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TSE  December 2017

TSE December 2017

Subject:

Re: TS Eliot - a Romantic poet with a difference

From:

"Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Mon, 4 Dec 2017 06:50:57 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (143 lines)

On Sun, 3 Dec 2017 16:21:20 +0000, Chanan Mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Mystique of Romance
> 
> *Et, O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!*


Here, romance of a different type. More like lust.

Below I have added a copy of a post from June of 2007 when I had an easier time writing (but I now regret writing "Given Verlaine's history I believe that this is the way he wanted his poem to read.")

First, a few notes:

Here's the poem in the original French:

    Parsifal a vaincu les Filles, leur gentil
    Babil et la luxure amusante -- et sa pente
    Vers la Chair de garçon vierge que cela tente
    D'aimer les seins légers et ce gentil babil;

    Il a vaincu la Femme belle, au coeur subtil,
    Étalant ses bras frais et sa gorge excitante;
    Il a vaincu l'Enfer et rentre sous sa tente
    Avec un lourd trophée à son bras puéril,

    Avec la lance qui perça le Flanc suprême!
    Il a guéri le roi, le voici roi lui-même,
    Et prêtre du tres saint Tréntiel.
    En robe d'or il adore, gloire et symbole,

    Le vase pur où resplendit le Sang reel.
    -- Et, ô ces voix d'enfants chantant dans la coupole!

Here is where you can get Kline's translation:
    http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/French/Verlaine.php#anchor_Toc263756554

Here is Brooker and Bentley on Parsifal and his "lust for young boys with small breasts.":
    https://books.google.com/books?id=SK6xTKSTU80C&pg=PA135


Now for my 2007 post:
---------------------

Jonathan Crowther wrote:
> 
> Cd anyone enlighten me as to why this line is quoted as an 'end' to
> the Mrs Porter lines?
>
> The line concludes Verlain's Parcifal sonnet which is the soln to the
> plot of the TWL surely?  If only the sonnet were true the TWL could end!


There are so many ironies in this section of TWL it is difficult for
me to handle this one (but I'll try).

> Cd anyone enlighten me as to why this line is quoted as an 'end' to
> the Mrs Porter lines?

There is an irony in prostitutes washing their "feet" with the impure,
and unholy, soda water (the real bawdy lyrics to the song used the
word "cunts") when that's compared to the washing of Christ's feet.
And Eliot makes that comparison, by indirectly alluding to Wagner's
"Parsifal" and of Kundry's washing Parsifal's feet in imitation of
Mary's anointment of the feet of Jesus.


> The line concludes Verlain's Parcifal sonnet which is the soln to the
> plot of the TWL surely?  If only the sonnet were true the TWL could end!

No. The singing of the children just starts another round of temptations
that will never end. 

Note that Eliot, who quoted from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" and
"Götterdämmerung" did not quote from his opera "Parsifal" in the
Mrs. Porter section of "The Waste Land."  He instead quoted from
Verlaine's poem "Parsifal," based upon the opera (it was published in
the Revue Wagnérienne of January 8, 1886).

Commentaries usually say the poem describes how Parsifal overcame the
temptations of young girls and of Kundry, and how he regained the Holy
Spear, with which he cured the Fisher King. Then Verlaine's last line
alludes to the singing in the dome that ends the opera.

Verlaine, famous for a homosexual affair with Rimbaud, was a rather
lusty fellow who turned to the Catholic Church but who still had
trouble overcoming his demons. And his "Parsifal" attests to that.
There is a subtlety in the opening lines of "Parsifal" that I (with
very limited French) think can be read two ways.  I have seen
translations that go one way and some the take the other.  One way
leads to a deeper poem.

Here is the opening stanza in French, followed by a translation by
Tony Kline and then a translation attempt by me:

    Verlaine:
        Parsifal a vaincu les Filles, leur gentil
        Babil et la luxure amusante -- et sa pente
        Vers la Chair de garçon vierge que cela tente
        D'aimer les seins légers et ce gentil babil;
    
    Kline:
        Parsifal has conquered the girls, their sweet
        Chatter, amusing lust -- and his inclination,
        A virgin boy's, towards the Flesh, tempted
        To love the little tits and gentle babble; 
    
    Parker:
        Parsifal overcame the Girls, their gentle
        Chatter and their amusing lewdness -- and his inclination
        Towards the Flesh of the virgin boys that tempts him
        To love their slight breasts and pleasing prattle;

Now, in the opera, it is not only children singing in the dome. The
libretto specifies:

    Knaben, Jünglinge und Ritter: (mit stimmen aus der mittleren sowie
                                  der obersten Höhe kaum hörbar leise)
        Höchsten Heiles Wunder!
        Erlösung dem Erlöser!

    Pages, squires and knights: (with barely audible voices from the
                                 mid-height and top of the dome.)
        Supreme miracle of salvation!
        Redemption to the Redeemer! 

With Wagner's opera and some translations of Verlaine's poem (like
Kline's) the choir underscores the supreme moment of the healing of
the Fisher King.  With translations of the poem like mine, and because
Parsifal hears only the voices of the pages, there is also the added
irony of Parsifal's possible falling back toward his inclinations.
Given Verlaine's history I believe that this is the way he wanted his
poem to read. And Eliot, who was famous for his irony, is giving a
double dose here by quoting Verlaine rather than Wagner.

          
Jonathan, in another post, has just recommended the book: "Reading The
Waste Land: Modernism and the Limits of Interpretation" by Jewel
Spears Brooker and Joseph Bentley. On page 135 Brooker and Bentley
discuss the use of Verlaine's Parsifal lusting after boys and how
Eliot uses the irony.

Regards,
    Rick Parker

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