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.


  1. T. S. is one of my favorite poets...though I should say t s as he would have!

    Really beautiful pictures.

    I am quite sorry I never got to see more than just a three day, "taste," of London while I was in England in April. There is so much there that as a lover of British Lit of all kinds (and the history as well!l) I should have stayed a month. I am thrilled you've enjoyed it so much over the years!

  2. Now we are both happy and sad.

    Thanks Grandmere (gotta put your things in the car because I´m going to the singing ¨twins¨ for lunch tomorrow and they are going to take them to Massachusetts and then mail them to you)...look toward end Augusto I´d say for a little bitty South of Border color.


  3. I had duck too, and we shared the dessert - it was a taster of everything on the pudding menu, including the brulee, and the strawberry cheesecake, quite the finest thing on the plate, and a choccie brownie, not bad either.

    I love TS Eliot to death and the Four Quartets in particular, and reading the poem in the churchyard was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Nothing beats being at that lovely old church, so old, and looking out over the serene lush fields with the cows while reading the poetry.

    Are you not going to mention leaving a recording of your reading of a section of the poem on a certain person's answering machine, Mimi? ...

  4. Look at those beautiful views. Isn't Somerset gorgeous? ...

  5. Ciss B, the trip was lovely, and so many people contributed to the loveliness. It's great to know people in the places you visit, and without the internet, I would not have know any of them.

    Leonardo, I can't wait for the South of the Border color.

    Cathy, I remember now. I was going to order the crème brûlée, but you convinced me to share the taster, which was quite the right thing to do.

    Eliot in the churchyard was a highlight of the trip for me, too. The view of the landscape from the hill is beautiful, indeed. I have a picture of the cows in the field next to us, but I could not bring them close enough to look like cows. I get thrilled all over again when I talk about our time in East Coker.

    All right, Cathy, I'll tell the story in another comment, so I don't run out of space.

  6. "in Cathy's hands"

    {JCF wants to say something lewd ;-)}

    Beautiful pics!

  7. My, Eliot's stone is moving, isn't it? ["In my end is my beginning": thar be The Faith!]

    wv, "fulnes"---of The Faith, in fact [in an Anglican. Take that, Rome!]

  8. Oh! these pictures make the poem come alive in new ways! Thank you! Keep posting! (dinner and dessert sound delicious!)

  9. After Cathy and I finished our poetry reading, I tried to call MadPriest, because I was to meet him later in the trip in Newcastle. Since he and Mrs MP were back and forth in their moving, they often did not answer their phone. I'd left a couple of messages, but MP never called me back. After I made my call and got the answering machine again, and left another message, Cathy said, "Why don't you read a passage from 'East Coker' on the answering machine?" I thought that was an excellent idea, and so I did.

    Here's the passage from the poem that Cathy chose at random and the message I left:

    You say I am repeating
    Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
    Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
    To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
    You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
    In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
    In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
    In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
    And what you do not know is the only thing you know
    And what you own is what you do not own
    And where you are is where you are not.

    Although the passage is not at all funny, I had a hard time not laughing during my recital, because the words seemed particularly appropriate in so many ways. My repeated calls, saying the same thing, the MPs moving, and to a smaller house, thus having to get rid of a lot of stuff - it all fit.

    In the meantime, MadPriest seems to have disappeared from the internet for a spell.

  10. JCF, naughty, naughty!

    margaret, thank you. It was a moving experience, indeed, and I'm so very grateful to Cathy for having her book along.

  11. Oh, what a fanastic passage to have read out loud, I hadn't heard that one before and have now copied it to keep, it's so beautiful.

  12. Mimi, I deny the insinuation that I persuaded you to order the taster - that was distinctly your own idea!!!

    I love the Four Quartets and cried while we were reading it. I love the final words because of the movement from the "evening with the photograph album" to "a deeper communion/through the dark cold and empty desolation/The wave cry, the wind cry ... ", but also the following:

    I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
    Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
    So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
    Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
    The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
    The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
    Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
    Of death and birth.

  13. Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
    The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry

    - that's so beautiful.

  14. I actually picked that passage for Mimi to read aloud because the Mad Priest is always complaining that she is nagging him so "You say I am repeating/Something I have said before" seemed like a good joke, but then the rest of it turned out to be eerily spot on.

  15. "So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing" is beautiful too.

  16. Cathy, I love the passage you quoted, too. It's lovely.

    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

    I wish now that I'd read the whole poem aloud. The words are meant to be heard, even if done poorly.

  17. Erika, please read the whole poem. Read all four quartets. You won't be sorry.

  18. Thank you for this wonderful poetic post! It just made my day.

    Cathy, thank you for your wonderful comments!

  19. Thank you, whiteycat :) - as you can probably tell it was a wonderful and quite emotional moment in our trip when we sat in the churchyard and read the poem. Mimi, I think you're right - I did say I wished Jonathan had been there because he would have read it so beautifully, but we should have tried it ourselves. Oh well.

  20. whiteycat, the post was a joy to write. Things coming together as they did in East Coker don't often happen.

    Cathy, I agree that Jonathan would have done a fine job of reading the poem. Grandpère thinks he has a wonderful voice and delivery. Each time he passes through the room when I'm listening to one of Jonathan's sermons, he says, "He's really good. And that's MadPriest?"

  21. That makes Grandpere sound rather sweet!

  22. Cathy, I was a bit worried about GP for a while there. I feared he was falling in love with a voice.

  23. Off-topic: Cathy, if you're here---can you get hold of MP and/or Mrs MP? Crazy @rse has overstayed his time away! >;-/

  24. JCF - I haven't tried to get hold of him, tho, I did send an email tonight asking if he was okay. UK internet providers can be a bit unreliable when it comes to setting up connections. Also, moving is awful, as you know. I hope he's all right.

    Mimi, are you sure Grandpere is perhaps not a little jealous of you listening to that wonderful voice? ...

  25. Cathy, I think GP doesn't have a hidden agenda. He just likes MP's voice. Keep in mind that he doesn't hang around and listen to the whole sermon.

  26. Jonathan does have a good voice and no mistake.


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