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TSE  September 2007

TSE September 2007

Subject:

Water Re: William Carlos Williams and T.S. Eliot

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Tue, 4 Sep 2007 11:53:49 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (235 lines)

As far as I know, _no_ use of water can be used to link particular poets
to each other -- all of its uses are too omniprsent in western
literature to be attached to any one writer. Chaos, renewal, forzen
motion (waves taking form), the sea not only source of monsters but
itself The Monster (Leviathan not only comes from the sea but IS the
sea), calm containing hidden violence apt unpredictably to erupt,
anniotic fluid, liquefaction o corpses, the surge of life itself.
Achilles, son of a Nereid whose child was said to be potentially fatal
to t he gods themselves; the sea detectable in the surge of the blood
within, hidden jealousy of human activity (see what Poseidon did to
Phaiakia for giving Odysseus passage).

She tore their boats asunder/ But gave men hopes to dream" (from
memory), "There aint no country extra fine / If you aint on to the power
line" (power line from Grand Coulee damn; political and economic power):
the river is life and estruction, hope and despair ("I read my bible by
the coal-oil lamp"). Winter's Tale. The Tempest. Pericles. Hamlet
(voyage to England, the pirates; Ophelia's drowning; poison _poured_ in
the ear); very little use of water not to be found in those plays.
Windsor Forest, the river connecting all mankind. Miss Tudor moved them
with galleons. Milton's fisherman mooring at night on a whale (Satan).
"He must not float upon his watery bier / Unwept, and welter to the
parching wind"; tears come from the sea and the winds that parch those
tears. "Water, water everywhere / And not a drop to drink." 

"The sea is calm tonight . . . Sophocles heard on the Aegean" (from
memory, not quite correct), and see his The Forsaken Merman.

  A storm came out of the strange land, and found
  The ship, and violently the forepart caught.
Three times it made her spin round and round
  Wit all the waves; and, as Another chose,
  The fourth time, heavd the poop up, the prow drowned,
Till over us we heard the waters close.
		(Inf. XXVI, 137-42 [Binyon])

Or the sea as field lechery: 

As some, brave Admiral, in formr War 
 Depriv'd of Force, but prest with courage still 
Two Rival fleets appearing from afar 
 Crawls to the top of an adjacent Hill.
.....
So when my Days of Impotence approach,
 And I'me by Love and Wines unlucky chance,
Driv'n from the pleasing Billows of Debauch,
 On the dull Shore of lazy Temperance.
	(The Maim'd Debauchee)

The only good lines in a terrible poem:

			...what waves,
In the moonlit solitudes mild
Of the midmost Ocean, have swell'd,
Foam' for a moment, and gone.
	Rugby Chapel, 69-72)

(WCW himself might have learned from those last three lines -- line
break, punctuation, syntax.)

The Thames (or the sea or any river) as the public mind, pollutable by
bad writing:

  This labour past, by Bridewell all descend,
(As morning pray'r, and flagellation end)
To where Fleet-ditch with disemboguing streams
Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames,
The King of dykes! than whom no sluice of mud
With deeper sable blots the silver flood.
"Here strip, my children! here at once leap in,
"Here proves who best can dash thro' thick and thin,
"And who the most in love of dirt excel,
"Or dark dexterity of groping well.
"Who flings most filth, and wide pollutes around
"The stream, be his the Weekly Journals bound,
"A pig of lead to him who dives the best;
"A peck of coals a-piece shall glad the rest."

("Silver flood" of course points back to Windsor Forest, and from that
back through poets immemorial. I don't know if before it had been
invoked as the resting place of turds.)

Shelley's cloud and west wind, Byron's (and Austen's) roll on thou deep
and dark blue ocean, roll. Keats's name writ in water.

The brain as a Saragasso sea of corruption:

Where then shall Hope and Fear their objects find?
Must dull Suspence corrupt the stagnant mind?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?
	(Vanity of Human Wishes)

This of course goes back to Juvenal, but also (with its mind as a
stagnant pool) to Shakespeare's Achilles: "My mind is troubled, like a
fountain stirred; / And I myself see not the bottom of it." (III, iii,
303-4). And of course to innumerable other poets. Waller translating the
Aeneid: "Such thoughts torment the Queen's enraged breast, / While the
Dardanian does securely rest / In his tall ship, for sudden flight
prepared..." And from his "The last Verses in the Book": "The seas are
quiet when the winds give o'er; / So, calm are we when passions are no
more! / For then we know how vain it was to boast / Of fleeting things,
so certain to be lost." I don't know whether there is a pun on
fleeting/fleets, but whenever seas/passions rage fleets go down in the
tempest (in good poetry and in bad).

