Oh little voices of the throats of men



Oh little voices of the throats of men

From the unpublished works of T.S.Eliot

Oh little voices of the throats of men
That come between the singer and the song;
Oh twisted little hands of men held up
To rend the beautiful and curse the strong.
Impatient tireless undirected feet!
So confident on wrinkled ways of wrong.
On what remote frontier of heaven and hell
Shall time allow our diverse paths to meet?

Yet you do well to run the roads you run,
Yes you do well to keep the ways you keep;
And we who seek to balance pleasure and pain
We blow against the wind and spit against the rain:
For what could be more real than sweat and dust and sun?
And what more sure than night and death and sleep?

Appearances appearances he said,
I have searched the world through dialectic ways;
I have questioned restless nights and torpid days,
And followed every by-way where it lead;
And always find the same unvaried
Intolerable interminable maze.
Contradiction is the debt you would collect
And still with contradiction are you paid,
And while you do not know what else you seek
You shall have nothing other to expect.
Appearances, appearances, he said,
And nowise real; unreal, and yet true;
Untrue, yet real; - of what are you afraid?
Hopeful of what? whether you keep thanksgiving,
Or pray for earth on tired body and head,
This word is true on all the paths you tread
As true as truth need be, when all is said:
That if you find no truth among the living
You will not find much truth among the dead.
No other time but now, no other place than here, he said.
He drew the shawl about him as he spoke,
And dozed in his arm-chair till the morning broke.

Across the window panes the plumes of lilac swept
Stirred by the morning air.
Across the floor the shadows crawled and crept
And as the thin light shivered through the trees
Around the muffled form they danced and leapt.
They crawled about his shoulders and his knees;
They rested for a moment on his hair
Until the morning drove them to their lair.
And then sprang up a little damp dead breeze
That rattled at the window while he slept,
And had those been human voices in the chimneys
And at the shutters, and along the stair,
You had not known whether they laughed or wept.

[copyright 1971 by Esme Valerie Eliot, photo credit NY Times]

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