THE RIVER IS A STRONG BROWN GOD
Eighteen seconds pouring 31.5 grams is too quick I do admit. Need to adjust the grind!
Over a freshly made cappuccino this rainy April day I thought of and reread T.S.Eliot’s masterpiece, the mystical poem Four Quartets. “Midwinter spring is its own season” (the opening lines of No.4 Part 1 of Little Gidding) . . . like today half spring, half winter.
But the excerpt below is from the first of the five sections of No.3 Part 1, The Dry Savages, where, I believe Eliot begins to address our human pain which is connected to the way we think of ourselves and act as goal-driven, greed-driven, self-obsessive individuals instead of as part of a larger whole, a much larger whole . . . letting go of our ego is a death, a small and continuous dying, a challenging process.
“The poem discusses the nature of time and what humanity's place is within time. Life is described metaphorically as traveling in a boat and humanity's fixation on science and future gain keeping the travelers from reaching their destination. Within the poem, Eliot invokes the image of Krishna to emphasize the need to follow the divine will instead of seeking personal gain. . . Krishna's and Arjuna's discussion from the Bhagavad-Gita on acting according to the divine will along with allusions to Dante's Paradiso, the philosophy of Heraclitus, and the Book of Common Prayer. In regards to these allusions, Eliot would mark up his own editions of the works to note where he used quotes or allusions to lines within his work. In particular, his edition of the Mahabharata included a page added which compared battle scenes with "The Dry Salvages.” Wiki.
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.
The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale's backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.
The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.
The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning from the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
T. S. Eliot Four Quartets: The Dry Savages 1941
Eliot then goes on to end the poem with these lines:
And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil.
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