In a message dated 2/17/03 11:50:05 PM EST, [log in to unmask] writes:
> Not meaning to be contentious, only deliberative,
> I wonder if Eliot was trying to convey anything.
> I think the search for meaning in such a work is
> a second order endeavour at best, and the result of
> such work is one's own construction, quite removed from
> Eliot's work.
> SO what do I offer as an alternative?
> I think E. was working with perception, not ideas.
In a letter to his brother, Henry Eliot (2/15/1920), TSE wrote:
Some of the new poems, the Sweeney ones, especially "Among the
Nightingales" and "Burbank" are intensely serious, and I think these two are
among the best that I have ever done. But even here I am considered by the
ordinary Newspaper critic as a Wit or satirist, and in America I suppose I
shall be thought merely disgusting.
Much of Eliot's poetry is religious (yes, even his poems BEFORE 'Ash
Wednesday'). When he calls certain poems "intensely serious" I start looking
for religious ideas, not perceptions. Biblical names like Rachael, references
to a "host" and "someone indistinct" lead me to look at the poem in terms of
religious meaning. As I readily admit, I don't have an analysis of my own
that pulls it all together. But I truly don't think it's just a poem about
I do think it takes lots of hard work to arrive at the poem's meaning. I
think that's why so many people, throw up their hands, state that the poem
has no meaning, and thereby give themselves an easy way out.
By the way, to comments like Russell's, "Surely we should be working
together to gain an insight into Eliot's poems, not try and outdo each other
with our HUGE brains, really!!" -- Three problems:
1) I don't have a lot of ANSWERS (but that doesn't stop me from asking a lot
of questions). I was trying to address those who dismiss all questions about
the poem as if it's out-of-bounds to ask why TSE wrote a line in a certain
2) Some of my discussions about this poem have been with list members who are
trying to publish books on Eliot and do not want their ideas discussed
on-list. So, in fairness to them, I try hard not to post things that I didn't
personally think of. I apologize if I've inadvertently posted others' ideas.
3) Anti-Semitism is an easy charge to make against TSE, but (other than in
the Bolo and Columbo junk that was meant for his friends only), I haven't
found it. What appears to be Anti-Semitic references usually turn out to be
an unrecognized reference to Christ ("And the Jew squats on the windowsill,
-- Steve --