Of course there is no one authentic reading of a poem,
to the exclusion of all others, even by the poet. The
resonances are there. They have an effect, sometimes stronger than others.
They are a form of http (hypertext transmission protocol). One can click
on them or not.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2008 4:21 PM
Subject: Re: Eliot's French poems from "March Hare"
I have not read it that way, but it seems to me a quite valid reading.
I do think it a general problem to read Eliot always through his
allusions: as I have argued before they can as easily displace what is
immediately IN the poem as they can incorporate more. I think in this
case that the parallels can be read alongside the continuing sense of
another self, an alter, who is degraded and old and numb. Here that
self comes back to tell his story, like so many Dante characters. I
never have thought it revealed much to try to match him up with Yeats or
Dante or any prior poet. What you say does work.
>>> Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]> 11/29/08 6:59 PM >>>
I've been looking more at the Little Gidding line when the narrator
meets the 'familiar compound ghost'. Commentaries that I've read point
at an allusion to Dante's Inforno, Canto XV, when Dante meets Ser
Brunetto Latini in the circle of the sodomites. There is fire all around
and Dante says:
(Inferno XV: 25-30)
And I, when he stretched out his arm to me,
Fixed my eyes on his baked aspect, so that the
scorching of his visage hindered not
My mind from knowing him; and bending my
Face to his, I answered: "Are you here, Ser Brunetto?"
In Little Gidding, the narrator is describing the aftermath of a bombing
(presumably during World War 2) and the description is reminiscent of
the fire and smoke in Dante's Canto XV:
"Between three districts where the smoke arose . . .
. . . in the brown baked features
The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable."
So the similarities in language, i.e., the 'signals' of an allusion (and
not just a coincidence of words) include:
a) The fact that the people encountered in each poem have a scorched
b) The use of the specific word 'baked' by both Dante and TSE to
describe the scorched face.
b) The smoke in the scene.
c) The surprised and specifically worded phrase, "Are _you_ here?" when
the speakers meet in each poem.
If that's right, then isn't it also reasonable to infer that _both_ the
narrator and the 'ghost' would be (figuratively speaking) in the same
'circle' in Dante's Inferno, given that they are addressing each other?
So I assumed a double part, and cried
And heard another's voice cry: What! Are _you_ here?"
That is, the narrator is saying that both he and the 'ghost' are saying
_to each other_, "What! Are _you_here?". This is the line said by Dante
to express his surprise that his teacher, Ser Brunetto Latini, is in the
circle of the sodomites.
It seems to me that the inference is that the narrator and the ghost
recognize each other as homosexuals. That seems to fit into the
'confessional' nature of this passage (e.g., "the shame of motives late
revealed, and the awareness/ of things ill done and done to others'
harm/ Which once you took for exercise of virtue").
Do you read this section of 4Q in this way, at least in part?
-- Tom --
> Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2008 15:03:22 -0500> From: [log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Eliot's French poems from "March Hare"> To:
[log in to unmask]> > I think the similarity is there and complex. I
addressed it in an essay> in Cassandra's and my book:> > Even the
"familiar compound ghost" of "Little Gidding," who returns with> wisdom,
recalls the division when "body and soul begin to fall> asunder"--a
dissolution comparable to that of Prufrock in "Pervigilium":> "And as he
sang the world began to fall apart." This figure, much> explicated and
identified with other poets, is also a transformed> version of the
double--in this case explicitly identified: "So I> assumed a double
part, and cried . . . Knowing myself yet being someone> other--." The
streets they walk are "streets I never thought I should> revisit."
Though this figure is represented as a ghost and a "dead> master," he is
also represented as the speaker's self, and, like the> other doubled
figures of old men, one whose memory of tastelsense/ Without enchantment"
and of the dissolution of body> and soul
parallels those of other doubles."> > Stetson is an earlier double, not
"old" but ancient, both contemporary> and from the past, like Tiresias.
But such figures run through all of> Eliot. > > Nancy> > >>> Tom Colket
<[log in to unmask]> 11/29/08 2:44 PM >>>> > Rick Parker wrote:> > R>
I've been doing some re-reading on Eliot's friend Jean Verdenal> R>
recently and how he appears in TSE's poems (or, more skeptically,> R>
how he may possibly appear in them.) . . .> R> I was taken with the
Marin!/Sailor! line and how it> R> echoed TWL's "Stetson!" line (and
then found out that Ricks> R> noticed it too -- but of course). I'm not
sure what to make> R> of this but Stetson had a corpse and Corbière> R>
had one too -- his own body.> > Rick:> > I also noticed the similarity
between the "Stetson!" line from TWL> (about a sailor at Mylae) and the
"Marin!/Sailor!" line from 'Tristan> Corbière' (They even visually look
the same with their exclamation mark> after a single word). > > I wonder
if TSE continues this in Little Gidding with the 'ghost' that> he
meets:> > -----------------> So I assumed a double part, and cried> And
heard another's voice cry: What! Are _you_ here?"> -----------------> >
Again we have the single word followed by an exclamation mark>
("Stetson!", "Marin!", "What! Are _you_here?"). Also, the TWL line also>
has the narrator 'shouting/crying': 'There I saw one I knew, and
stopped> him, crying: "Stetson!"', as does the Little Gidding line
("cried/And> heard another's voice cry:").> > The 'water/dead sailor'
image is brought up later in the poem with:> > ----------> So I find
words I never thought to speak> In streets I never thought to revisit>
When I left my body on a distant shore.> --------> > -- Tom --> > Date:
Sun, 23 Nov 2008 05:26:24 -0500> From: [log in to unmask]>> Subject:
Re: Eliot's French poems from "March Hare"> To:> [log in to unmask]> >
Thank you Tom (and your friend) for the> translations of those poems.> >
I have a few random thoughts I want to> share on the poems and Ricks'>
notes in Inventions of the March Hare.> >> The most general thought is
that Tristan Corbière was one of Paul>> Verlaine's poets poètes maudits
(accursed poets). I'm wondering if TSE,>> with his French poems, was
trying to be one in literary style if not>> lifestyle. Could someone who
knows the French poets make a comment>> please.> > Some links:>>
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Po%C3%A8te_maudit> > I've been doing some>
re-reading on Eliot's friend Jean Verdenal recently> and how he appears>
in TSE's poems (or, more skeptically, how he may> possibly appear in>
them.) That is coloring my remaining thoughts.> > One of Ricks' notes>
mentions the similarities between the lines in> "Tristan Corbière"> Des>
rayons de soleil, ...> (Sunbeams, on a warm afternoon show us, in the>
Luxembourg gardens ...)> with the rememberance of Verdenal mention in a>
Criteion commentary.> > The line> "The sea batters the Brittany coast
in> gusts."> brings to my mind Phlebas' Cornish seas (I'm assuming that>
Eliot had> the north shore ofMarin!/Sailor! line and how it echoed
TWL's> "Stetson!" line (and then> found out that Ricks noticed it too --
but of> course). I'm not sure> what to make of this but Stetson had a
corpse and> Corbière had one too> -- his own body.> > Regards,> Rick
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