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What the Thunder Said[41]

by T. S. Eliot

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
                                                         If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees[42]
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water

Who is the third who walks always beside you?[43]
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?

What is that sound high in the air[44]
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London
Unreal

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico[45]
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder
DA
Datta: what have we given?[46]
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider[47]
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
DA
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key[48]
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial[49] rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
DA
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands

                                     I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me[50]
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina[51]
Quando fiam ceu[52] chelidon - O swallow swallow[53]
Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolie[54]
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.[55]
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
                           Shantih    shantih    shantih[56]



[41] In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston's book) and the present decay of eastern Europe.

[42] This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec County. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America) "it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats…. Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled." Its "water-dripping song" is justly celebrated.

[43] The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.

[44] Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:

Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.

[Already half of Europe, already at least half of Eastern Europe, on the way to Chaos, drives drunk in sacred infatuation along the edge of the precipice, sings drunkenly, as though hymn singing, as Dmitri Karamazov [in Dostoyevski's Brothers Karamazov] sang. The offended bourgeois laughs at the songs; the saint and the seer hear them with tears.

—Infoplease Editors]

[45] French version of “cock-a-doodle-doo(Infoplease Editors)

[46] Datta, dayadhvam, damyata” (Give, sympathize, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is found in Deussen's Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489.

[The Hindu fable referred to is that of gods, men, and demons each in turn asking of their father Prajapati, “Speak to us, O Lord.” To each he replied with the one syllable “DA,” and each group interpreted it in a different way: “Datta,” to give alms; “Dayadhvam,” to have compassion; “Damyata,” to practice self-control. The fable concludes, “This is what the divine voice, the Thunder, repeats when he says: DA, DA, DA: ‘Control yourselves; give alms; be compassionate.’ Therefore one should practice these three things: self-control, alms-giving, and compassion.(Infoplease Editors)]

[47] Cf. Webster, The White Devil, v. vi:

          …they'll remarry
Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs.

[48] Cf. Inferno, xxxiii. 46:

ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto all'orribile torre.

Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346:

My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it. … In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.

[49] aetherial→aethereal

[50] V. Weston, From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King.

[51] V. Purgatorio, xxvi. 148.

Ara vos prec per aquella valor
 que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
 sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.

 Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina.

[52] ceu→uti (Editor)

[53] When shall I be as the swallow? (Infoplease Editors)

V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III.

[54] The Prince of Aquitaine to the ruined tower (Infoplease Editors)

V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado.

[55] V. Kyd's Spanish Tragedy.

[56] Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. 'The Peace which passeth understanding' is a feeble translation of the content of this word.

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