Thursday, February 14, 2013

T.S. Eliot and snow.

When it snowed in Massachusetts the other day, I thought of T.S. Eliot. 

He had so many good lines of poetry.  Some so concise as to be bons mots, really.

For example, "Winter kept us warm" which is as true a statement about winter as there ever could be, especially when followed by: "covering Earth in forgetful snow".  How true.

But there are others …

"I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be."  The great indecider who could not even fill the starring role.

And of course, there's

"Do I dare to eat a peach?"

And this one, that gives me the pall of unease:

We shall not cease from exploring
And at the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It has a "Through the Looking Glass" quality to it, but its guilt comes by association. Robert McNamara, one of the most beguiling public figures of the last century, secretary of defense to presidents Kennedy and Johnson and a prime architect of the Vietnam War, declared his love for this quote as he reflected back on his life in his final days.

That McNamara would grab onto Eliot seems odd to me.  It runs two of my 20th century themes into each other, and they should not cross.  At least not in my mind.  I picture them each waiting in separate waiting rooms. Both there.  Both eager to see the doctor.  Both oblivious to the other waiting next door.

Eliot: Anglo-American.  Traditionalist.  Modernist.  Literary. 1920s.  Inheritor and observer of the disillusionment that followed the First World War.
McNamara: Technocrat.  Warmonger.  Wizkid.  New Frontiersman. 1960s.  Decision-maker and instigator of the disillusionment that followed the Vietnam War.

Regardless, their world is a bygone era now. I should let it go.  All of it.  And besides, the wench is dead.