Diana, that assumes, first, that Eliot composed all this with a single
aim--highly questionable--and, second, that characters in the poem all
speak within the contemporary context--also highly questionable. Much
of it is remembered or can be read as thoughts in someone's mind. The
journey to Emmaus, for example, is not happening in 1921, nor is
Shakleton's expedition nor much else in allusions.
As Eliot was in Germany when the war began and had to get out in painful
circumstances, he knew that at first hand. But that was in 1914.
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.
Nancy, Eliot knew full well by 1920 that the German empire had
effectively disintegrated. Marie's words are a kind of voice-over,
reminiscences of life in the Europe that had remained more or less
stable since the Napoleanic Wars. Her voice is heard as a soundtrack
while scenes of devastation are panned over. She might not have been
referring to the war when she spoke with Eliot (there already were
straws in the wind) but the poem's Marie, whose prototype readers were
not expected to know anything about, speaks in 1920 of life as a
privileged aristocrat in the pre-war German Empire. Diana
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