An interesting set of observations. Before a poem is an experience, it
is a sequence
of perceptions. Much of Twentieth Century poetry sought to manipulate
experience at the
perceptual level, so that, for an example, "The Love Song of JAP" is set
be a perceptual instrument for the reader, not simply a portrait for the
to look at. When Eliot wrought "St. Sebastian" he was indeed very interested
in the French Symbolists because of the work of Arthur Symons. It is
that he was experimenting even in this poem, with the perceptual level.
As to the perversity. Well at the literal level it is as hard to deny as
would be that of
Sweeney's tale in SWEENEY AGONISTES. Whether it is to be taken at an
analogical level or a moral allegorical level is another question. It's
of style might suggest it. Obviously the violence suggests a moral
this is such an immature work, one is hesitant to see it as anything
more than an
exploratory experiment or simple practice. The obsevation hat it
a Browning monologue has some merit, but one must remember that Browning
monologues are nothing if not analogical and allegorical works, and very
explorations of perceptions themselves.
Debra San wrote:
> At 12:47 PM -0500 4/1/05, Nancy Gish wrote:
>> Please read "The Love Song of St. Sebastion" [...]
>> There is nothing IN the poem except an image of murder and S & M.
>> Example of "perversity":
>> I would come with a towel in my hand
>> And bend your head beneath my knees;
>> Your ears curl back in a certain way
>> Like no one's else in the world.
>> When all the world shall melt in the sun,
>> Melt or freeze,
>> I shall remember how your ears were curled.
>> I should for a moment linger
>> And follow the curve with my finger
>> And your head beneath my knees--
>> I think that at last you would understand.
>> There would be nothing more to say.
>> You would love me because I should have strangled you
>> And because of my infamy;
>> And I should love you the more because I had mangled you
>> And because you were no longer beautiful
>> To anyone but me.
> Reading these lines, I am reminded of situations that presumably have
> little or nothing to do with sex or gender but that nonetheless get
> figured in poems as sexual or gendered (or cross-gendered). Example:
> when the speaker in Sidney's first sonnet of _Astrophel and Stella_
> writes about how difficult it is for him to get onto paper the poem
> that he knows he has inside of him, he figures the unwritten poem as
> his unborn child, and himself as a woman in labor: "great with child
> to speak, and helpless in my throes." Another example: when Donne in
> "Batter my heart" wants to experience religious ecstasy, he begs God
> to rape him, "for I / Except you enthrall me, never shall be free /
> Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me." I wonder if Eliot in the
> lines quoted above may not be struggling against an impulse to write
> beautiful, lyrical, Romantic poems, figuring such poetry as a woman
> who seduces him but whom he must subdue, or kill, or at least mangle,
> in order to be free to write the poems that he wants to write, poems
> that he would love even if no one else did. If so, the "mangling" in
> this early poem becomes "dislocation" in his 1921 essay "The
> Metaphysical Poets," where he writes that a contemporary poet must
> attempt "to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his
> meaning." I suppose one could say that to characterize the act and
> the product of poetic creation in terms of violence, whether sexual or
> not, requires a certain "perversity" of imagination, but it's a
> perversity that's provided more than one poet with a compelling metaphor.
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