A Song for Simeon: Poem by T. S. Eliot Summary and Analysis

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A Song for Simeon
Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.
Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.

Who shall remember my house, 
where shall live my children’s children

When the time of sorrow is come ?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.

(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and The winter sun creeps by the snow hills; The stubborn season has made stand. My life is light, waiting for the death wind, Like a feather on the back of my hand. Dust in sunlight and memory in corners Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.
A Song for Simeon

Summary and Analysis

      Introduction: The poem is one of the Ariel Poems. The story of Simeon is told in the Bible. Simeon is an old and devout Jew of Jerusalem, awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. He has been told by the Holy Ghost that he is not to die until he has seen Christ and he has been guided to the temple where the child Jesus had been taken by his parents. Simeon took the child in his arms and said: "Lord, now latest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation..." He also prophesies of Mary mother of Christ the suffering to come: "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

      Summary: The poem begins with the Roman hyacinths indicative of the foreign domination blooming amidst the dead season and Simeon waits for death. After he has prayed, he shudders to think of what will happen "When the time of sorrow is come." Before that time, he begs, let the child Christ grant consolation to him. Simeon will not have the 'ultimate vision', for he shall die before that. He refers to the martyrdom of Christ. The last lines extend the Simeon state of mind into the future. His fatigue is like that of those who will come after him; so is his dying. The final petition is that the faithful servant be allowed to depart without further participation, having already 'seen thy salvation'. The 'saints stair' is not for him.

      Critical Appreciation: Experience is translated partly into traditional Christian symbols, and partly into private creations. The mingling of the abstract and the concrete characterise the opening images. The death of Simeon, who has seen the salvation, becomes the symbol of the renewing death that may be experienced by all. The poem is a Christian expression of the paradoxical life that comes through death.

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