Can you remember a high school English teacher trying to lead you through the poetry of T.S. Elliot?  It was all a bit abstruse for me (and still is.)  But the last four lines of “The Hollow Men” have been resonant as I digest all the news about the environmental damage we keep inflicting: 

This is the way the world ends 

This is the way the world ends 

This is the way the world ends 

 Not with a bang but a whimper. 

T.S. Eliot “The Hollow Men” 1925
 

The cartoon at the bottom is from THE NEW YORKER, January 27, 2020 

© 2020 Steven E. Cutts 
a Studio C recording 


They tell us that the world began with one stupendous bang 

On a Tuesday in the middle of the void. 

Hot cosmic winds roared outward into what we now call space 

With surround-sound universe-creating noise. 

But at the other end of Time (maybe not so long from now!) 

There is apt to be less drama; here’s the rumor: 

We’re done with cataclysmic blasts: a quietness will mark the last – 

An apocalyptic, tender little murmur.

 

When the whimper will arrive, there’s no way of knowing, 

But for anything still alive, that’ll be the cue for going. 

With one collective gasp the last of us’ll pass 

Extinguished by the Big Whimper. 

 

Sixty million years ago a dinosaur looked up 

And watched the flaming asteroid come toward her. 

She shrugged her reptile shoulders and went back to chomping leaves, 

And all at once there was a new world order. 

Now we are limping closer to another extinction, 

But this one a more subtle finale. 

We’re fruitful; we have multiplied; turns out that that’s been suicide; 

We’re much too late to recognize our folly. 

 

When the whimper will arrive . . . 

 

There will come the moment when the birds have gone away. 

We’ll listen, but the woods will be so still. 

Please wave a last goodbye; Mother Earth can heave a sigh 

And start from scratch to patiently rebuild. 

 

When the whimper will arrive . . .