Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Lady of Silences

I'm revisiting all my safe places this week - Tommy Stearns and I have been in conversation once again. My collected Tommy Stearns has pages falling out (round The Hollow Men and Ash Wednesday), but I have never read Choruses from the Rock before. I have to say I don't think I was missing much, it's Tommy at his worst - fussy and misanthropic and in full misguided agreement with Damon Albarn that modern life is rubbish.

But next up were the Four Quartets. My mother has a copy of The Imitation of Christ by the C.15th mystic Thomas à Kempis that she claims she can open at any place and find something relevant to her life. My own Tommy-mystic's Four Quartets serve a similar purpose for me. Here we find Tommy in East Coker on having nothing to say right now:

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

Tommy, you might be a miserable auld fuck, but I should not doubt you. The Four Quartets have never let me down.

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