Time Past and Time Future

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets—Burnt Norton

The poetry of T. S. Eliot is like the changing leaves in Autumn and the bursting buds of Spring.  It’s like a dark cherry tree in Summer hanging with delicious fruit and the Winter snow on Christmas morning.

Like gems waiting to be unearthed and appreciated for their beauty, Eliot’s words are there to capture the heart and inspire the soul. In many ways there are faint echoes from the cosmic ocean which swirls about us on our daily road of life.

Sometimes, when friends get together at a dinner party, there is a lot of just good times and laughter.  Other times there can be moments of inspiration.

So it was in 2010 in New York City when Makoto Fujimura, Christopher Theofanidis, Bruce Herman and Jeremy Begbie began to explore Eliot’s Four Quartets.  What came out of that dinner conversation was QU4RTETS, an exquisite exhibit of music, art and Eliot’s poetry which is on tour. The links are below.

Returning to the opening statement of this post, there are myriad humans who drink the shadows of yesterday or wish upon a star for tomorrow.  The present never seems enough for them.  Their discontentment in the present seems to be a mental grove which they plow like an old Welsh farm horse year after year treading the same furrows of the field.

On a personal note: growing up we would be subjected to our mother morphing back to her teenage years when she met the man of her dreams as he rode into our mountain hamlet on his motorcycle from the distant mauve mountains.  She broke her engagement to a young man who was serving his country and latched on to this perfect stranger.

The saga of romance would be short-lived. The reality of his abandonment of us six years later never seemed to find a reality hook in her pristine reminisces of “her man”.

After her marriage to a good man and provider, she still indulged in her predilections for a yesterday which could never be again like Eliot’s wrote “What might have been is an abstraction, remaining a perpetual possibility, only in a world of speculation.”

I am sure that the name of her motorcycle Romeo was never far from her mind after we grew up, left our old Victorian house on the city hill and went our separate ways in the world.  Home would be a place we would visit for a moment before we resumed our present elsewhere.

For mother her tomorrow never came.  For father he lived his life surrounded by his new family as we were neglected and forgotten.  For him he lived his present.  The past was a door he never opened for his own reasons.

They are both gone now.  Perhaps, their yesterday is still there in the cosmic ocean when a man and woman first met and had their first RC cola at the family store on that May day.

If you find yourself tempted to disturb the “dust on a bowl of rose-leaves remember the thorns of the past.  For it is in the present that you prepare for your future.

Only through time time is conquered

G. D. Williams       © 2013

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“QU4RTETS” is a short documentary for the Fujimura Institute about the touring exhibition of the same name with original artworks inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “FOUR QUARTETS” by artists Makoto Fujimura and Bruce Herman with an original score by composer Christopher Theofanidis. QU4RTETS visited Duke University and continues on a long tour to many other universities including Baylor University, Yale University, Gordon College, Hong Kong University, Cambridge University, and more.

The Ciompi Quartet with Jeremy Begbie performed “A Still Point” for the “Engaging Eliot” event at Duke University in January, 2013, an event sponsored by the Duke Initiatives for Theology and the Arts and Duke Divinity School.

Filmed at Duke University Chapel in Durham, NC.


Fujimura Institute

A masterpiece can be said to be a work with the capacity to outlast its time and speak to cultures vastly different from its own; to transcend its time and place and inspire new works by artists in succeeding generations. T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is such a masterpiece


The Ciompi Quartet performs “At the Still Point”


T S Eliot reads his Four Quartets


Four Quartets Poem