The Romantic Mr. Eliot

I am sitting at a cafe reading this poem and writing this note. Lunch is a two minutes away. Many would point out T.S Eliot is not suitable pre-lunch reading material. But then, what is? Glossy magazines? No, thanks. Glossy women’s magazines. Not interested. Colourful menus? The mesh of typefaces on glass doors? Not enough mentally challenging. So I stuck to the tried and tested—poetry.   

It seems cafes nowadays do not understand a person’s need for silence. They tend to fill it with visual and auditory clutter (TV, music systems). Either way, your head is filled up. No place for your thoughts. I was reading poetry in the midst of all this. And this is the poem that caught my attention.

A Dedication to My Wife

By T.S. Eliot

To whom I owe the leaping delight
That quickens my senses in our wakingtime
And the rhythm that governs the repose of our sleepingtime,
           The breathing in unison

Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other
Who think the same thoughts without need of speech
And babble the same speech without need of meaning.
No peevish winter wind shall chill
No sullen tropic sun shall wither
The roses in the rose-garden which is ours and ours only

But this dedication is for others to read:
These are private words addressed to you in public.

PS: That T.S Eliot wrote it is the surprise. What I liked about the poem was its simplicity. It has the sensibility of a love poem and a directness that some of Eliot’s other writing doesn’t. However, what I don’t like is the fact that the person to whom this poem is addressed remains unnamed as if the recognition given by the poet as his wife is enough. The echo of the breathing in unison in the lines of the first stanza is so accurately depicted: when you breathe in unison it’s not like a military march, one gently follows the other until it becomes difficult to differentiate where one begins and the other ends.

Many opposite ideas are juxtaposed in the line endings such as wakingtime/sleepingtime, need of speech/need of meaning, winter wind/tropic sun and private/public give the impression that they need each other to complete themselves. It’s a surprisingly sparkling poem that you’d want to read again and again.


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