O ye, embarked in a mall kiff, who long
To lissen, having followed on it's way
My bote, that goes continuing in bong. . . .
(Par. II, 1-3; Binyon tr.)
Anyone who recognizes that the Viking typesetters were probably truer to
Binyon's _intention_ than I am above also admits (even if he/she lies to
him/herself or to others) that intentions can be accurately derived from
a text. Not _all_ intentions; probably in many cases not a majority of
intentions, but that is irrelevant to the main point that however
infrequently, perfect construal of an intention is nevertheless possible
in _some_ cases, and hence in an indefinitely large number of other
This despite the fact that the last typo above is marvelously
But at my back in a cold blast I hear . . . .
Eliot intended a reader familiar with Marvell's poem. That is certain,
and anyone who denies it is not worth arguing with. Argument can
legitimately begin with considering the relationS of "cold blast" to
time's winged chariot, but that argument is uninteresting unless we
first assume the certainty of Marvell's relevance to the discussion.
Eliot once suggested that poetry is a superior form of amusement. I
think there is a lot to be said for that proposition*, but it too
becomes silly without at least a serious pretence that we can have a
(mostly correct) mutual understanding of many/most texts.
I disagree with Johnson's disagreement with Pope's couplet --
True art is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed --
which I find compatible with Eliot's remark on poetry and amusement.
But the whole complex (Pope/Johnson/Eliot/Cox/et al) can be amusingly or
entertainingly or usefully discussed only among those who recognize the
possibility (even probability) of shared understanding of our