Choruses from the Rock

In the next three posts I venture to bring to your attention, and hopefully for your enjoyment and pondering, the words of T.S. Eliot in his Choruses from the ‘Rock’, 1934. In brief, The Rock was a play written on commission to support the 49 Church Fund of the Diocese of London. The funds raised were to help create 49 new churches in the growing London suburbs! In Eliot’s Complete Poems and Plays it is only the “Choruses from the ‘Rock’ “that is published, long gone is the play! He was a genius of both plays and poetry, for example his play Murder in the Cathedral and his poem Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats became the source and inspiration for the successful musical, Cats.

In 1934, some 12 years after his despairing poem Wasteland, Eliot is now more assured of his own faith and hope in God. He writes decrying the lack of faith in private and public life and in society in general. His poem is a call to wake up and return to God. As you read his opening verses what line or lines strike you as true for today as much as they were for 1934? For you, what line or lines ring a bell of hope today? Enjoy.

Choruses from ” The Rock “

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God .
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

I journeyed to London, to the timekept City,
Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.
There I was told: we have too many churches,
And too few chop-houses. There I was told:
Let the vicars retire. Men do not need the Church
In the place where they work, but where they spend their Sundays.
In the City, we need no bells:
Let them waken the suburbs.
I journeyed to the suburbs, and there I was told:
We toil for six days, on the seventh we must motor
To Hindhead, or Maidenhead.
If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers.
In industrial districts, there I was told
Of economic laws.
In the pleasant countryside, there it seemed
That the country now is only fit for picnics.
And the Church does not seem to be wanted
In country or in suburb; and in the town
Only for important weddings.

Holy God,
At times we become distracted,
our focus skewed,
we lose a proper sense of purpose.
We ask for your forgiveness O Lord.
Like those long before us,
we build a tower of Babel
foolishly thinking we can become our own god.
Like those long before us,
we fashion idols
foolishly seeking always to be in control
of our own destiny.
Like those long before us,
we think we can serve both
You and mammon.
Save us from our many foolish ways,
and remind us of the right way, the one way,
and remind us that you O Lord
are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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