Friday, November 1, 2013

Tom strikes again

Of course I don't mean the Oxonian
carillon, that I've been privileged
not to hear; and of course I do mean
the man of The Waste Land, which so
strenuous experience, like all our
dearest won, tentatively suspended 
struggles for what he remembers as, 
life in accordance with the mind.

Yes, I mean the Tom of that poetry,
whom The New York Review has re-
discovered in an unpublished lec-
ture on the Elizabethan poet and
translator of Homer, Chapman. What
can be said, but that Mr Eliot has
cast another snare in our complais-
ant path, but that because he did,
we can take it seriously. 

Ted Cruz and I had the same college
education, and we attended similar
law schools. Too obviously, he went
there for answers, to learn their
seduction. I went there for ques-
tions, to share their embrace. The
reason for this posting is the gale
of spontaneous hugs in T.S. Eliot;
I don't know what to do with them,
but I don't deny, I need them.

Dante knew as well as Chapman and 
Dostoevski that man belongs to two 
worlds: that the human life when it 
is human, is a compromise and a con-
flict. It is an error to regard Dan-
te’s conception of love as romantic. 
.. But I do say that if you accept 
Christian problems then you should 
accept Christian conclusions. When 
I find a writer for whom clearly the 
Christian other world does not exist, 
or who has found another “other world,” 
then I will not judge him by Christian 
standards. But I say that Chapman and 
Donne and Dostoevski, and also James 
Joyce, accept Christian problems; they 
are operating with Christian categor-
ies; and that they are all infer-
ior to Dante because they do not draw 
Christian conclusions. This is I think 
the great distress of the modern world, 
that it is neither Christian nor defin-
itely something else.

It's inevitable to hear again in
these words an elegy for coheren-
cy, entirely in keeping with The
Waste Land. The demand is exactly
what can lead to a Ted Cruz, un-
less it rises from intelligence
disciplined by humbling error,
clobbered about enough on the
practice field and in tutorial,
to emerge by playing fair. And 
then the bracing invigoration of 
the untoward question surpasses
all intimidation. Is the mind 
a lesser gift than my fear, had
not been on my mind. Now the in-
convenient carillon has pitched
that very question, and why are
we so glad?

T.S. Eliot
A Neglected Aspect
  of Chapman
November 7, 2013©

Bastian van Gaalen