Sorry, I'm late with this post. People other than TSE have claimed me
Now a request - give me a bit of a break here folks. A lot of the
following is still first stage thinking and probably shouldn't be in
print but if I don't publish now the topic may flow to far under the
bridge. It is also a long post, using two of Rick Seddon's posts as
points of discussion and I include most of what he had to say here.
Thanks for writing Rick.
> [Rick gave several translations for the "I did not die and did not
> remain alive" line.]
Literally it appears to me to be "I did not die and did not remain
alive". You seem to have given more credence below to the Ciardi "I did
not die and yet I had lost life's breath". I think Ciardi may have
translated this way for two reasons, 1) his inclination for translation
(didn't he try for a triple rhyme? It has been a long time since I read
the Ciardi version, I won't say how many years, it'll give Gunnar a
hint to my age :-) 2) He may have wanted to work with Dante as a
normally breathing man, something Rick pointed out (see below).
> First off as I think is obvious there are subtle difference between all
> translations and Saha's claim to have an "exact equivalent" cannot
> just be accepted.
It is pretty close translation for the "I did not die and did not remain
alive" line. Dante denied a **change** to one state and denied
remaining in the other. Eliot wrote a denial of **being** in either of
the two states. Not exact but pretty damn close.
Ya gotta give the author a little bit of leeway with his (her?) words and
not treat "exact" as the same in the essay as in a mathmatical proof.
Even Eliot said something like Dante "repaired" the Inferno canto with
the divine Paradiso canto. Nope, it was more that he compensated for
> Saha also lifts the line out of the context of the riddle which it
> That is, if Dante is not dead but is not breathing then what is he? The
> Temple classics gives the entire tercet as "I did not die, and did not
> remain alive:now/ think for thyself, if thou hast any grain of/
> what I became, deprived of both / death and life. By taking the line out
> context Saha gives the line an emphasis that the entire tercet does not
> accord it.
Seems beside the point to me. I, having some ingenuity, would be
thinking about what Dante wrote and wouldn't need the rest of the line.
Eliot, with his shorter line knew that he didn't have to elaborate like
Also, TSE is not rewriting the Inferno. He uses others' lines in his
own way and for his own purposes so a subtle difference here shouldn't
mean that he wasn't thinking of both uses. (I probably confuse this
> Further, Eliot's objection to Canto 34 did not concern this riddle. It
> concerned the representation of Satan himself. During the trip through
> very bottom of hell there are huge perspective changes as Dante (Poet)
> finishes this canticle and readies the reader for the next. Dante's
> (Pilgrim) view of Satan shifts from an upright to an upside down Satan for
> example. Eliot and many other thoughtful readers of "Inferno" thought
> Dante (Poet) had not really succeeded in his description.
This is beside the point as far as Saha is concerned but I didn't see
this. To me it appeared that Eliot's complaint was that Dante should
not have had Satan suffering in the same way as a human.
> Given the above I find Saha's essay confusing and his conclusions forced,
> furthermore, as Nancy points out, Saha carries his conclusion into his
Thoughts for another time.
Now Rick's next post (addressing Steve):
> I do not think so! And again do not think so! What are they alluding to.
> The Dantean scenes bear no resemblence to the hyacinth garden scenes
> through torture.
I disagree. Both show rapture. Dante's through horror and Eliot's
garden scene though a combination of horror (like Dante in the Inferno)
and love (like Dante in the Paradiso.)
> TSE uses similar words in similar fashions but to be an allusion he must
> want to direct our attention to something Dantean. Dante in the line
> 25, Canto 34 quote is posing a riddle, a riddle that is bound up in
> Dante (pilgrim's) very nature.
I've commented on this above or below I think.
> Up until this point in _Inferno_ the defining characteristic of Dante
> (pilgrim) has been his breath. The dead and condemned souls do not
> breath. I repeat THE DEAD AND CONDEMNED SOULS DO NOT BREATH. Dante
> (pilgrim) always is breathing until this scene. In fact the condemn
> souls use his breathing to tell that he is not one of them.
Rick, this is what I meant about you leaning to the Ciardi translation.
Dante's Italian did not mention breathing. I'm not arguing your comment
on Dante, Rick but whether Dante was breating or not was not the point.
