Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week

Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us, tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Chill
Fingers of yew be curled
Down upon us? After the kingfisher's wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.
T. S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"

3 comments:

shogart said...

Would you care to comment on the connexion between this and Holy Week? Just curious...

Osbert Parsley said...

Well, I make a point of reading the Four Quartets every Holy Week. As a whole, it's one of the most powerful poems I know, and seems to speak to the central mysteries of time, death, and the Christian faith in an evocative, emotionally wrenching way.

This particular lyric (the fourth movement of "Burnt Norton") seems to speak to the utter contingency of our existence (the inevitability of death and decay, represented chillingly by the roots of the yew trees which grow in English graveyards). The purpose of the cycle as a whole is to diagnose the problem and suggest a way out, but a couple of images in this lyric hint at an escape. The kingfisher is simultaneously the "halcyon" bird of Greek mythology (a good omen) and the wounded Fisher King of medieval legend (a type of Christ). Both symbols direct us back toward the "still point of the turning world." (The Unmoved Mover?) Now that I think of it, these themes might suit Ash Wednesday better than Holy Week, but Eliot is always worth reading.

shogart said...

I was kind of thinking 'Ash Wednesday' when I read it, yes... but I do agree, Eliot is always a good thing to read. :)