Lecture by Mr. Eliot

Originally published in Con Spirito 2.1 (Nov. 1933), p. 2. Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College Library

Dither and amble and twitter at the brink of time
whispering fragments of a century
sliding among a thousand ghosts of meaning
nudging an emotion for the reason of a rhyme
impaling logic’s strict velocity.
Mr. Panfilo sits and grins
absorbed beyond hope in his own grinning–
collapsing in attempts to make an end
to his idea’s beginning.
The hall is blanched, engrossed
in a stupendous boredom.
The audience crumbles in cerebral whoredom,
devoted lustfully to a conceit’s expansion,
to an obscure line’s scansion.
These Fantastics bow and nod
homage to prosody as god.
Somewhere beyond these windows, China moans,
the rubber heels of statesmen are mirrored on a til-
ing,
in Alabama are beated nine dark boys,
and quenched—while poets practice smiling
contemptuously at the seventh row :
forget their fierce and rapier ways
and forfeit bravery for praise.
Speak poems in articulo.
Sand swarming on these bodies, songs forgotten,
the sun’s warmth clinging like moths upon our faces,
the long sea shouting derisive in our ears;
and the sand clambers over us to efface us,
until mouths fill with dust and eyes go rotten.
Confide ambiguous secrets of the dead,
their minds’ encumbrances all gone to mould,
entreat us with their poems that undid
the purse-strings of Kings’ bounty, beauty-pandered.
The Times says we abandon the gold standard.
The Daily Worker recruits a Scottsboro March :
Our poets stand before us, slim and cold,
flattered by the applause in a smug lip’s fold ;
suave and contemptuous and slightly arch.

Find for us these :
our spirits from these sands arisen,
the even-breathed enthusiasm of work,
the cadence of united hands.
The Fantastics still converse and smirk
and finger in their pockets our prison-keys.

Comments are closed.