I see the point being that Dante was transformed by the experience of
seeing Satan. Something you agree to. But I also see a transforming
moment in the hyacinth garden. It is the similarity that is important.
> So what has happened? He has "experienced" death and condemnation and
> is now spiritually one with the condemned souls Yet he is not dead
> because he knows he still lives. He is now ready to proceed past Satan
> and on to _Purgatory_ where he will undergo purgation for his sin of
Sounds good to me, wonderful even. But this is the Divine Comedy you
write of. In TWL it doesn't have to be exactly the same. Still, you
may not be far off. With an interpretation like Steve's we have sin and
love happening at the same time. This sin leads to a need for
purgation, a jumping into the fire of purgation such as is done later in
TWL for the sin of lust. I'll be thinking of whether there is a
connection between a sin in the garden and the purgation in the future.
> Is this what you want TSE to be alluding to in the hyacinth scene? Of
> course my interpretation of the riddle is not necessarily correct but I
> would think that any allusion must answer Dante (pilgrim's) riddle.
Dante seems to want us to comtemplate a state of being where one is
neither dead nor alive. Eliot, the same. But Eliot doesn't present us
a riddle, he just knows that we will think about it.
> Why would TSE use an allusion to a Canto with which he has major
> Especially as you see this as a vital allusion to the entire meaning of
> (The Canto that I always skip is Canto 33 because of the horror that Dante
> (Poet) brings so vividly to my eye.)
Perhaps he wants us to consider some good lines and get some inspiration
a good section of a canto that has a failure in another part of it.
> Canto 34 is merely a transition which also serves to locate Dante
> (poet's) evilist of sinners; Judas, Brutus and Cassius. Even the
> eternal punishment of these arch sinners is unimaginative and not well
> done by Dante (Poet). Canto 34 merely ties up the trip of Dante
> (pilgrim) through hell, readies him for Purgatory and provides an exit
> from hell. It establishes hell as a one way trip. Once a level is
> visited no return on the same path is possible. An exit, bolt hole,
> must be provided for Dante (pilgrim) and Virgil. Canto 34 simply
> provides that bolt hole and transition to Purgatory.
Merely?! Then the riddle isn't important? Being shocked into a third
state of being is insignificant?
> You cannot just pick up similar words and phrases out of context. Context
> is the essence of allusion.
I think Saha made a good case for context. He pointed out the
similarities between TWL and the DC, indicated how they came from
sections of the poem that meant something special to TSE and assembled a
meaning out of them that makes at least a reasonable case for a meaning
to a section of the poem. And note that he was using this to counter a
personal meaning to TWL (which I don't think he did. As Steve mentioned
Saha's case can just as well support the Verdenal reading.) But read on
> TSE may very well have been struck by the rhythm of the translated words
> and wanted to use them. He may very well have first come in contact
> with those words in that sequence through a translation of Dante. That
> would show influence but does not constitute an intended (or even
> unconscious for those neo Freuds out there) allusion.
This is true, we might even agree that TSE got the words exactly the way
Saha postulated but still disagree that this was an allusion that Eliot
wanted us to see. I still haven't come to a conclusion on this but the
choice of words and the order does lead me to think there is **not** an
allusion for the reader intended here.
I have a harder time saying that Eliot did not use Saha's Dante lines as
a source or inspiration. Even that is tough to say though because both
poets were describing a mystical experience and may have seen it much
Now I have a real problem. I already believed this section to be
describing a mystical experience and now I have another interpretation
that I see supporting this. If it is not an intended allusion how
should I use it? I'm not sure yet. I don't think I should throw this
away. Using a courtroom analogy (sorry Tom) Saha might not have given
us evidence of meaning but he has presented us with something that can
indicate state of mind.
> BTW: It is the subtle differences that renders the Saha translation
> he evidently maintains as the only really possible?) inappropriate and
> forced to his conclusion.
I doubt that Saha would state that they are the only true translations.
> Dante is not positing a never never land between the living and the
> dead. He is pointing to a change in his spirtitual being. He is now
> aware of his sin and is ready for purgation.
A change, yes. Due to a mystical moment (although you have to wonder
about the import of such a moment as seeing Lucifer himself after
having had a tour of hell.) As for awareness of sin and purgation
a case could be made, I'm sure, that the same is happening in TWL.
I have some more thoughts on this but I may be more coherent if I wait
until another time to try to write anything.