Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
When an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
I said to my soul, be still,
and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing;
there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought.
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure.
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons,
Detachment from self and from things and from persons;
and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
O dark dark dark.
They all go into the dark
I said to my soul, be still,
and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.
As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed.
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.
In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faces.
Had they deceived us
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes.
There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.
Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men,
but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy,
their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another,
or to others,
or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence—
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
The backward look behind the assurance
Of recorded history,
the backward half-look
Over the shoulder,
towards the primitive terror.
Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony
are likewise permanent,
With such permanence as time has.
We appreciate this better
In the agony of others, nearly experienced,
Involving ourselves, than in our own.
The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
I said: 'The wonder that I feel is easy,
Yet ease is cause of wonder. Therefore speak:
I may not comprehend, may not remember.'
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings.