Wednesday, December 30, 2015

the cocktail party








Unidentified Guest:

Ah, but we die to each other daily. 
What we know of other people is only our memory 
of the moments during which we knew them. 
And they have changed since then. 
To pretend that they and we are the same is a 
useful and convenient social convention 
which must sometimes be broken. 
We must also remember that at every meeting 
we are meeting a stranger. 

Edward:

So you want me to greet my wife as a stranger?
That will not be easy.

Unidentified Guest:

It is very difficult.
But it is perhaps still more difficult
To keep up the pretense that you are not strangers.
The affectionate ghosts: the grandmother,
The lively bachelor uncle at the Christmas party,
The beloved nursemaid - those who enfold
Your childhood years in comfort, mirth, security-
If they returned, would it not be embarrassing?
What would you say to them, or they to you
After the first ten minutes? You would find it difficult
To treat them as strangers, but still more difficult
To pretend that you are not strange to each other.


Edward:

You can hardly expect me to obliterate the last five years.


Unidentified Guest:

I ask you to forget nothing.  To try to forget
is to try to conceal.

Edward:

There are certainly things I should like to forget.


Unidentified Guest:

And persons also, but you must not forget them. You must
face them all, but meet them as strangers.  

Edward:

Then I myself must also be a stranger.


Unidentified Guest:

And to you as well, but remember
When you see your wife, you must ask no questions 
and give no explanations. I have said the same to her.
Do not strangle each other with knotted memories.
Now I shall go.




~ T. S. Eliot
excerpt from The Cocktail Party,
The Complete Poem and Plays
1909-1950
art by Teresa Bingham
with thanks to Death Deconstructed


0 comments: