Monday, 26 August 2013

Time present and time past

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus in your mind.
                  But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

Fond as I am of the word 'perhaps', I do wonder why Eliot had to include it here. Where was il miglior fabro? (I also wonder what Eliot, the jewel thief as Pound called him, actually knew about mud and axle trees, or even garlic and sapphires, come to that.)

But enough of that. What I wanted to remark was that we are living, now, in a historic moment. An historic moment? A truly historic moment? Perhaps even, for some, the last truly historic moment.

For we have arrived at the point perhaps where we began, where is is now formally recognised by the discerning that the word 'historic' can apply to anything in the past that we can only investigate, report and ponder upon. All time is unredeemable. Tous les matins du monde sont sans retour. To what purpose?

And so, at last, everything in the past qualifies for history, subject only to the interest of the news media, permission to disturb the dust on the bowl of rose-leaves. Mainly it involves police reports of socially egregious and criminal behaviour that formerly was tolerated.

It leaves us only to reflect whether the gratingly new usage is actually not less contentious than the old, although less useful - what is wrong with 'past'?