I understand what you mean by the language that
‘really comes alive and takes on meanings and shapes
much richer than those of the text’ when you look at
an Elizabethan production. I relate it to the natural
speech rhythms of the spoken idiom, not that of the
educated Elite, but that of the subtle unconscious
expressions as associated with the culture of an age.
Eliot’s admiration of the Elizabethans and the
metaphysicals (and of course, his scorn for Milton),
as I can understand, is because he found that the
spoken idiom was expressed at it subtlest, which was
possible for them since a thought to them sprung as
easily as they could sense or ‘feel’ the smell of a
rose. He calls that “unified sensibility”, as I
I haven’t given much thought to the mystic roots of
Eliot, and I was surprised when you related Eliot’s
sense of Elizabethan age to the mysticism of the
medieval ages. It is true that he ruminates on his
roots that have mystic connotations, but then what I
have found is that tracing such roots could be
‘academic’, for they serve only a secondary interest
as far as his poems are concerned. Eliot’s poetry
appeals to me as an expression which has more
‘learning’ behind it than any other inspiration (Yeats
appears to me as a different sort of a poet). I do
not mean that he was ‘academic’, but he serves as a
fine example to me as to how one can overcome the
conditions of one’s time by sheer ‘intelligence’ and
Possibly such a phrase cannot be defined with any
precision ! But then that is the charm of Literature,
isn't it? ;)
--- Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hi Vishvesh,
> It isn't just a matter of thought and feeling.
> It also very much includes the senses. It is
> perception which is also feeling which is also
> all in one immediate package. You can see examples
> of it in striking ways in the poetry of Yeats
> here approximated from "The Second Coming":"The
> Second Coming...hardly are
> those words out when out of the desert
> I see a shape...". Also in "Prayer for my Daughter"
> there is a transformation of a storm into a thought
> at the beginning.
> Some of the idea can be discovered in the
> theory of the time. You might want to study Thomas
> It is not a subject studied so well in an academic
> way. One gets a much
> better sense of it by working on an Elizabethan
> production, where the language really comes alive
> and takes
> on meanings and shapes much richer than those of the
> It is important to keep in mind that while Eliot had
> academic background, he was NOT an academic. One
> even say in some ways he rejected academia. Mere
> doesn't get to the core. The voice resonates in ways
> printed word never can. That is why the auditory
> imagination was so important to him.
> Dr. Peter C. Montgomery
> Dept. of English
> Camosun College
> 3100 Foul Bay Rd.
> Victoria, BC CANADA V8P 5J2
> [log in to unmask]
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Vishvesh Obla [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 9:03 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: "Unified Sensibility'"
> I have always been fascinated by the phrase "Unified
> Sensibility" that Eliot found in the Elizabethans
> the Metaphysical poets. I used to think what Eliot
> meant by that phrase was a natural association of
> 'thought' and 'feeling', something spontaneous which
> was not achievable by the later poets. I made a
> of an earlier posting by Prof.Peter Montgomery,
> wherein he associates Eliot's Elizabethan
> and his roots to medieval England. A question comes
> to my mind :
> Was the "unified sensibility" possible to the
> Elizabethans and the metaphysicals because they were
> much closer to the English tradition which had its
> roots in the Medieval mystics?
> I apologize if it appears to be a crude question,
> I am just trying to sort out my understanding of
> Thank You.
> PS : Prof.Peter Montgomery's earlier note:
> "I'm convinced that Eliot's devouring of the
> Elizabethans was part of his need to find his roots
> (as in East Coker). Elizabethan English was a
> significant connection to the medieval mystics of
> England (Ferrar et al. [good old al.]). He noted a
> general loss of connection with that Eliz.
> after Donne".
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