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TSE  May 2007

TSE May 2007

Subject:

Re: The Thrushes in Eliot's Poetry ("The Secret Garden")

From:

"Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 23 May 2007 06:33:39 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (112 lines)

David Boyd wrote:
> 
> As the thrushes seem to be singinging again, it's possibly worth a
> mention that, several years back on this List there was much
> discussion of thrushes and gardens and children and 'Burnt Norton and
> at that time it seemed uncannily clear to me that a lot of 'The Secret
> Garden' chimed [or was it chirped ?] loudly in the background, so much
> so that I was moved to do some detailed delving into passages from
> this book which threw up some seemingly quite precise parallels [all
> this may still exist in any List Archives ?].

David, on May 17, 1999 you responded to a post from Tom K. I attach it
below.  I did not see any significant responses to "The Secret Garden"
after that other than a mention that "The Secret Garden" was published
in 1911.  There may have been other posts about thrushes but I didn't
check for them.

Regards,
    Rick Parker

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The header information in David's post:

> From [log in to unmask] Mon May 17 15:04:48 1999
> Message-ID: <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 16:02:10 +0100
> To: [log in to unmask]
> From: David Boyd <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: The Browning-Kipling connection(?), and other thrush matters
> References: <[log in to unmask]>
> In-Reply-To: <[log in to unmask]>

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The body of the post:

In article <[log in to unmask]>, [log in to unmask] writes
>     Anyway, Gardner's Composition of Four Quartets contains one observation 
>that I ought to have located and passed along earlier, for those who may 
>remain interested in this subject.  She suggests that EC may have been 
>partially inspired by Rudyard Kipling's "'They', since the children in that 
>story are both 'what might have been and what has been', appearing to those 
>who have lost their children in the house of a blind woman who has never 
>borne a child."  Id. at pp. 39-40.  The blind woman in the story sings a 
>portion of a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning -- "The Lost Bower" -- which 
>Eliot had included as recommended reading when he lectured on Browning in the 
>late 'teens.  The poem includes the lines:
>
>              "And that music overfloweth,/ Sudden sweet, the sylvan eaves:/
>              Thrush or nightingale -- who knoweth?/Fay or Faunus -- who 
>believes?"
>
>The poem in excerpted in Gardner's text, and contains other suggestions of 
>the themes in EC.  (Including the garden theme, bird theme, laughing children 
>and exploration of time/timelessness.)  Moreover, as she quotes Eliot saying 
>that the opening lines (not those quoted above) had "always stuck in my 
>head", Gardner may be correct is claiming a connection.  Nothing too 
>decisive, perhaps, but worth a look.
>
>                                                                  Tom K


And in similar vein:

It was also noted by Helen Gardner, in the Preface to 'The Art of TS
Eliot' that Eliot himself said (on two separate occasions) that Burnt
Norton began from ' bits left over' from 'Murder in the Cathedral' which
he thought  were too good to waste. These 'got mixed up' with the
beginning of 'Alice in Wonderland' and a casual visit to the garden at
Burnt Norton while on holiday.

There's certainly a lot of the atmosphere of 'Alice in Wonderland' about
Burnt Norton, but 'shall we follow the deception of the White Rabbit'
doesn't have the same gravitas, does it ?

Another possible  connection may be in my mind only and I don't know
the chronology or whether Eliot may have been familiar with this
children's story, but the half-remembered-from-childhood 'The Secret
Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett seems to have many connections, eg., 

* Enchanted walled garden
* Much reference to Roses
* Bird (robin in this case) which shows the way in
* Would you believe it, even a (mistle) thrush connection !!

and, significantly, one passage at the end which I had not remembered
and which echoed very uncannily indeed when I had a quick look through
the story again for the first time in about 35 years:


"The ivy hung thick over the door, the key was buried
under the shrubs, no human being had passed that portal
for ten lonely years--and yet inside the garden there
were sounds.  They were the sounds of running scuffling
feet seeming to chase round and round under the trees,
they were strange sounds of lowered suppressed
voices--exclamations and smothered joyous cries. 
It seemed actually like the laughter of young things,
the uncontrollable laughter of children who were trying not
to be heard but who in a moment or so--as their excitement
mounted--would burst forth.  What in heaven's name was he
dreaming of--what in heaven's name did he hear? Was he
losing his reason and thinking he heard things which were
not for human ears? Was it that the far clear voice had meant?"

 
Of course, the connections may just be the other way round but I had
always just assumed that 'The Secret Garden' much pre-dated 'Burnt
Norton'

Regards

David

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