In a message dated Wed, 11 Jul 2001 12:49:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time, stamg01 <[log in to unmask]> writes:
> Surely I man of such abstract thought, a man with such an emmotional spectrum,
> must have had more to say then what the bulk of his work shows us. All
> right... I don't see his heart dancing with the daffodils, but what brought
> this man joy, and where, if anywhere, does this joy show up in his large
> volumes of work?
> Your humble apprentice,
Eliot's work is not marked by obvious bursts of joy, I would agree. This is not (I think) because Eliot could not enjoy things (such as cheese, drink, "a very good dinner", or the music halls) but rather (I think) because he recognized that "joy" is experienced visceral ly by everyone, and there isn't much poetry can add, by way of explanation, to enhance the experience. And it would seem that his marriage put a strain on his "joie de vivre" for a while (whose-ever fault that was.)
Late in his career he attempted to say something about simple moments of joy and, while he recognized he was struggling to say the unsayable, his efforts make for some of my favorite bits of poetry. I've collected some of these together with other quotes worth considering in respose to your comments.
1. For most of us, there is only the unattended/
Moment, the moment in and out of time,/
The distraction fit, losts in a shaft of sunlight,/
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning/
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply/
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music/
While the music lasts.
2. Love is most nearly itself/
When here and now cease to matter./
Old men ought to be explorers/
Here and there does not matter/
We must be still and still moving/
Into another intensity/
For a further union, a deeper communion/
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,/
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters/
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
3. This is your share of the eternal burden,
The perpetual glory. This is one moment/
But know that another/
Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy/
When the figure of God's purpose is made complete.
4. "You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;/
"They called me the hyancinth girl."/
-- 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.
5. The boat responded/
Gaily, to your hand expert with sail and oar/
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded/
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient/
To controlling hands.
6. My friend, blood shaking my heart/
The awful daring of a moment's surrender/
Which an age of prudence can never retract/
By this, and this only, we have existed.
7. End of the endless/
Journey to no end/
Conclusion of all that/
Speech without word and/
Word of no speech/
Grace to the Mother/
For the Garden/
Where all love ends.
8. And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene/
The broadbacked figure dressed in blue and green/
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute./
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,/
lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,/
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair.
* * *
Eliot's poetry may be dark in many respects, but it is not joyless. I would agree, though, that its joy is seldom absolute, and when it is absolute it is typically too remote to be recognized by many as the joy that it is. But it is there, nonetheless.