOf drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
O my people.
Although I do not hope to turn againAlthough I do not hopeAlthough I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the lossIn this brief transit where the dreams crossThe dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these thingsFrom the wide window towards the granite shoreThe white sails still fly seaward, seaward flyingUnbroken wings
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoicesIn the lost lilac and the lost sea voicesAnd the weak spirit quickens to rebelFor the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smellQuickens to recoverThe cry of quail and the whirling ploverAnd the blind eye createsThe empty forms between the ivory gatesAnd smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehoodTeach us to care and not to careTeach us to sit stillEven among these rocks,Our peace in His willAnd even among these rocksSister, motherAnd spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.