Monday, 2 January 2017

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice’

‘Between two waves of the sea’ … by the waves in Dun Laoghaire on Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The New Year has truly settled in, the old year is truly passed, and as we allow memories to settle down and get on with the tasks ahead, I think of words of TS Eliot in ‘Little Gidding,’ the last of his Four Quartets:

Last season’s fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

I am about to spend a few days in Rome, both as a city break and as a mini-retreat, combining time to explore historical and cultural sites with time to think and pray as I prepare for a new stage in life.

Over the past few days, I have spent a lot of time walking by rivers, lakes and shorelines and the sea: Blackrock (last Monday), Loughshinny and Skerries (Tuesday), the boating lake in Farmleigh and the Royal Canal in Castleknock (Wednesday), the Maigue at Adare and the Deel at Askeaton (Thursday), the beach in Bray (Friday), Donabate and Portrane (Saturday), the Liffey in Dublin and the harbour in Dun Laoghaire (Sunday).

‘Through the unknown, unremembered gate’ … a gate in the Rectory gardens in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As new gates open, and as I move on, there are new places to explore, new shores and rivers to walk by, to explore and to discover. And yet, the end of all our exploring brings us back to the source and the beginning, and we know in the stillness, in the words of Julian of Norwich, that ‘all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well.’

Or, as Eliot concludes ‘Little Gidding’:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

By the banks of the River Deel in Askeaton, Co Limerick, last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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