T.S. Eliot
East Coker (1940)




In my beginning is my end. In succession


Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,


Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place


Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.


Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,


Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth


Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,


Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.


Houses live and die: there is a time for building


And a time for living and for generation


And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane


And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots


And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.




In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls


Across the open field, leaving the deep lane


Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,


Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,


And the deep lane insists on the direction


Into the village, in the electric heat


Hypnotised. In a warm haze the sultry light


Is absorbed, not refracted, by grey stone.


The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.


Wait for the early owl.




In that open field


If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,


On a summer midnight, you can hear the music


Of the weak pipe and the little drum


And see them dancing around the bonfire


The association of man and woman


In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie—


A dignified and commodiois sacrament.


Two and two, necessarye coniunction,


Holding eche other by the hand or the arm


Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire


Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,


Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter


Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,


Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth


Mirth of those long since under earth


Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,


Keeping the rhythm in their dancing


As in their living in the living seasons


The time of the seasons and the constellations


The time of milking and the time of harvest


The time of the coupling of man and woman


And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.


Eating and drinking. Dung and death.




Dawn points, and another day


Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind


Wrinkles and slides. I am here


Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.






What is the late November doing


With the disturbance of the spring


And creatures of the summer heat,


And snowdrops writhing under feet


And hollyhocks that aim too high


Red into grey and tumble down


Late roses filled with early snow?


Thunder rolled by the rolling stars


Simulates triumphal cars


Deployed in constellated wars


Scorpion fights against the Sun


Until the Sun and Moon go down


Comets weep and Leonids fly


Hunt the heavens and the plains


Whirled in a vortex that shall bring


The world to that destructive fire


Which burns before the ice-cap reigns.




That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:


A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,


Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle


With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.


It was not (to start again) what one had expected.


What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,


Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity


And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us


Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,


Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?


The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,


The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets


Useless in the darkness into which they peered


Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,


At best, only a limited value


In the knowledge derived from experience.


The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,


For the pattern is new in every moment


And every moment is a new and shocking


Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived


Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.


In the middle, not only in the middle of the way


But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,


On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,


And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,


Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear


Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,


Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,


Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.


The only wisdom we can hope to acquire


Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.




The houses are all gone under the sea.




The dancers are all gone under the hill.






O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,


The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,


The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,


The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,


Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,


Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,


And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha


And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,


And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.


And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,


Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.


I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you


Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,


The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed


With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,


And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama


And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—


Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations


And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence


And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen


Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;


Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—


I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope


For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,


For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith


But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.


Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:


So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.


Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.


The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,


The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy


Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony


Of death and birth.




You say I am repeating


Something I have said before. I shall say it again.


Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,


To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,


You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.


In order to arrive at what you do not know


You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.


In order to possess what you do not possess


You must go by the way of dispossession.


In order to arrive at what you are not


You must go through the way in which you are not.


And what you do not know is the only thing you know


And what you own is what you do not own


And where you are is where you are not.






The wounded surgeon plies the steel


That questions the distempered part;


Beneath the bleeding hands we feel


The sharp compassion of the healer's art


Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.




Our only health is the disease


If we obey the dying nurse


Whose constant care is not to please


But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,


And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.




The whole earth is our hospital


Endowed by the ruined millionaire,


Wherein, if we do well, we shall


Die of the absolute paternal care


That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.




The chill ascends from feet to knees,


The fever sings in mental wires.


If to be warmed, then I must freeze


And quake in frigid purgatorial fires


Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.




The dripping blood our only drink,


The bloody flesh our only food:


In spite of which we like to think


That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—


Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.






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.




Home is where one starts from. As we grow older


The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated


Of dead and living. Not the intense moment


Isolated, with no before and after,


But a lifetime burning in every moment


And not the lifetime of one man only


But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.


There is a time for the evening under starlight,


A time for the evening under lamplight


(The evening with the photograph album).


Love is most nearly itself


When here and now cease to matter.


Old men ought to be explorers


Here or there does not matter


We must be still and still moving


Into another intensity


For a further union, a deeper communion


Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,


The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters


Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.