Showing posts with label East Coker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East Coker. Show all posts

Sunday, August 7, 2011


East Coker was a special place for both Cathy and me, and since I had other photos which I thought worth posting, I did the picture essay as a companion piece to my earlier post.

Neither of my posts are quite what I wanted them to be, but they will have to do. Eliot does not find satisfaction in his poetic words, so who am I to complain if my poor efforts seem lacking to me?

St Michael's showing the clock

Baptismal font

St Michael's and scattered gravestones

The poetry bench and more gravestones

Stained glass window in St Michael's

And another

Cathy's beloved cows in the field next to the churchyard (Sorry I didn't do better by your cows, Cathy.)

Thatched cottage near the Helyar Arms

Planting behind the Helyar Arms

The dining room at the Helyar Arms

Since T. S. Eliot's poem played a great part in making our visit special, I leave you with another quote from 'East Coker':
That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

UPDATE: The church with the tower, which I had originally pictured, was not St Michael's Church. I corrected the post. Thanks to Lapin for calling my attention to the mistake.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Thatched cottage in East Coker

For our trip to the West Country of England, I put the planning entirely in Cathy's hands, and she did a fine job of it, especially in arranging for us to spend the latter part of a day and a night in East Coker, a charming village in South Somerset, with one lovely thatched cottage upon another, built of local Ham stone similar to what you see in the pictures above and below.

The three photos below are of the cottage garden.



How sad I was to read in the Guardian of possible plans to build a large housing estate which would quadruple the population of the village and occupy what is presently farm land.

Cathy and I stayed at the Helyar Arms, which was only a short walk from St Michael's church, pictured below. The B&B was quite comfortable, and we enjoyed a tasty dinner there after our poetic session in the churchyard. I ordered duck, which was very good, but I can't remember what Cathy ordered. I had yummy banana and butterscotch crème brûlée with lavender shortbread for dessert.

St Michael's Church, East Coker

Beautiful gate to the enclosed churchyard

My everlasting thanks to Cathy for taking along a copy of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, from which we read 'East Coker' as we sat on a bench in St Michael's churchyard. We thought we should read the poem aloud, but neither of us believed ourselves to be good readers of poetry, so we read the poem silently. Finally, I thought we should have at least part of the poem read aloud, so I plunged in and read the final stanza.

The view from the bench in the churchyard

The final words from 'East Coker'
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
Eliot's ashes rest in St Michael's church, and his spirit is present in the church and the surrounding land and village. Tears came to my eyes more than once as I wrote the post and looked at the pictures and reread the poem.

T. S. Eliot Memorial, St Michael's church

Photo of St Michael's from Wikipedia.