‘This is the way the world ends’

Lance CorporalWe do not know where our great uncle Edward – our grandmother’s only brother –  is buried. So many thousand others like him are commemorated in anonymous graves like this one: serene, rather chilling, but dignified and beautifully looked after, nonetheless. This weekend, a hundred years ago, the guns finally fell silent and, out of a green and pleasant land from whence our ancestors  emerged centuries before, a wasteland was revealed – a place of bones and emptiness, made all the more disturbing by the intermittent chirruping of sparrows and the bloody poppies which found their time to have come. As someone famous once said:

This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man’s hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.

 

Is it like this

In death’s other kingdom

Waking alone

At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would kiss

Form prayers to broken stone.

 

IV

The eyes are not here

There are no eyes here

In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

 

In this last of meeting places

We grope together

And avoid speech

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

 

Sightless, unless

The eyes reappear

As the perpetual star

Multifoliate rose

Of death’s twilight kingdom

The hope only

Of empty men.

Extracted from ‘The Hollow Men’ by T S Eliot

 

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