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TSE  January 2015

TSE January 2015

Subject:

Redux: Translation or Allusion or Neither, was Eliot's Note on Rymer and cogency (?)

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:47:50 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (79 lines)

I was attempting to trigger discussion of a specific passage in TWL, which Rick had treated as a translation rather than as English verse incorporating a reference to a passage in Dante. The remarks on translation that followed simply ignored the logically prior question of whether or not the lines _were_ a translation to begin with. If they are _not_ a translation, then it is utterly  irrelevant whether or not translation is a betrayal! There is NO imprisonment by an external agent in Eliot's lines (Eliot's, NOT Dante's). Rather, it is _self_-imprisonment in a _mental_, not a physical, cell that is in question.

Consider the following lines from Pope's "To Augustus":

While you, great patron of mankind, sustain
The balanc'd world, and open all the main;
Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend,
At home, with morals, arts, and laws amend;
How shall the Muse, from such a monarch steal
An hour, and not defraud the public weal?

Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more sacred name,
After a life of gen'rous toils endur'd,
The Gaul subdu'd, or property secur'd . . . .

Do the references to Edward, Henry and Alfred show that "Pope had a problem with translating Horace? (Incidentally, the third line is close to a literal translation of Horace, but the "arms abroad" in fact refer not to military achievements, as did Horace, but to the arms of George's foreign mistress, Madame Walmoden (name from memory, not quite correct). 

The reason Eliot used "key" rather than "nail" is simply because _Eliot_ (or, perhaps, Tiresias) _meant_ a mental/spiritual key, not a physical key or nail.

Carrol


-----Original Message-----
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Carrol Cox
Sent: Friday, January 09, 2015 11:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Translation or Allusion or Neither, was Eliot's Note on Rymer and cogency (?)

[My response at end]

Rickard A. Parker Wednesday, 24 December 2014 10:14 AM

I don't know much about turning ("To every season, turn, turn, turn" & "To turn, to turn will be our delight" exceptions) but Eliot did have a problem with translating Dante earlier (in TWL). I shore up some fragments below.

......................

The Waste Land:

DA
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key	            411
Turn in the door once and turn once only	 
We think of the key, each in his prison	 
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison	 
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus

411 Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46:
    “ed io sentii chiavar l’uscio di sotto 
    all’orribile torre.” 

......................

Alienation:
edited by Harold Bloom
Infobase Publishing, Jan 1, 2009 - Alienation (Social psychology) in literature - 222 pages

"'Each in His Prison'; Damnation and Alienation in 'The Waste Land'"
Matthew J. Bolton

Page 201
[clip]

========

My tentative and partial comment:

Eliot had “a problem with translating Dante” if and only if the lines are _intended_ to be a translation of Dante, and that is doubtful.  First of all, it is exceedingly doubtful that Eliot believed there was any reference to Coriolanus in Dante’s Hell, while the referenfce to Coriolanus is the climax of Eliot’s “translation” here. Constural of the lines has to begin with some account of the relationship between a 20th-c poet writing in English and an Elizabethan drama. Then the allusion TO (NOT TRNANSLATION OF) Dante must be considered. (And the allusion is, first of all, _merely_ to Dante, not to specific lines from _Hell_. 

So: we have a matrix here of Sanskrit, Shakespeare,   the preceding lines of TWL, the medieval Italian epic poet, Dante, and (of course) also the immediately follwoing lines. We have a good deal of work to do before any comparison of the English lines with the precise lines from Dante becomes relevant.  And the most likely premise for all of this is not that Eliot had a “problem” with translating but that the lines  point to a mental state the poem’s reader (or of the poet himself). 


My point: There is no evidence (as far as I know) that Eliot _intended_ the lines to be a translation; _allusions_ do not need to quote the original accurately; in fact, more often than not they do not. 

Eliot (the poet) intended to say KEY; The proper exegetical procedure is _first_ to consider the lines a "original": that is to construe them without reference to their source. Then one considers the source in very general terms: the allusion is to someplace in Dante's Hell. . . . . . . .

Perhaps others can go on from here.

Carrol

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