ON READING T.S. ELIOT

By Luis G. Dato

We have been reading T.S. Eliot,
And, much we fear, a blooming idiot
Breathes on our neck or reads o’ er his,
His point, if he has one, we miss;

If he has one, we cannot find,
However hard we try, his mind.
Which is to say he has no heart
At all, although he may be smart.

This much we grant him, his rimes glint
Like coins that have just left the mint
Examples: “visit”
and “what is it”;

And “hair”
With “stair”
And “thin”, “chin”, “pin”
Which all come handy with “begin”;

With “cheap hotels”
Go “oyster-shells”
And “Michelangelo”
With “go”;

And “sudden leap”
With “fell asleep”;
And “spoon’s”
Just right with “afternoons”;

The “ices”
Is so-so with “crisis”
And ‘shawl”
With “all”
And “peach”:,

With “each”
“Plate”
With “create”,
“Platter”
With “no matter”.

But with his free verse we have doubts,
With “ins” there are too many “outs”;
Some lines are short, the others long,
In short, the meter’s often wrong;

That is, if it is there at all,
The stress on t he wrong places fall.
His stanza pattern is askew,
Somnambulist, it wanders, whew!

In other words, the thing is prose,
Not verse, and quite ridiculous -­
All this occasions mild surprise
That he has won the Nobel Prize,

For T. S. Eliot, I’m afraid
Has not enriched but made a raid
On poetry, not found a tool
Except to make the muse some fool

Or scapegoat or the instrument
With which the rules to circumvent
Of poetry, which I think is sweet
And rich when using rime and feet.

And he’s in places most obscure,
More drastic is, we think, his cure,
Of poetry’s admitted ills -­
The gold-egg goose, we, think, he kills.

And in the interim the sky
He has converted into sty,
There’s in his thinking too much fog,
Why for his roses, snout of hog?

And why does ecstasy mean death,
We ask him with a hissing breath,
Why death in hummingbird, dog’s teeth?
With disagreement readers seethe.

And if three leopards his heart ate,
How could he live to mourn his fate?
How prophesy and how atone,
When naught is left of him but bone?

How see brought in upon a platter
His head (now balding for that matter?)
In Eliot’s spring we do not drink
Of nectar, and we stop to think.

Ah, Eliot, maybe you are sharp,
But Burns was brighter, Poe’s sad harp,
And Becquer, Dario and sweet Heine
And Baudelaire gave us more wine.

Although your imagery be bold,
We’d rather go back to the old,
And if there is no bard but Eliot,
Dear Muse, we’d rather be an idiot!

Luis Dato
Luis Dato

Luis G. Dato (July 4, 1906 - January 29, 1985) was a poet, writer and educator from Sta. Cruz, Baao, Camarines Sur. He published books in English including Manila A Collection of verse (1926), My Book of Verses (1936) and the Land of Mai in 1975. He also wrote several books and text in Bikol such as, Vocabulario Bikol-Ingles-Kastila (1963), Cantahon na Bikol (1969), Morfologia kan Tataramon na Bikol (serialized in Naga Times), Patotodon sa Bikol (Bikol Mail) and Sarabihon sa Bikol.

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