Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

By T. S. Eliot


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 agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
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 blessèd 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.


Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.


Who walked between the violet and the violet
Whe walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke
no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile


If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.


Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Summary of Ash Wednesday

  • Popularity of “Ash Wednesday” by T. S. Eliot: Written by T.S. Eliot, a renowned British modernist, “Ash Wednesday” first appeared in 1930, marking his conversion to Anglicanism smooth and easy. Considered one of Eliot’s representative works. “Ash Wednesday” is a unique blend of Catholic and Eastern religious themes mixed with a modernist style through complex images. While it initially invited mixed reviews upon publication, it won the status of a modernist poem with time. Its popularity rests on its exploration of universal themes such as faith, love, and mortality coupled with a deeply personal and introspective tone.
  • “Ash Wednesday” by T. S. Eliot As a Representative of Modernism: S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday” is a representative work of modernist poetry. It explores modernist themes such as spiritual crisis, redemption, and the struggle to find meaning in a world having lost its religious foundation. Written during a period of personal crisis Eliot was undergoing, the poem shows complex and highly allusive meditation about the nature of faith and the human condition. Religious images, broken language, and intricate symbols have made “Ash Wednesday” demonstrate the vision of a world both fragmented and spiritually impoverished yet still capable of demonstrating transcendence and hope. The poem also offers a profound exploration of the tensions between faith and doubt, tradition and modernity, and the individual and the divine.
  • Major Themes in “Ash Wednesday” by T. S. Eliot: The central themes of “Ash Wednesday” are spiritual emptiness, the quest for redemption, the conflict tension between the individual and the divine, and the search for meaning in the modern world. Eliot tries to present the idea of spiritual emptiness and the need for redemption using powerful images and conflicting symbols. The poem also explores the relationship between the individual and the divine, highlighting the tensions between the human desire for autonomy and the need for submission to a higher power. Also, the poem reflects Eliot’s preoccupation with the search for meaning in a modern world that has lost its sense of tradition and continuity and specifically his belief in the possibility of spiritual renewal and regeneration through faith. His final argument of teaching and caring shows the gist of his philosophy to tackle modernist issues.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Ash Wednesday

T. S. Eliot displayed extra-ordinary skills in using literary devices used to enhance the intended impact of this poem. Some of the major literary devices in this poem are as follows.

  1. Alliteration: This literary device shows the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, such as the sound of /t/ and the sound of /s/ in “Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still” in line 39 which emphasizes care and teaching.
  2. Anaphora: It is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or lines, such as “Because I do not…” in the first three verses and then in the 9th and 12th verses. It highlights modernity.
  3. Assonance: It is the repetition of vowel sounds within words. Lines 114 and 115 “Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute” show /a/ sound, adding musical quality to the poem.
  4. Consonance: It is the repetition of consonant sounds within words, such as /m/ sound in “Redeem the time, redeem the dream” which adds to its harmony and rhythm.
  5. Enjambment: It is the continuation of a sentence or clause without a pause beyond the end of a line or stanza, such as in lines 184-185 “Will the veiled sister between the slender / Yew trees pray for those who offend her.” It shows the continuity of the verses having no pause.
  6. Hyperbole: It is the use of exaggeration for emphasis or dramatic effect, such as in lin line 215 “Let the other yew be shaken and reply.” It shows that the speaker is suggesting that even the shaking of tree could invite a response.
  7. Imagery: It is the use of vivid and descriptive language that appeals to the senses. For example, the lines 53 to 56 “And I who am here dissembled / Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love / To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd. / It is this which recovers / My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions” show the use of different images.
  8. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unrelated things, suggesting a similarity, such as lines 73 and 74 “The single Rose / Is now the Garden” show the comparison of a single rose with a garden.
  9. Parallelism: This literary device shows the use of similar grammatical structures, phrases, or clauses to create a balanced and rhythmic effect, such as line 39 showing “Teach us to care and not to care / Teach us to sit still” this use of parallelism.
  1. Symbolism: This literary device shows the use of objects, actions, or ideas to represent something beyond its literal meaning. For example, the use of a silent river and its white and blue color in line 145 is suggestive of mystery.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Ash Wednesday

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: This poetic device refers to the choice and arrangement of words in a poem. The diction in “Ash Wednesday” is formal and straightforward, reflecting the speaker’s spiritual contemplation.
  2. End Rhyme: The end rhyme in this poem is irregular and does not follow a consistent pattern. For instance, in lines 5 and 6, “things” and “wings” create an end rhyme. This is the sporadic use of end rhyme that adds a musical quality to the poem.
  3. Meter: The poem does not strictly adhere to a specific metrical pattern. Instead, it employs a mixture of metrical feet and rhythms. The poem exhibits elements of both iambic pentameter and free verses at different places in the poem.
  4. Poem: “Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot is a long, complex poem categorized as a modernist religious meditation.
  5. Stanza: The poem consists of six sections, each numbered according to the thematic shift and subject of the section.
  6. Tone: The tone of “Ash Wednesday” is introspective, contemplative, and somber. The speaker reflects on their spiritual state, acknowledging their lack of hope and yearning for redemption.

Quotes to be Used

This quote is appropriate for a discussion to express the sense of despair and hopelessness. It could also be used in a broader discussion of themes of spiritual crisis and the search for meaning in modern life.

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not care.