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I shall not want Pipit in Heaven:

Madame Blavatsky will instruct me

In the Seven Sacred Trances;

From T S Eliot’s “ A Cooking Egg” Published 1920.

With wasted opportunities and his marriage

to childhood sweetheart Pipit having

burdened him with stultifying family Karma,

a failed intellectual turns to Esoteric Teachings

to regain control of his destiny.

Posted 19/1/07


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Thomas Stearns Eliot




A Cooking Egg

Published 1920



En l’an trentiesme de mon aage

Que toutes mes hontes j’ay beues…




PIPIT sate upright in her chair

Some distance from where I was sitting;

Views of the Oxford Colleges

Lay on the table, with the knitting.


Daguerreotypes and silhouettes,        5

Here grandfather and great great aunts,

Supported on the mantelpiece

An Invitation to the Dance.

                .    .    .    .    .

I shall not want Honour in Heaven

For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney        10

And have talk with Coriolanus

And other heroes of that kidney.


I shall not want Capital in Heaven

For I shall meet Sir Alfred Mond.

We two shall lie together, lapt        15

In a five per cent. Exchequer Bond.


I shall not want Society in Heaven,

Lucretia Borgia shall be my Bride;

Her anecdotes will be more amusing

Than Pipit’s experience could provide.        20


I shall not want Pipit in Heaven:

Madame Blavatsky will instruct me

In the Seven Sacred Trances;

Piccarda de Donati will conduct me.

                .    .    .    .    .

But where is the penny world I bought        25

To eat with Pipit behind the screen?

The red-eyed scavengers are creeping

From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green;


Where are the eagles and the trumpets?


Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps.        30

Over buttered scones and crumpets

Weeping, weeping multitudes

Droop in a hundred A.B.C.’s.




There is a preface in French to the poem,


En l’an trentiesme de mon aage

Que toutes mes hontes j’ay beues…


which I translate as “I enter my thirtieth year, shamed by wasted opportunity.” This introduces the concept of Karma, the law of cause and effect. Action is required to make something happen in one’s life and the speaker has clearly been a man of inaction.


The poem begins with a scene of domestic boredom in which the speaker is sitting with his wife in silence. The book “Views of the Oxford Colleges” suggests an aspirant but failed academic. A true Oxford Intellectual would have no need of such a book but there it sits, with the knitting. Eliot held a senior position with Lloyds Bank from 1917 to 1927 and the speaker may represent a suburban bank clerk of the period.


The stillness of the opening scene again evokes a sense of inaction.


Later in the poem the speaker refers to eating “with Pipit behind the screen”. In some Victorian households, young children were set apart from the adults by a partition at meal times. The “penny world” suggests treats from a tuck shop which would in this case be eaten during a family visit. He has clearly known Pipit since childhood.


The description of the pictures of Pipit’s long gone ancestors and the line “An invitation to the Dance  indicate a marriage into a suitable family which emerged from a limited social circle. There is a suggestion that the speaker has bought into family Karma that is a seriously limiting factor on his aspirations.


The title of the poem “A Cooking Egg” represents something that could become a living sentient animal but instead was stifled before it could even begin to develop its full potential.


The poem enter a second phase in which the speaker rejects four things which are limiting his aspirations and which he says he will not want in heaven. These are Honour, Capital, Society and Pipit.


This is my interpretation of what these represent;


Honour (Respectability)

Capital (The need keep up appearances)

Society (A limited and judgmental social circle)

Pipit (Karma)


The term “heaven” can be interpreted on 3 levels


1)    As a fantasy world into which the speaker escapes.

2)    As the cycle of death and rebirth which will ultimately liberate the speaker and give him new opportunities.

3)    As an student of Esoteric Teaching which will empower him to take control of his destiny.


All three are operational in the speaker’s life and I think that there is a good case for the hypothesis that Eliot is portraying someone about to enter into the spiritual path. The first three rejections show the speaker on a par with people who have made things happen and have made an imprint on the world. These doers contrast sharply with the speaker who is a man of inaction. The fourth rejection represents the method by which the speaker will raise his game.


All these representations are light hearted on the “just think what I could do basis” of a fantasist who probably does not realize what the spiritual path will involve. The main point being made is that the speaker has realized that a life that once offered so much has delivered so little and he has only himself to blame.


The speaker mentions receiving instruction from “Madame Blavatsky”. Eliot was known to have studied Theosophy and it is significant that he uses H P Blavatsky’s name


The “Seven Sacred Trances” although not a term that I have found in Theosophy represents levels of development or consciousness and could also represent levels of initiation within an Esoteric Group.


Piccarda de Donati probably represents a personal teacher


The last two verse of the poem expand the theme of great expectations coming to nothing;


“But where is the penny world I bought”


shows the high hopes of naďve childhood years and a suggestion that he never fully made the transition from childhood to adulthood.


“The red-eyed scavengers are creeping

From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green;”


This may be resentment directed towards people whom the speaker considers to be his social inferiors, who have seized the opportunities that should have been his.


“Where are the eagles and the trumpets?”


This line conveys images of Roman Generals returning in triumph. This is contrasted with “weeping multitudes” who “Droop in a hundred A.B.C.’s”. To the speaker you either live in victory or in defeat, there is no middle ground. In his life he has failed to win first prize in a world where there is no second prize.


(An A.B.C. was a tea shop run by the Aerated Bread Company Limited.)


The speaker shows at the end of the poem that the Karma of wasted opportunities affects a vast section of the population.





A Brief Biography of T S Eliot


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