Jessica Hooten Wilson on ‘The Four Quartets’

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1 Response to Jessica Hooten Wilson on ‘The Four Quartets’

  1. Logan Polk says:

    I just taught my students T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” so this is quite the fitting upload for today! I’ve always perceived where the cock crows from the perch of the abandoned steeple, and that is what brings forth the rain upon the dried and cracked Waste Land for the first time, is indicative and prophetic of Eliot’s own conversion to High-Church Anglicanism only 2 years later. In a way, he was already saying that this current world of decadence where the only item people care about is when they can get their next sexual encounter can only be fixed through faith in God, and the Church. That is why the cock crows upon the belfry. It’s a beautiful expression, not to mention the other allusions to Christ in the final chapter:

    A woman drew her long black hair out tight
    And fiddled whisper music on those strings
    And bats with baby faces in the violet light
    Whistled, and beat their wings
    And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
    And upside down in air were towers
    Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
    And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

    In this decayed hole among the mountains
    In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
    Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
    There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.
    It has no windows, and the door swings,
    Dry bones can harm no one.
    Only a cock stood on the rooftree
    Co co rico co co rico
    In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
    Bringing rain

    Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
    Waited for rain, while the black clouds
    Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
    The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
    Then spoke the thunder
    Datta: what have we given?
    My friend, blood shaking my heart
    The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
    Which an age of prudence can never retract
    By this, and this only, we have existed
    Which is not to be found in our obituaries
    Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
    Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
    In our empty rooms.


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