I read poetry, but much of it is a mystery to me, dense and impenetrable; especially so when metaphors and images convey to me no meaning at all and sentences are written that simply aren’t in English.
Many times, I have tried to read T.S. Eliot’s famed Four quartets. Parts of it are brilliantly expressive, but when the metaphors and images crowd in, meaning vanishes. This passage, however, from part V of "East Coker" evokes superbly the dilemna that confronts me when I try to write. I love words and writing, but what is there that has not been said before by better men than me?
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres–
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate-but there is no competition-
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.