Little Gidding. By T. S. Eliot. (Faber, Is.) Reviewed by IRIS CONLAY
LITTLE Gidding continues the theme of Burnt Norton, East Coker and The Dry Salvages —the uneasy theme of the -meaning of man's life and his living of it. It is a stern poem, sometimes it daik poem, hut it strikes the truest note of bright hope of almost any poet living in this dank generation:
" all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."
is the exulting cry which is reiterated and emphasised unflinchingly.
Littlek Gidding is constructive Christianity ; Christianity locik-ed at straight, comprehended, analysed, and presented pore. Death, darkness, change, suffering have been accepted and assimilated—they are the necessary conditions out of which will emerge tha
" condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything)" promising that " all shall he well and All manner of thing shall he well."
In his search for the Divine Plan, T. S. Eliot has startling revelations to make of human development, too (the strength of Eliot's work perhaps is that his religious verse is always so human).
He dissects life's dreary progress in three steps:
" First, the cold friction of expiring sense Without enchuniment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow As afruitbodysi i erand soul begin to fall Second, the conscious impotence of rage At human folly. and the laceration Of laughter at what ceases to amuse. Arid last, rhe rending pain of reenactment Of all he ar shame has' done, and been: Of motives e,ess velslate ,revealed, and the a Of things ill done and done to others •
Which once e you wok for exercise of rn.?s After the bitterness then the understanding, and aftei the understanding then the difficult restoration. .. " From wrong to wrong the exasperProaeecedds,Thoriin
c ess restored by that refining fire Where you must move in' measure, like a dancer."
Because the restoration of which the poet speaks is not a material one but purely spiritual, " die splcndoured thing " will be missed by those who enjoy the false optimism which characterises some propaganda poets nowadays. By those sighing for enthusiasm and gaiety. and those looking for a confirmation of their belief that a glowing despair is the hest that can be hoped for in a dying world, Little Gidding will be reviled and misunderstood. 1, too, may be misunderstanding' much, hut after " the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings " I just want to say of tide poem " Here is Truth."
The Catholic Spirit
Catholicism and English Literature. By Edward Hutton. (Frederick Muller, 8s. 6d.) Reviewed by STANLEY B. JAMES
NIR. Hutton is to be congratulated on
his choice of a eubject. To trace the working of the Catholic spirit in our literary tradition is a task worthy of a master mind.
Unfortunately, the author of this book has not availed himself of his opportunities. Perhaps this is because his interpretation of his theme is, too superficiaL, allowing him to dwell at length on brief relerences to Catholicism in modern writers while neglecting the deeper indications of Catholic influence in others.
There is a lack of proportion, seen, for instance, in the scanty notice given to Richard Rolle, sometimes called the Father of English prose, compared with the entire section tie-voted to the conversion of Edward Gibbon, who, at the time he wrote the Decline andFall, was a lapsed Catholic who contribution to our literature is certainly not reminiscent of the Faith. Merely to give quotations from modern authors wherein their ignorance of, or hostility fo, the Church is exemplified is not criticism.
Moreover, the controversial tone exhibited throughout the book is reminiscent of an age which is happily passing. In mitigation of this it must be said that the treatment of Milton is
enlightening. More criticism of this character would have given the book real value.