And The Bull that caused so much chaos in Crete & Athens of course came
from the sea, provoking the greed of Minos and hence the rage of
Poseidon, leading (among other things) to the Icarian fall into the Sea
of Matter, the image which runs through 18th/19th century poems echoing
the ravages of radical empiricism. (I forget what poem by what writer
has a powerful image of Poseidon among the gods participating in the
final ravaging of Troy on the night it fell.)

				Sea cover'd Sea,
Sea without shoar; and in thir Palaces 750
Where luxurie late reign'd, Sea-monsters whelp'd
And stabl'd;
	(XI, 749-51)

How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold
The end of all thy Ofspring, end so sad,
Depopulation; thee another Floud,
Of tears and sorrow a Floud thee also drown'd,
And sunk thee as thy Sons;
	(754-58)

And through that cordage, threading with its call
One arc synoptic of all tides below--
Their labyrinthine mouths of history
Pouring reply as though all ships at sea
Complighted in one vibrant breath made cry,--
"Make thy love sure -- to weave whose song we ply!"
--From black embankments, moveless soundings hailed,
So seven oceans anser from their dream.
	(VIII. Atlantis)

(And in one of his poems, I forget which just now, "a burnt match
skating in a urinal": fire, earth (ashes), and water. Too bad I can't
immediately locate the poem -- there must be some air in there someplace
near.)

Of course there's always Jack and Jill -- water _on_ the hill rather
than at its base. And "... tote that bale / get a little drunk and you
land in jail." "There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of dover
tomorrow ...." "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream." (In
much poetry downstream carries one to the ocean of death.) Whiskey --
water of life: "I'll go with you to the fall round-up / And drink there
hard liquor from a cold, bitter cup." Which might or might not lead to
Parker's "Candy is dandy / But liquor is quicker."

"'Till drown'd was Sense, and Shame, and Right, and Wrong -- / O sing,
and hush the Nations with thy Song!"

"Like gentle _Fanny's_ was my flow'ry Theme, / A painted Mistress, or a
purling Stream."

Could France or Rome divert our brave designs,
With all their brandies or with all their wines?
What could they more than Knights and Squires confound,
Or water all the Quorum ten miles round?
	(Ep. to Bathurst, 39-42)

  In Aeolus prison by and by he fettred Boreas fast.
  With al such winds as chafe the cloudes, or break them with tgheir
blast,
And set at large the Southerne winde: who straight with watry wings
And dreadfull face as blacke as pitch, forth outof prison flings.
......
Assoone as he betweene his hands the hanging clouds had crusht,
With ratling noyse adowne from heaven the raine full sadly gusht.
.....
The corne was beaten to the grounde, the Tilmans hope of gaine,
For which he toyled all the yeare, lay drowned in the raine.
....
The Seanymphes wondred under waves the townes and groves to see,
And Dolphines playd among the tops and boughes of every tree.
The grim and greedy Wolfe did swim among the siely sheepe,
The Lion and the Tyger fierce were borne upon the deepe.
		{Golding, I, 311-56)

				They were not mickle more
Than full a flyghtshot from the top, when looking backe they saw
How all the towne was drowned save their lyttle shed of straw.
And as tghey woondred at the thing and did bewayle the case
Of those that had their neyghbours beene, the old poore Cote so base
Whereof they had beene owners erst, became a Church.
		{Golding, VIII, 874-79)			
From moral chaos to the chaos of the flood, The Temple (Rock/Cit on the
Hill) arises, home of the harmonious marriage of Baucis & Philemon (the
only fully successful mariage in all of ancient lit?). In very near the
middle of Ovid's unending sea of human, divine, political, and cosmic
chaos this little island of order lapped by waves.

Is "spring" a leap, a season, or a spring of life-giving water in the
following:

When to her lute Corrina sings,
Her voice revives the leaden stringes,
And doth in highest noates appeare,
As any challeng'd eccho cleere;
But when she doth of mourning speake,
Ev'n with he rsighes the strings do breake.

And as her lute doth live or die,
Led by her passion, so must I,
For when of pleasure she doth sing,
My thoughts enjoy a sodaine spring,
But if she doth of sorrow speake,
*Ev'n from my hart the strings do breake.
	(Campion, A Booke of Ayres, VI)

"Wallowing" usually if not always evokes some sort of pool/tub/sea of
water:

			The wanton wallowing
In fond delights, and amorous dallying,
Hath dusk'd the fairest splendour of our soule...
	(Marston, Innamorato Curio, 167-69)

Sea of chaos; sea of plenty; see of corruption; sea of wisdom; see of
crystal on the floors of heaven. The sea can be almost anything (water's
endlessy changing shape).

The river in _As I Lay Dying_.

(And I have hardly touched on Virgil or Whitman or Emerson, Wordsworth
or Byron or the tears that flow through the novel from Richardson to the
present.)

Any and all of this and much more is established a couple thousand years
ago and just endlessly varied, but no new potentials have ever been
added by later poets, just differently exploited for their own purposes.

Carrol

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