Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service: Summary and Analysis

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Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service
 
Look, look, master, here comes two religious caterpillars.
Jew of Malta.
 
POLYPHILOPROGENITIVE
The sapient sutlers of the Lord
Drift across the window-panes.
In the beginning was the Word.
 
In the beginning was the Word.
Superfetation of, TÒ ÈV
And at the mensual turn of time
Produced enervate Origen.
 
A painter of the Umbrian school
Designed upon a gesso ground
The nimbus of the Baptized God.
The wilderness is cracked and browned
 
But through the water pale and thin
Still shine the unoffending feet
And there above the painter set
The Father and the Paraclete.

.    .    .    .    .    .

The sable presbyters approach
The avenue of penitence;
The young are red and pustular
Clutching piaculative pence.
 
Under the penitential gates
Sustained by staring Seraphim
Where the souls of the devout
Burn invisible and dim.
 
Along the garden-wall the bees
With hairy bellies pass between
The staminate and pistilate,
Blest office of the epicene.
 
Sweeney shifts from ham to ham
Stirring the water in his bath.
The masters of the subtle schools
Are controversial, polymath.

Look, look, master, here comes two religious caterpillars. Jew of Malta.   POLYPHILOPROGENITIVE The sapient sutlers of the Lord Drift across the window-panes. In the beginning was the Word.
Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service

Summary and Analysis

      Introduction: The poem is one of the quatrain poems, and is a satire on the decay of religion. Once again the contrast is between then and now.

      Summary: In the centre of the poem is the fundamental Christian concept - "In the beginning was the World". Then a second and superinduced conception produced Origen's view. He thus became the casual link in this change of "the One" into the many. The first word of the poem is a learned word, and mocks at the quality that unites the modern church functionary with the world of caterpillars.

      These very prolific camp-following merchants of the Lord pass by the windows, before taking up the offering. Eliot goes on to describe a painting of the Baptism of Christ. The lines are full of implications. The simple humanity of the figure still reminds man of the redemption of his offences. In ironic contrast are placed several symbols of ugliness and degradation and complicated parallel between the sterility of the worker bees and that of the "word" of sectarian theological argument. The neuter worker bees at least fertilize the flowers, and so may be said to perform a "blest office" in the scheme of Nature; but the same cannot be said of the "sapient sutlers of the Lord". The "sable presbyters" move like the "religious caterpillars" of the epigraph, who were more interested in getting his "piaculative pence" than in saving his soul. Finally, we have the degrading contrast between Sweeney wallowing in his bath and the figure of the baptized god.

      Critical Appreciation: The poem is complex, but has been called by one critic "rather cool juggling with religious history." The poem seems to take delight in the play of words and in making obscurely learned references.

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