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            Other echoes

Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,

Round the corner. Through the first gate,  (20)

Into our first world, shall we follow 

The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.

To put these lines into their context, here are the lines already considered. I have also added an underscore to the word “echo”.

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. (5)
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present. (10)
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.                                   (15)
                              But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
                        Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate, (20)
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.

Looking back we can a major shift in line 11 with the first “echo”. The first ten lines are philosophical and distant. But at line 11 we enter into some sort of memory and that memory is an “echo”. The echo is of “footfalls” and so of some movement which never happened (down the passage which we did not take). At line 15 there is a bit of a pause, should we follow after this memory?

Then in middle of line 17, someone else intrudes and pulls the “we” toward the door which was never opened. Here there are “other echoes”. We will meet these phantoms in a bit, but here are just sounds. 

So why this word “echo”. It is not a sound but the echo of the sound; it is not the original but the copy. By using the word “echo”, Eliot increases the dream quality. Also, these sounds are “echoes” because the original happened (or did not happen) in the past, but they are being experienced in the present. 

We also learn what is on the otherside of the door which was never opened, “the garden.” 

Raising the image of a “garden” holds all sorts of allusions, particularly in the hands of someone like Eliot. There is archetypal garden of Eden. There are also all of the wall, specially kept places as gardens. 

Here the garden is “an abstraction” and a “perpetual possibility” which exists “only in a world of speculation.” To enter through this door in the memory is to enter into this “world of speculation.” 

The image of the rose-leaves now comes into focus for we know where the roses came from: the garden in this memory. 

But how could there be “other echoes” in this space? If the first echoes were the hurried steps to the door, who is on the other side of this door. But the “reality” (if you will) of the echoes beckon: 

He then turns to the reader (?) “Shall we follow?” We could be overhearing his conversation with someone, or we could be the one spoken to: This would mean that in reading the poem, you are being addressed in the lines, “My words echo/Thus, in your mind.”  And even if the poem is addressed to a particular “you” and “we”, the fact remains that the reader of the poem is the one who is following down the path toward the garden.

There is something quite mythical about a speaking bird leading one toward a garden. I feel there must be a particular allusion here, but I do not know what it is. It might be an allusion to the Norse god of poetry, Bragi. Whatever the allusion, the image is charming. 

This bird calls “us” on quickly, and now we are hurrying down the pathway through the door, through the gate.

In lines 20-22 we have the word “first” used three times: It is the “first gate” and then twice “our first world.” When we couple this with the “garden” we have our first world is the garden: this points toward Eden – at least some pre-Fall world.

Now, Eliot will not actually place in the primeval garden, but there is a deliberate prelapsarian element: The fall may not be the fall of all humanity, but rather a much more personal “fall”. This is “our first world.”

Shall you (the reader, someone in particular to Eliot) and I (Eliot) open this gate in the memory and proceed to the world which didn’t happen and yet is this real to us?

There is one more point to consider, “The deception of the thrush.” What precisely is the thrush’s deception? That there is this “first world”? That we can enter it?  If I am being called into something which is abstraction and possibility, is the call to consider that at all a deception? 

Is it a deception to consider a world which never happened as a reality now?

And as we know from the first lines: this world which did not happen “point[s] to one end, which is always present.” This first world which did not happen brought about this present: a present where I am being deceived to enter a the garden of our first world.

It is fascinating because it allusive and difficult, but not muddled. He is describing something which cannot easily articulated: it is the vision out of the corner of your eye, the thought which startles and then slips away before you can focus. It is real and a deception; present and only a speculation.