Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Helen Radice recently quoted T. S. Eliot, and that sent me to the bookshelf. I pulled down my copy of “Collected Poems 1909 - 1935” (when he’d written only the first of his “Four Quartets”). The book had belonged to a beloved aunt of my mom’s, and when she died I was the only member of the family who wanted it. Written in ink on the first page are the words,

"T.S. Eliot deceased
Age 76"

Forty years ago today.

I’m not sure that it’s my great-aunt’s handwriting; I remember her script being much messier.

The book had belonged to someone else before Aunt Kat, a woman who wrote her name and address on a different page. In this second woman’s handwriting is a poem and some explanatory notes on a loose sheet of paper folded between two pages.

“Paradise Rehabilitated

Experiment has lost its savor,
Pentameter is back in favor,
So though your taste be Joyce or Hilton,
No longer blush for reading Milton,
The blinded bard who sang of Tophet
The Time[s] says, may be read with profit,
While Time agrees that he’s OK,
For followers of Miss Millay.

His homily once more we’ll preach
In lands of Anglo-Saxon speech.
He may achieve -- oh, strange fruition!
A shiny pocket-sized edition.
In railway station we’ll obtain
The tome to read it on the train,
Or find his works in five and dime stores
Who justified, God’s ways to rhymesters.

James Gidney
Sat. Review of Lit. July, 1947

Ref: Time Magazine
May, 1947.
Eliot again sanctions Milton.”

Eliot’s influence on literary sensibilities in second quarter of the 20th century is difficult to imagine now, but when he said in the ‘20s that Milton was out, Milton was out for lots of people; and so when he said in the ‘40s that Milton was back in, it was news.

I post Mr. Gidney’s poem as an interesting example of the vanished popular culture phenomenon of light rhymed periodical verse, and in honor of the anniversary of Mr. Eliot’s death. “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

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