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TSE  December 2004

TSE December 2004

Subject:

Re: Eliot's Mythical Method

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 2 Dec 2004 14:16:32 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (101 lines)

I guess we disagree on Eliot's perceptions  of of Stravinsky. For me
the statement "the scream of the steppes and the noises of modern life"
speaks to the interpenetration of  two cultural narartives.

As to "Journey" &t al. it depends on your understanding of  myth.
Yeats did the same thing with "Second Coming." If one sees myth
as stories from a dead religion, one is not, probably, in Eliot's camp.
I am an involved Catholic, very much a believing Christian. I have no
trouble saying that the character of Christianity conforms to the character
of myth and even extends it. How could it do otherwise?

I invite you to compare the following two quotes:

    The artist, I believe, is more PRIMITIVE, as well as more
    civilized, than his contemporaries. His experience is
    deeper than civilization, and he only uses the phenomena
    of civilization in expressing it. Primitive instincts and
    the acquired habits of ages are confounded in the ordinary
    man.  In the work of Mr. Lewis we recognize the thought of
    the modern and the energy of the cave-man.
                           "TARR"  EGOIST 5.8 (Sept. 1918):106.

        THE artist goes back to the fish.  The few centuries
    that separate him from the savage are a mere flea-bite to
    the distance his memory must stretch if it is to strike
    the fundamental slime of creation.  And it is the
    condition, the very first gusto of creation in this scale
    of life in which we are set, that he must reach, before
    he, in his turn, can create!
        The creation of a work of art is an act of the same
    description as the evolution of wings on the sides of a
    fish, the feathering of its fins; or the invention of a
    weapon within the body of a hymenopter to enable it to
    meet the terrible needs of its life. The ghostly and
    burning growths, the walking twigs and flying stones,
    the two anguished notes that are the voice of a being,
    the vapid twitter, the' bellows of age-long insurrection
    and discontent, the complacent screech, all may be con-
    sidered as types of art, all equally perfect, but not all
    equally desirable.
        Lewis, P. Wyndham. THE CALIPH'S DESIGN.
            London: Egoist Press, 1919: 35.

One may not see the word myth there, but the creative meaning of the mythic
method very much is.

In fact one can find the same thread throughout Eliot's work.

Consider why Claverton chooses to die under a beech tree.
Check the etymology even.

Cheers,
Peter
Peter

Jennifer Formichelli wrote:

> Dear Peter,
>
> Thank you for the quotation.
>
>> Here is the relevant quote:
>>
>> In art there should be interpenetration and metamorphosis.  Even The
>> Golden Bough can be read in two ways: as a collection of entertaining
>> myths, or as a revelation of the vanished mind of which our mind is a
>> continuation.  In everything in the Sacre du Printemps, except in the
>> music, one missed the sense of the present.  Whether Stravinsky's music
>> be permanent or ephemeral I do not know; but it did seem to transform
>> the rhythm of the steppes into the scream of the motor horn, the rattle
>> of machinery, the grind of wheels, the beating of iron and steel, the
>> roar of the underground railway, and the other barbaric cries of modern
>> life; and to transform these despairing noises into music.
>>                           "London Letter" DIAL 71.4 (October 1921):453
>>
>> I think one could make a case that the mythical method was very
>> seriously on
>> Eliot's mind at the time. It was not just a casual idea that he came up
>> with in the
>> Ullysses review. Obviously these statements are not a full
>> justification
>> for such
>> a case, but certainly indicate that more work would be justified. Even
>> "Journey of the Magi"
>> and "Ash Wednesday" can be seen to fit the description.
>>
>>
>>
>
> However, I don't see this as a mythical interpretation, however. Eliot
> nearly always resisted interpretation. Of course, Sacre du Printemps
> (he was reviewing the ballet) is extremely myth-based, the Rite of
> Spring with the death of the virgin. That would explain why it was on
> his mind; the performance inspired it.
>
> What is mythical about Journey of the Magi or Ash-Wednesday? Both turn
> around the Christian story, no? Journey of the Magi was of course the
> first Ariel poem, so appeared on a Christmas card.
>
> Yours, Jennifer
>

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