Why do you assume the poem has "a narrator"? That itself is a very
contested claim. And why, unless it is a lyric, would the narrator's
desire be the same as Eliot's? And in what sense is the wetness on the
Hyacinth girl's hair either lust or spiritual life since it seems quite
clearly to many readers an image of young and innocent desire?
I ask these questions because I am trying to suggest that the poem is
not a set of clues to a puzzle and it is not a set of limited categories
like "lust" vs. "spirit." Nor is it clearly spoken by one narrator--or
if it is, by whom? Some say Eliot; some say Tiresias; some say a
persona in the role of questor.
These isolated and disparate speculations need some context and overall
framework to provide a reading. I respond to you in this case only
because this is the message that turned up; the response is to a whole
line of commentary.
>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 07/31/07 7:56 PM >>>
If in one passage of the poem water is a metaphor for lust,
and later he prays for water, for what is he praying?
I can see Eliot believing that lust is destructive of the spiritual
but why would he yearn for it later?
My answer: Water is both destructive and regenerative -- as a metaphor
for lust, it is foul and destructive -- and as a metaphor for
spiritual life, it is clear and regenerative.
The narrator in TWL yearns for the clear, regenerative (life-giving)
water of spirituality and love.
You'll find a hint of this dual aspect of water in the following
elaboration of Eliot's Notes at
307] V. St. Augustine's Confessions:
"to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of
unholy loves sang all about mine ears." [Eliot's note]
St. Augustine, in his autobiography, writes of his falling-away as a
student from God into "a land of want" (III.10), specifically in
The passage that Eliot quotes continues as follows: "I was not yet in
love, but I was in love with love ... //I defiled the very source of
friendship by the filth of concupiscence, and its clear waters
I befouled with the lust of hell ....//
Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Dear CR: If in one passage of the poem water is a metaphor for
lust, and later he prays for water, for what is he praying? Water's
referent is so ambiguous as to be impossible to discern with any
certainty, and I see this as a flaw in the poem. If Phlebas refers at
least partly to Eliot's dear friend Jean Verdenal than the drowned
sailor represents a force that is destructive of emotional
satisfaction. I can see Eliot believing that lust is destructive of the
spiritual life, but why would he yearn for it later? Or is the poem
asserting that a certain quantity of water is destructive, but a little
bit is good? Then we want to know just how much is too much; that would
seem to be the whole point. Drips and drops are salvation but the sea is
death? But Eliot generally the sea as restorative. You see the problem.
From: Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Water in TWL
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2007 10:53:50 -0700
Here's a justification of Kate Troy's comment, "Isn't it simply
'irony' that she predicts death by water in the midst of a
In TWL "drought" is an objective correlative of the springs of love
(and consequently of life) gone dry.
And "water" is an objective correlative of either love or lust
-- depending upon how pure or impure the metaphoric water is --
"Sweet Thames" or the river that sweats "Oil and tar".
Incidentally, "the waters of Leman" is a phrase associated with
the fires of lust", Leman also meaning one who is loved illicitly,
especially a mistress. (Manju Jain, TS Eliot's Selected Poems,
In the wasteland context then, Kate's statement implies :
Madame Sosostris predicts death by water -- a death by
the waters of lust as evident in 'The Fire Sermon'.
She predicts such a death in the midst of a "drought",
i.e. in the midst of an emotional and spiritual drought
when the wellsprings of love have gone dry ("And voices
singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells").
Choose the right car based on your needs. Check out Yahoo! Autos new
Car Finder tool.