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TSE  July 2009

TSE July 2009

Subject:

Re: Birth, and copulation, and death

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 15 Jul 2009 15:46:39 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (283 lines)

I'm not sure what you mean by the usual context of fundamentalism.
Here is the original ciontext  of the Bible in the gospel of St. John:

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one
is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him,
'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his
mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of
God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the
Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows
where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it
comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.'"
(St. John 3:3-8)

Given the references to cannibalism in the play, and Jesus' comments about
eating his flesh and drinking his blood
in St. John chapter six, I think one can make a case that Sweeney is
addressing the Biblical context.

St. John 6:53: "Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his
blood you have no life in you"
The Catholic Church reads this statement literally.

Remember the MISSIONARY stew?

You did say :"I would be interested in a reason to see it that way."

P.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Nancy Gish
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Saturday, July 11, 2009 12:09 PM
Subject: Re: Birth, and copulation, and death


I don't think being "born again" in its usual context of fundamentalism is
likely an idea Sweeney is addressing--but I would be interested in a reason
to see it that way.  But no, I don't think one is expected to make that
assumption.

I do not think one can find in every Eliot poem a religious philosophy for
which any and all language is a symbolic reference.  Were that the case, his
work would not be very interesting.  One might do better to read religious
tracts.

I am saying Sweeney is a vulgarian, and any philosophy or theology one may
find in those fragments is not in what he thinks.  These fragments are
partial dramas of the world post WWI and they represent people who are
crass, empty, vulgar, and even vicious.  Yes, it is a world without meaning,
but Sweeney is not the one who sees that, as far as I can tell.
Cheers,
Nancy

>>> Tom Colket 07/11/09 3:51 PM >>>
Nancy> It seems to me a brilliant sound/rhythm representation of
N>  exactly Sweeney's total vulgarity of mind. I fail to see any reason
N> to ascribe philosophical or theological concepts to Sweeney.


Are you saying you see no evidence of philosophical or theological concepts
in any of Sweeney's dialogues in "Sweeney Agonistes"?

For the theological, what about:

"Birth, and copulation, and death,
I've been born, and once is enough.
You don't remember, but I remember,
Once is enough."

I assume the reader is supposed to think about the Christian theological
notion of being "born again", right?

As far as philosophical, what about:

"He didn't know if he was alive and the girl was dead
He didn't know if the girl was alive and he was dead
. . .
When you're alone like he was alone
You're either or neither
. . .
Death or life or life or death
Death is life and life is death
I gotta use words when I talk to you
But if you understand or if you don't
That's nothing to me and nothing to you"

I wouldn't describe this as Sweeney's total vulgarity of mind. Lots of
philosophy in those lines, as well as echoes of Eliot's earlier works (e.g.,
"TWL") and a preview of Eliot works yet to come (e.g., "Four Quartets").

-- Tom --



Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 16:51:19 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Birth, and copulation, and death
To: [log in to unmask]


Dear Tom,

I am sure Eliot was quite capable of having read obscure German texts (he
went there to study but left at the onset of WWI), but in English "copulate"
has the amusing meaning in the OED of "the union of the sexes in the act of
generation."  As we know, this can and has occurred without the benefit of
marriage, and I don't see how we can now assume Eliot intended a German
legal version.  Also, Cassell's German dictionary gives other meanings for
"kopulation":  "marry, pair, mate," and in the intransitive version "marry"
is listed as obsolete.

I don't think any of your other versions--though all possible--has the
rhythm and emphasis of the one Eliot wrote.  None of the others has that
intense pressure on the opening syllable with its two hard consonants.  And
"sex" loses the syllable count that is part of the sing-song effect.  It
seems to me a brilliant sound/rhythm representation of exactly Sweeney's
total vulgarity of mind. I fail to see any reason to ascribe philosophical
or theological concepts to Sweeney.
Cheers,
Nancy


>>> Tom Colket 07/10/09 3:00 PM >>>

Nancy:

I understand from the facsimile edition of TWL that we know that the "what
you get married for" line was from Vivienne. I was unclear in my earlier
post about what I was getting at, so let me clarify:

Sweeney is describing the "brass tacks" of this world. He could have said a
number of things, each which would have had different shades of meaning,
such as:

"Birth, and copulation, and death".
"Birth, and fornication, and death".
"Birth, and sex, and death".
"Birth, and reproduction, and death".

