Archive for June, 2008

Little Gidding

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”

-T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Little Gidding


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“I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas…

“What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again?…

“This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?…

“The thing I propose to take as common ground between myself and any average reader, is this desirability of an active and imaginative life, picturesque and full of a poetical curiosity… We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable. It is THIS achievement of my creed that I shall chiefly pursue in these pages.”

-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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“In [Orthodoxy], [Chesterton] starts off by describing a book he did not write, a romance about a man who sets off to discover a new land, but who unknowingly gets turned around and ends up re-discovering his own land, seeing it as if for the first time, where everything strikes him as being at once both strange and familiar. In a sense, Manalive, which was published four years after Orthodoxy, is that romance that Chesterton said he never wrote. This novel is about seeing old things in a new way, of seeing common and expected things in a surprising and fantastic way, and of seeing all things the proper way – which is upside down.”

– Dave Ahlquist, the American Chesterton Society

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I thought I had it settled
The night before, raked
Into the pile of rotting reminiscence
(green and brown and lace-like), sealed
In an envelope
(addressed to a unit down Memory Lane), dropped
Through the slit of the bin
(was it the mail-? or the trash-?), stoppered
In a bottle
(So fragile, transparent), tossed
Into forgetful waves
(that just might reach the Isles of Amygdala), packaged
In past participle, consigned
To the attic.

But it rose with the sun in the morning.

And then I thought I’d escaped it for the day
(as a mole escapes the sun and rain),
Burrowing deeper through daily busyness;
Thought I’d lost it amongst
The aisles and aisles of the latests wants, amongst
leaves (stemmed or bound), amongst
Rotating coloured cubes and a game of chess;
Flushed it away with
Soup and wine and
Friends’ chatter…

But after I had put down the razor and the brush, and
Messed up my blanket and dented my pillow, and just,
Just as my eyes were
about to

It slipped through
the apartments and departments
and possessed me
(ears red, eyes glazed, skin clammed, body turned and tossed, palpitated)
Projecting beams of binary bliss onto the darkened ceiling,
Images of accompanied ecstasy,
Flights of palindromic fantasy,
And I
Not alone.

Sleep eluded
me, deluded.

The next day, they said to my yawn,
“My, must have been a rough night!”

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