The Nobel Prizeâ€“winning author created the words for this unique play about religion in the twentieth century.
The choruses in this pageant play represent a new verse experiment on Mr. Eliotâ€™s part; and taken together make a sequence of verses about twice the length of â€śThe Waste Land.â€ť
Mr. Eliot has written the words; the scenario and design of the play were provided by a collaborator, and the purpose was to provide a pageant of the Church of England for presentation on a particular occasion. The action turns upon the efforts and difficulties of a group of London masons in building a church. Incidentally, a number of historical scenes, illustrative of church-building, are introduced. The play, enthusiastically greeted, was first presented in England, at Sadlerâ€™s Wells; the production included much pageantry, mimetic action, and ballet, with music by Dr. Martin Shaw.
Immediately after the production of this play in England, Francis Birrell wrote in The New Statesman: â€śThe magnificent verse, the crashing Hebraic choruses which Mr. Eliot has written had best be studied in the book. The Rock is certainly one of the most interesting artistic experiments to be given in recent times.â€ť
The Times Literary Supplement also spoke with high praise: â€śThe choruses exceed in length any of his previous poetry; and on the stage they prove the most vital part of the performance. They combine the sweep of psalmody with the exact employment of colloquial words. They are lightly written, as though whispered to the paper, yet are forcible to enunciate . . . . There is exhibited here a command of novel and musical dramatic speech which, considered alone, is an exceptional achievement.â€ť