There are obviously clear references here
to the Gospel of St. John, but with John's
emphasis on creation, formed through his
deliberate resonance of the book of Genesis,
I feel fairly comfortable with interpreting
this section of Eliot's poem as one of the
places in his writing where he attempts to
come to terms with his place in the literary
tradition as a creator.
Eliot is probably one of the clearest examples
of Bloom's theory of anxiety of influence,
although I'm not sure Bloom's theories of
"misreading" apply so directly to Eliot.
I read several of the allusions in this poem,
specifically those to the leopards and the bones,
as Eliot's attempts, in this poem and in his other
works, to redefine the process of how a poet achieves
immortality through his work. For Eliot, the more
he could hide from the critics, the more "indigestible"
his allusions and phrasings, the longer his work
would last, and the more immortal (if such a concept
can be relative) the poet could then become.
His lament, "Oh my people . . ." is the sound of the
earlier great poets, such as John Donne, (whose name
I believe is being punned in the refrain), in despair
for how they have paralyzed the minds of the current age
through their own poetic prowess.
The "lost" word, the "unspoken" the "unheard" then
becomes the most vital part of any poem. The
"word" that is not understood, is the only part
of the poem that the critics cannot digest and
reguritate, thus fixing the poem's meaning and
placing it in time, forever there to stay. The
"unspoken" word then becomes that portion
of the poem still open to creative influence, as:
"the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
. . .
This is the time of tension between dying and birth
. . .
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply."
thus continuing the poet's creative process
throughout all time and ensuring his immortality.
I'm sorry for this rather lengthy response, especially
since I don't think you were asking for any personal
opinions, but rather sources on which allusions were
based. However, this is my favorite, and I couldn't
resist speaking up.
--- Vishvesh Obla <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I quoted Eliot's 'Ash Wednesday' elsewhere since it
> was Ash Wednesday last week and a friend of mine, who
> is a very spiritual person and well knowledged in
> Indian spirituality, was struck by Eliot's emphasis on
> the 'Word' from the stanza quoted later. Eliot's
> poems interest me not for their allusions (very
> scholarly and varied, and hence interesting, though)
> but for the poetry they get transformed to. My friend
> asked me if I could explain what Eliot refers to the
> 'word'. I could understand that Eliot makes some kind
> of allusion to the Upanishadic 'AUM' in the stanza.
> But then, I thought I could see how others perceived
> it before I made any comment on it to him. I would
> appreciate any of your comments on it.
> Thank You.
> PS : Here is the stanza:
> "If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
> If the unheard, unspoken
> Word is unspoken, unheard;
> Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
> The Word without a word, the Word within
> The world and for the world;
> And the light shone in darkness and
> Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
> About the centre of the silent Word.
> O my people, what have I done unto thee.
> Where shall the word be found, where will the word
> Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
> Not on the sea or on the islands, not
> On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
> For those who walk in darkness
> Both in the day time and in the night time
> The right time and the right place are not here
> No place of grace for those who avoid the face
> No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and
> deny the voice..."
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