Dante fell in love; he does not, to my knowledge, record an effort to be
sexual with Beatrice in the woods. The fear is predicated of the wood in
Dante's opening lines, not--in the passage given--of the three beasts, who
turn up a bit later. And the old waiter recalls the scene of his childhood
sensuality as beautiful--not frightening; the dog was the problem. He was
seven at the time. He was not in the middle way. When he tells the story,
he is old and dirty and not going anywhere. One of the ironies is that the
narrator is so disgusted by the waiter as if it were the old man thinking of
the girl when he is describing the time of his childhood, but the narrator is
outraged and, as I said, humiliated and humiliating.
You're right; I do not agree with the preoccupation with finding what you call
"jumps" and I do not think in this case they are there anyway.
Date sent: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 14:49:55 EST
Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
From: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia'm not saying that Steve's
In a message dated 3/18/01 1:49:04 PM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
> The connections are arbitrary. There are woods all over 2 millennia of
> Western poetry.
As I understood it, from Steve's description, the commentator was noticing
that in Dan le Restaurant, the waiter is frightened by an animal (dog).
And in the opening of the Commedia Dante is frightened by three animals
(lion,. leopard, wolf).
Also you'll recall that Eliot spoke about the portion of La Vita Nuova
where Dante tells of falling in love with Beatrice at age 9. Eliot says
the number 9 might have been chosen for symbolic reasons, as we should
understand that sexual awareness first occurs at an earlier age (Mr. Eliot
as the good little Freudian!). And now we have Eliot writing his own poem
about a person's earliest awareness of sexuality. So there's a lot of
detail to sort out before one can answer Steve's question, and I'd really
like to see the entire article.
The "mid-way" of life is not like the "mid-way" of some child's sexual
fantasy interrupted by a big dog. None of it is LIKE Dante.
The animals that accost Dante are usually interpreted by the annotators of
the Commedia as symbols of the lusts of the flesh, so it's not out of the
question, in my opinion, that Steve's author might have noticed something
of interest. Also it's typical of Eliot to make precisely the kind of
jumps you want to brush aside in this case--mid-way of one thing becomes
mid-way of something else. To take a word Dante used in one sense and
it in another sense is one way of achieving repetition with variation,
that good old "Classical" value. Poets make these kinds of jumps all the
time, maybe Eliot far more often than you're allowing. Again, how is one
supposed to decide without reading the whole article?
The poem ends in the Phlebas episode, which does not fit into any of this
unless you want to claim it is a kind of Dantesque punishment or you want
to stick on a divine salvation of purification by water.
I don't like to discuss Dans le Resatuarant without Dirge, and I've taken
the position that all three of Eliot's drowned men are the same drowned
man--that we're being offered multiple views of a single corpse, not
multiple corpses. And that it's all the drowning of Dante's Ulysses,
filtered through Joyce's Ulysses. Notice that Phlebas first appears as a
Phoenician, and Joyce rightly or wrongly believed that Homer's Odyssey
(where Ulysses is the main character) was based on an earlier Phoenician
story. So drowning is in fact a Dantesque punishment, at least for
Ulysses. On the waiter's need for a bath, Dante is told to wash himself in
Purgatory. So there's some intimation that he needed to do so, that he
wasn't clean when he entered the "dark woods." On origins, my sense is
that Eliot's drowning episodes were intended at least in part as
actualizations of Prufrock's anticipatory drowning ("human voices wake us
and we drown"). I'm surprised that those who want an autobiographical
slant haven't addressed the question of what drowning--that persistent
image!--might have meant to Eliot. Here one can haul out Freud and Jung
and really make sense.
Again, I'm not saying I agree with Steve's author--I too want to see more
connectors, as well as the entire article. Maybe he'll just send it to me,
if nobody else wants to read it.