Joćo Vergķlio Gallerani Cuter wrote:
> In the second paragraph of East Coker II we find what seems to be a
> fragment of criticism, as if we were reading a torn newspaper:
> That was a way of putting it - not very satisfactory:A
> periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,Leaving
> one still with the intolerable wrestleWith words and
> meanings. The poetry does not matter.It was not (to start
> again) what one had expected.
> And then, all of a sudden, Eliot begins to talk about the deceiving
> "wisdom of age". I have some difficulty in seeing the exact
> relationship between these two blocks. Is the second a direct
> continuation of the first? Are we being invited to imagine the
> "periphrastic study" as (let us say) a poetic portrayal of old age? My
> feeling is that this is not the right track. We would have to take the
> "continuation" as a kind of excursus, and it doesn't sound like that.
> (Try to read it with a "by the way" prefixed: "By the way, what was to
> be the value of...etc.". It doesn't fit.) But if it is not an
> excursus, what the hell is the first part doing there? What is the
> meaning of the juxtaposition?
While (when used as demonstrative pronouns) both "this" and "that"
can be used in English to point to something known, the OED make the
point that it is proper to differentiate the two. "That" refers to
something known, or "to something just mentioned." "This" points toward
something that will follow. "That," at least, indicates something at a
greater distance than what "this" points to: perhaps the lines that just
preceded, about to be repudiated, to be put at a distance, or that were
distant from the writer even in the writing. I read the subject of the
commentary as the passage just completed: "What is the late November
A poetical fashion? Well, it is in a vaguely iambic tetrameter meter,
not the durable and a fashionable iambic pentameter. There is
sufficient rhyming to give the impression of rhyme, yet the pairing of
"doing/spring" is bold or clever (or something else), depending on your
stance. And sufficient lack of rhyme to be modern. Then there is the
"stars/cars/wars" run. When Habington rhymes "are/war" or Dryden
"wars/scars" they were making full rhymes. But Eliot is making a
sophisticated joke, which then becomes a subject for inclusion in
"A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion"
Not only is E's "wars" part of a fashion, growing out of the solid and
valid technique of slant/off/half rhyme, it is a summoning up of a sort
of antiquing -- by way of alluding to the difficulty English presents as
its sounds have changed. Do we rhyme "love/prove" when reading 16th and
17th century poems, since, after all, they rhymed when written? Or do we
read according to our own pronunciation so as not to add a comedy or
strangeness that hadn't been part of the original. (Some of the same
sorts of considerations arise in translating.) So, a fashion of
difficulty or oddness.
Joćo, I read the rest of the verse paragraph ("wisdom of age ...")
as a continuation of what you nicely call a "fragment of criticism."
Note the connection between "late November" and "autumnal serenity."
But more on that in another post.