The New Year: Drunk with Time


I was reminded by a reader’s visit of what I posted here three years ago today: Charles Baudelaire’s “Be Drunk” (below). A good-humored dissenting comment reminded of Baudelaire that

the man died at age 46 a syphilitic laudanum addict having spent fortunes of inherited money on prostitutes and wine.

Ah, well, we are such foibles as we possess. But something more, as Baudelaire attests.

The commenter directed us, in contrast, to T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, adding,

it is only in submission to time — not in escape from it — that liberation can be glimpsed.

I confess I go eternally (as it will be) back and forth in in my intuitions about time, yet think finally it is in some unity of submission and escape that time(lessness) is found – and that is where Eliot sought to take us. The Baudelaire and a very little Eliot below, from “Burnt Norton.”

Be Drunk

Translated by Louis Simpson

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”


“Burnt Norton”

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.


Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.




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