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TSE  January 2002

TSE January 2002

Subject:

RE: East Coker

From:

"Earls, JP" <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 10 Jan 2002 11:25:39 -0600

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Jo=E3o,=20
    See my comments below.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jo=E3o Verg=EDlio Gallerani Cuter =
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2002 8:28 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: East Coker


Dear JP,
=20
You raise a number of questions deserving detailed discussion. We agree
as to the overall meaning of the poem: an abstract reflection about the
nature of time and eternity linked to very concrete reflections about
true happiness and the meaning of human life. =20
I think I need to break in here.  Eliot (in FQ) does not propose a way
to "true happiness."  The meaning of human life he is struggling to
express is one in which the agony and ecstasy of life are collocated in
an enduring pattern.  That pattern comes into being through time, but is
not *in* time; it is eternal.  His discussion of time and eternity
certainly sounds abstract, but he is constructing the framework in which
this pattern makes (philosophical & mystical) sense.
My problem was that I couldn't understand the meaning of the
introductory passage of East Coker II (b):

That was a way of putting it - not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study... etc.

Marcia gave me a good hint. According to her (and I think she is right)
the demonstrative "that" should be taken as referring to the whole
initial passage:

What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of... etc.

Now, the verses

What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm... etc.

should be taken as a new formulation of the same questions which had
been raised in a "periphrastic" and "not very satisfactory way".=20
(cont.)
=20
Even accepting this basic reading, I can't find a place for the "formal
criticism" inserted here. These are some of the questions that I make to
myself:
1. The structure of Burnt Norton II is exactly similar to that of East
Coker II. Even Dry Salvages II, with the initial sextina followed by the
"more direct", less "periphrastic" poem about the patterns of time,
bears strong similarities with the other two "second sections". (I think
Little Gidding II is a different case.) What's the point of doing that?
What is Eliot trying to show?=20
The broader consideration is the "music" E. was trying to create.  The
majority of string quartets follow a similar pattern (sonata-allegro
movement, andante movement, minuet/scherzo movement, rondo/finale
movement).  If I tune into a quartet, I can usually detect what movement
is going on.  While there have been efforts to relate FQ to specific
Beethoven late quartets (following what E. might have suggested),
Eliot's music is one of "ideas," recurring words, phrases, themes and
images rather than rhythmical imitations.  I refer you to Raymond
Preston's brilliant little book, 'Four Quartets' Rehearsed: A Commentary
on T. S. Eliot's Cycle of Poems  ( 1946), the first attempt, I believe,
to interpret the four poems together.  (Unfortunately it was printed on
bad paper left over from WWII and is disintegrating in libraries all
over the world!).   So, overall, I see this "music of ideas" as E.'s
intention in arranging the movements in this way.  The first movements
deal with moments of vision of a pattern through which some greater
pattern is seen.  The second and third movements continue to meditate on
ideas of pattern and how to fit moments of ecstasy and agony into
them--the second movements begin with a lyric and move into the "formal
criticism" you mention, while the third movements begin with an extended
metaphor of some kind followed by a reflection of some sort.  The fourth
movements are freestanding lyrics.  The fifth movements (with the
exception of DS) are in two parts, the first a reflection on the
futility of finding an enduring pattern in the arrangement of words
(poetry!) and then the second in a pursuit of it elsewhere.
=20
 2. What is the sense of the criticism at the beginning of East Coker II
(b)?=20
=20
I think the answer is in the other passages that speak of poetry as
incapable of the of endurance that makes a pattern ultimately
meaningful.  Is the opening lyric a playful poke at Yeats-as-prophet?
It sounds like that to me.  Yeats was certainly someone who "peered into
the darkness."  He was also someone who began to see the futility of
desire when he was so old that it "could no longer harm" him.
=20
 3. How to interpret the statement "The poetry does not matter"? Which
"poetry" does not matter? To whom? In which sense?  =20
=20
I think I gave the best answer I have in 2.=20
=20
 4. There seems to be two different "voices" (Argh!!! But I don't have a
better word...) playing in all these "second sections". The second voice
speaks in the same "tone" as that one speaking in all "first sections"
(Little Gidding not excepted). Who is this "person"?
=20
I don't have an answer, Jo=E3o..   Eliot was both critic and lyric poet.
Maybe he is trying to get both voices into FQ.  He may have had Dante's
Vita Nuova in the back of his mind, in which prose and poetry alternate.
It is from such "argh!!!'s" that worthwhile articles emerge.
=20
Best wishes.
=20
--JP
J. P. Earls, OSB=20
English / St. John's University=20
Collegeville, MN 56321=20



