T. S. Eliot Among the Prophets

T. S. Eliot Among the Prophets

FLORENCE JONES University of California, Berkeley

IT HAS BEEN CUSTOMARY to cite The Waste Land as chief exhibit of the romantic nihilism of Eliot’s youth and thereafter to trace his spiritual pilgrimage through Ash-Wednesday and the Four Quartets to the point where he can affirm the meaningfulness of what is; or, remarking Eliot’s preoccupation with Time, to say, as does Claude Edmonde Magny, that at the stage of writing The Waste Land Eliot found Time to be the enemy and therefore “took refuge in a timeless perspective,” and only later, in the Four Quartets, did he strive “to integrate time and its multiplicity of dimensions into the spiritual life of man, so as to make possible a true access to eternity.”1 I “In The Waste Land,” says Magny, “we are in the bleak even time before the Incarnation, before the unique, exceptional event took place, that which, moreover the cards are unable to predict, because it is outside Time.”2

This I would contest. The theological objection is that we are not in the bleak, even time before the Incarnation-and neither, in a sense, were the Hebrew prophets, whose influence is, I think, paramount in Eliot’s poem. Certainly the cards could not predict the event, but the prophets could and did predict it as part of the total action of God in history which they proclaimed. Furthermore, the Incarnation is not only “outside Time,” but also inside Time and “in the fullness of Time.” Therein lies the paradox of the event. To conduct the argument at the level of literary allusion, when Eliot talks of the Rock, we are reminded now and always, and their meaning becomes part of the poem. To assume that such allusions are ironic because Adonis and Osiris figure in the same poem may well be as erroneous in Eliot’s case as in the case of Milton or the prophet Jeremiah, who also utilized the myth and language of the fertility cults-in honor to the God of Israel.

The Yahwehist prophets harnessed the attributes of the fertility gods to the God of history: it was Yahweh who made the seasons and sent the rain and the drought. But Yahweh’s purpose and personality are primarily to be seen in the dialectic of history; events in time provide the clue to reality, meaning, and identity. With respect to Mr. Magny, I suggest that this Judeo-Christian perspective in Time prevails also in Eliot’s poem. The people in his wasteland suffer drought and winter as in the wasteland of the fertility cults, but the extent of their despair is that, having lost sight of the purpose behind their history, they have lost identity and the basis for hope. Their history lies in fragments around them- Athens, Rome, Phoenicia, Mylae, and the London of Elizabeth. They can connect nothing with nothing. But if only they could reconstruct the pattern where all these fragments fit, Time and Life and Death would no longer appall.

One puts Eliot and Jeremiah side by side to read of two wastelands, or perhaps they are the same: Europe in the twentieth century and Judah in the seventh century B.C. There is the same degeneration, described in terms of drought and the failure of vegetation and other vicissitudes of nature. Both speak of agony and alienation, of political instability and the deterioration of morality. There is the same authentic note of doom. Both speak of the yearning of their age to be united to its proper good, but the prophet affirms a deliverance that will come, and Eliot-so it is said-knows that deliverance has not come and will not come. The prophet proclaims that this time when God appears absent is in fact the time when he is actively exercising his judgment, winnowing, purging, and burning, in order to reclaim his people at last and restore his Creation.

Can we assume that the desolation and destruction in Eliot’s wasteland are unconnected with judgment? And would not the process of judgment ultimately imply a vindication of the purpose behind Creation? I propose to treat Eliot’s poem as a reworking of the themes of the prophetic writings of the Old and New Testaments. In particular, the poem invites comparison with the Book of Jeremiah, for among the abundance of images that characterizes the writing of the Hebrew prophet there run three persistent and intricate lines of imagery: those of the wasteland, the vine, and the marriage bed.

