T. S. Eliot: A Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday

T. S. Eliot: A Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday

T. S. Eliot: A Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday

T. S. Eliot: A Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday

Excerpt

. . . nothing matters but the quality
of the affection--
in the end--that has carved the trace in the mind . . .

EZRAPOUND

BIRTHDAYS are a time of celebration. As the years slip into the past, so different memories stir--a friend crossing the Luxembourg Gardens waving a branch of lilac; the cry of quail over the New England coast; the chattering teeth of a Persian cat stalking his prey across the green fields of Russell Square. The traditional iced cake, so eagerly anticipated when young, comes to acquire a fresh significance--a sign for giving thanks for what has gone before; again, even the number of candies acquire a new meaning--often at the rate of one a decade, or seven for seventy: the three score years and ten of life now serve to recall the age of reason, a nursery tea in St Louis and perhaps the attendant figures of Cousins Nancy and Harriet, or a maiden aunt with her four servants, dogs and favourite parrot. 'The beginning shall remind us of the end.' For on 26 September 1888, a seventh child was born to Charlotte Chauncy Steams and Henry Ware Eliot: this child they had christened Thomas and by the Christian calendar September 26 marks the double feast of the saints and martyrs, Cyprian and Justina. There may be a sense, too, in which saints, no less than angels, may be called 'guardians'.

In the Third Century the Empress Eudocia wrote a poem running to three books, celebrating the lives of Cyprian, surnamed the Magician, and Justina, a beautiful maiden of Antioch. These books have been lost, but Photius, a scribe of the period, has sent report after him of the poem's wonderful merits and has himself offered a prose abstract of it. According to this version, Cyprian travelled widely-- from Athens and the parts about Mount Olympus in Macedonia to . . .

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