T.S. Eliot's much on my mind these days. I am wading through a brilliant examination of his life and work for Blogcritics, and as I do I'm falling in love with him all over again. Nothing chills me quite the way these lines from "Prufrock" do...
The book is about Eliot's profound yet understated influence on the 'moral imagination' of the 20th Century. I am beginning to realize how much he shaped the intellectual and social perspectives of not only his day but ours, and I also begin to realize how much he has shaped me personally. The early poems, especially, put words to a vision of life, an attention to life, a moral deliberateness that I consciously and unconsciously reference as I try to put pieces of life together for myself. The way he uses words, his subtle rhythms and alliteration are undoubtedly the most pronounced influence on my own writing attempts.
This book is kicking my admiration up a notch as I learn about many of the themes behind his spare (and complicated!) poetry. His views on tradition, the interaction between church and state, and artists' roles and responsibilities are incredibly thought provoking, and have provoked many a conversation in my house and with friends lately.
All this is to say, until I can get the review up (it might be a while since it's 3oo dense pages!), and while I have Eliot on the mind, there might be posted some excerpts, including this one from "The Waste Land" that hung above my desk all through college...
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?