The interest in the sordid&c is a reaction against the unrealism
of the Victorian era with its romantic fancifulness. Or so I have
seen it presented. In fact that is a whole lot of what the
artistic ferment in the 1st two decades of the 20th C. is all about.
In fact it isn't (I think for Eliot) a disgust with life, as a rediscovery
of life in the disgusting. Values were dead in respectable society.
Having values even of the worst kind is batter than not having
values at all. Eliot found these values in the faubourg of Paris,
and the French poets which explored them:
"I myself owe Mr Symons a great debt; but for having read his
book I should not, in the year 1908, have heard of Laforgue or
Rimbaud; I should probably not have begun to read Verlaine;
and but for reading Verlaine, I should not have heard of
Corbière. So the Symons book is one of those which have
affected the course of my life." - T.S.Eliot
CRITERION 9.35(Jan 1930):357-358.
Here is an interesting testimony ( to some extent, anyway) to the point I
When Baudelaire's Satanism is dissociated from its less creditable
paraphernalia, it amounts to a dim intuition of a part, but a very
important part, of Christianity. Satanism itself, so far as not merely
an affectation, was an attempt to get into Christianity by the back
door. Genuine blasphemy, genuine in spirit and not merely verbal, is
the product of a partial belief, and is as impossible to the com-
plete athiest as to the perfect Christian.
Eliot, T.S. "Baudelaire." SELECTED ESSAYS. London: Faber, 1963.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Vishvesh Obla" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 8:23 AM
Subject: Re: 'contemplation of the horrid or sordid or disgusting
Thank You for the quotes. I think I have seen a
couple of them in this list itself on other threads.
I understand the point made from those quotes -- that
Eliot considered the portrayal of the sordid as an
essential element of great art. While it certainly
is, I am concened about it bordering over an element
of disgust that is anti-life itself. For instance, in
the disgust that is against life itself and which
emanates unconsciously in the works of Dostoyevsky
behind his Christian posture? While he is a great
critique of Christ, I see his sense of the sordid in
an unimaginable proportion that it could turn against
life itself. I am afraid I see traces of that in
Eliotâ?Ts own works. I raised that query in that
--- Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> You mean as in
> " The thousand sordid images
> Of which your soul was constituted; " ???
> Have you corncidered:
> Boredom, horror and glory:
> It is an advantage to mankind in general to
> live in a beautiful
> world;that no one can doubt. But for the poet
> is it so important?
> We mean all sorts of things, I know, by
> Beauty. But the essential
> advantage for a poet is not, to have a
> beautiful world with which
> to deal: it is to be able to see beneath both
> beauty and ugliness;
> to see the boredom, and the horror, and the
> glory. (126)
> Eliot,T.S. "Matthew Arnold." THE USE OF POETRY
> AND THE USE OF
> CRITICISM. London: Faber, 1933.
> Baudelaire and LaForgue:
> I think that from Baudelaire I learned first a
> precedent for the
> poetical possibilities, never developed by
> any poet writing in my
> own language, of the more sordid aspects of
> the modern metropolis,
> of the possibility of fusion between the
> sordidly realistic and the
> phangtasmagoric, the possibility of the
> juxtaposition of the matter
> of fact and the fantastic. From him, as from
> Laforgue, I learned
> that the sort of material that I had, the
> sort of experience that
> an adolescent had had, in an indus trial city
> in America, could be
> the material for poetry; and that the source
> of new poetry might be
> found in what had been regarded hitherto as
> the impossible, the
> sterile, the intractably unpoetic. That, in
> fact, the business of
> the poet was to make poetry out of the
> unexplored resources of the
> unpoetical; that the poet, in fact, was
> committed by his profession
> to turn the unpoetical into poetry. A great
> poet can give a younger
> poet everything that he has to give him, in a
> very few lines. It may
> be that I am indebted to Baudelaire chiefly
> for half a dozen lines
> out of the whole of Fleurs du Mal; and that
> his significance for me
> is summed up in the lines:
> Fourmillante Cite, cite pleine dereves,
> Ou le spectre en plein jour raccroche le
> I knew what that meant, because I had lived it
> before I knew that I
> wanted to turn it into verse on my own
> Eliot, T.S. "What Dante Means to Me." TO
> CRITICIZE THE CRITIC.
> London: Faber, 1965.
> I an old man
> A dull head among windy spaces.
> Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a
> The word within a word, unable to speak a word.
> Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the
> Came Christ the tiger.
> In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering
> To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
> Among whispers ....
> from "Gerontion" by T.S. Eliot
> from SWEENEY AGONISTES (from memory)
> I knew a man once, did a girl in
> Every man has to, needs to, wants to do a girl in.
> Well he kept her there in the bath,
> With a gallon of lysol in the bath
> What about them bones on Epsom Heath?
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Vishvesh Obla" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 7:15 AM
> Subject: 'contemplation of the horrid or sordid or
> The contemplation of the horrid or sordid or
> by an artist, is the necessary and negative aspect
> impulse toward the pursuit of beauty....The negative
> the more importunate."
> I had been struck by 'Eliot's contemplation of the
> horrid or sordid or disgusting' and I am glad that
> this is being discussed here -- struck for the very
> reason that it has parallels with Flaubert, in the
> sense that Eliot preferred to stay away from life in
> the Lawrentian sense (A relative note : Lawrence was
> appalled by the disgust of life by a genius as Swift
> who couldn't bear the thought that his dear Julia
> Are there any indicators from Eliot's own works as
> what constituted 'the horrid or sordid or
> for him?
> --- cr mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Dear Marcin,
> > You make some very perceptive observations.
> > These, I believe, are crucial to our
> > of
> > Eliot's poetry, especially that he chose to
> > publish
> > in his lifetime.
> > # the speaker in Preludes seems to be
> > a resolution of apparent dichotomies.
> > # The subject - object dichotomy of the
> > approach is presented in the poem, I think, as
> > both
> > inalienable andalienating...
> > # The speaker's awareness of "multitude of
> > solipsisms", and of his/her own partaking in
> > an
> > epistemic situation, is a step towards the sense
> > of
> > alienation endemic in this very situation.
> > # While there is no way out of it, the speaker
> > to understanding that all the worlds constructed
> > by
> > solipsistic ego-subjects are merely "points of
> > view"
> > "revolving like ancient women / Gathering fuel
> > vacant lots."
> > # Those "worlds", with their pretensions to
> > exclusivity,
> > in the context of mystical experience of the ONE
> > ("infinitely gentle"), may seem, I imagine,
> > somewhat
> > amusing.
> > Marcin, I consider them precious statements --
> > there's no question of my disagreeing with any
> > them, except maybe in the working out of their
> > ramifications here and there vis-a-vis Eliot's
> > poetry.
> > Let me now compliment you for the following
> > remarks you make in your reply to my post:
> > # I do agree - there seems to be unity in the
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