Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Winter kept us warm… There’s a paradox for you. That paradox leads me to the paradox of Christ: unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die… Christianity is always a paradox, always a mystery. Life meets death and like Eliot’s Magi we aren’t certain if we’ve witnessed Birth or Death. Where are Chaucer’s pilgrims going? Chaucer points us to the holy martyr. To a tomb, a place of death, the place of martyrdom. A Martyr embraces death, knowing that death of the body is the birth of eternal life in heaven.
In this first stanza I recognize the moment of spiritual crisis when the soul begins to awaken to a realization that it is being called to rebirth and renewal. There is such a huge chasm that separates the sinner from grace—or so it can seem—and death stands in the way. The only way to achieve new life is to embrace the cross, to accept death of self. And that death can seem so terrifying. I don’t want to die to my self. I’m comfortable with the present me. Sure, maybe there are some grimy sins I’d like to get rid of… but only if it doesn’t hurt. Easier to forget the whole question of faith, God, salvation. Easier to lose yourself in the entertainment of the present moment. Put off the day of reckoning as long as possible. But then comes the pesky spring, calling you to awake, beckoning you to set forth from your comfortable home, to go on a pilgrimage, to embrace the road, the journey, knowing that it will lead you to the grave, the cross, the place of martyrdom. There is no other way but the Way.
covering earth in forgetful snow I love that forgetful snow. Here again we have the theme of memory. What have we forgotten? Why are we cut off from the past? What have we lost? What needs to be remembered and recollected?
feeding a little life with dried tubers. It is that phrase that always makes me think of Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters at this point in the poem. It’s not a favorite painting of mine. So dark and dreary. The faces feel rather like caricatures instead of real people. It makes me think of period illustrations of Charles Dickens’ works. And yet… I also have the distinct feeling that Van Gogh loved these people that he’s painted. His brush reveals no scorn for them. Likewise, Eliot’s poem always seems to have a deep compassion for his characters, small souled though they may be.
Also, I love that word, tubers. Such a firm, earthy word. Roots. There are more roots to come in the poem. Roots that clutch, roots that feed. Roots are hidden but so important. And I suddenly think of the O Antiphons, O Radix Jesse. Do the roots deliberately point us to Christ?
The enjambment continues and here the verbs, covering and feeding… I get a feeling that winter is a mother, caring for her children. In fact, now I notice that all of the verbs are very domestic and maternal: breeding, mixing, stirring, covering, feeding. I’m not sure where to take that, just an observation.
I started this post almost two weeks ago. But this flue has had us in its nasty grip for almost that long as well. Now that sickness is slowly letting go its hold, perhaps I can pick up the pace a little bit. We’ll see. Motherhood is never dull.
Previous post: April Is The Cruelest Month—Blogging the Waste Land Part 4