T.S.Eliot

“Rhapsody on a Windy Night”

I recently finished reading an encyclopedia on C. S. Lewis, and I am overtaken with love for all things literary at the moment. Words are so beautiful – I could talk about their beauty all day long. I am forever grateful that God chose to reveal Himself through writing as well as in person. Because words lend themselves to pondering, to images, to thoughts and to creation.

C. S. Lewis was not a fan of “modern literature” so it is rather ironic that what I am about to share is my love for one of T. S. Eliot’s poems. T. S. Eliot was a very modern poet, and when I use that word, I mean ‘modern’ style, not that he is a contemporary writer. The modern style can be jarring. It puts onus on the reader to interpret, to come up with meaning, and to analyse.

But look at these words friends, and the liquid pictures they create! What is not to love?

Below are excerpts only – I encourage you to read the entire poem. It greatly influenced the song ‘Memory’ from the musical CATS.

 

RHAPSODY ON A WINDY NIGHT – T. S. ELIOT

Twelve o’clock. 

Along the reaches of the street 

Held in a lunar synthesis, 

Whispering lunar incantations 

Dissolve the floors of memory 

And all its clear relations, 

Its divisions and precisions, 

Every street lamp that I pass 

Beats like a fatalistic drum, 

And through the spaces of the dark 

Midnight shakes the memory 

As a madman shakes a dead geranium… 

The memory throws up high and dry 

A crowd of twisted things

A twisted branch upon the beach 

Eaten smooth, and polished 

As if the world gave up 

The secret of its skeleton, 

Stiff and white. 

A broken spring in a factory yard, 

Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left 

Hard and curled and ready to snap… 

The lamp hummed: 

“Regard the moon, 

La lune ne garde aucune rancune, 

She winks a feeble eye, 

She smiles into corners. 

She smoothes the hair of the grass. 

The moon has lost her memory. 

A washed-out smallpox cracks her face, 

Her hand twists a paper rose, 

That smells of dust and old Cologne, 

She is alone 

With all the old nocturnal smells 

That cross and cross across her brain.” …

The lamp said, 

“Four o’clock, 

Here is the number on the door. 

Memory! 

You have the key, 

The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair, 

Mount. 

The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall, 

Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.” 

The last twist of the knife. 

(more…)

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WHY I LIKE ‘Memory’

In primary school the music teacher showed us the musical ‘Cats’ by Arthur Lloyd Webber and Trever Nunn. I found it rather odd, to be honest, but some part of it must have stuck with me, because I ended up performing the ‘Macavity’ song as a poem at the school talent night with a friend.

It wasn’t until much later that I developed a love for the song ‘Memory’ – immortalised by Elaine Paige in the 1981 musical, and by many artists afterwards (perhaps most recently Susan Boyle).

The song is sung by Grizabella, a cat who is old, tired and broken, yet longs to begin a new life. It is the climax of the musical and is based on two of T. S. Elliot’s poems.

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