Friday, January 7, 2011

Dead Apocalyptic Poets

The poem the Hollow Men has possibly the best known lines T.S. Eliot ever wrote:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

The complete poem:
Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

      A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                                Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.


Waldow said...

It isn't politics that have brought us to the precipice, not the media, not educational institutions. Mary Shelly had it right only a few decades into the industrial revolution. It is technology and spiritual decay, enabled by cowardice. No it isn't news, She knew 200 years ago. EE Cummings knew 70 years ago. And we know today, except that we'll have the our hypothesis confirmed rather soon in very tangible terms:

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

E. E. Cummings

russell1200 said...

LOL: I thought the delivery had a bit of that rat-a-tat-tat jerkiness, and then get to the bottom and see it is E. E. Cummings. Did he allow hyphenation?

IMO our biggest problem is too many people using too much stuff. But technology could be blamed for that as well.

Waldow said...

LOL for sure. The irony is that EEC poem's like a large modern parking garage. It really is an amazing structure when you look at it carefully. It is filled with things that can really move (ideas = cars), but still IT IS UGLY. I kind of feel the same way about the TSE poem.

Now Bob Frost, though he's popular and rhymes, if I had to choose, I'd say give me Fire & Ice (oh God no, no something pretty!) I would say that the intellectual content of the Frost poem is better too, since it sees the future, the end, as a product of bifurcation. Elliot insists on a whimper, Cummings is apparently Dr. Who and can go through worm holes. Ha!

"Too many people using too much stuff." You know Jack Handy said that instead of making more nuclear bombs, what if we got more use out of the ones we already have? HAHAHLALOLZ sorry if I'm being too silly. Your point is an important one.

russell1200 said...

You may have seen it, I already used Frost's Poem.

I wouldn't presume to pass judgment, but for me Frost's is certainly the more enjoyable.

Elliot seems to be on the same page as Lovecraft at times: the silent horror of the cosmos so to speak. But really the line about the hollow men strikes a chord: the rest of the poem is a bit more difficult.

There are an amazing number of 20th century apocalyptic poets. Enough to have a whole group of poets referred to as "Apocalyptic Poets": I even have the book to prove it! Poets of the Apocalypse by Arthur Edward Salmon, University of Idaho 1983.

For myself, I don't blame the cosmos, so much as ourselves. Since I don't feel particularly triumphal about my world view, discussing EOTWAWKI poetry does not seem as sad as some other subjects.