A much bigger question than I have time for at the moment,
but one aspect of it is that the myth was recognised as
a fictional element, but still a useful tool. It was religion
sanitised of belief, and so available for creative purposes.
It did not require religious adherence but still provided
understanding. It was not Eliot's intent to have the poem read
this way, nor was he happy that it generated this kind of
anti-religious response. It would seem he was quite disturbed
by the overwhelming response the poem received, and always
downplayed the poem as in my ealier reference to his quote
about its being a private grouse.
Why was it taken as the new manifesto of freedom from religion?
Goodness knows. It is a poem that evokes much from the sub-
and/or unconscous. I'm pretty sure those responses are evoked
by Eliot's incredible skill with what he called the auditory
imagination. Another possibility is that organised religion had
lost its credibility with the intellectual elite, but there was
still a hunger for some sense of transcendence. The use of myth
fed that hunger to some extent, but with the sugar-coating
of fiction, so no committed response was felt to be needed.
Those are some threads to pull on.
From: Richard Seddon [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2003 5:46 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Poets on poetry
Peter wrote in part:
It is his punishment for becoming
> a Christian and so betraying the age that thought it could rise
> above superstition, and thought TWL was the prime statment of that
I would like to see more development of this line of thought. It seems to
me that reason and superstition do not dwell well together and that poetry
has always been an excellent vehicle for superstition/myth/faith and not a
good vehicle at all for reason.
I do not understand how anyone can read TWL as a prime statement of a world
rising above superstition when In the prefacing note to the *Notes on 'The
Waste Land'*, Eliot directs the reader into a mythic/superstitious world.
Are you saying that the very presence of myth and superstition in the poem's
world is the "cause" of the wasted land and that redemption of that world
rests in the rejection of myth and superstition? This would constitute a
very different reading of the Poet's purpose for the mythic elements of TWL
than I have become accustom to.
I am not challenging such a reading. I am merely remarking that I find it
unusual and would like to see it developed.