"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Notable Quote: T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot was in the air this past week.  I blogged an extended quote on Wednesday from his poem "Ash Wednesday," and The Anchoress had an extended quote and some videos of a reading from Eliot's long poem "Choruses from The Rock."

For my notable quote this week, I will continue the Eliot motif and highlight a passage from his most famous and influential poem, "The Wasteland."  This passage was so distinct I used to have it memorized.  Unfortunately my memory is not what it once was.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock, 25
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Lots of memorable phrases in that passage, but the the phrase that sticks out for me is "you know only/A heap of broken images."  God is omniscient; man only sees limited and fragmented impressions.  That's one of the keys to understanding a lot of Eliot's work.  You can read the entire poem here


  1. That last line is one of the most frightening things I've ever read.

    I agree with the "broken images" part. I'm also struck (as always the case with his poems) by the procession of the words - the rooTS, cluTCH, branCHES, etc. I guess it shouldn't surprise as poetry essentially makes use of sounds and music.

    1. Yes, that line is frightening. Evelyn Waugh titled one of his novels, "A Handful of Dust." I've never read it though.

      Good pick up on the sounds Izy. Yes, I don't think it was an accident.