From Minor Poems | Virginia by T.S. Eliot

Poetry. What’s your reaction when you hear that word? I know a handful of people who think of poetry and their first reaction is to moan and groan. What is that gibberish scribbled on paper, and why am I suppose to understand it? The wheelbarrow is red. How many ways can someone find to say the wheelbarrow is red?

The answer is infinite.

The reason I ask this is because I happened upon a poem
that shook my insides, and reminded me of all the reasons why I love poetry.


The poem is pictured above (T.S. Eliot’s handwritten original – coolest thing ever!). The words are breathtaking and roll together. Further, they speak coyly for themselves – the poem is incredibly natural. On paper, the verses congregate into a river of words. The river, a metaphor for life, continues to flow until it cannot and is ultimately stopped by death.

Red river, red river
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, red river

We live, we die, and wait for the gates of afterlife to open.
The dead decay, and the living delayed – we wait.
In this, Eliot examines the brevity, yet continuous flow of life.

I’ve always been a fan of short and sweet poetry. Virginia is a prime example. The secret to this poem is the music of its words. Read it once, then again out loud and let the words tickle your tongue. Soon you will come to appreciate the ample amount of ways to say a single thing.

For more T.S. Eliot, check out T.S. Eliot: The Complete Poems and Plays. I absolutely adore my copy!


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