Nancy Gish wrote:
> Excellent question. I don't know, but I didn't write the line. How does a worm fly in the night? How are lovers like a metal implement for making accurate circles? How can one take arms against a sea of troubles? How can one have a mind of winter? How is an infant like a fat gold watch?
> None of which changes the fact that "laugh" is not and cannot be the subject in the line, even if it is a dumb line.
I think one can make some distinctions here -- if one reduces what Tate
et al declared as an evaluative principle to descriptive of some
'species' of poetry. Donne's compasses (his vehicle in Richards's
terminology) have to be taken literally, for they tie the circumference
to the center, and the poem asserts that the travelling lover is held as
tightly to his lady. In the case of "love" and "red, red rose" the 'tie'
is looser: The the speakers' love expresses the best of love as the rose
expresses the best of floral beauty: two qualities are being compared
(das are two actions in Donne's poem) and the vehicle, taken (sort of)
literally captures the quality of the love. Blake's worm, rose, As I
said in an earlier post, I don't eeally know what to do with Blake (and
neither did any of the New Critics), but I think something at least of
real worms, real rose's, real crimson is present, but not in the way
objects are in either Donne or Burns. The poem is incoherent if one
tries to give "rose" as much concrete presence as Donne's compasses
have. Nevertheless somewhere in the background a real worm is eating at
the heart of a real rose.
Back to Eliot's line. Diana doesn't lie the line -- that's a given, and
not really arguable. I have come to rather like it, and I believe the
force of it partly depends on taking the catachresis of a laughing
foetus seiiously. There is something weird about Apollonax's laught --
and if a foetu dis laugh, that's how it would laugh. That we don't know
how a foetus could or would laugh is irrelevant to our getting a grip on
Mr. Aopollonax.`"Dry and passionate," incidentally, are not wholly
compatible attributes of the same talk, and it is hard tovisualize a
talk "devouring" anything -- but to object, really, is to argue that
Eliot shouldn't have written a poem on Mr. Apollinax, that Mr. Apollinax
is an inappropriate subject for a poem because to capture his reality
one needs to resort to impossible imagery. One can reject the _whole_
poem, but one can't keep the poem and reject the foetus, which in
context is perfectly decorous.