Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

A professor once asked us to list three poets we would like to study if we could spend all our life reviewing and analyzing their body of literary work. T.S. Eliot was at the top of my list.

Here, appropriately for today, is an excerpt from part III of "Ash Wednesday," one of my favorites. You may want to read the entire poem here, and note the repetitions and rhythm of the whole. I will be puzzling through this poem for years--I see something new upon each read.

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I 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 stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted 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 despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.

--T.S. Eliot

No comments:

Post a Comment