I thought I said that he tried to enlist in W.W.I. I did not try to hide
that fact. What is also implied in all the accounts is that TSE tried to
join up on his own terms. I, in fact, stated those terms. I mentioned that
he served during WW II. I did not mention the job but said that it was not
active war service. Air raid warden was not active war service but was
rather a deputized civilian volunteer helping to keep order during air raids
There were many many opportunities for service during WW I. TSE took
advantage of none of them. Americans flew for the Canadian Army Air Corps
prior to the US declaration of War. Audie Murphy was a full 2 inches too
short to serve in WW II. Murphy is still the most decorated American
fighting man. Do not reach to far and think that I am attacking TSE's
character. I have no such intention. I just think that it is curious and
perhaps speaks to TSE's attitude towards war. Perhaps it does not. Many
were only to willing to continue to live their lives in as normal a fashion
My father provides the model I use thinking about TSE's attitude towards
war. My father freely admitted that he was only to eager to point out to
the recruiting officer that he was a paid full time lay minister in the
Episcopal Church. Sure enough this meant he didn't have to serve. Phew.
Dodged that one. My father was not a moral objector and was not a pacifist.
He had no problem with his son serving. He just was personally and
individually horrified by the concept of war. Not by fear of his death, his
faith was shield against that, but by the very concept of war. It was
abhorrent to him. It was the State gone mad. He would retreat to his
spiritual beliefs and let the state go berserk. His eyes would well up with
tears of pride and gratitude over the service of his son, friends and
members of his church but he could not have participated even as a Chaplain.
As I stated the "War" in the Al and LIl scene only provides a timely
literary reason for Al to be away. "poor Albert/ He's been in the gaol four
years, he wants a good time...." fits just as well within the context of the
scene as the original. TSE does not use the scene as a comment on War. The
scene rather contributes directly to a tone of the overall apathy of a
culture. Perhaps the characters failure to care about what Al had been
doing could be taken as a comment on War and the home guard's response.
I wrote my comments in response to Frank's curiosity about TSE and War
Poetry. I think I will stand by them.
McIntosh, NM, USA
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 3:41 PM
Subject: Re: Bad manners
> Some factual problems with this view of Eliot on war: he tried to enlist
> WWI twice and was disqualified due to tachycardia and an old hernia (see
> Gordon, for example); he was an air raid warden in WWII, and the "familiar
> compound ghost" section of "Little Gidding" is specifically about the
> and his work watching on housetops.
> Moreover, I have to disagree with the reading of the Lil section: it
> very much that he has just been demobbed. The crass narrator, says
> "poor Albert/ He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time. . .
> I assume if we take any other of Eliot's words as chosen and for a reason,
> we need to at least consider that the war is mentioned for some reason or
> at least it was important at some level to him. Moreover, the lilacs in
> opening section of TWL have been associated with Eliot's image of
> Verdenal bearing "a branch of lilac," and Verdenal died in the war. The
> opening scenes are in Germany. I'm not saying this all means a lot, but
> Eliot was clearly very aware of the war, and he was not an "objector" but
> rejected enlistee and later a firewatcher. If there is any textual
> that he was glad to be rejected, I am interested in knowing of it.
> Date sent: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 13:00:59 -0700
> Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
> From: "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Bad manners
> I would like to know more of your dissertation. How far along are you. I
> notice a non US email address. Will your dissertation be in English?
> I am glad that you pointed to "Mauberley". I think section IV and section
> V of part 1 of "Mauberley" one of the very best war poems.
> TSE's attitude towards enlisting strikes me as one of : "There, I tried
> it. God I'm glad they didn't want me". Hemingway managed to overcome his
> aversions and serve peacefully and pacifically as an ambulance driver.
> TSE had two wars in which he could have served. During WW I, at a very
> late date, he specified that he would serve 1) as an Officer 2) in
> intelligence 3) as an interpreter 4) in England. His conditions resulted
> in lengthy negotiations that eventually ended in his honorable
> non-service. Rupert Brooke and Owen didn't seek negotiation. During WW
> II he did serve but not on active war service and only under his own
> TSE and Ezra Pound both make interesting studies in war aversion and
> avoidance. Pound hated war, saw it as a result of bad economics and tried
> actively to produce the changes in society and economics that he thought
> would avoid war. TSE just seemed to avoid it.
> I don't think TSE necessarily was a pacifist. There were to many ways for
> a pacifist to serve. I don't think he was a moral objector necessarily.
> There were to many ways for an objector to serve. I think it disgusted
> him down deep where his soul was. Disgusted him like looking at what the
> cat just left in the middle of the floor. It appalled him. Any
> association would have been much to abusive. I can understand this and
> also appreciate his inability to explain it to all the hairy chest
> thumpers running around.
> War fighters are into breaking and destroying real things, people and
> material things and generally making a mess. Tradition breaking, when one
> can claim to be creating new tradition in the process, doesn't count.
> Nancy pointed to the "Lil and Al" scene in TWL as possibly war poetry. I
> would respectfully disagree. Al's pending demobilization is merely a fact
> in the history of these people. It is a reason for his absence and loss
> of supervision over the money he mailed Lil. Al could as easily have been
> serving hard time in the Lockup or been a merchant sailor in peaceful
> I think it hard to look at TWL as War Poetry because I find no direct
> statement about war but yet I hear war in TWL as one of the consequences
> of a wasted society. With Pound as an editor perhaps this is only
> Rick Seddon
> McIntosh, NM, USA