"After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?"
Context: Through the procesess of his mind the being of Gerontion, and consequently of modern man, is revealed. Artistically the process is controlled by means of a complex, organic system of allusions, symbols, and concentrated imagery which, through the interrelation of Gerontion's life (life as represented in history and life in the religious experience) expresses the theme: the dilemma of the shriveled, sterile soul no longer able to respond to divine mysteries in a world that comprehends only rational meanings and appreciates only material values. The first stanza reveals the state of Gerontion, summarized in the line, "A dull head among windy spaces." Realizing his lack of any fulfilling heroic experiences, he also realizes that he has no spiritual substitute for his emptiness, all divine wonders and revelations–the greatest being Christ, "the word within a word"–having been diluted or adulterated by the exponents of a rational materialism. He finds that fear and doubt have robbed him of his spiritual responsiveness. History can offer no alternative means of redemption, and even the divine availability, when unembraced, becomes a threat instead of a hope. With the knowledge of God's revelation, unable to respond, yearning for a spiritual alternative to his condition, he contends with himself:
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think nowHistory has many cunning passages, contrived corridorsAnd issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,Guides us by vanities. . . .