April 18, 2008

Poetry Friday: Two from T.S.

From The Waste Land

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers...

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust...

From The Song of the Jellicles

Jellicle Cats come out tonight,
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright--
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.
Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise...

Man alive, do I love T.S. Eliot. The first selections are from his 1922 poem "The Waste Land." My love affair with Eliot's poetry began when I was a child, with the very version of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (illus. by Edward Gorey, of course) that you see there on the right. I also had an audio cassette of all the Practical Cats poems read aloud, which I loved. As a result, at one point I could practically recite most of the poems from memory. The second selection above is from one of those poems, "The Song of the Jellicles" (accompanied by my own Jellicles, although admittedly, the black-and-white one is not particularly small...)

When I was in high school, we read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Hollow Men (plus a few others) in English class, and I was blown away. T.S. Eliot has always been a favorite, and I'm amazed by his versatility and his breadth of knowledge--for sheer intellectualism, he's like the Nabokov of the poetry world. His poetry is riddled with little buried gems of mythology, literary references, and just plain gorgeous and dreamlike imagery.

Visit The Well-Read Child for more Poetry Friday fun, and don't miss TadMack's beautiful post below.


jama said...

I'm with you on the T.S. Eliot love! Yay for jellicle cats! There will be time for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of toast and tea . . .

tanita✿davis said...

After having to sing pieces from Cats in my voice lessons, I've had a little issue with T.S.'s cats! But I've always loved that we share initials, too -- I signed everything T.S. for ages, but didn't sign my fiction that way because it seemed pretentious. After re-reading these poems I wish I had.

Little Willow said...

I enjoy his cat poetry and would sing The Gumbie Cat (Jenny Anydots) to Holly.