Both pieces of writing lack a coherent structure, Eliot’s poem being designed to give the appearance of a series of fragments, and the Book of Jeremiah being a collection of oracles in poetry and prose, spoken from time to time as political exigency and the Word of the Lord demanded, and compiled later, almost haphazardly, from various written and oral sources. The texture, on the other hand, is consistent in both cases, so that a study of the imagery provides the more useful approach. II Here is the prophet: “Judah mourns and her gates languish;… Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns, they find no water, they return with their vessels empty; they are ashamed and confounded and cover their heads. Because of the ground which is dismayed, since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed…, there is no grass….. there is no herbage.” (Jer. I4:2-6)3

Not only have the rains been withheld, but the wells and fountains are poisoned. How can this be, when the Lord God of Israel is the fountain of living water, the author of rain and dew and fruitfulness? The fountain does not run dry, but the people, they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:I3) ‘The biblical text used throughout is that of the Revised Standard Version.

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land…. (Jer. 2:7) Side by side with the image of the wasteland run the images of the vine and of the unfaithful wife: … I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? (Jer. 2:21) I remember the devotion of your youth your love as a bride…. (Jer. 2:2) You have played the harlot with many lovers; and would you return to me? says the LoRD. (Jer. 3:1) what do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold… ? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you…. (Jer. 4:30) What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done vile deeds? (Jer. II:I5) Yet God, the loving husband, persistently calls back the wife who has forfeited her right to his house. Return, faithless Israel…. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful…. (Jer. 3:12)

One can use these three images to phrase in three different ways the prophet’s assertion about Israel’s relationship to God: At first God married Israel, a loving wife; in her perversity she became a harlot and adulteress. Therefore, God will divorce her, and after her chastening she shall be restored by God as his bride.4 At first God planted Israel a choice vine; in her perversity she grew to be a wild vine. Therefore, God will rip her out, and after her chastening she shall again be planted a choice vine.5 At first God made Israel a fruitful and well-watered land; m I See also Jer. 12:7, 13:26, 31:4. 5See also Jer. 8:13, 12:10, 31:5.

her perversity she made of herself a wasteland. Therefore, God will parch and desolate her, and after her chastening she will again become a fruitful and well-watered land.6 Now the personae are basically two, God and Israel. God is at the same time Israel’s great enemy and her great deliverer, the inflicter of her grievous wound and her healer.

In terms of the Grail legend, Israel is paradoxically both the distressed Queen and the Fisher-King whose inadequacy is the cause of the distress; and God, or his agent, is the Deliverer. Yet when the prophet talks of the marriage between God and Israel, Israel is the Queen and God the King, with this singular difference from the Grail legend-it is the King who remains the profitable partner in the marriage. He remains also the Deliverer. Whereas the part of the legend that deals with the Chapel Perilous emphasizes the testing of the Deliverer to see whether he is fit for his role, Jeremiah’s emphasis lies upon the testing and refining of the one who is to be delivered, namely Israel herself.7

The scheme is not complete, however, until to those two personae the prophet himself has been added, for he represents them both and mediates between them. On the one hand, the prophet is a leader of the people, chosen for his vocation, like Israel herself, from before the time of self-awareness.8 Like Israel, he must be chastened when he seeks to evade his role,9 and his tears anticipate the tears which Israel will shed when the water of grace begins its work of regeneration upon her arid heart.10 On the other hand, the prophet is God’s spokesman, whether the message be of wrath or consolation. The Word (Heb. Dabar) of God which he delivers from his mouth is tantamount to the Act (again, Heb. Dabar) of God, which effects all things. He has a part to play in the affairs of the land unparalleled by any of the Grail poets. However, the righteous king, rather than the prophet, will claim the role of God’s agent and the people’s champion in the days of Israel’s restoration. The present king, like the Fisher-King of the Grail legend, is a “despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for,” and “none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne

See also Jer. 4:26, 12:10, 22:6, 31:12. ‘ Sometimes with the imagery of smelting, as in Jer. 6:27-30; sometimes with the imagery of the potter’s wheel, as in Jer. i8:i-6; usually in terms of a bushfire, Jer. 21:14, or a fire at the gates of the city, Jer. 17:27. 8 Jer. 1:5. 9Jer. 20:7-9. 10Jer. 9:1; cf. 9:10, 31:9.

