>I see the parallel imagery with "Preludes," but Eliot used and reused
>and reused images throughout his work. They are not just repetitions
>but re-creations, I think.
Yes, that is why I called them "reworkings" rather than "repetitions."
>I also do not see how this brings us any closer to a reason for reading
>the poem as symbolic of the struggle to write.
It probably doesn't. However, I think that spending "hour on hour of
prayer" and feeling one's soul "stretched tight across the skies" are
experiences of struggling with something.
>I think it is about what it depicts.
I've just come across an article by Richard A. Kaye in
_Modernism/modernity_ (Vol.6, No. 2, April 1999, p. 107-134) that
says: "the St. Sebastian poem afforded Eliot the opportunity to
assert a resolute modernist stance in opposition to a leading strain
in late-romantic poetics" (112). Carrol, you might find it
interesting that on the same page, Kaye says:
if, as John Berryman claimed, the title of 'The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock' is 'intensely anti-romantic . . . a rebuke
to the (probably romantic) reader,' that rebuke is even
greater for the implied romantic reader of 'The Love Song
of St. Sebastian.' [Ellipsis is Kaye's]
Kaye's citation to Berryman reads: John Berryman, "Prufrock's
Dilemma," in _The Freedom of the Poet_ (New York: Farrar, Straus, and
Giroux, 1972), 273.
> In any case, Eliot talks about the poem in a letter to Conrad Aiken (25
>July 1914) for what its worth--pp 44 and 46-7 in the Letters. He
>suggests that the poem is about the feelings of a St. Sebastian and
>raises the question of homosexuality in order to deny it.
As it happens, the title of Kaye's article is "'A Splendid Readiness
for Death': T. S. Eliot, the Homosexual Cult of St. Sebastian, and
World War I." On page 118 Kaye says that Eliot "effectively
transformed the martyr from a figure of specifically homosexual
significance into one suggestive of a more generalized perversity
that was nonetheless recognizably nonhomosexual."