Ash Wednesday

by T.S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again 
Because I do not hope 
Because I do not hope to turn 
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope 
I no longer strive to strive towards such things 
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?) 
Why should I mourn 
The vanished power of the usual reign? 

Because I do not hope to know again 
The infirm glory of the positive hour 
Because I do not think 
Because I know I shall not know 
The one veritable transitory power 
Because I cannot drink 
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again 

Because I know that time is always time 
And place is always and only place 
And what is actual is actual only for one time 
And only for one place 
I rejoice that things are as they are and 
I renounce the blessèd face 
And renounce the voice 
Because I cannot hope to turn again 
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something 
Upon which to rejoice 

And pray to God to have mercy upon us 
And I pray that I may forget 
These matters that with myself I too much discuss 
Too much explain 
Because I do not hope to turn again 
Let these words answer 
For what is done, not to be done again 
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us 

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly 
But merely vans to beat the air 
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry 
Smaller and dryer than the will 
Teach us to care and not to care 
Teach us to sit still. 

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death 
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. 

II 
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree 
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety 
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained 
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said 
Shall these bones live? shall these 
Bones live? And that which had been contained 
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping: 
Because of the goodness of this Lady 
And because of her loveliness, and because 
She honours the Virgin in meditation, 
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled 
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love 
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd. 
It is this which recovers 
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions 
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn 
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown. 
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness. 
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten 
And would be forgotten, so I would forget 
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said 
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only 
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping 
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying 

Lady of silences 
Calm and distressed 
Torn and most whole 
Rose of memory 
Rose of forgetfulness 
Exhausted and life-giving 
Worried reposeful 
The single Rose 
Is now the Garden 
Where all loves end 
Terminate torment 
Of love unsatisfied 
The greater torment 
Of love satisfied 
End of the endless 
Journey to no end 
Conclusion of all that 
Is inconclusible 
Speech without word and 
Word of no speech 
Grace to the Mother 
For the Garden 
Where all love ends. 

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining 
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other, 
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand, 
Forgetting themselves and each other, united 
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye 
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity 
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance. 

III 
At the first turning of the second stair 
I turned and saw below 
The same shape twisted on the banister 
Under the vapour in the fetid air 
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears 
The deceitul face of hope and of despair. 

At the second turning of the second stair 
I left them twisting, turning below; 
There were no more faces and the stair was dark, 
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair, 
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark. 

At the first turning of the third stair 
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit 
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene 
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green 
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute. 
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown, 
Lilac and brown hair; 
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind 
over the third stair, 
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair 
Climbing the third stair. 

Lord, I am not worthy 
Lord, I am not worthy 

               but speak the word only. 

IV 
Who walked between the violet and the violet 
Who walked between 
The various ranks of varied green 
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour, 
Talking of trivial things 
In ignorance and in knowledge of eternal dolour 
Who moved among the others as they walked, 
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs 

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand 
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour, 
Sovegna vos 

Here are the years that walk between, bearing 
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring 
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing 

White light folded, sheathed about her, folded. 
The new years walk, restoring 
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring 
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem 
The time. Redeem 
The unread vision in the higher dream 
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse. 

The silent sister veiled in white and blue 
Between the yews, behind the garden god, 
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word 

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down 
Redeem the time, redeem the dream 
The token of the word unheard, unspoken 

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew 

And after this our exile 

V 
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent 
If the unheard, unspoken 
Word is unspoken, unheard; 
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, 
The Word without a word, the Word within 
The world and for the world; 
And the light shone in darkness and 
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled 
About the centre of the silent Word. 

O my people, what have I done unto thee. 

Where shall the word be found, where will the word 
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence 
Not on the sea or on the islands, not 
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land, 
For those who walk in darkness 
Both in the day time and in the night time 
The right time and the right place are not here 
No place of grace for those who avoid the face 
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice 

Will the veiled sister pray for 
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee, 
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between 
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait 
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray 
For children at the gate 
Who will not go away and cannot pray: 
Pray for those who chose and oppose 

O my people, what have I done unto thee. 

Will the veiled sister between the slender 
Yew trees pray for those who offend her 
And are terrified and cannot surrender 
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks 
In the last desert between the last blue rocks 
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert 
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed. 

O my people. 

VI 
Although I do not hope to turn again 
Although I do not hope 
Although I do not hope to turn 

Wavering between the profit and the loss 
In this brief transit where the dreams cross 
The dream-crossed twilight between birth and dying 
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things 
From the wide window toward the granite shore 
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying 
Unbroken wings 

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices 
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices 
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel 
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell 
Quickens to recover 
The cry of quail and the whirling plover 
And the blind eye creates 
The empty forms between the ivory gates 
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth 

This is the time of tension between dying and birth 
The place of solitude where three dreams cross 
Between blue rocks 
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away 
Let the other yew be shaken and reply. 

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden, 
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood 
Teach us to care and not to care 
Teach us to sit still 
Even among these rocks, 
Our peace in His will 
And even among these rocks 
Sister, mother 
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, 
Suffer me not to be separated 

And let my cry come unto Thee.

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