of David”;” his inadequacy indicates the parlous condition of his land and people. But in the days when Israel returns to grace she will be ruled by “the righteous Branch of David,” a vital shoot sprung from what now appears to be a lifeless stump of a royal house, while the City of David, meanwhile desolate, “shall be inhabited for ever.”‘2 Here lies the origin of the Jewish and Christian concept of the Messiah, who is pre-eminently a king over the people whom God has reclaimed. III To turn then to Eliot’s poem is to find oneself on surprisingly familiar ground. There is the same wasteland, the same desolate city, the same faithless woman and futile king. As for the land: 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. The allusions are at once apparent. What indeed is the root that clutches and the branch that grows from stony rubbish but the Servant of God described by Deutero-Isaiah: For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground…. (Is. 53:2) And what is he but the Righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5) which would be raised up out of David? Or he might be designated as “Son of man,” a title which belongs, in one sense, to any man. It was used by Ezekiel for his own designation as God’s prophet and by the author of the Book of Daniel as the name of the divine hero of the apocalypse, and Christ then took it as his own peculiar title. Jer. 22:28-30. “Jer. 17:25, 23:5, 33:15.

Similarly with the “red rock.” (“Come in under the shadow of this red rock”). In the same context with the “handful of dust,” it recalls the lines from Isaiah: Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord…. (Is. 2 :io) Yet what rock will hide men in safety, unless the Lord himself, who is “a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Is. 25:4); “an everlasting rock” (Is. 26:4); “the Rock of your refuge” (Is. 17:IO). If the passage in Eliot’s poem appears on the face of it more ominous than reassuring, there is the same ambivalent tone in the prophetic sources. In Jeremiah, God is enemy as well as saviour. So here in Isaiah: he is a “rock of stumbling” as well as the rock of refuge. The “LoRD of hosts .. . let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary, and a stone of offence, and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Is. 8:13-I4).

The ambivalence in the prophet’s attitude comes from his knowledge that God alone controls the destiny of Israel: it is he who condemns and he who delivers from condemnation. If the people would only recognize the author of their misfortune, they would find at the same time their source of confidence and rescue. May it not be that this applies in Eliot’s wasteland also ? One is led at this point to identify the “something different from either / Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you” (that is, to take a hint from the cadence that suggests Eccles. I2, “something to alter one’s perspective from one’s sense of self-sufficiency in youth, and one’s sense of futility in old age”). The “something different” must surely be the fear of the Lord on the part of man, the reverence for the Creator on the part of the creature whom he has made from a “handful of dust.” (“I will show you something different,… I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”)

The placing of this phrase, “handful of dust,” in the passage from the poem puts it in line with “stony rubbish,” “a heap of broken images,” and “dry stone.” These in turn recall the phrases used by the prophets to describe the arid spiritual soil of God’s people Israel, given over to exploitation and idolatry: “the heap of ruins of your idols,” “wilderness,” “desolation,” “heart of stone.” Rightfully men fear God, not only because they are his creatures, but because they are wayward and unjust while he is eminently righteous, and they stand under his condemnation.

In the prophet Jeremiah sin and condemnation are described in a catalogue of woes-drought and famine, pestilence, foreign invasion, carnage, and captivity. Here in The Waste Land Eliot has focused on one woe to exemplify all. There is no water. Therefore, the trees are dead and the grass is dry; men are parched and women brittle. In the prophecies of Jeremiah sons and daughters are cut off in their youth, but here they cannot even be conceived. So great is the desolation of this place that the faint pushings of life are its most painful vicissitudes. April is the cruellest month… stirring Dull roots with spring rain. A human situation in the poem offers a parallel, where Albert is in much the same humiliating position as the Lord God who married the virgin Israel and found her an ungrateful partner! It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said…. You are a proper fool, I said. Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said, What did you get married for if you don’t want children? In Jeremiah’s wasteland the showers have been withheld from Israel because she polluted the land which was her marriage bed (Jer. 3:2-3).

Here in Eliot’s wasteland the rain still falls in the season, and there is still some virility in men, but both rain and virility are cruelly felt, because of the recalcitrance of the land and the woman.

