Nancy Gish wrote:
> So I am more concerned to resist hagiography than
> to make any judgment. One may be interested in the sources of poems
> without taking moral stands on the poet either way. But it does matter, for
> example, that "on Margate sands/ I can connect nothing with nothing" was
> written when he had just been to Margate and was having a breakdown.
Psychiatry (still pretty primitive today) was still in the dark ages in
1920 -- what is known about Eliot's "breakdown"? Was it clinical
Pound almost certainly suffered from depression (and perhaps from
bipolar). One of the earliest lines in the _Cantos_ to catch my
attention was one which (in different ways before and after I was
diagnosed with depression) seemed to me to sum up my life pretty
(and the mortal fatigue of action postponed)
And from Canto LXXIV:
dry friable earth going from dust to more dust
grass worn from its root-hold
is it blacker? was it blacker? [Nux] animae?
is there a blacker or was it merely San Juan with a belly ache
writing ad posteros
in short shall we look for a deeper or is this the bottom?
And in the last years of his life (I forget the source for this) a
visitor reports him saying, "I did not choose silence. Silence chose
me." I know _exactly_ what he talking about, having been there and
recovered several times. One does not have these feelings "merely" from
conditions around one or from other external sources, or even "merely"
from "psychological" causes. (Both sources may be and probably are
operative of course, but they are not sufficient causes.)
I can conceive of someone writing "I can connect nothing with nothing"
from his/her observation of others, though it is perhaps doubtful. And
an interesting point. As with Pound's line on fatigue, I can provide
personal content for this line, but I doubt very much I would ever have
come up with either phrasing, as "simple" as Eliot's line may appear.
This is relevant both to Peter's queries about Shakespeare and to my
recent posts on the nature of writing skill. "Profound understanding" of
this or that feature of human life may be rather more common than we
think: what isn't so common (to take a traditional classroom example) is
to find how powerful in a given instance is a contrast between
monosyllabic and polysyllabic expression: "Rather the multitudinous seas
incarnadine, making the green one red." And who writing in English other
than Shakespeare and Pound can over thousands and thousands of lines
repeatedly generate such metrical perfection as "making the green one
red"? That comes neither from experience nor learning (however important
both experience and learning may be to create the context for such