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TSE  April 2009

TSE April 2009

Subject:

Re: Gerontion

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sat, 4 Apr 2009 18:39:05 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (40 lines)

"And if the Reverend Mr. Eliot thinks this poem teaches a lesson"
(Pound, one of the middle Cantos, quoted from memory). That would have
been written in the late 1930s, and reflects the oracular Eliot of the
1930s,  In looking at the poems up through TWL it's an iffy business to
see them through this Reverend Mr. Eliot's eyes. Eliot was by no means
an established poet at the time. If I remember correctly Pound had to
really bully Harriet [forget her  last name] to get Prufrock published
in _Poetry_, and for much of the time he was scram to justify his choice
of 'career' as a poet to his parents. Think of him as still _nearer_ to
a schoolboy that the offcial voice of POETRY AND RELIGION that he later
became.

Arrowsmith's reading I suspect is filtered both throgh Arrowsmith's own
views and through his knowledge of the later Eliot. On the other hand,
even if TWL was merely as Eliot also claimed a grouch against the world,
that doesn't mean that a great deal of contemporary atmosphere and
thinking (and thinking need not be at all systematic to be tremendoulsy
influential) would have seeped into it, so one has to take with at least
a small speck of salt Eliot's attack on those who said he expressed the
disillusionment of a generation. (I personally think the word
"disillusionment" is pretty silly, and something of flavor intended by
that word might be better caught up in some less silly term. Eliot may
have felt similarly about the word.)

When WW1 began, Henry James exclaimed something like "So THIS is what it
has meant" (meaning, I suppose the jolly progressivism of the late 19th
century, inlcuding his own stable of characters. Surely someone who was
in  his mid-20s with a Harvard education in 1914 must have felt pretty
dismayed, even before the casualty reports began to flow in. Northrop
Frye remarks that anyone who had just finished a play as good as Lear
must hve been feeling pretty good about the world. I was in the midst of
a fairly bad depressive seige when a bubbling letter of acceptance for a
Milton paper arrived from the editor of Milton Studies, and  on the same
day I could spend some time sitting on the floor leaning against the
couch and hugging myself in misery and doing some bubbling myself. The
point is that Eliot may have been doing his best to 'espress' a world of
misery in Gerontion and the same time doing a little tap dance of
pleasure at what a damn good poem he had written.

Carrol

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