Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Dry Salvages

Of all the times I have read these poems, I do not recall ever being as affected by this one before. Maybe it is because of the connection between America and England through the imagery of the places joined by ocean. Maybe it is the images of decay as Eliot writes near the beginning of WWII and we are in the midst of a war that seems will last longer than that one. Or maybe the sadness of the poem touches my sadness at some very challenging and difficult things going on in the lives of so many parishioners as we approach Christmas. Or maybe it is the themes of annunciation and incarnation that are connecting with me at this time of the year.

I’ve wondered about the name of these poems before. There are clearly four of them, but why ‘quartets’? I think it has to do with four levels of meaning in theology, philosophy, mysticism and symbolism. Or perhaps it is the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water. Does anyone know? The comment section is open.

As to the reality of death and decay, I have been wondering whether death is a consequence of sin and the fall. (“The wages of sin is death.”/ “We sinned and became subject to evil and death” etc) or whether it is part of creation that God saw to be good. My provisional instinct is that the change inherent in history that inevitably includes death is part of creation and not to be feared as somehow evil. But that the meaning of death as separation from the source and ground of our being is clearly a consequence of sin, compromise, being less than we were created to be and so on. So Jesus could decide in the Garden of Gethsemane that the worst thing in life is not death, but separation from God.

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