I'd like to discuss possible connections in 'The Waste Land' between the
Marie passage and the hyacinth passage.
Clearly, both passages reference a garden ('the Hofgarten' and 'the
hyacinth garden'), but I think there are other parallels as well. What
attracted my attention was a similarity in language structure that I only
recently noticed. If this is all old news to everybody, I apologize.
In the Marie section there is a line in German:
"Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch."
followed by lines in English that begin with a conjunction:
"And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,"
Opening the lines with "And" implies that the reader is jumping into the
middle of a conversation already in progress. That is, the reader is not
privy to the entire conversation and must guess at what was "ellipsed out",
as well as guess at the significance of the prior conversation.
In parallel fashion, the hyacinth section begins with German:
"Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?"
followed by lines in English. The opening English lines do not immediately
have a conjunction; however, a conjunction ("Yet") follows quickly:
"--Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,"
As with the "And" in the Marie lines, the "yet" alerts the reader that
something is being "ellipsed out", and again the reader is left to guess at
the significance of what is missing.
In the hyacinth passage, the lines are 'framed' with a final line in
"Oed' und leer das Meer."
Interestingly, looking at the facsimile edition shows that it was Ezra Pound
that put in the final German line from 'Tristan and Isolde' to complete the
'frame'. In Eliot's version, the hyacinth passage OPENED with the German
lines but did not end with German. That is, in Eliot's original version the
structure was a match to the Marie structure.
It should be noted that this is the ONLY use of German in the poem, so I
don't think all this is a coincidence. I think the reader is being given
linguistic clues that the Marie section and the hyacinth section are deeply
Quite a while back, I posted excerpts from an analysis by P. K. Saha, who
pointed out the often unnoticed references to Dante in the hyacinth section.
Saha pointed out that "I was neither living nor dead" is the equivalent to
lines at the end of inferno ("I did not die and I did not remain alive"),
which expresses Dante's sense of fear and paralysis when he sees Lucifer.
Similarly, "Looking into the heart of light, the silence" is equivalent to
lines at the end of Paradiso when Dante sees God. In my post on Saha's
findings, I asked why would Eliot write a passage about a dead lover (as per
the 'Tristan and Isolde' frame) that combines a vision of seeing God and
Lucifer? Why would he express feelings of confronting, at the same moment,
overwhelming love with overwhelming terror? My speculation was that Eliot (as
the narrator) was actually writing about his guilt over his homosexuality,
and that the relationship depicted in the hyacinth garden was actually a
depiction of a homosexual relationship (between Eliot and Jean Verdenal).
Thus, the consummation of that relationship, for Eliot, was an impossible
combination of meeting God and Lucifer simultaneously.
Expanding on these ideas, I think some of the images in the Marie section
can be explained. Marie reflects about her experience on the sled with a mix
of excitement and fear:
" . . . he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free."
I don't think it's much of a stretch to see that Eliot is drawing an analogy
between the mix of excitement and fear of children sledding and adults
beginning a sexual relationship ("hold on tight. And down we went"). It's the
same mix that will be amplified by the Inferno/Paradiso lines in the hyacinth
There are other points to make, such as possible poetic meanings of the
translated line from the Marie section, but I don't want this post to get too
long. If there's interest in discussing the Marie section (and it's possible
links to the hyacinth section), I'm up for it.
-- Steve --