Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007-2013. Please give credit where credit is due.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

From 'The Wasteland' (1922)

"April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain... "


I never before realised just how sensual T.S. Eliot could be - I guess I was too busy grappling with the monolith that is Modernism to taste the honey in the poetry. Although I do seem to remember a student friend, 25 years ago, declaiming the lines in the April rain, haloed by a London lamppost, all blond locks and plum-in-the-mouth, trying his luck at literary seduction. He failed. I guess I should have listened harder. Or maybe I'm being unfair to myself. Maybe what it took to come around to the power of these few short and very famous lines was simply to turn 45 (as opposed to 21).

But isn't this wonderful? Those short, pithy images that the mind can't help lingering over. Those genius verbs at the ends of the lines when they should be at the beginnings of the next, pushing the reader onward, just as the new buds push out of the earth. Making us feel slightly short of breath, perhaps. And perhaps evoking his Romantic forebear, Keats, and his ode 'To Autumn'.

Of course, Eliot is talking about mid-life reminiscences (memory and desire), long-unused senses (dull roots), pain to come (the cruelest month)...

Isn't he?






Image courtesy University of Toledo Libraries, USA.

10 comments:

KatyB said...

What a poignant quote. Never read the Wasteland right through - I lost it after these first lines!

Anonymous said...

Hi Louise,
I'll be in Carmine on the Easter weekend - so in case you are still looking for volunteers for the church....I am in. However, whatever we gonna do at the church, consider my technical skills (there are none :-)).
Best Martin Elwert

Louise said...

Ciao Martin - it'll be great to see you at Easter! And your help with a paintbrush will be much appreciated (though perhaps not by the woodworm). Don't worry about lack of skill - we're all relying on your uncle for that! See you then. L

Debbie said...

Whatever you say! You are a much deeper thinker than I am.

ladyfi said...

Beautifully-written post.

I agree - I think he is writing about old age and the withering of the senses...

Chairman Bill said...

N'ere cast a clout till May is out.

Louise said...

@Chairman Bill : now YOU have to tell ME what that means!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this quote is really beyond me

Chairman Bill said...

Louise - May refers to May blossom, not the month. A clout is norse (i.e. Lancashire / Yorkshire) for a cloth, or clothing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Louise,

I´ll be there with my brother!
See you then,
Katharina Elwert

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

From 'The Wasteland' (1922)

"April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain... "


I never before realised just how sensual T.S. Eliot could be - I guess I was too busy grappling with the monolith that is Modernism to taste the honey in the poetry. Although I do seem to remember a student friend, 25 years ago, declaiming the lines in the April rain, haloed by a London lamppost, all blond locks and plum-in-the-mouth, trying his luck at literary seduction. He failed. I guess I should have listened harder. Or maybe I'm being unfair to myself. Maybe what it took to come around to the power of these few short and very famous lines was simply to turn 45 (as opposed to 21).

But isn't this wonderful? Those short, pithy images that the mind can't help lingering over. Those genius verbs at the ends of the lines when they should be at the beginnings of the next, pushing the reader onward, just as the new buds push out of the earth. Making us feel slightly short of breath, perhaps. And perhaps evoking his Romantic forebear, Keats, and his ode 'To Autumn'.

Of course, Eliot is talking about mid-life reminiscences (memory and desire), long-unused senses (dull roots), pain to come (the cruelest month)...

Isn't he?






Image courtesy University of Toledo Libraries, USA.

10 comments:

KatyB said...

What a poignant quote. Never read the Wasteland right through - I lost it after these first lines!

Anonymous said...

Hi Louise,
I'll be in Carmine on the Easter weekend - so in case you are still looking for volunteers for the church....I am in. However, whatever we gonna do at the church, consider my technical skills (there are none :-)).
Best Martin Elwert

Louise said...

Ciao Martin - it'll be great to see you at Easter! And your help with a paintbrush will be much appreciated (though perhaps not by the woodworm). Don't worry about lack of skill - we're all relying on your uncle for that! See you then. L

Debbie said...

Whatever you say! You are a much deeper thinker than I am.

ladyfi said...

Beautifully-written post.

I agree - I think he is writing about old age and the withering of the senses...

Chairman Bill said...

N'ere cast a clout till May is out.

Louise said...

@Chairman Bill : now YOU have to tell ME what that means!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this quote is really beyond me

Chairman Bill said...

Louise - May refers to May blossom, not the month. A clout is norse (i.e. Lancashire / Yorkshire) for a cloth, or clothing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Louise,

I´ll be there with my brother!
See you then,
Katharina Elwert