Gerontion

Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot




   Thou hast nor youth nor age
   But as it were an after dinner sleep
   Dreaming of both.

     Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
     Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
     I was neither at the hot gates
     Nor fought in the warm rain
     Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
     Bitten by flies, fought.
     My house is a decayed house,
     And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,
     Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
   Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
   The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
   Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
   The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
   Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.

                           I an old man,
   A dull head among windy spaces.

   Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a sign!"
   The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
   Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
   Came Christ the tiger

   In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,
   To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
   Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero
   With caressing hands, at Limoges
   Who walked all night in the next room;
   By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;
   By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room
   Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp
   Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles
   Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
   An old man in a draughty house
   Under a windy knob.

   After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
   History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
   And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
   Guides us by vanities. Think now
   She gives when our attention is distracted
   And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
   That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
   What's not believed in, or if still believed,
   In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
   Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
   Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
   Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
   Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
   Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
   These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

   The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
   We have not reached conclusion, when I
   Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
   I have not made this show purposelessly
   And it is not by any concitation
   Of the backward devils.
   I would meet you upon this honestly.
   I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
   To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
   I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
   Since what is kept must be adulterated?
   I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
   How should I use it for your closer contact?

   These with a thousand small deliberations
   Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
   Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
   With pungent sauces, multiply variety
   In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do
   Suspend its operations, will the weevil
   Delay? De Bilhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled
   Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear
   In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits
   Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
   White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,
   And an old man driven by the Trades
   To a sleepy corner.

                       Tenants of the house,
   Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

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