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TSE  January 2010

TSE January 2010

Subject:

Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sun, 3 Jan 2010 22:20:19 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (118 lines)

(Quotations, probably botched) from memory)

Old civilizations put to the sword
And those who rebuild them again are gay.
		Yeats, Lapis Lazuli

		Papyrus
	Spring ........
	Too long ........
	Gongula..........

Gongula is probably one of Sappho's lovers, and the original (of which
this isa ll that remains, was probably not orpmoc. But the fragment left
us by time, and the _new_ title Pound gives it, open it up to multiple
readings, including radically contradictory ones. Papyrus here is not
merely the fragment of papyrus on which the poem was dug up from the
desert, but the object of one of the massive scholarly projects of the
20th century, still going on when I was at Michigan, one of the leaders
in the project being a professor of classics there. The project was tghe
editing and publishing of the huge number of 
papyrus texts, many but not all fragmentary, that had been dug up by
archaeologists. The dust of the desert yields its treasures to the dusty
work of the scholar. Something was "too long" for Sappho, as the elapsed
time between her text and the modern reader had almost been too long:
papyrii (?sp) can't last forever,

One critic took the poem as a satire on the persistence of the cliches
of lovers over the millenia. As has been observed, the existence of a
given reading is proof that the poem _can_ be so construed (but hardly
that the given construal is the most useful or the most reasonable
reading available. And the poem has a context both in Lustra and in the
Cantos. (Karl Marx: "The anatomy of man is a clue to the anatomy of the
ape." The implication is that the opposite is not necessarily the case.
Compare Stephen Jay Gould's argument that if the 'tape' of biological
evolution were replayed there is no reason to believe it woudl repeat
itself. It is only after homo sapiens has acutally appeared that we can
go back to the anatomy of the ape and observe that _one_ of the
possiblities, but only one, in it was the evolution of human anatomy.
[The text is pre-Darwin incidentally, and its context merelyh the
widespread thinking from the late 18th-centnury on of the probabilities
of evolution.') The point of quoting KM here is that while we cannot
necessarily read from Lustra to the Cantos, we can read back from the
Cantos to Lustra.

Throughout Lustra unexpected beauty/order/power springs up out of
unpromising materials (as Sappho from the dust of the desert) --

			Shop Girl
		For a moment she rested against me
		Like a swallo half blown to the wall
		And they talk of Swinburne's women
		And the shephrdess talking to Guido
		And the harlots of Baudelaire.

(Contrast with Elot's typist -- or does Eliot allow her to be herself in
at least one ephrase, the faint beauty of "touched by the sun's last
rays." Pound is the more generous poet.)

The beauty, order, potential is there but an instant and disappeers, and
the search for it/her must go one --

And then went down to the ship
Set keel to breakers,
Forth on the godly sea

For a voyage through all of history, searching for that beauty/order
which is as often destructive (hence Helen in the early Cantos, Eleanor
a few Cantos on, and much later John Adams digging with his fingernails
to uncover  the heart of British legal history, and then interupting
himself withe remembrance of his pulses quickened, his pores cleared, by
reading Cicero on Cataline (a fragment of beauty, for Adams, in the
desert of Roman politics). Pound (ego, scriptyor cantilena) never quite
finds his "true Penelope" (a line referring to Henry James is "His true
Penelope was Flaubert" -- I may be misremenbering here. In the final
fragments of his long and wonderful poem he acknowledges:

	I cannot make it cohere
	It coheres alright,
	But I cannot make it cohere

And on to the conclusion written in advance:

(quoted accurately from the text)

	That her acts
		Olkf'A xra
		   of beauty
		 be remembered

	Her name was Courage
	& is written Olga

     These lines are for the 
	      ULTIMATE Canto

     whateveer I may write
	   in the interim	

	[24 August 1966]

The search for the earthly paradise (which he admits he could not
build), the long sdearch through human history (as the 10 year effort of
Odysseus to return) identified with the immediately personal:Olga.

So the papyrus is not trivial nor is the shop girl: they are fragments
of the search that animates the Cantos.

It is wonderful to read a particular poem or novel -- but in some ways
that experience, repeated endlessly by innumerable readers, is no more
wonderful that the total conversationo of humanity, a large part of
which, trivial and profound, is the search for connections. The
individual poem (as long as it is not merely the "wild heap of wit" Pope
glances at in the Essay, is a model, in a particvular context, of that
conversation.

Through Eden took their solitary way.

Carrol

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