One of the reasons I now enjoy Eliot’s later work is that I am now old enough to have lost any sense of immortality but still young enough to care: perhaps too much.
One of the reasons I blog poetry is because many do not read: and if they do, they read from this generation, who have chosen not to stand on the shoulder of the giants who came before them.
Postmodernism leaves nothing behind: and the good poets and philosophers left love beauty, honour, and that stepchild called tradition. Novelty is generally without beauty and honour, and hates tradition. But Novelty is now praised, within the confines of the very nomenklatura Eliot hated, and with the fall of the Soviets completed their subversion of the academy.
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
T. S. Eliot, 1941