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TSE  September 2006

TSE September 2006

Subject:

Re: Eliot, India and Untranslated Language

From:

Vishvesh Obla <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 20 Sep 2006 06:09:38 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (88 lines)

Diana,

I read this book a year or so before after someone in
this list suggested me about it.  It was a great book
and certainly did give one a direction in
understanding rightly the Indic influence on Eliot.
Earlier to reading it, I had read a few Indian writers
(not books, but articles) on Eliot on the same subject
which were hardly impressive since they seemed to me
to make far-fetched conjectures based on certain
comparisons which were hard to prove or disprove (I
hate to use the words prove and disprove in poetry; I
can't find a better equivalent here).   For, Indian
poetry (I am talking of its ancient poetry) has
another dimension to it which hardly falls under the
realms of modern literary criticism, and any attempts
to relate to it are very ‘subjective’.  This book
didn’t have that limitation ; or so it appeared to me.

I am very much interested to know what you think of
Yeats’ poetry, particularly his later works in which
he was involved in experimenting with ‘automatic
writing’.  I don’t know if Eliot has made any specific
comments on them.  Eliot did consider Yeats a major
poet though the movement that gave rise to his poetry
seems to me to have rejected him.  Yeats doesn’t seem
to me to have a direct influence of Indian poetry as
much as Eliot, but he seems to me to have had an
indirect feel of it through Rabindranath Tagore, whose
‘Gitanjali’ he always carried with him.  Inspired by
the ‘magic’ realms of his Celtic past, Yeats’ poetry
seems to me to posses very much what Eliot called as
the ‘auditory imagination’, that gave rise to many
subtle, informal rhythms in his poetry.   I would
guess that there should be some connection Eliot could
have made with Yeats’ works in the context of his
Indian influence.  I would appreciate if you or anyone
else has anything to say on this.  Thank you.

- vishvesh


--- Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


---------------------------------

In T.S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry
and Belief, Cleo McNelly Kearns describes Eliot's
study of the Vedas under Charles Lanman at Harvard,
and notes his special interest in the Rig and Sama
Vedas in which "the aid of the gods was often invoked
by means of mantras for the purpose, among other
things, of averting drought...mantras correctly
uttered or sung became part of the liturgy of
sacrifice which gave them additional authority...and a
mantra's efficacy was not dependent on its meaning but
rather on the subjective effect of the exacting mental
discipline involved in its correct utterance, and the
accompanying mode of breathing."

Kearns goes on: "Eliot translated these dimension of
mantra-shakti, or mantra power, to the language of
poetry, where meaning was also, for him, communicated
through sound or effect, which depended on quite
subtle arrangments of rhythm, breath, and sound (what
he called 'the auditory imagination.)

"...So directly did Eliot wish to incorporate these
auditory aspects of mantra into his work that he
employed at the end of The Waste Land the mantric
forumula "Shantih, shantih, shantih...." Kearns notes
that Eliot omitted the Om that traditionally precedes
this mantra.

I found this pertinent to our discussion of why Eliot
did not translate languages in his poetry, but
presented them in the original languages. 

Diana




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