Here is an enigmatic poem from TS Eliot. I like it for its absurdity and non-sequiturs, unexplained thoughts and juxtapositions, but with a distinct flavour of place and time coming through – London in the first half of the twentieth century. I enjoy this poem in the same way as I enjoy “I am the Walrus” from the Beatles, it makes no sense but it has verve and panache.
A Cooking Egg
En l’an trentiesme de mon aage
Que toutes mes hontes j’ay beues…
PIPIT sate upright in her chair
Some distance from where I was sitting;
Views of the Oxford Colleges
Lay on the table, with the knitting.
Daguerreotypes and silhouettes,
Her grandfather and great great aunts,
Supported on the mantelpiece
An Invitation to the Dance.
. . . . .
I shall not want Honour in Heaven
For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney
And have talk with Coriolanus
And other heroes of that kidney.
I shall not want Capital in Heaven
For I shall meet Sir Alfred Mond:
We two shall lie together, lapt
In a five per cent Exchequer Bond.
I shall not want Society in Heaven,
Lucretia Borgia shall be my Bride;
Her anecdotes will be more amusing
Than Pipit’s experience could provide.
I shall not want Pipit in Heaven:
Madame Blavatsky will instruct me
In the Seven Sacred Trances;
Piccarda de Donati will conduct me…
. . . . .
But where is the penny world I bought
To eat with Pipit behind the screen?
The red-eyed scavengers are creeping
From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green;
Where are the eagles and the trumpets?
Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps.
Over buttered scones and crumpets
Weeping, weeping multitudes
Droop in a hundred A.B.C.’s.
So what are some of the questions to ponder on reading this poem?
What does the title mean and how does it relate to the poem?
Why does it open with two lines in mediaeval French?
Who is Pipit, and why does the poet belittle her compared to the luminaries he will meet in heaven in the second stanza?
Is there a logical sequence of ideas following from the first stanza to the second to the third?
Is Eliot just showing off?
Answers welcome, please, by comment or email.
The Poetry Dude