restricted access Prefatory Note to The Rock: A Pageant Play...Book of Words by T. S. Eliot.
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[ 89 Prefatory Note to The Rock: A Pageant Play . . . Book of Words by T. S. Eliot.1 London: Faber & Faber, 1934. Pp. 86; Prefatory Note [5]; together with “The Story of the Pageant,” and Foreword on the Play by T. S. Eliot and Martin Browne. Sadler’s Wells Theatre Programme for The Rock, May 28th‒June 9th, 1934 [London: Sadler’s Wells] [7]. I cannot consider myself the author of the “play,” but only of the words which are printed here.2 The scenario, incorporating some historical scenes suggested by the Rev. R. Webb Odell, is by E. Martin Browne, under whose direction I wrote the choruses and dialogues, and submissive to whose expert criticism I rewrote much of them.3 Of only one scene am I literally the author: for this scene and of course for the sentiments expressed in the choruses I must assume the responsibility. I should like to make grateful acknowledgment of the collaboration of Dr. Martin Shaw, who composed the music. To Mr. F. V. Morley I am indebted for one speech for which technical knowledge of bricklaying was required; to Major Bonamy Dobrée for correcting the diction of the Christopher Wren scene; to Mr. N. F. Cachemaille-Day for information concerning the relations of architects, contractors and foremen. The Rev. Vincent Howson has so completely rewritten, amplified and condensed the dialogue between himself (“Bert”) and his mates, that he deserves the title of joint author.4 T. S. E. April 1934 *  *  *  * The Story of the Pageant The Rock is not a pageant in the usual sense. It does not consist of a number of historical scenes or tableaux in order of time. The aim is not merely to remind people that churches have been built in the past, but to employ the historical scenes to reinforce, in appropriate places, the emphasis upon the needs of the present. Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1934 90 ] The direct action of the play is concerned with the efforts and difficulties of a group of bricklayers engaged in building a modern church. At the beginning of the play they are seen working upon the foundations; later the half-built church is shown. When the builders have finished, decorators of various kinds complete the work, and the church is shown ready for its dedication . And during the course of construction the builders experience difficulties – from poor soil for the foundations, from the fear of lack of money to continue the work, from an agitator and a tumultuous mob, from critics who complain that the church is too ornate, or that it is too “modern.” Besides the immediate troubles experienced by the group of workmen representedbyBert ,AlfredandEdwin,themoregeneraldifficultiesoftheChurch in the Modern World are symbolized in the action: the difficulties of the Church opposed, ignored, or interfered with by the secular tendencies of the present age. A Chorus, as in Greek Tragedy, comments in verse from time to time upon the needs and troubles of the Church to-day, and upon the action. This Chorus opens both parts of the play, and from time to time appeals to “The Rock,” who, though he takes little part in the action, symbolizes the permanence and continuity of the Church of God, and its resistance to the forces of evil and dissolution. After the opening chorus, and some words of encouragement and consolation by “The Rock,” a chant of Builders is heard, followed by a chant of the Unemployed, to which the Builders reply. The light then discovers the modern bricklayers discussing their work and many other things as well. A remark by one of them leads to an “experiment with time,” in which the builders find themselves spectators of the conversion of Sabert, King of London, and his Saxon followers, by the Roman missionary Mellitus.5 After this scene they resume their work, but under great difficulties: the groundisswampy.TothemappearsRahere,thebuilderofSt.Bartholomew’s, and after reassuring them he and his men give them supernatural aid in the work.6 They are next confronted by social opposition, in the form of an agitator and a mob; and their momentary conflict with the mob calls up to our memory, as so upon the stage as the following scene, the troubles of Nehemiah in rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem.7 In the second part the building (interspersed with other historical scenes) is completed. A scene of the Reformation reminds us of the dangers of destruction. A group of scenes towards the end recall the dedication...


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