Greg's advice is very helpful. I would add that it is also important to just
think about the words and images on your own. What kind of place are
these strange characters in? What do they seem to be doing? What
could connect them in feeling or mood to the story of Agamemnon's death?
I also think "Sweeney Among the Nightingales" is one of Eliot's most
enigmatic and strange poems. I wonder what members of the list so think
Date sent: Mon, 17 Feb 2003 03:30:17 -0500
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: "D.Gregory Griffith" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Needing assistance with "Sweeney Among the Nightingales"
To: [log in to unmask]
Welcome to the list. Please forgive folks if they are a bit slow to
respond to your question, but it's a very common event on "academic" or
literature chat lists for high school students to subscribe late one
evening and post a plea for help on a paper on a given author or work, and
also to need that help before a rapidly approaching deadline. I think
that's part of the humor in Carrol's post when he writes:
"I used to tell students that if someday they found themselves at
midnight, with a thousand word literary paper due the next morning at
8:00, there was a foolproof way to have it finished by no later than 3:00
I also agree with Nancy when she advises:
"you do not want to be told a meaning you can write down that you have
thought through yourself."
Her posts point you to some good places to do some detective work.
In addition to those, two books that offer good brief explanations of
Greek and Roman myths, characters, places, etc. are J.E. Zimmerman's
_Dictionary of Classical Mythology_, and Edith Hamilton's _Mythology_.
They can quickly give you basic details; they are both available in
inexpensive, "pocket-sized" paperbacks, and both have been printed in a
million editions, so they should be easily obtained from a library. For
me, part of the appeal of Eliot is the experience of working on a poem for
a long time--being the detective or the archeologist--tracing the
allusions, finding and reading the authors and works Eliot is alluding to,
etc. Since you don't need answers to your query right away, enjoy that
type of reading experience, and I'd be interested in what you find in the
poem once you've read some of the sources and references in Nancy's
and above that help with the allusions. A couple of small hints: the Greek
epigraph is from a play by Aeschylus entitled _Agamemnon_. It translates
"Alas, I am struck deep by a mortal blow"--this info. and translation are
available in the Southam "Guide" that Nancy points out. Looking at the
myths about Agamemnon--his death in particular--might help. The name
appears in the poem in the last stanza; the death of this Greek hero is
alluded to both at the beginning and the end of the poem.
Many times, the authors or works or myths you discover by way of Eliot's
allusions are wonderful reading and worth the "footwork", whether they
give you insight into the particular Eliot poem that started the search to
begin with or not.
Adrian Szydlo wrote:
> Hello everyone, I am new to this list. I am high school student and I
> need help analyzing Eliot's "Sweeney Among the Nightingales."
> Specifically, I need help with theme and symbolism (including
> allusions). I am really lost with this one. If anybody can help me with
> the meaning of this poem or help point out any symbolism or allusions, I
> would be most grateful. Thank you.Sincerely,Adrian Szydlo