Along with the description of the land runs the description of the city, built like Rome and London upon a river. Unreal City, Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many. Although the obvious influence here is Dante’s, Dante himself looks back to the Hebrew concept of Sheol, which in the writings of the classical Hebrew prophets is regarded as the destiny of all men for all time. It is not yet, as in Maccabean Judaism, an eternal house of punishment specifically for the wicked, but already a place that carries its own peculiar condemnation, in that the man consigned to Sheol has lost his last chance of righteousness. The prophets rightly associate with it the terror of the Pit, the spirit of a man being hunted hence as if he were an animal. Isaiah, like Eliot, speaks of Sheol along with exile, as the destiny of a whole nation. Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge; their honored men are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite… and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down . . . Man is bowed down, and men are brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled. (Is. 5:I3-I5) Eliot has continued in the same vein: Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

The underlying message is the same. The prophets threaten that Jerusalem shall be a city laid waste without inhabitant, all its people dead by pestilence, famine, fire, and the sword. Eliot depicts a city more horrible still, a city whose crowd is already dead in the spirit, but not yet gone beyond despair into comfortable oblivion. And yet there will be fire for that city, too. Later in “The Fire Sermon” we find The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed. The river does not often appear in the prophetic literature concerned with the fate of the City of David, but Ezekiel, envisioning the restoration of Israel and the holiness of the people reclaimed by God, has the new city built around the temple; the River of Life, issuing from below the threshold of the temple, flows from Jerusalem toward the east. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish…. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, … because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. (Ezek. 47:9-12)

Ezekiel’s vision is all the more wonderful because it comes to him “in the twenty-fifth year of our exile . . . in the fourteenth year after the city was conquered,” after the capture, plundering, and burning of the city predicted by Jeremiah. As the iniquity of the old city is characterized by the neglect and destruction of the temple of the Lord, so the holiness of the reconstructed Jerusalem is characterized by the centrality and magnificence of the new temple, from which the River of Life issues. The temple in Jerusalem is also called God’s tent13 because it succeeds the tent which was the house of God in the days of the wandering in the wilderness. The erection of God’s tent in the royal city is a sign that God dwells and “tabernacles” with his people; indeed, the whole city, when it stands firm in its obligation and love to him, might well be called the tent of God.

The conjunction of “river” and “tent” in Eliot’s line is not fortuitous; it is to be found also in Isaiah when he is describing the final reconciliation of his people of Israel with the God who is their ruler and the source of their life: Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken. But there the LoRD in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams. (Is. 33:20-21) Meanwhile, it is one of God’s complaints against Jerusalem that “My tent is destroyed, / and all my cords are broken” (Jer. 10:20; cf. 4:20), and a consequence of this that there comes a great commotion out of the north country to make the cities of Judah a desolation, a lair of jackals, (Jer. I0:22) to make your land a waste; your cities will be ruins without inhabitant. (Jer. 4:7) 1J See, for example, Ps. I 5:I .

Does not Eliot describe the same city standing under the same condemnation, since “the river’s tent is broken”? Its inhabitants, too, seem to have departed, and the last possibility of love has fled. Have they all gone into exile where they sit by the waters of Babylon and weep for their lovelessness and their separation from the thing they would have loved? my children have gone from me…. For the shepherds [i.e., kings] are stupid, and do not inquire of the LoRD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. (Jer. I0:20-2I)

The Fisher-King, an unprosperous “shepherd” indeed, sits now among the ruins and laments the scattering of his flock. Or his people remain on the spot, exiled nonetheless from their true estate, and he is alone in a far-off place. By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept. The city is a “desolation,” as the prophet had said. There are no jackals there, but a rat creeps slowly through the vegetation, scuttling the bones of the dead ancestors. Rotten and decayed, the city stands as if under plague, only to be cleansed by that fire which the prophets proclaimed to be the wrath of God. Burning burning burning burning 0 Lord Thou pluckest me out14 Later still, in “What the Thunder Said,” we have the city’s violent destruction before the “hooded hordes swarming,” or, as it might be, Jeremiah’s “nation from the north.” “‘ Grover Smith, Jr. in T. S. Eliot’s Poetry and Plays (Chicago, 1956), p. 90, has noted that the symbolism of fire Eliot owes not only to Buddha and St. Augustine, but also to the Hebrew prophets. He cites Amos: “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” says the LORD. (Amos 4:11) The passage in Amos is only one of very many prophetic oracles that proclaim the burning of the city as a chastisement of Israel for her waywardness.

