Because I do not hope to turn again…

by electricgenizah

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Western Christian calendar. I was thinking of going with something snazzily obscure but decided, what the heck, I’m going to go with the classic here, the Ash Wednesday poem in English. If you haven’t read it, you probably should. If you have, you lucky thing, it shouldn’t hurt to read it again, eh?

It’s one thing to talk about repentance, conversion, teshuvah in Hebrew – all these good words that mean turning, reorienting, rethinking your life. But once you’ve turned, sticking to that path can be the hardest part. Staying on the wagon. Following the narrow way through the narrow gate…

Because I do not hope to turn again…

Ash Wednesday, TS Eliot

Ash Wednesday in Hyderabad, India

Ash Wednesday in Hyderabad, India


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain

Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

– – – –

For an interesting reading and the rest of the poem (there are five more sections!), see here. For more information about the genesis of Eliot’s writing, thou may clickest here