By T.S. Eliot
Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?
What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.
Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning
Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place
What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.
Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.
What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
Apparently T S. Eliot’s favorite Shakespeare Comedy was “Pericles, Prince of Tyre”. Of which I approve completely; Pericles is my favorite as well.
I was told this my favorite professor, just after reading Pericles for the first time. The play is beautiful, stunning, and thrilling all at once. It just barely skates around being a tragedy, but is saved Deus in machina. It has pirates, shipwrecks, jousts, fair ladies, treachery, brave young girls, the power of Art, the depth of human suffering, the way that suffering increase the capacity for joy!
This is a story that encapsulates almost every aspect of humanity, but particularly the simultaneous angst and hope.
And Eliot manages to capture this spirit of the story one, short poem. The title is the name of the daughter, whose artful rhetoric first staves off despair and then unites her family.
When Pericles finally knows his daughter, and in doing do takes the identity of a father, a person, the whole action of the poem comes to a thrilling summit of hope. He now knows who he is, and his vision is cleared: the life, the pulse, the sight!
‘Tis a wondrous poem. And one of my favorites.
And seems to be one of the more artistically coherent and moving of his poems. One problems that I have with Eliot, is that with his conversion much the driving angst and power in his poetry becomes a bit subdued. “Murder in the Cathedral” is great, but can it compare to “The Wasteland”? And while the “Four Quartets” are really amazing, they seem the have a quieter drive than “Prufrock”. But that might because the drive of Prufrock was having no drive.
But in “Marina,” written right around the time of his conversion, Eliot seems to find a balance of dark and searing hopelessness, and yet end with a song of hope. It is a concentrated dash of Art, in that it both imparts a single clear vision and offers more to come if we but look longer or harder.