See, for example, in Jeremiah 4:4, I5:I4, 17:4, 17:27, 21:10, 21:12, 21:14, 32:29, 34:2, 34:22, 37:8, 38:23. Mr. Smith, somewhat misleadingly, places his citation in a discussion of asceticism, whereas there is no such connotation in the words of the prophet; but one is apt to misread the biblical allusions if one regards the poem as primarily a reworking of the myth of the fertility cults.

What is the city over the mountains Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air Falling towers Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London This is the tone of the Hebrew prophets pronouncing doom upon Jerusalem, Babylon, Memphis, Tahpanhes…. Thus, Ezekiel against Tyre: “They shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers; and … make her a bare rock” (Ezek. 26:4). And Isaiah: … the foundations of the earth tremble…. The earth staggers like a drunken man…. (Is. 24:I8-2o) It is, for the prophet also, a time of “violet air,” when … the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed; (Is. 24:23) though the Lord of hosts will reign at that time in his glory. And bats with baby faces in the violet light Whistled, and beat their wings… And upside down in air were towers Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells…. The imagery is particularly horrible in view of Jeremiah’s prediction of the slaughter of infants (now only “bats with baby faces”!), and his insistence that the people had built their own “empty cisterns,” even though the living fountain had been available to them. The “exhausted wells” were, alas, “the wells of salvation” from which, in the day of restoration, we might yet draw water with joy (Is. 12:3). The destruction, which was accompanied at first by the “murmur of maternal lamentation” (cf. Is. 32:12; Jer. 4:8, 9:I7 & 19) is now unsung and unwept; or at least only . . . the grass is singing Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home…. Dry bones can harm no one. This recalls Jeremiah in two particulars: “They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented” (Jer. i6:4), and “The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes … shall be sacred to the Lord” (Jer. 31:40). The hint in Jeremiah about the sacred valley of the dead bodies is expanded in a passage of Ezekiel: [He] set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones…. and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live? … Prophesy to these bones….Thus says the LoRD GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live….” (Ezek. 37:1-5) Is it true, then, as Eliot says (tongue in cheek!): “Dry bones can harm no one”? Is there not still some hope for life in the city which is … . rats’ alley / Where the dead men lost their bones”? Iv After the land and the city there remain for consideration the personae of the poem, the same three whom we encounter again and again in various roles and disguises: the Woman, the Fisher- King, and the Deliverer. Here is the Woman first as a German aristocrat (“I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter”); as Madam Sosostris, famous clairvoyante, “known to be the wisest woman in Europe, / With a wicked pack of cards,” known, in short, for one of the false prophets and diviners who were the abomination of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem. (“For thus says the Lord of hosts…. Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you,” Jer. 29:8; cf. 27:9).

