Friday, May 11, 2007

Poetry Friday 49

Astonishingly last Saturday's episode of "Doctor Who" ("The Lazarus Experiment") saw T S Eliot's The Hollow Men quoted by both Professor Lazarus and the Doctor. Why astonishingly? Well I'd used lines from Eliot's Burnt Norton in one of my own "Doctor Who" stories, and it seemed a little uncanny that Stephen Greenhorn, who penned "The Lazarus Experiment", had also picked an Eliot poem to use. So I thought I'd share with you a section of The Hollow Men with you this week:


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.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

You'll find a hypertext version of the full poem here.

The lines quoted by Professor Lazarus were: "Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act" which the Doctor then finished with "Falls the Shadow". Later the Doctor quotes the final lines of section V: "This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper." Also relevant, though it wasn't quoted is the line "For Life is very long" - Lazarus was 76 years old, but he uses science to rejuvenate himself and then he and the Doctor find themselves having a conversation about the value of life - the Doctor noting that some people achieve more in 20 years than others do in 80, and the Doctor asserting also that a long life is ultimately a curse, not a gift, because you see everyone you love or care about wither and die (something he also mentioned in Toby Whitehouse's fabulous "School Reunion" last year) and everything else turn to dust. This was a profoundly philosophical discussion to be having in an episode that largely involved lots of running away from the big scary CGI monster or blowing things up. Which is about right for "Doctor Who" - it usually manages to mix the profound with the purely crazy...


Kelly Fineman said...

I love the ending of that poem, and have quoted it for decades now. I remember struggling mightily with this poem when I first read it in high school English -- but getting through it, and getting it, was such a satisfaction.

Michele said...

It's a fascinating poem - mind you, I find most of Eliot's poetry weirdly fascinating !

My brother's comment to me was "Oh so that's who said "Not with a bang but a whimper" (he's not very well-read in English poetry, despite a good education).

What interests me is when "Doctor Who" references literature and my siblings rush to tell me (knowing I see the episodes a few days after them) because they know I'm a huge fan of English lit. (and especially poetry).

Mai said...

I often quote the end of this poem as well. More often, I'm quoting from the Cat poems though since they are the ones I am most familiar to me.

I am REALLY looking forward to this season of Doctor Who. We're making due with 'old school' episodes just now.

eisha said...

Oh, I do loves me some Eliot! Great choice, on your part and The Doctor's, for sharing.

(Notice how I remembered not to shorten it to Dr.?)

Michele said...

Eisha, I'm very grateful !!

Mai, there are some fantastic episodes in this new season - only the Daleks two-parter hasn't produced a wildly enthusiastic response in me...

Rhian said...

There's also a Doctor Who New Adventure called Falls The Shadow - I haven't read it though so I'm not sure how it relates to the poem.

Michele said...

And there's a "Doctor Who" novel called The Hollow Men (I've done my research !)

Rhian said...

Lol, you're right, I think I've even read that one! (long time ago though)

Michele said...

That's fair enough Rhian !!