Choruses from "The Rock: Introduction & Overview


"I am an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature, and a royalist in politics."

Published in 1934, T.S. Eliot's Choruses from "The Rock," represents the choruses that Eliot wrote for The Rock, a verse pageant-play. The play, complete with music and dance, was performed at Sadler's Wells Theatre from 28 May to 9 June 1934 in support of the Fund of the Diocese of London, an ecclesiastical charity that helped to preserve London's older churches, as well as build new churches in growing areas. Eliot's contributions to the play focus on the Church's history, some aspects of its theology, its place in the modern world, and speculation as to what the future holds.

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Overview

I --London is an example of the modern world, which has little desire for God or the Church. Modern work equally robs workers of a fulfilling vocation. The plight of the workmen is compared with that of the unemployed.

II -- The spiritual identity of the Church is contrasted with the fallen present.  The pseudo-Christian identity of British imperialism is one example of the Church always building, always decaying in its cycle of obedience and disobedience. The loss of parish is another example.

III -- This section adopts a prophetic voice that judges the modern world and its business of distraction and that looks to the Church's dependence on its true maker, God.

IV -- Nehemiah's experience reminds us of the conditions of building.

V -- Along with Nehemiah, the Church prays for protection from its modern enemies.

VI -- Why the modern world doesn't understand its Christian past and why it attempts to deny it.

VII -- A history of religion: animism, theism, monotheism, the Incarnation of Christ ("a moment in time and of time"); and secularism.

VIII -- The Roman Catholic Church ("Peter the Hermit") and the Medieval period show why the Crusades were not originally sinful.

IX -- Why the Church's public worship should be an occasion of joy and creativity. Likewise, why one should worship with the whole person, body and soul.

X -- Why we have sufficient light and need not be obsessed with the "Mystery of Iniquity." Praise for God's great light amidst the world's distractions.


Questions

  1. In this poem, how does Eliot conceive of the doctrine of vocation and the purpose of work?

  2. How does he characterize the modern world? the Church?

  3. How is God understood and praised in this poem?

  4. How does Eliot understand the past, present, and future here?

  5. What is the nature of sin and the world we live in?

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"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding