I’ve written twice about Eliot’s poem East Coker in recent months: Little Gidding, the Vicar of Dibley…. (Previous post) and Culture and Revolution in Ningxia Province (May 11)
East Coker’s not too far from here, so I’ve paid my respects to Eliot’s ashes a number of times, but never before with a camera at hand. Here are some photos from last week’s visit:
St Michael’s Church
The Eliot corner contains the poet’s ashes:
The poem takes us outside the church, down the lane…
And the deep lane insists on the direction/Into the village
….and into the fields, where Eliot describes a historical vision of the villagers:
In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire…
I discussed this rather surprising ’vision’ in my last post. It starts off as an apparent affirmation of continuity, the importance of ritual and the sacrament of marriage, but suddenly morphs into a picture of the rural life as symbolic of a doomed life without Christian grace (‘dung and death’).
I couldn’t disagree more with Eliot ideologically, but every time I engage with him I’m left echoing the words of William Empson: I don’t know how much of my mind he invented.