I agree with you about the value of Miller.
Nearly all of Eliot's poetry is filled with pain, as was much of his life--and the lives of those he cared about and betrayed and abandoned. My concern was not with "pain" but with "commemorate"--to honor the memory of with a ceremony or to serve as a memorial. I thought and think now that there is nothing unique or exceptional in Eliot's pain (except the sharp brilliance of his words about it) and certainly nothing to honor. While he was having marriage miseries and the flu, millions were dying in trenches and on barbed wire and in gas attacks. And when this message came, thousands in New Orleans were pleading for help and dying in the streets and shelters with nothing to ease them.
It is a credit, perhaps, to Eliot that he wrote of Gerontion that he was "not at the hot gates," not bitten by flies or fighting. He understood with real precision the kinds of suffering he experienced and its comparisons. He made a very telling comparison of himself with Maurice when the latter came back from France and described the trenches and nights in freezing water shooting rats. ("He is thoroughly WORN OUT and from some of the horrors which he once entertained us with I am not surprised. A boy of nineteen [for he had his twentieth birthday with us] who is quite used to the sight of disjecta membra and has spent nights when he couldn't sleep in shooting rats with a revolver, makes me feel comparatively immature--TSE, Letters, 147)) And yes, there are valid comparisons of suffering: it is not an issue of competition but of kinds of meaning. Making a kind of personal or moral figure of iconic suffering or virtue out of a poet who had the insight not to do it of himself (and god knows he was scathing about others) seems to me to make this discussion meaningless.
The great value of Miller was that he showed just how personal the pain was, how the poetry revealed it, and what its source might well have been. I'm eager to see his new book.
As for "bleeding hearts"--a cliché of more-than-usual vacuity--, better a bleeding heart than no heart.
>>> [log in to unmask] 09/10/05 9:26 PM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> I am not clear about what point is being made. Why are you
> "commemorating" Eliot's pain--especially since it was an apparently very
> personal psychoneurosis (his own account, not mine--"aboulia," emotional
> not mental, etc., see letters) in a time when very terrible death and
> sorrow is occuring to thousands?
On my first real encountering of Eliot (specifically TWL in a poetry
class) I was extremely frustrated. Fortunately the university library
had a copy of "T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the
Demons" by James E. Miller Jr. (now once again in print.) Miller's
explaination of TWL was a portrayal of Eliot's personal pain through
WW I and the immediate post-war years. It was Miller's book that
attracted me to TWL and to TSE and caused me to sympathize with
Eliot's problems. It got me hooked in a big way.
And, at teh hi risk of encurrin' Jaceks rath, hear are sum URL's pushin'
Miller's new book:
His "Personal Waste Land" book: