A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature. Over 15,000 daily subscribers. Over 6,000 archived posts.
Twelve o'clock. Along the reaches of the street Held in a lunar synthesis, Whispering lunar incantations Dissolve the floors of memory And all its clear relations, Its divisions and precisions, Every street lamp that I pass Beats like a fatalistic drum, And through the spaces of the dark Midnight shakes the memory As a madman shakes a dead geranium. Half-past one, The street lamp sputtered, The street lamp muttered, The street lamp said, "Regard that woman Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door Which opens on her like a grin. You see the border of her dress Is torn and stained with sand, And you see the corner of her eye Twists like a crooked pin." The memory throws up high and dry A crowd of twisted things; A twisted branch upon the beach Eaten smooth, and polished As if the world gave up The secret of its skeleton, Stiff and white. A broken spring in a factory yard, Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left Hard and curled and ready to snap. Half-past two, The street lamp said, "Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter, Slips out its tongue And devours a morsel of rancid butter." So the hand of a child, automatic, Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay. I could see nothing behind that child's eye. I have seen eyes in the street Trying to peer through lighted shutters, And a crab one afternoon in a pool, An old crab with barnacles on his back, Gripped the end of a stick which I held him. Half-past three, The lamp sputtered, The lamp muttered in the dark. The lamp hummed: "Regard the moon, La lune ne garde aucune rancune, She winks a feeble eye, She smiles into corners. She smoothes the hair of the grass. The moon has lost her memory. A washed-out smallpox cracks her face, Her hand twists a paper rose, That smells of dust and old Cologne, She is alone With all the old nocturnal smells That cross and cross across her brain." The reminiscence comes Of sunless dry geraniums And dust in crevices, Smells of chestnuts in the streets, And female smells in shuttered rooms, And cigarettes in corridors And cocktail smells in bars." The lamp said, "Four o'clock, Here is the number on the door. Memory! You have the key, The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair, Mount. The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall, Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life." The last twist of the knife.
Public Doman. “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” was first published in Blast, July 1915.
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) was a poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor. Considered one of the 20th century’s major poets, he is a central figure in English-language Modernist poetry. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a prominent Boston Brahmin family, he moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25 and went on to settle, work, and marry there. He became a British citizen in 1927 at the age of 39, subsequently renouncing his American citizenship. Eliot first attracted widespread attention for his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in 1915 which, at the time of its publication, was considered outlandish. It was followed by “The Waste Land” (1922), “The Hollow Men” (1925), “Ash Wednesday” (1930), and Four Quartets (1943). He was also known for seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949). He was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature, “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”. (bio adapted from Wikipedia)