T.S. Eliot
Burnt Norton (1935)

 

I

 

Time present and time past

 

Are both perhaps present in time future,

 

And time future contained in time past.

 

If all time is eternally present

5

All time is unredeemable.

 

What might have been is an abstraction

 

Remaining a perpetual possibility

 

Only in a world of speculation.

 

What might have been and what has been

10

Point to one end, which is always present.

 

Footfalls echo in the memory

 

Down the passage which we did not take

 

Towards the door we never opened

 

Into the rose-garden. My words echo

15

Thus, in your mind.

 

But to what purpose

 

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

 

I do not know.

 

Other echoes

20

Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

 

Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,

 

Round the corner. Through the first gate,

 

Into our first world, shall we follow

 

The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.

25

There they were, dignified, invisible,

 

Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,

 

In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,

 

And the bird called, in response to

 

The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,

30

And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses

 

Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

 

There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.

 

So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,

 

Along the empty alley, into the box circle,

35

To look down into the drained pool.

 

Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,

 

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,

 

And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,

 

The surface glittered out of heart of light,

40

And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.

 

Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

 

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,

 

Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.

 

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

45

Cannot bear very much reality.

 

Time past and time future

 

What might have been and what has been

 

Point to one end, which is always present.

 

 

 

II

 

Garlic and sapphires in the mud

50

Clot the bedded axle-tree.

 

The trilling wire in the blood

 

Sings below inveterate scars

 

Appeasing long forgotten wars.

 

The dance along the artery

55

The circulation of the lymph

 

Are figured in the drift of stars

 

Ascend to summer in the tree

 

We move above the moving tree

 

In light upon the figured leaf

60

And hear upon the sodden floor

 

Below, the boarhound and the boar

 

Pursue their pattern as before

 

But reconciled among the stars.

 

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

65

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

 

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

 

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

 

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

 

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

70

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

 

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

 

The inner freedom from the practical desire,

 

The release from action and suffering, release from the inner

 

And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded

75

By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,

 

Erhebung without motion, concentration

 

Without elimination, both a new world

 

And the old made explicit, understood

 

In the completion of its partial ecstasy,

80

The resolution of its partial horror.

 

Yet the enchainment of past and future

 

Woven in the weakness of the changing body,

 

Protects mankind from heaven and damnation

 

Which flesh cannot endure.

85

Time past and time future

 

Allow but a little consciousness.

 

To be conscious is not to be in time

 

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,

 

The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,

90

The moment in the draughty church at smokefall

 

Be remembered; involved with past and future.

 

Only through time time is conquered.

 

 

 

III

 

Here is a place of disaffection

 

Time before and time after

95

In a dim light: neither daylight

 

Investing form with lucid stillness

 

Turning shadow into transient beauty

 

With slow rotation suggesting permanence

 

Nor darkness to purify the soul

100

Emptying the sensual with deprivation

 

Cleansing affection from the temporal.

 

Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker

 

Over the strained time-ridden faces

 

Distracted from distraction by distraction

105

Filled with fancies and empty of meaning

 

Tumid apathy with no concentration

 

Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind

 

That blows before and after time,

 

Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs

110

Time before and time after.

 

Eructation of unhealthy souls

 

Into the faded air, the torpid

 

Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,

 

Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,

115

Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here

 

Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

 

Descend lower, descend only

 

Into the world of perpetual solitude,

 

World not world, but that which is not world,

120

Internal darkness, deprivation

 

And destitution of all property,

 

Desiccation of the world of sense,

 

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

 

Inoperancy of the world of spirit;

125

This is the one way, and the other

 

Is the same, not in movement

 

But abstention from movement; while the world moves

 

In appetency, on its metalled ways

 

Of time past and time future.

 

 

 

IV

130

Time and the bell have buried the day,

 

The black cloud carries the sun away.

 

Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis

 

Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray

 

Clutch and cling?

135

Chill

 

Fingers of yew be curled

 

Down on us? After the kingfisher's wing

 

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

 

At the still point of the turning world.

 

 

 

V

140

Words move, music moves

 

Only in time; but that which is only living

 

Can only die. Words, after speech, reach

 

Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,

 

Can words or music reach

145

The stillness, as a Chinese jar still

 

Moves perpetually in its stillness.

 

Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,

 

Not that only, but the co-existence,

 

Or say that the end precedes the beginning,

150

And the end and the beginning were always there

 

Before the beginning and after the end.

 

And all is always now. Words strain,

 

Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

 

Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,

155

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

 

Will not stay still. Shrieking voices

 

Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,

 

Always assail them. The Word in the desert

 

Is most attacked by voices of temptation,

160

The crying shadow in the funeral dance,

 

The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

 

The detail of the pattern is movement,

 

As in the figure of the ten stairs.

 

Desire itself is movement

165

Not in itself desirable;

 

Love is itself unmoving,

 

Only the cause and end of movement,

 

Timeless, and undesiring

 

Except in the aspect of time

170

Caught in the form of limitation

 

Between un-being and being.

 

Sudden in a shaft of sunlight

 

Even while the dust moves

 

There rises the hidden laughter

175

Of children in the foliage

 

Quick now, here, now, alwaysó

 

Ridiculous the waste sad time

 

Stretching before and after.