Peter Montgomery wrote:
> The Waste Land is the end result of Eden and original sin.
> The liberal (19th Century style) belief that one can renew the earth
> to a status of Eden, has to be abandoned.
Someplace in _War and Peace_ Tolstoi claims that Eden had _already_ been
renewed -- in the peacetime army. (He of course meant _for officers_
though he didn't I think so specify.) The principle of Eden is leisure
without blame. That was Tolstoi's definition of it. But it also happens,
essentially, to be the very realistic definition offered by the
anthropologist Marshall Sahlins who established that the hunter-gatherer
societies were the "first affluent societies," where people spent 4-5
hours a day working, often in a way hard to distinguish from playing
(after all, people today go on walks and hunt for fun!), and the rest of
their time sitting around, pigging out, and telling stories. See
Actually, Milton recognized this also, in so far as he posited
conversation as the highest from of human pleasure. And conversation of
course demands above all unforced leisure. (Of course his recognition is
in part distorted by Christianity, which poisons everything it touches.)
This underwrites to some extent Peter's gloss:
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.
'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'
Thus conversation in the the wasteland of early 20th-c London
(particularly, I suppose, if one's wife suffered from a mental illness).
And leisure, far from being the greatest good of human life becomes an
'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
'What shall we ever do?'
The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.
But even in this world in which time is empty it is also denied:
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME