09 May, 2007

Burnt Norton

So, I've been reading TS Eliot this quarter for school. Am I lucky or not to be getting literature assignments that pretty much constitute bliss on earth?

Anyway, I just started the "Four Quartets" by reading the first section, "Burnt Norton," today. (I really have no idea what the segment titles mean - most likely they have a profound significance that would tear the proverbial scales from my eyes and reveal the entire meaning of the poem to me in an instant. And yes, I'm kidding, for those who wouldn't know.)

The poem is brilliant. I especially like Part II. Now, it's hard writing about poetry, because people tend to disagree about what it means, but I think that TS Eliot was talking about the Incarnation here. And the way he describes it! Just brilliant.

The image he uses repeatedly is that of "the still point of the moving world" around which time and space and all the created world revolve. The poem revolves around the image as creation revolves around the point. And if you're reading it from the Christian perspective of Eliot, this still point can only be God - "neither flesh nor fleshless", a Being outside of time and space, but a Being also made flesh through the Incarnation.

"Except for the point, the still point, / There would be no dance .... / 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."

Then further into the poem: "...surrounded / By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving" - a light outside of the world, unmoving, and yet Incarnate in the world and moving with it - "...both a new world/ And the old made explicit, understood/ In the completion of its partial ecstasy,/ The resolution of its partial horror." He seems to speak here of the fulfillment of the the Old Covenant in the New - the consummation of salvation through Christ. The coming of Christ does indeed complete the promise of the Old Testament's ecstasy in that He brings redemption to a fallen world and makes possible humanity's salvation. He fulfills the partial horror of the thousands of animal sacrifices necessary to atone for sins in the Old Covenant, by sacrificing Himself in atonement for the world.

"Time past and time future/ Allow but a little consciousness./To be concious is not to be in time".
Our existence on earth is limited by being caught up in time, unaware of what it is to be outside of time, with God. With God, understanding of many things - the conciousness of His plan for salvation, and so forth - are much clearer.

But despite this, God descended into time and space, into the limits of Creation to earth in order to save us.

"But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,/ The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,/ The moment in the draughty church at smoke-fall/ Be remembered; involved with past and future./ Only through time time is conquered."


chanter said...

That's nice you saw a connection to the Incarnation in TS Eliot. I'll have to read some of his pieces sometime.

Goldbug said...

That is awesome! I have not read his quartets, but I will soon. :D