As Keats put it in his "Grecian Urn" poem,
"Thou, silent form, doth tease us out of thought
As doth eternity..."
In Burnt Norton V, Eliot changes the Grecian urn into a Chinese jar:
"Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now."
The ultimate pattern we will all fit into is the Absolute. Much of 4Q is concerned with placing the temporal patterns we fit into-- such as marriage, family, nationality--into a perspective that takes into consideration that ultimate pattern. Words happen in succession in a poem, yet none of them has its complete meaning until it fits into the pattern of the complete poem. If each has its proper place, then the stillness is achieved. Then the first word has meaning because of the last word. Before the beginning of the poem and after the end, the poem exists in its timeless pattern, so the last word can affect the meaning of the first word. Nevertheless, we experience the poem as realized in time, and there, the first word does precede the last, and we can speak of the last word of the poem being "in the future" as we begin the first word.
Eliot applies the same understanding of reality to the pattern of western literature in its entirety. As an example, Eliot's intertextual forays into the Divine Comedy and the Vita Nuova of Dante make these into different works. Eliot has changed the pattern in which they exist; they belong to a context of meaning that now includes Eliot's works.
It does, indeed, "tease us out of mind."
J. P. Earls, OSB
St. John's University
Collegeville, MN 56321
From: Ken Armstrong [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2002 11:58 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: More on Roses (was Milton, etc.)
At 10:03 AM 05/23/2002 -0500, you wrote:
While he can regret his past history with these three as temporal
critters, Eliot is destined to encounter them in the atemporal reality of
the Absolute, hence they are "in the future."
That's a jaw dropper. What makes you say he "is destined to meet them in
the atemporal reality of the Absolute"? Even if there is reason to say so,
as you've already pointed out the eternal is not related to the temporal in
a way that would permit what you nevertheless go ahead and say ("hence they
are 'in the future'").