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TSE  July 2012

TSE July 2012

Subject:

"Light fighting for speed" was . "Light / Light"

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 20:31:41 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (110 lines)

(I can't do what follows neatly or very well because I can't flip through
the pages finding the material I want, but it should be clear at least how
ambiguous any given 'piece' of light imagery is in isolation.)

Nancy's observations on the extensive appearance of light imagery in
European (and I would presume Indian, Chinese, & Islamic) literature is
highly relevant here: There is NO common _meaning_ attached to such imagery;
in fact very similar imagery may have quite opposed meaning in any two
poets. Pound's use of light imagery (pervasive in the Cantos) is closely
related to Dante's use - but it expresses a perspective that would be
repulsive to Dante. "Light figting for speed," by itself, means nothing
whatever (as CR's endless quotations are meaningless in themselves). But in
the context of the Cantos the phrase may be said to sum up as it were the
whole poem, taking on one specific sense after another in shifting features
of the poem. We may start with Manichaen theology: Creation occurred when
light became entrapped in matter. (Matter is evil from the Manichaean
perspective, which of course is a repudiation of the significance of the
Incarnation and thus repulsive to any orthodox Christian.) The purpose of
human life is to aid the escape of light from this entrapment in matter. In
one Manichaean sect this became _really_ odd. It was believed that
vegetables contained a great deal of light, and to aid the escape of this
light this sect stuffed children with vegetables until they died, at which
point the light escaped: Light fighting for speed. Now, while these words
are not used, that line of Pound's catches up the action and imagery of
Canto 2 of Dante's Heaven. (It's been years since I taught that Canto & I
can't go into detail here.) Light fighting for speed, light disengaging
itself from clutter, from darkness, can clearly be Christian as well as
Manichaean & Fascist imagery.
("But the twice crucified." I don't remember the rest but it links
Mussolini, bringer of light and clarity to the clutter & dinginess of Italy,
to Manichae, whose followers called his death in prison a crucificxion; "By
the heels at Milano" and "the twice crucified" may echo aspects of the life
of Mani and Manichaean theology. For the dinginess of Italy, See the Canto
on Pound showing a manuscript to a Mediveal scholar in Geermany, which
refers to how _clean_ it was in comparison to Italy. (That whole Canto, 38?,
is of great interest as a masterpiece of onomatopoeia: freshness,
cleanliness after dinginess; obscure medieval phrase being brought from
clutter to life/light: for comment on the verse see John Adams on reading
Tully (Cicero) in one of the Adams Cantos.

And so forth. Milton also uses light imagery, and that is yet another tale.
And of course Pope's Dunciad, obsessively concerned with darkness, calls on
light imagery on almost every page, implicitly or explicitly. And a number
of Browning's poems use light imagery for yet different purposes.

Carrol

P.S. See also the use of light in Pound's "Near Perigord" and in a number of
the poems in Lustra -- e.g. in the famous (or infamous) "In a Station of the
Metro." Perhaps Eliot would not have explicitly linked his April to
Chaucer's -- but Pound's eyes must have gleamed when he ssaw the line. In
the Pisan Canto's, echoing Chaucer, he adds "And for 180 years almost
nothing.) Quotation from memory.


************

From: Nancy Gish Wednesday, July 11, 2012 5:44 PM

It is very difficult to read Eliot at all without noting constant references
to light (and dark). In fact, light/dark imagery is pretty common in much
literature. I always assume anyone on this list has read the poetry and is
interested in discussion (clearly mistaken). But your insulting of Carrol's
understanding is not relevant to the issue of a constant stream of
quotations from Eliot on a list that exists to discuss Eliot--on, I would
presume, the assumption that no one on the list needs the most obvious and
constant images pointed out. The question is whether one gets anything out
of reading the texts themselves that is illuminating and can be discussed,
not whether one can get anything out of a gratuitous set of quotations with
common and well-known images. Who on this list is presumed to be so unread
in Eliot as to need these anyway? Nancy


Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> 07/11/12 6:22 PM >>> P: Could you not get
anything from the Eliot texts to which CR is pointing? CR has very kindly
highlighted texts in Eliot which relate to light and a poetic rendering of
E's intuitions about light. There is a parallel, or perhaps better an
analogy between those intuitions and what quantum physics is telling us
about the connections between the macro and micro dimensions of the
universe. If that is meaningless to you then I am sorry for the paucity of
your understanding. I prefer to think that you are just posturing. P.

--------

No. As you must know, I regard CR as an utterly irresponsible in his
construal of Eliot's text. But even among responsible readers there will be
differences of interpretation, and for that reason I will not assume that a
naked quote from Eliot gives positive information on any reader's views. You
expressed agreement with some unstated proposition. I would like that stated
in your own words before attempting to respond to it.

My own interpretations of Eliot (and of almost all my favorite poets)
express my understanding of the poet -- NOT my own views of the world. In
fact, I differ rather sharply in fundamental ways from all the poets I most
cherish. Poems do not express existential truths, though they may raise
important existential questions. (The word "existential" here does not refer
to the philosophy associated with that term.) I love both Paradise Lost and
Pound's Cantos; I disagree profoundly with the "world views" to be found in
those poems. The same is true of Pope's Essay on Man and Jonson's The Forest
and Underwood. Book 24 of the Iliad does encompass a fundamental view with
which I am in sympathy, but I hold that view independently of the poem.
Hence I would not claim that The Iliad has any 'truths' to 'teach' the
reader. The reader who does not already believe he/she shares a common
humanity with his/her enemy is not apt to "learn" it from the Iliad. One
needs to know that, in fact, in order to recognize the greatness of the
poem.

I'm afraid poetry teaches no lessons, nor does it contain new truths.

Carrol

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