Modernism  20th Century

Gerontion

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Thou hast nor youth nor age
                         But as it were an after dinner sleep
                         Dreaming of both.


Here I am, an old man in a dry month, 
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain. 
I was neither at the hot gates 
Nor fought in the warm rain 
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass, 
Bitten by flies, fought.
My house is a decayed house, 
And the Jew squats on the window sill, the owner, 
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp, 
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London. 
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead; 
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds. 
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea, 
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter. 
                                              I an old man, 
A dull head among windy spaces. 

Signs are taken for wonders.  ‘We would see a sign!’
The word within a word, unable to speak a word, 
Swaddled with darkness.  In the juvescence of the year 
Came Christ the tiger 

In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas, 
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk 
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero 
With caressing hands, at Limoges 
Who walked all night in the next room; 

By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians; 
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room 
Shifting the candles; Fräulein von Kulp 
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. 
      Vacant shuttles 
Weave the wind.  I have no ghosts, 
An old man in a draughty house 
Under a windy knob. 

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now 
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors 
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, 
Guides us by vanities.  Think now 
She gives when our attention is distracted 
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions 
That the giving famishes the craving.  Gives too late 
What’s not believed in, or is still believed, 
In memory only, reconsidered passion.  Gives too soon 
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with 
Till the refusal propagates a fear.  Think 
Neither fear nor courage saves us.  Unnatural vices 
Are fathered by our heroism.  Virtues 
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes. 
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree. 

The tiger springs in the new year.  Us he devours.  Think at last 
We have not reached conclusion, when I 
Stiffen in a rented house.  Think at last 
I have not made this show purposelessly 
And it is not by any concitation 
Of the backward devils. 
I would meet you upon this honestly. 
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom 
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition. 
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it 
Since what is kept must be adulterated? 
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch: 
How should I use it for your closer contact? 

These with a thousand small deliberations 
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium, 
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled, 
With pungent sauces, multiply variety 
In a wilderness of mirrors.  What will the spider do 
Suspend its operations, will the weevil 
Delay?  De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled 
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear 
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits 
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn, 
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims, 
And an old man driven by the Trades 
To a sleepy corner. 

                                   Tenants of the house, 
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.
 
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