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T. S. Eliot, fully Thomas Sterns Eliot

(1888 - 1965)


American-born English Poet, Playwright, and Literary Critic

A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter.
A cold coming we had of it, just the worst time of the year for a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, the very dead of winter. And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, Lying down in the melting snow. There were times we regretted the summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, and the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away, and wanting their liquor and women, and the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly And the villages dirty and charging high prices: A hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night, sleeping in snatches, with the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly. Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation, with a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, and three trees on the low sky. And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, And feet kicking the empty wine-skins. But there was no information, and so we continued and arrived at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory. All this was a long time ago, I remember, and I would do it again, but set down this set down this: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, and the dry stone no sound of water. Only there is shadow under this red rock, (come in under the shadow of this red rock), and I will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can't be much good.
A prose that is altogether alive demands something of the reader that the ordinary novel reader is not prepared to give.
A toothache, or a violent passion, is not necessarily diminished by our knowledge of its causes, its character, its importance or insignificance.
A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.
Accident is design and design is accident in a cloud of unknowing.
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now history has many cunning passages, contrived corridors and issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, guides us by vanities. Think now she gives when our attention is distracted and what she gives, gives with such supple confusions that the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late what’s not believed in, or if still believed, in memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with till the refusal propagates a fear. Think neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices are fathered by our heroism. Virtues are forced upon us by our impudent crimes. These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces, after the frosty silence in the gardens, after the agony in stony places the shouting and the crying prison and palace and reverberation of thunder of spring over distant mountains. He who was living is now dead. We who were living are now dying with a little patience. Here is no water but only rock. Rock and no water and the sandy road. The road winding above among the mountains which are mountains of rock without water. If there were water we should stop and drink amongst the rock one cannot stop or think. Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand if there were only water amongst the rock. Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit. There is not even silence in the mountains but dry sterile thunder without rain. There is not even solitude in the mountains but red sullen faces sneer and snarl from doors of mudcracked houses. If there were water and no rock. If there were rock and also water. And water, a spring, a pool among the rock. If there were the sound of water only. Not the cicada and dry grass singing, but sound of water over a rock where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees drip drop drip drop drop drop drop. But there is no water.