Given that the German that Rick cited implies that "copulation" meant
"married sex", "fornication" meant "unmarried sex", and "sex" implies no
particular marital status, I was wondering if Sweeney (or Eliot) was being
so precise. As an additional thought about "reproduction", I was wondering
if the TWL line, "What you get married for if you don't want children?"
might also enter into consideration about TSE's attitude toward what
constitutes the "brass tacks" of life.

-- Tom --



Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 08:43:11 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Birth, and copulation, and death
To: [log in to unmask]


The line at the end, "What you get married for. . ." was Vivienne's.
N


>>> Tom Colket 07/10/09 7:41 AM >>>
Rick cited this comment:
> As used in the eighteenth century, fornication . . .referred to
> consensual sexual intercourse between two persons
> not married to each other. Adultery. . . was consensual
> sex where one or both of the partners were married to another.
> the word “kopuliert” or “copulirt” was often used
> for "married” or “joined in marriage”.

So the translator of the page used the English word 'copulation' for
“copulirt”. I'd be interested if the German speakers on the list feel that
this is a good translation.

If it is a good translation (and if the same word meanings were still used
in England in 1927), I wonder if Sweeney is deliberately making a
distinction between "married sex" (copulation) and unmarried sex
(fornication). Either word would scan in the line.

"What you get married for if you don't want children?"

-- Tom --

> Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 06:29:45 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Birth, and copulation, and death
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
> > Is that passage a translation?
>
> > P. On Jul 9, 2009, Tom Colket
> > >[log in to unmask]< wrote: 7/9/09While searching the web, I found
> > a reference to the "Registers of Birth, Copulation, and Death", used to
> > record the mid-18th century census in Mecklenburg, Germany. I didn't
> > realize that those particular words were used, in that order, for the
> > title of the registers of birth, marriage, and death for a census. I
> > thought the list be interested to learn of the reference.-- Tom
> > --http://www.demogr.mpg.de/en/research/1405.htm
>
>
> The German version of the page has "gebohren, copulirt und gestorben"
> http://www.demogr.mpg.de/de/forschung/1405.htm
>
> On webpage
>
http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/k/i/l/Ed-R-Killian/FILE/0022text.txt
> is:
>
> In old German church book records the word “kopuliert” or “copulirt”
> was often used for "married” or “joined in marriage”.
>
> For fun here is a longer cut from that page:
>
> -------------------------------------------------
>
>
http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/k/i/l/Ed-R-Killian/FILE/0022text.txt
>
> Herr Hans Ebert, whose transcription of the church records is cited
> above, was contacted by Email, and on 19 December 2007 he supplied the
> author a scanned copy of the original record along with his German
> transcription of that record. The precise wording of the marriage entry
> is:
> "33
> Andreas Kilian von Artzbach und Magda,,
> lena Fischerin von Steinbach sind wegen
> getriebener Fornication nach dem Au,,
> schreiben copulirt worden (Mittwoch) d. 6. Mai (1722)"
>
> Recordings for other similar marriages in this church book are written
> as: “...sind wegen getriebener Fornication dem Ausschreiben gemeß
> copulirt worden.”
>
> Translation Lexicon:
> Von – of
> und – and
> sind – are
> wegen – on account of, because of, as a consequence of
> getriebener – driven, impelled (worden getriebener = were driven, have
> been driven)
> Fornication (Fornicanten) – fornication, indecent persons
> Fornicanten ehen – both fornicators
> nach – after, following, in accordance with
> dem – the
> Ausschreiben – written out, the completely written rule, to announce or
post
> gemeß, or gemäß – in compliance with, pursuant to, in accordance with
> copulirt – married, joined
> worden – were
>
> TRANSLATION
>
> “Andreas Kilian of Arzbach and Magdalena Fisher of Steinbach were
> fornicators joined together in accordance with the laws of marriage.
> Wednesday the 6th of May. (1722)”
>
> Herr Hans Ebert’s comments, “The parents of the bride and groom were
> normally named in marriage certificates in the 18th century. In the case
> of Andreas Kilian and Magdalena Fischer a “Fornicantenehe” was involved.
> In this case the woman was pregnant without being married. On these
> grounds the pair was officially forced to marry; in such cases the
> parents were normally not named.”
>
> As used in the eighteenth century, fornication was a noun derived from
> Latin and referred to consensual sexual intercourse between two persons
> not married to each other. Adultery, on the other hand, was consensual
> sex where one or both of the partners were married to another.
> Fornication is dealt with differently in various cultures. In old German
> church book records the word “kopuliert” or “copulirt” was often used
> for "married” or “joined in marriage”.



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