In a message dated 2/12/2003 8:52:43 PM Eastern Standard Time, [log in to unmask] writes:
> Here's another thought on the Hyacinth scene:
> if the two figures in the scene are
> male and lovers, couldn't the phrase
> "your arms full" be an erotic observation?
> In other words, not "full" of something (flowers),
> but muscular? I don't want make assumptions that
> seem sexist, but might that not be a
> detail a gay man would focus on?
Greg, I agree with Rick that you have a very interesting and original take on the phrase “your arms full”. It’s coming across posts like yours that make the list fun for me.
Peter points out the line about “arms full of flowers” in “La Figlia che Piange” which clearly refers to a male/female relationship, but that’s quite a different poem, both in subject matter and the time in Eliot’s life when it was written.
My thoughts are these: “La Figlia”, written more than five years before TWL, is about a man contemplating the devastating effect he is going to have on a woman when he inevitably leaves her. The line about “she turned away” implicitly compares the man and woman in the poem to Aeneas and Dido, implicitly links the abandonment of Dido by Aeneas to the situation in the poem. Since Aeneas felt he was “following his destiny” (to found Rome), he felt he must leave Dido, no matter how horrendous the personal consequences. I think the poem’s narrator similarly feels he is on a path to horrendously disappoint the woman in his life.
If we consider biography, I take the poem to be Eliot’s thoughts regarding his relationship with Emily Hale: he is admitting to himself that the relationship will end disastrously for Emily Hale, but that, given the cards that fate has dealt Eliot, there is nothing he can do but follow his destiny, even if Emily hale ends up destroyed, as Dido did. I think what lay behind that sentiment is Eliot’s knowledge that his sexuality would not lead him in the direction to make Emily Hale happy.
So, now shift the time to the early 1920’s and TWL is being written. Eliot is (by my speculation) writing about Verdenal in the hyacinth garden. He uses the same language of “your arms full” to evoke the beautiful image he created in “La Figlia”. But with a subtle shift he leaves off the “[full] of flowers” to create the masculine image of ‘full arms’ that you pointed out. It would be a way of alluding to “La Figlia”, of linking his relationships with Hale and Verdenal, but with the salient differences intact.
-- Steve --