In Which We Redeem the Surrogate Goodbyes

The Poetry of Young Samuel Beckett

Long acknowledged in these pages as the second finest writer of all time, Beckett’s poetry never pleased scholar Christopher Ricks. In our view it is still an interesting window into his mind, and fine poetry in its own right. Decide for yourself below. Christopher Ricks:

Beckett’s earliest ambition was to be a poet, or (better) to write good poems. In the June 1930 issue of transition , when he was 24, the notes on contributors (affectedly headed Glossary) said simply: “Samuel Beckett, an Irish poet and essayist, is instructor at the Ecole Normale in Paris.” In the next year, the headnote to his four poems in The European Caravan announced that “SB Beckett is the most interesting of the younger Irish writers”, and went on to say that he “has adapted the Joyce method to his poetry with original results. His impulse is lyric, but has been deepened through this influence and the influence of Proust and of the historic method.”

(The historic method?) Anyway, these were the young Beckett’s hopes, and he became a great writer when they evaporated. There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream, but not in the early poems of Beckett. Clotted, coagulated, corrugated, rhythmically unhearable, they are erudite beyond belief and beyond impingement, and they matter only as material that on occasions illuminates his later greatness.

Echo’s Bones

asylum under my tread all this day
their muffled revels as the flesh falls
breaking without fear or favour wind
the gantelope of sense and nonsense run
taken by the maggots for what they are



why not merely the despaired of
occasion of

is it not better abort than be barren

the hours after you are gone are so leaden
they will always start dragging too soon
the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want
bringing up the bones the old loves
sockets filled once with eyes like yours
all always is it better too soon than never
the black want splashing their faces
saying again nine days never floated the loved
nor nine months
nor nine lives


saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending

I and all the others that will love you
if they love you


unless they love you


again the last ebb
the dead shingle
the turning then the steps
towards the lights of old

Da Tagte Es

redeem the surrogate goodbyes
the sheet astream in your hand
who have no more for the land
and the glass unmisted above your eyes

You can buy the collected poetry and short fiction of Samuel Beckett here.


“Sheba Baby” – TV on the Radio (mp3)

“Golden Age” – TV on the Radio (mp3)

“On A Train” – TV on the Radio (mp3)

“Yr God” – TV on the Radio (mp3)


Beckett: An Outsider in His Own Life

Beckett, Still Stirring

Letter to Axel Kaun:

It is indeed becoming more and more difficult, even senseless, for me to write an official English. And more and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. Grammar and Style. To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true gentleman. A mask. Let us hope the time will come…when language is most efficiently used where it is being most efficiently misused. As we cannot eliminate language all at once, we should at least leave nothing undone that might contribute to its falling into disrepute. To bore one hole after another in it, until what lurks behind it—be it something or nothing—begins to seep through; I cannot imagine a higher goal for a writer today.

Directing Samuel Beckett’s Film by Alan Schneider

Beckett to Alan Schneider in 1960: “I dream sometimes of all German directors of plays with perhaps one exception united in one with his back to the wall and me shooting a bullet into his balls every five minutes till he loses his taste for improving authors.”

Beckett at wikiquote

Beckett’s first postwar novel

Game Without End: Fintan O’Toole on SB

Beckett beyond biography

If by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot.

Colm Toibin on Beckett’s Irish actors

Stephen Spender on The Unnameable

When asked by an interviewer if he was English, Samuel Beckett is supposed to have replied, “Au contraire.”

Beckett at 100

Beckett film and video at UbuWeb

Leslie Fiedler on Murphy

Don’t wait to be hunted to hide, that’s always been my motto. – Molloy

buy Beckett at Amazon


We were sort of concerned you’d be drowned within our sea.

We went to see Emily Haines.

We saluted Camille Paglia.

4 thoughts on “In Which We Redeem the Surrogate Goodbyes

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