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Choruses From ‘The Rock’

12/09/2008

The final keynote for the ALT conference was given yesterday by David Cavallo, from the One Laptop Per Child project.

In introduction and the keynote itself reference was made to an exerpt from Choruses From ‘The Rock’ by T. S. Elliot (1934).   The except was taken from the opening stanza, which I quote more fully here, with the citations (as I remember them) coloured in red (lines 6-9 and 14-16):

I

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of ideas and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of word, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life was have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

from T.S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays. Faber and Faber: London. 1987.

Cavallo seemed deeply concerned with the rediscovery of authentic learning, in the face of information – and this passage has been used in similar ways elsewhere. There’s clearly a lot more going on, but before I get tangled in an A-level style entry on the use of pagan astrological imagery and the deployment of capitalisation in Choral spoken verse, I’m going to quit whilst (still?) ahead! I’m chalking up The Wasteland as further reading…

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