All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

TS Eliot and his Chinese Jar

Posted: October 13th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Really shoehorning here but as I was in St Louis, home town of TS Eliot, I thought I’d see if he had any Chinese references I’d overlooked before. Of course Eliot was generally complimentary of Ezra Pound’s Chinese poetry translations declaring him the “inventor” of Chinese poetry as we know it today (today being 1928). However, this is the only slight reference I could find to aything Chinese in Eliot…in fact to a Chinese jar from his Four Quartets from the 1940s:

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts
Not that only, but the co-existence
Or say that the end precedes the beginning
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end
And all is always now. Words strain
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation
The crying shadow in the funeral dance
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera


One Comment on “TS Eliot and his Chinese Jar”

  1. 1 A said at 6:16 am on June 16th, 2019:

    There are a bunch of references to chinese in Cats

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