July 22, 2012

Small epiphany: so much of my angst, and maybe lots of other people's, has to do with wanting consolation instead of humility.  The former is not relevant, the second, as Eliot says, is endless.  But I don't want the void, I want candy, something shiny, an Alfalfa cowlick!  I need to fall on my face and beg for the latter, moment by moment.  How else do we grow?

We just finished Eliot in 440, moving onto to Williams.  Poor Tom, so brilliant, but such a Puritan that he seems to get so little joy out of living.  (Even if one doesn't feel it, it does tend to come out in the poetry for a Catholic.)  His "Quartets" are great religious poetry, up there with Hopkins, Milton and Dante, I think.  (This is something secular critics never get.  They say the poem is about memory, history.  Fundamentally it is about God's contemplative presence, about how we need to learn to live there, be grateful for that.)  The poem does get to God, but Eliot has trouble enjoying that physically, in his body--though there is that wonderful last poem about his wife, her smell in bed. 

Williams, on the other hand, is often seen as the father of the "no symbol--death to the symbol" postmodern parade--despite the fact that he can be read as a Platonist--his "radiant gist."  He is so alive, walking around astonished like he does.  How can you not love these guys: Stevens and Frost and Moore next.