Wednesday, April 7, 2010

T.S. Eliot, without the text

Eliot's book of essays on Elizabethan drama is available online; I strongly recommend it, as much for the quotations as anything else. (The pdf renders best, I think; just right for an iPad.) I'd read most of the essays in this book a long time ago -- 2004 or 2005, I think; I remember being impelled to spend a summer reading Webster and the lesser Elizabethans, who by and large did not live up to Eliot's hype -- and had forgotten a lot of the good stuff in here. A few quotations that jumped out:

Now comes my lover tripping like a roe,
And brings my longings tangled in her hair.

I pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood,
With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
The first that there did greet my stranger soul,
Was my great father-in-law, renowned Warwick;
Who cried aloud, "What scourge for perjury
Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?"

Go hurtless souls, whom mischief hath oppressed
Even in first porch of life but lately had,
And fathers fury -- go, unhappy kind,
O little children, by the way full sad
Of journey knowen.
Go see the angry kings.
(Jasper Heywood, translating Seneca re the dead children of Hercules -- I found the Latin helped me parse the English here:
ite ad Stygios, umbrae, portus
ite, innocues, quas in primo
limine vitae scelus oppressit
patriusque furor;
ite, iratos visite reges.)
If thou wilt stay,
Leap in mine arms; mine arms are open wide;
If not, turn from me, and I'll turn from thee;
For though thou hast the heart to say farewell,
I have not power to stay thee.

The rawish dank of clumsy winter ramps
The fluent summer's vein; and drizzling sleet
Chilleth the wan bleak cheek of the numb'd earth,
While snarling gusts nibble the juiceless leaves
From the nak'd shuddering branch

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