Thursday, March 24, 2016

Four Quartets by Eliot, T.S


IV
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That quesions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind us of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.



Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Journey Of The Magi | T.S. Elliott


This last Wednesay  (6 January) marked the feast of Epiphany. Epiphany is a feast celebrating the 'shining forth' or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian church, and included the birth of Jesus Christ; the visit of the Magi (traditionally Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus' childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The feast was initially based on (and viewed as a fulfillment of) the Jewish Feast of Lights. This was fixed on January 6.

T.S. Elliott wore an interesting poem reflecting on the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem:


The Journey Of The Magi 


'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.


Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.


Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pax Romana or Pax Jesus?

In June the year before last,we had the privilege of visiting the UK. As part of our road trip we drove north to Hexam and visited the ruined remains of Emperor Hadrian’s great wall. It is quite something to stand on what is still a huge and solid stone fortification and stare East to West marvelling at how it winds on and on for countless miles protecting what was then the Roman Empire from the wild Scots hordes. My daughter had a grand time mocking her mother on her barbarian ancestry till we pointed out the obvious!
I stood for some time gazing south across England and imaging the channel and a whole continent beyond that. Back in ~120AD this was all Rome! This was an empire that spanned the known world. The legions and their families and slaves had lived in barracks on these windswept rolling hills all paid allegiance to Caesar as their Lord. Caesaris est Dóminus. 
Interestingly, about a hundred years before the wall was built, Jesus was born and Augustus Octavian had been emperor for a quarter of a century. He was King of kings – A gift from the gods! He ruled from Gibraltar to Jerusalem and from Britain to the Black Sea. He had done what no one had done for two hundred years before him: he had brought peace to the wider, Roman world – Pax Romana.