The Heart of Light

(come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.- The Burial of the Dead

Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence. – The Burial of the Dead

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. -What the Thunder Said

I’m not entirely sure why, but these are the three passages in The Waste Land that keep sticking with me. The most surprising is the first one, since I don’t actually know what it means. I kind of do – I can sort of fit it into the poem, but I’m not sure what it means to me. And although the last line of that quote – “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” – is one of the most staggering that Eliot’s ever written, the shadow lines are the ones I keep hearing in my head. There’s something about that image that’s incredibly unsettling.

I love the last quote because it goes against most of the rest of The Wasteland. For once, he’s hinting that surrender could be a good thing – at the very least, he’s framing it in a far more positive light.

Anyway, I just wanted to post these. I was thinking of tweeting them, but somehow that wouldn’t have done them justice. Not to mention that 140 characters aren’t enough for any of them. I think I’ll do another post for Stevens, but his poetry needs a completely different mood – he and Eliot don’t mix so well.


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