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<META content=3D"MSHTML 5.50.4134.600" name=3DGENERATOR>
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</HEAD>
<BODY bgColor=3D#ffffff>
<DIV><STRONG>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT color=3D#0000ff><FONT size=3D2>Jo=E3o<SPAN =

class=3D224354715-10012002>, </SPAN></FONT></FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT color=3D#0000ff><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
class=3D224354715-10012002>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; See my comments=20
below.</SPAN></FONT></FONT></FONT></DIV></STRONG></DIV>
<BLOCKQUOTE dir=3Dltr style=3D"MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px">
  <DIV class=3DOutlookMessageHeader dir=3Dltr align=3Dleft><FONT =
face=3DTahoma=20
  size=3D2>-----Original Message-----<BR><B>From:</B> Jo=E3o Verg=EDlio =
Gallerani=20
  Cuter [mailto:[log in to unmask]]<BR><B>Sent:</B> Monday, =
January 07,=20
  2002 8:28 AM<BR><B>To:</B> [log in to unmask]<BR><B>Subject:</B> Re: =
East=20
  Coker<BR><BR></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Dear JP,</FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2>You raise a number of questions =
deserving=20
  detailed discussion. We agree as to the overall meaning of the poem: =
an=20
  abstract reflection about the nature of time and eternity linked to =
very=20
  concrete reflections about true happiness and the meaning of human=20
  life.&nbsp;<SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT color=3D#0000ff>I think I =
need to break=20
  in here.&nbsp;&nbsp;Eliot&nbsp;(in FQ) does not propose a way to "true =

  happiness."&nbsp;&nbsp;The&nbsp;meaning of human life he =
is&nbsp;struggling to=20
  express is one in which&nbsp;the agony and ecstasy of life&nbsp;are =
collocated=20
  in an&nbsp;enduring pattern.&nbsp; That pattern comes into being =
through time,=20
  but is not *in* time; it is eternal.&nbsp; His discussion of time and =
eternity=20
  certainly sounds abstract, but he is&nbsp;constructing the framework =
in which=20
  this pattern makes (philosophical &amp; mystical)=20
  sense.</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>My problem was that I couldn't =
understand the=20
  meaning of the introductory passage of East Coker II (b):</FONT></DIV>
  <BLOCKQUOTE dir=3Dltr style=3D"MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px">
    <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>That was a way of putting it - not =
very=20
    satisfactory:</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>A periphrastic study...=20
  etc.</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Marcia gave me a good hint. According =
to her (and=20
  I think she is right) the demonstrative "that" should be taken as =
referring to=20
  the whole initial passage:</FONT></DIV>
  <BLOCKQUOTE dir=3Dltr style=3D"MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px">
    <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>What is the late November =
doing</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>With the disturbance of...=20
  etc.</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Now, the =
verses</FONT></DIV>
  <BLOCKQUOTE dir=3Dltr style=3D"MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px">
    <DIV dir=3Dltr><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>What was to be the value =
of the long=20
    looked forward to,</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV dir=3Dltr><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Long hoped for calm...=20
  etc.</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>should be taken as a new =
formulation of=20
  the same questions which had been raised in a "periphrastic" and "not =
very=20
  satisfactory&nbsp;way". </FONT></DIV><FONT face=3DArial=20
  size=3D2>(cont.)</FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Even accepting this basic reading, I =
can't find a=20
  place for the "formal criticism" inserted here. These are some of the=20
  questions that I make to myself:</FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2>1. The structure of Burnt =
Norton II is=20
  exactly similar to that of East Coker II.&nbsp;Even Dry Salvages II, =
with the=20
  initial sextina followed by the "more direct", less "periphrastic" =
poem about=20
  the patterns of time, bears strong similarities with the other two =
"second=20
  sections".&nbsp;(I think Little Gidding II is a different case.) =
What's the=20
  point of doing that? What is&nbsp;Eliot trying to show?<SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT color=3D#0000ff>The broader =
consideration=20
  is the "music" E. was trying to create.&nbsp; The majority of string =
quartets=20
  follow&nbsp;a similar pattern (sonata-allegro movement,&nbsp;andante =
movement,=20
  minuet/scherzo movement, rondo/finale movement).&nbsp; If I tune into =
a=20
  quartet, I can usually detect what movement is going on.&nbsp; While =
there=20
  have been efforts to relate&nbsp;FQ to specific Beethoven late =
quartets=20
  (following what E. might have suggested),&nbsp;Eliot's =
music&nbsp;is&nbsp;one=20
  of&nbsp;"ideas," recurring words, phrases, themes and images rather =
than=20
  rhythmical imitations.&nbsp; I refer you to Raymond Preston's =
brilliant little=20
  book, &#8216;<U>Four Quartets&#8217; Rehearsed: A Commentary on T. S. =
Eliot&#8217;s Cycle of=20
  Poems</U>&nbsp; ( 1946),&nbsp;the first attempt, I believe,&nbsp;to =
interpret=20
  the four poems together.&nbsp;&nbsp;(Unfortunately it was printed on =
bad paper=20
  left over from WWII and is disintegrating in libraries all over the=20
  world!).&nbsp; </FONT></STRONG>&nbsp;<STRONG><FONT color=3D#0000ff>So, =
overall,=20
  I see this "music of ideas" as&nbsp;E.'s intention in arranging the =
movements=20
  in this way.&nbsp; The first movements deal with moments of vision of =
a=20
  pattern through which some greater pattern is seen.&nbsp;&nbsp;The =
second and=20
  third movements&nbsp;continue to meditate on ideas of pattern&nbsp;and =
how to=20
  fit moments of ecstasy and agony into them--the second movements begin =
with a=20
  lyric and move into the "formal criticism" you mention, while&nbsp;the =
third=20
  movements begin with an extended metaphor of some kind followed by a=20
  reflection of some sort.&nbsp;&nbsp;The fourth movements =
are&nbsp;freestanding=20
  lyrics.&nbsp; The fifth movements (with the exception of DS)&nbsp;are =
in two=20
  parts, the first a reflection on the futility of finding an enduring =
pattern=20
  in the arrangement of words (poetry!) and then the second in a pursuit =
of it=20
  elsewhere.</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002>&nbsp;</SPAN>2.&nbsp;What is the sense of =
the=20
  criticism at the beginning of East Coker II (b)?<SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff></FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT color=3D#0000ff>I think the =
answer is in=20
  the other passages that speak of&nbsp;poetry as incapable of&nbsp;the  =
of=20
  endurance that makes a pattern ultimately meaningful.&nbsp; Is the =
opening=20
  lyric a&nbsp;playful poke at Yeats-as-prophet?&nbsp; It sounds like =
that to=20
  me.&nbsp;&nbsp;Yeats was&nbsp;certainly someone who "peered into the=20
  darkness."&nbsp; He was also someone who began to see the futility of =
desire=20
  when he was so old that it "could no longer harm"=20
  him.</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002>&nbsp;</SPAN>3. How to interpret the =
statement "The=20
  poetry does not matter"? Which "poetry" does not matter? To whom? In =
which=20
  sense?<SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT =
color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
  </FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff></FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT color=3D#0000ff>I think I =
gave the best=20
  answer I have&nbsp;in =
2.&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT=20
  color=3D#0000ff>&nbsp;</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002>&nbsp;</SPAN>4. There seems to be two =
different=20
  "voices" (Argh!!! But I don't have a better word...) playing in all =
these=20
  "second sections". The second voice speaks in the same "tone" as that=20
  one&nbsp;speaking in all "first sections" (Little Gidding not =
excepted). Who=20
  is this "person"?</FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV><FONT color=3D#0000ff><FONT face=3DArial><FONT size=3D2><STRONG>I =
don't=20
  have&nbsp;</STRONG><SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG>an answer, =

