Gerontion

- 1888-1965
          Thou hast nor youth nor age
          But as it were an after dinner sleep
          Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,	
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.	
I was neither at the hot gates	
Nor fought in the warm rain	
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.	
My house is a decayed house,	
And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,	
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,	
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;	
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.	
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,	
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.	
 
                    I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.	
 
Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:	
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,	
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year	
Came Christ the tiger
 
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,	
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk	
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero	
With caressing hands, at Limoges	
Who walked all night in the next room;
By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;	
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room	
Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp	
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles	
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house	
Under a windy knob.	
 
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now	
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors	
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now	
She gives when our attention is distracted	
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions	
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late	
What’s not believed in, or if still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon	
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with	
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think	
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices	
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.	
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.	
 
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last	
We have not reached conclusion, when I	
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly	
And it is not by any concitation	
Of the backward devils	
I would meet you upon this honestly.	
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.	
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it	
Since what is kept must be adulterated?	
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:	
How should I use it for your closer contact?
 
These with a thousand small deliberations	
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,	
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,	
With pungent sauces, multiply variety	
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,
Suspend its operations, will the weevil	
Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled	
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear	
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits	
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,	
And an old man driven by the Trades	
To a a sleepy corner.	
 
                    Tenants of the house,	
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

More by T. S. Eliot

La Figlia Che Piange

              O quam te memorem virgo

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—	
Lean on a garden urn—	
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—	
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—	
Fling them to the ground and turn	     
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:	
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.	
 
So I would have had him leave,	
So I would have had her stand and grieve,	
So he would have left	        
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,	
As the mind deserts the body it has used.	
I should find	
Some way incomparably light and deft,	
Some way we both should understand,	        
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.	
 
She turned away, but with the autumn weather	
Compelled my imagination many days,	
Many days and many hours:	
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!	
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.	
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze	
The troubled midnight and the noon's repose.

Portrait of a Lady

Thou hast committed—
Fornication: but that was in another country,
And besides, the wench is dead.

                    The Jew of Malta.
I

Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do— With "I have saved this afternoon for you"; And four wax candles in the darkened room, Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead, An atmosphere of Juliet's tomb Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid. We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and fingertips. "So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul Should be resurrected only among friends Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room." —And so the conversation slips Among velleities and carefully caught regrets Through attenuated tones of violins Mingled with remote cornets And begins. "You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends, And how, how rare and strange it is, to find In a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends, [For indeed I do not love it...you knew? you are not blind! How keen you are!] To find a friend who has these qualities, Who has, and gives Those qualities upon which friendship lives. How much it means that I say this to you— Without these friendships—life, what cauchemar!" Among the windings of the violins And the ariettes Of cracked cornets Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own, Capricious monotone That is at least one definite "false note." —Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance, Admire the monuments, Discuss the late events, Correct our watches by the public clocks. Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks. II Now that lilacs are in bloom She has a bowl of lilacs in her room And twists one in his fingers while she talks. "Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know What life is, you who hold it in your hands"; (Slowly twisting the lilac stalks) "You let it flow from you, you let it flow, And youth is cruel, and has no remorse And smiles at situations which it cannot see." I smile, of course, And go on drinking tea. "Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall My buried life, and Paris in the Spring, I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world To be wonderful and youthful, after all." The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune Of a broken violin on an August afternoon: "I am always sure that you understand My feelings, always sure that you feel, Sure that across the gulf you reach your hand. You are invulnerable, you have no Achilles' heel. You will go on, and when you have prevailed You can say: at this point many a one has failed. But what have I, but what have I, my friend, To give you, what can you receive from me? Only the friendship and the sympathy Of one about to reach her journey's end. I shall sit here, serving tea to friends..." I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends For what she has said to me? You will see me any morning in the park Reading the comics and the sporting page. Particularly I remark An English countess goes upon the stage. A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance, Another bank defaulter has confessed. I keep my countenance, I remain self-possessed Except when a street piano, mechanical and tired Reiterates some worn-out common song With the smell of hyacinths across the garden Recalling things that other people have desired. Are these ideas right or wrong? III The October night comes down; returning as before Except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease I mount the stairs and turn the handle of the door And feel as if I had mounted on my hands and knees. "And so you are going abroad; and when do you return? But that's a useless question. You hardly know when you are coming back, You will find so much to learn." My smile falls heavily among the bric-à-brac. "Perhaps you can write to me." My self-possession flares up for a second; This is as I had reckoned. "I have been wondering frequently of late (But our beginnings never know our ends!) Why we have not developed into friends." I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark Suddenly, his expression in a glass. My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark. "For everybody said so, all our friends, They all were sure our feelings would relate So closely! I myself can hardly understand. We must leave it now to fate. You will write, at any rate. Perhaps it is not too late. I shall sit here, serving tea to friends." And I must borrow every changing shape To find expression...dance, dance Like a dancing bear, Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape. Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance— Well! and what if she should die some afternoon, Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and rose; Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand With the smoke coming down above the housetops; Doubtful, for a while Not knowing what to feel or if I understand Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon... Would she not have the advantage, after all? This music is successful with a "dying fall" Now that we talk of dying— And should I have the right to smile?

Hysteria

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: "If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden..." I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.