Today is Ash Wednesday. Yesterday was Carnival, which I resolutely ignored; today is the first day of Lent, which I shall likewise ignore. But every year on this day I make a point of reading T. S. Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday. I know that sounds a tad pretentious but there it is, (why would I make that up at this late stage) and I also know you will become even more irritated when I add that I read it in an edition of the poem that my father bought when it was first published in April 1930 (not one of the first 600 signed and numbered copies at the beginning the month but one of the ordinary run of 2000 copies that appeared towards the end of the same month). (pass the sick-bag Alice).
I settle down in my chair and, holding the light 81-year book in my hands, start to read:
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?