  Jo=E3o.</STRONG><FONT=20
  =
color=3D#000080>.</FONT><STRONG>&nbsp;</STRONG></SPAN><STRONG>&nbsp;<SPAN=
=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002>&nbsp;Eliot was both critic and lyric =
poet.&nbsp;=20
  Maybe he is trying to get both voices into FQ.&nbsp; He may =
have&nbsp;had=20
  Dante's&nbsp;<U>Vita Nuova</U> in the back of his mind, in&nbsp;which =
prose=20
  and poetry alternate.&nbsp;</SPAN>&nbsp;<SPAN=20
  class=3D224354715-10012002>&nbsp;It is&nbsp;from such "argh!!!'s"=20
  that&nbsp;worthwhile articles=20
  emerge.</SPAN></STRONG></FONT></FONT></FONT></DIV>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002><FONT face=3DArial =
color=3D#0000ff=20
  size=3D2><STRONG>Best wishes.</STRONG></FONT></SPAN></DIV>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT =
face=3DArial=20
  color=3D#0000ff size=3D2></FONT></STRONG></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002><STRONG><FONT =
face=3DArial=20
  color=3D#0000ff size=3D2>--JP</FONT></STRONG></SPAN></DIV>
  <DIV dir=3Dltr><SPAN class=3D224354715-10012002>
  <P><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>J. P. Earls, OSB</FONT> <BR><FONT =
face=3DArial=20
  size=3D2>English&nbsp;/ </FONT><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>St. John's=20
  University</FONT> <BR><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Collegeville, MN =
56321</FONT>=20
  <BR></P></SPAN></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE></BODY></HTML>

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