Poetry

A timeless moment

When I was 17 or 18, I wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me I’d be wishing to quote T S Eliot later in life.   I can still remember my outrage at being asked to make sense of ‘The Waste Land’.

But strange things happen!   This is an extract from ‘Little Gidding’ (No. 4 of Four Quartets) and it makes me catch my breath.  If you have ever been alone in a country church on a dark Sunday afternoon, I hope you will feel it too.  

Lynne Jenkins, who writes Echoes of the Past’, has kindly allowed me to use one of her photos;   Lynne loves exploring old churches, and I’m always fascinated by her discoveries.  This picture was taken at St Peter’s Church at Belton-in-Rutland.    I thought it was perfect!

St Peter's Church, Belton in Rutland - Lynne Jenkins

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration.  A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments.  So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

                                                                           T S Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’ (1942)

Photo copyright © Lynne Jenkins

No Comments

  • lynnmcmvt

    Beautiful photo and perfect with this Eliot passage. My father introduced his children to T.S. Eliot by way of ‘Macavity: The Mystery Cat’ but it would be a couple of decades before I could approach much of his work outside Old Possum’s. He’s pretty much an essential now, especially ‘Four Quartets’. Thanks for this lovely pairing!

    • Jo Woolf

      You’re most welcome, and I’m very glad it brought back some memories. Now that I come to think of it, I remember ‘The Gumbie Cat’. Our own cat, Purdey, has “tiger stripes and leopard spots”, and I call her a Possum occasionally!

  • Linda Pescosolido

    An evocative quote and photograph, touching and lovely. Thanks for sharing! I think I have to go read “Little Gidding” again, it’s been years since I was an English Lit major.

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    • Jo Woolf

      I’m very glad you enjoyed it! One of my favourite pieces, and I love the photo, too. I’m not sure how pleased I should be that I’ve inspired someone to go and re-read Eliot’s work, but at least it sounds as if you’re used to it! 😀

  • tearoomdelights

    We never did any T S Eliot at school, it was all modern stuff for us (no Shakespeare either, can you believe, other than one sonnet). I never took much to do with poetry as a result, and it’s only now that I’m beginning to appreciate it a bit. That’s a cracking photo and the words fit with it very well. I can imagine myself in a quiet little empty church somewhere with the silence and the time ticking by as those words sink in.

    • Jo Woolf

      That’s unusual, Lorna, but I’m sure they made up for it in other devious ways! Looking back, I think they were expecting a lot from 17-year-old girls, to appreciate and write about these works, with little life experience of our own. But a few of them have grown on me (or I’ve become mellow!) 🙂 Yes, it really is evocative, you can almost smell the musty church interior and feel its stillness.

    • Jo Woolf

      You’re very welcome, Luciana, and I’m delighted to know how much you enjoy these photos and features. Please do not apologise about your English. It’s good. I don’t speak any Italian at all! 🙂

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