Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thomas Stearns Eliot - Sept. 26, 1888 - Jan, 4, 1965

I've kept the above paperback by my bed for many years.  I read in it often.  I think I've  had it at least thirty if not forty years. It is so well-made -- thanks Harcourt Brack Jovanovich -- that it shows hardly any wear.

Very few people have put words together in ways never done before to make beautiful lines for stunning poems.  Eliot did.  His poems were and are stupendous blasts of originality.  Here's the opening of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Profrock":

          Let us go then, you and I,
          When the evening is spread out against the sky
          Like a patient etherized upon a table;
          Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
          The muttering retreats
          Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
          And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
          Streets that follow like a tedious argument
          Of insidious intent
          To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
          Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
          Let us go and make our visit.

Eliot was born in St. Louis but went to England after graduating from Harvard; he made England his home.  "My mind may be American but my heart is British," he said.

Elliot's ashes are interred in St. Michael's Church in East Coker, an English village from which his paternal ancestor, Andrew Eliot, left to come to America in the 17th century.  A plaque in the church commemorates one of the 20th century's most amazing poets:

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