old dispensation

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


It’s January 1st, and like Eliot said, “next year’s words await another voice.” At this time last year, I was thinking about my thesis. At this time the thesis is finished, and I still have three schools to apply to (12 down). There’s something compelling about last year’s words belonging to last year’s language, almost as though there was something about “next year” and its “words” that is still foreign and exciting. Redemptive possibility, perhaps?

This poem, “Little Gidding”, has always stood for new beginnings for me. Right before Christmas last year, I was writing an essay about “Journey of the Magi“. Pretty fitting at that time. I read the poem as the magi saying something about the potential for new life offered, though this was not yet achieved. All Eliot would say in the poem was that “I should be glad of another death.” In the last stanza, he spoke of unease even after the birth of Christ, “no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, / With an alien people clutching their gods”, but would not go as far to say that he had already found the necessary death that would bring new life. I have a similar feeling about Christmas: the Birth offers redemptive possibility not yet fulfilled (though in this time one believes that is has).

It is, I think, a feeling of displacement comparable to seeing cherry blossoms in midwinter.



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