In the thread "The Context of Marie ( Was Re: a Jeremiah sighting?)"
Nancy Gish wrote (Fri, 13 Jul 2007 13:43:25 -0400):
> The poem was, as Aiken said, composed of many parts from many
> periods--some at least as early as 1913. So even if he fit them into a
> mosaic with all the conscious intention you see, they do not fit into a
> single unified intention in their creation. I don't think they ever do,
> but that is a different way of reading.
Peter Montgomery then replied (Sat, 14 Jul 2007 20:41:28 -0800):
> Something on which we agree,
> although the order is not necessarily arbitrary.
> They work in this order. Their interpenetration reflects
> perhaps an intuitive or subconcious sense of a state of mind.
Calvin Bedient in his "He Do the Police in Different Voices: The Waste
Land and Its Protagonist" (p. 159) brings up the point that if Part IV
were deleted totally then TWL would have the imagery of the Buddha's
fire sermon "burning" leading into Part V's "After the torchlight red
on sweaty faces". (Bedient has some other pros and cons on the
deletion but I'll leave them be for now.)
In correspondence between Eliot and Pound about the editing Pound
suggested that most of "Death by Water" be left out. Eliot then
wondered if he should also remove the remaining portion about Phlebas.
I DO advise keeping Phlebas. In fact I more'n advise. Phlebas is an
integral part of the poem; the card pack introduces him, the drowned
phoen. sailor. And he is needed ABSOlootly where he is. Must stay in.
While Eliot may have had a reason for placing "Death by Water" after
"The Fire Sermon" when he wrote his draft (perhaps to make an
exception to lust for sailors ;-) with the deletions suggested by
Pound maybe there should have more thought given to the placement of
now much shorter section. I'm suggesting that possibly "The Waste
Land" would be stronger if the redacted "Death by Water" had been
placed between "A Game of Chess" and "The Fire Sermon".
As Bedient wrote, with "Death by Water" out of the way, the image
transition between "The Fire Sermon" and "What the Thunder Said" would
be going from burning to torchlight. But, additionally, the imagery
in "A Game of Chess" would go from the "Good night" allusion to
Ophelia and her later death by water (with her arms full of flowers, a
la the hyacinth girl) to Phlebas entering the whirlpool. This would
have made connections to Part I and II's hyacinth girl and the phrase
"Those are pearls that were his eyes" more explicit through closer
proximity. Also, the transition from "Death by Water" to "The Fire
Sermon" would then have been from the current picking Phlebas' bones
in whispers to the Thames River litter, an excellent contrast I think.
Besides the imagery, the broader ideas would be rearranged and I don't
think that this would harm the poem much and may help. I've assigned
a keyword or two to each of TWL's parts to show how the progression of
meaning would change:
ORDER ORIGINAL MODIFIED
I Memory Memory
II Reality/trapped Reality/trapped
III Desire Death
IV Death Desire
V Purgation/redemption Purgation/redemption
The new ordering would place Desire and Purgation closer together and
I think that the sequence Memory -> Reality -> Death isn't too bad.
Think past, present, future.
I'm seeking comments and opinions about this. At any rate, this might
make an interesting classroom discussion topic.