I think it would be interesting to pursue this as a discussion: what is
the "beauty" of Eliot or the source of his poetry's long impact? Early
readers often saw it as incoherent and ugly (some, like Marianne Moore,
in a way that is powerfully honest and real) and unlikely to be
important, but that soon changed. Since this list has many who see it
as somehow intrinsically beautiful and spiritual and others do not but
nonetheless find it brilliant, what really is going on?
That response is not Brooks, by the way, at least not in that "The Waste
Land: Critique of the Myth," unless it is buried somewhere not in the
section on part IV.
In that article Brooks also focuses on the connection to Ariel's song
but not on its beauty:
"The death by water would seem to be equated with the death described in
Ariel's song in The Tempest. There is a definite difference in the tone
of the description of this death--"'A current under sea/ Picked his
bones in whispers', as compared with the 'other' death--'bones cast in a
little low dry garret,/Rattled by the rat's foot only, year by
In that article Brooks's purpose is to define what he calls the
"scaffolding" of the poem--what he considers its structure based on
Weston. But one can find comments on the beauty of Eliot's music all
through early reviews and readings. Many, however, saw it as ugly and
sordid and did not see "beauty" until the later religious poems.
>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 07/25/07 10:50 AM >>>
death by water
It was most probably Cleanth Brooks who in his 'The Waste Land:
A Critique of the Myth' wrote about the lyrical beauty of
A current under sea / Picked his bones in whispers.
Reminds me of lines from 'The Tempest' :
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
A "death by water" is, indeed, so different from the dry, sterile
death in a "rats' alley / Where the dead men lost their bones".
Part IV of TWL, therefore, is in the nature of an interlude, a
dreamy reverie in the midst of a bleak reality. Part V then
paves the way for such a death.
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