I do not understand this thread at all. A corpse is a corpse. It is
not semen (unless male sexual material is all dead, in which case there
would be no reason to wonder about sprouting.). It is not seed. (Why
would Eliot use so ominous an image as "corpse" if it only meant the
benign notion of a seed? A corpse is, by definition, dead; a seed is
not.) It may well be a dead god, but there is no reason at all to make
it just anything that can be put in the ground. Given that Stetson is a
soldier and given that at least one way to read TWL has been through
Weston (Cleanth Brooks suggested the dead god image in 1939 and, since
it can be connected with death by water, etc., it has been reiterated),
the corpse works as part of the WWI images and/or the Grail legend. It
could also be murder of a more common sort--Eliot read and was
apparently very interested in crime stories in the news and put such a
story in "Sweeney Agonistes." But what purpose is served by making it
anything at all one might stick in the ground and cover up?
The word "plant," by the way, has many meanings, not just planting
crops. It may mean planting an idea in someone's mind or setting up a
colony or placing someone for observing or simply "to hide by burying"
(American Heritage Dictionary). I do not understand what there is in
the context of the poem to suggest any speculation beyond the latter
meaning or the oddly deliberate choice of a corpse. In fact, its oddity
here seems to me to make it quite specifically what it is. Why else
have a chance acquaintance who planted a corpse?
>>> Kate Troy <[log in to unmask]> 06/08/07 12:52 PM >>>
There was an ancient custom of burying a corpse to bring good luck for
the next year's crops and this seems likely because of the mention of an
early frost. It could also be a reference to a garden (and world) that
is wasting away, where in the future nothing will grow, so it doesn't
really matter what is planted, seeds or dead bodies. It could also be a
reference to reincarnation.
From: cr mittal <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Fri, 8 Jun 2007 9:32 am
Subject: Re: The Stetson Passage in TWL
That's breaking fresh ground -- in a wasteland --
for the sterile planting of a corpse in a garden.
The metaphysical conceit here does hold its own
even as the sperm does not ! No wonder, the
sterility sprouts all through TWL.
Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The word "planted" needs to be accounted for.
One doesn't normally plant a corpse, least of all with the
expectation of its sprouting.
The more I think about the passage, the more I wonder
if there isn't a metaphysical conceit here. If planted is
taken as a sexual reference, the sperm being planted in
a woman (garden), then to juxtapose the embryo with a
corpse is a very stricking effect, and could be seen
as reflecting the sterility that sprouts all through TWL.
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