Mar 072003

Chard Whitlow
(Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Evening Postscript)

As we get older we do not get any younger.
Seasons return, and today I am fifty-five,
And this time last year I was fifty-four,
And this time next year I shall be sixty-two.
And I cannot say I should like (to speak for myself)
To see my time over again — if you can call it time:
Fidgeting uneasily under a draughty stair,
Or counting sleepless nights in the crowded tube.

There are certain precautions — though none of them very reliable —
Against the blast from bombs and the flying splinter,
But not against the blast from heaven, vento dei venti,
The wind within a wind unable to speak for wind;
And the frigid burnings of purgatory will not be touched
By any emollient.
I think you will find this put,
Better than I could ever hope to express it,
In the words of Kharma: “It is, we believe,
Idle to hope that the simple stirrup-pump
Will extinguish hell.”
Oh, listeners,
And you especially who have turned off the wireless,
And sit in Stoke or Basingstoke listening appreciatively to the silence,
(Which is also the silence of hell) pray, not for your skins, but your souls.

And pray for me also under the draughty stair.
As we get older we do not get any younger.

And pray for Kharma under the holy mountain.

–Henry Reed

Mitigating factor: Eliot said about this poem: “Most parodies of one’s own work strike one as very poor. In fact one is apt to think that one could parody oneself much better. (In fact some critics have said that I have done so.) But this one deserves the success it has had.”

(Update: Felicity McCarthy comments.)

  2 Responses to “Why I Never Liked T.S. Eliot”

  1. This is a hoot, and I blush to say I’ve not seen it before. Thanks for posting it, Aaron. Do you know Wendy Cope’s version of The Wasteland in five limericks? Or her version of Hickory Dickory Dock as written by T.S. Eliot? Even better than Reed.

  2. Nope, I had to look them up. They’re pretty funny, if broader than Chard Whitlow, and can be found here.

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