“CRY what shall I cry?” In Eliot’s Coriolan II – Difficulties of A Statesman, the statesman repeatedly asks this question. He begins to get an answer as the allusion to Isaiah is confirmed: “All flesh is grass.” But the Word is cut short by the difficulties of the statesman. There are committees to be formed, military orders to be recognized, secretaries to be appointed, and salaries to be paid. He dreams of serenity and stillness, even calls for his mother, but his duties continue to barge in, disturbing this dream.
The full Scriptural reference is: “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, “What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass” (Isa 40:6). And a few verses later the section is completed: “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever” (Isa 40:8). John the Baptist will later identify himself as this crying voice (Jn 1:23). He cries to prepare the way of the Lord – the Word that speaks forever. But there are those who didn’t hear John, or didn’t want to. And there are those who cannot hear the Word, like Eliot’s statesman. The life of this latter statesman is one of distraction, drowning out the Voice of his calling.