Eliot plays the trick on her that the Hebraic author played on Balaam, making her speak more wisely than she knows: “Fear death by water” and “I do not find the Hanged Man.” Later on the Woman is a Cleopatra manquc, the voluptuousness of that queen become metallic, her liveliness de- generated to neurosis: The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne, Glowed on the marble, where the glass Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines From which a golden Cupidon peeped out…. In the Lord’s vineyard, which was Israel, there was no fruitful vine left, nor is there a fruitful vine in this modern wasteland unless artificially wrought; no love is left, and its place is ironically sup- plied by a golden cupidon. Jeremiah’s image of the harlot is not far away: ‘What shall I do now? What shall I do?’ ‘I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street ‘With my hair down so….’ Alas, she is too elegant and well-brought up for that, whereas the Thames maiden copulates habitually and wearily by the river where Elizabeth and Leicester once beat oars. There is the typist who surrenders perfunctorily to perfunctory embraces. Like the harlot Israel, but in her own way, she has found lovers who are her enemies and despise her (Jer. 4:30, 12:7). Flushed and decided, he assaults at once; … His vanity requires no response, And makes a welcome of indifference. The note of compassion struck by the Hebrew prophet (“Return, 0 faithless Israel”), mediating between the forsaken husband and the forsaking wife, is sounded here by another prophet: I Tiresias, . . . throbbing between two lives, … have foresuffered all Enacted on this same divan or bed; suffering for the inadequacy and disillusionment of man and woman. The impotent husband and ruler we have already met …fishing in the dull canal On a winter evening round behind the gashouse Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck And on the king my father’s death before him. This passage recalls not only the vicissitudes of kings and princes in The Tempest but the prophecies of Jeremiah against the profitless dynasty of Israel. Because those prophecies in turn recall the Messianic prophecies of the Righteous Branch of David, we are justified in seeing an element of hope in the last words that we have from the Fisher-King. Whereas previously he had had no expectations, and his people were humble people who expected nothing, now: Shall I at least set my lands in order? … These fragments I have shored against my ruins….

“These fragments” refers not only to the ruins of the castle (la tour abolie), but to the people who will yet live to inherit the kingdom and its law: Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata. They are the “remnant” spoken of by the prophets, or the “few survivors” of Isaiah.1″ If this king, “fishing with the arid plain behind him” (behind him in point of time?), were to be transposed into an Hebraic setting, it would be as Jeremiah describes it: “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, says the LoRD, and they shall catch them…. For I will bring them back to their own land which I gave to their fathers” (Jer. i6:i5-i6). Meanwhile, the Fisher-King is apt to be confused with the spurious Deliverers, many of whom claim an association with the water. Thus, “the drowned Phoenician sailor,” who is Phoenician presumably because the poet must suggest the Ancient Near East and the Canaanite fertility cults which the Phoenicians propagated throughout the Western world.

Are Christianity and Judaism, having extinguished their rival, to become extinct in turn? Gentile or Jew 0 you turn the wheel and look to windward, Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you. And will those two religions which, in contradistinction to the fertility cults, base their case on the acts of God in history and the meaningfulness of the perspective of Time whereby his purposes are manifest, die as the Phoenician died, entering the whirlpool? v But what of the Rock? And what of the Hanged Man? It is the ninth hour, and the Hanged Man has given up the ghost, the Father having forsaken him. After the torchlight red on sweaty faces After the frosty silence in the gardens After the agony in stony places The shouting and the crying Prison and palace and reverberation Of thunder of spring over distant mountains He who was living is now dead We who were living are now dying ” Grover Smith calls attention to the fact that the Fisher-King (he says “Tiresias”) is in a position similar to that of “King Hezekiah, hearing in his sickness the bidding of Isaiah (38:1): ‘Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live'” (p. 96). His promise, too, appears to have come to nothing. The one who might have delivered us from death is himself dead, and we die with him-for two wretched days. Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand If there were only water amongst the rock Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit

There is not even silence in the mountains But dry sterile thunder without rain But toiling in the place of torment we have the illusion (is it?) that there is another walking beside us. We are three children in the fire, and there is someone else, a fourth. (“Did we not cast three men bound into the fire? … I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods,” Dan. 3:24-25.) Or we are two disciples walking to Emmaus, bereft of all hope because Jesus is crucified, and yet perplexed by the rumor of the empty tomb- when Jesus himself draws near and walks with us, “gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded,” because as yet our eyes are kept from recognizing him. Nor will we recognize him until we have understood the meaning of it all: that the fire and drought signified all the time not God’s absence but his active judgment; that they were to destroy but also to refine and purify (foco che gli affina); that Death was not the end but the prelude to Resurrection. In the Gospel of Luke it is this same Journey to Emmaus where the meaning of man’s distress and the action of God’s providence finally become clear to the disciples who have walked with Jesus. “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27) Only so can the writers of the New Testament describe the deliverance that God had wrought in Christ-it was the same deliverance of which “all the prophets” had spoken. The Crucifixion was the strang

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