Friday, May 30, 2008

"...there is only the dance."























I promised something especially smutty in honor of my first anniversary at Blogger, but I'm afraid I'm feeling more philosophical than raunchy. I'm sure that'll pass, but meanwhile, here's a bit of a great poem about time, for those of us who brood on its mysteries. The full text is here. Happy pondering.


At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards;
at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.



From "Burnt Norton" by T. S. Eliot, 1935.
(Apologies, as always, for the formatting limitations of Blogger. The link above displays the poem in its proper shape.)


Trés Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, Gebroeders van Limburg, c.1416. Image from A World History of Art.

9 comments:

chayaruchama said...

My.

Text, painting, avatar.
I'm feeling it, today.
Like you gave me an exquisite gift- which you often do.

I've enjoyed the last year- it seems to have given you blooming-room,if you catch my drift.
Good on you !

I thought of you last night, when I craved, and indulged in- a Moss extravaganza [ for soul healing] before bed.
I still smell like a small, furry creature who hides under the bushes
[don't I wish I were one, SIGH]...

Love you, and am proud of you, too.

Perfumeshrine said...

What a wonderful choice of verse and art! (and the zodiac relationships with each part of the human anatomy is quite interesting to contemplate in its way).
I also like the Death and the Maiden theme on the pic at the right :-)

It's been a great year reading you! May many more will come.

BitterGrace said...

Funny, Chaya, I nearly indulged in Moss yesterday, but then went in another direction entirely. Perhaps the craving traveled north!

Thanks for the anniversary wishes! I'm glad I've been able to keep up with so many friends via the blog, and provide a little entertainment for us at the same time.

BTW, E, I find the anatomical correspondences interesting, too. The Sagittarian weakness is supposed to be in the thighs. I like to think mine would be perfect if I'd just been born a week earlier ;-)

Mary said...

I love Eliot.

Bozo said...

Imagine a conversation between Eliot and Sartre about the relationship between temporality and consciousness. Might be interesting. Sartre might say that Eliot's actual writing of the poem is proof of time's "negating" power over pure immediacy, while Eliot might say that through the immediacy of poetic image temporality is suspended and yet filled with meaning.

BitterGrace said...

Hello, Mary! Eliot is like the Borg--resistence is futile.

Bozo--I love it when you drop one of these puzzlers for me to obsess over! I would have thought Eliot and Sartre were fundamentally in agreement: "human kind / Cannot bear very much reality." No?

As for the debate, I'm not sure I understand Sartre's side. How exactly would he refute this?--

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

stella polaris said...

Ahh, I really love this poem! :) And I love the echo of Heraklit in it, the logos as a rose (the rose garden in the poem), and the tensions between opposites uphelding cosmos.
Sartre was never this deep...

Bozo said...

BG-- I spent a good bit of time this morning responding to your question, but then my computer ate what I wrote. I haven't got the heart to try to write it again. Sic transit.

So sorry. The relationship between Sartre's reflective "temporal" consciousness and Eliot's immediate, non-reflective poetic consciousnes-- "At the still point of the turning world"-- is a fascinating one. Add to that Eliot's further idea of a poetic memory which can "conquer" time, and you've really got something.

BitterGrace said...

Hello, Stella Polaris. Any poem that sends readers thinking of Heraclitus and Sartre is a wonder of the art.

I feel so bad, Bozo--both because I'm deprived of your answer, and because I know the horrible feeling of laboring over a bit of writing only to see it disappear into the ether. Not so heartbreaking as Iris Murdoch leaving the sole manuscript of a novel in a taxi, but still ...