Book Diary: Collected Poems 1909 – 1962 (T.S. Eliot)

In-amongst my parallel reading of Salman Rushdie´s, Vergüenza and Shirley Hazzard´s, The Transit of Venus, I have been thinking and reading about love in all its myriad forms, or at least the six forms which the ancient Greeks came up with.

This is because love has been squaring up to me all week: I have been semi-dumped by my boyfriend (long-distance relationships are apparently more difficult than I naively (or hopefully) had thought), it seems my friends are as bad at keeping in contact as I am, and finally my sister is newly boyfriended.  Such an assault of the loves from various directions has left me feeling dislocated and embarrassed at the ease at which I can feel so vulnerable.

It is the first entry in that list which led me to circuitously to Eliot.  I was thinking about change and the idea of a life without those, or that, who I love and I remembered a line from Jeffrey Eugenides´, The Virgin Suicides.  Remembering her years later, Trip Fontaine says of his ´playground love´ Lux Lisbon: “She was the still point of the turning world.”  I always loved that phrase, conveying as it does so much, but I had never read the original poem (Burnt Norton) by Eliot from which it is taken.  I realised (shamefully) that I had Eliot´s Collected Poems preserved in almost pristine condition (I read The Waste Land at university and then returned the volume to the shelf until now) on my book shelf.  I have read the poem thirteen times already.  I can´t say why exactly, but it is helping and I can´t say exactly what it is helping, but maybe that´s just the way of art.

It could be that this extract explains why I find myself where I am:

The detail of the pattern is movement,

As in the figure of the ten stairs,

Desire itself is movement

Not in itself desirable;

Love is itself unmoving,

Only the cause and end of movement,

Timeless, and undesiring

Except in the aspect of time

Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being.


But this is without doubt how I feel today:

Time and the bell have buried the day,

The black cloud carries the sun away.”


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