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This is definely one of the better links I've posted in awhile. Part of
it discusses Joseph Brodsky’s "Verses on the Death of T. S. Eliot"
Sunday October 18, 2020
Brodsky’s elegies — the bear who played the flute
by Jeffrey Meyers
Also, although I can't get to jstor's content here are a couple of
Joseph Brodsky's "Verses on the Death of T. S. Eliot"
Joseph Brodsky and George L. Kline
The Russian Review
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Apr., 1968), pp. 195-198 (4 pages)
Published By: Wiley
Exile, Elegy, and Auden in Brodsky's "Verses on the Death of T. S.
David M. Bethea
Vol. 107, No. 2 (Mar., 1992), pp. 232-245 (14 pages)
Published By: Modern Language Association
And here is an excerpt from a webpage at
Shortly afterward, in January 1965, Brodsky learned through Western
radio broadcasts of the death of T. S. Eliot. He had recently read
Eliot’s poetry, and with Auden’s words "trundling" inside him, he sat
down and wrote a three-part elegy for Eliot "aped from Auden’s
structure." He wrote it by night because "parasites" were expected to
work the farm by day. Called "Verses on the Death of T. S. Eliot," the
fact that this poem was written at all is remarkable, more so, because
as Czesław Miłosz noted, no Western poet commemorated Eliot’s passing in
verse. Since Eliot had died, conveniently, in January, Brodsky was able
to repeat the wintry context of the original, even opening with: "He
died in January, the beginning of the year," a slacker version that
misses the crack of "He disappeared in the dead of winter." On the
whole, his poem is uneven, but parts of it are beautiful, ice-lit with
sensuous images that mine the melancholy of an imagined, post-Christmas
London: a city "flinched in frost," shrinking behind "black
windowpanes," puddles "stiffened into ice." Having escaped this
detritus, Eliot has become a star in a "vast and hidden room," but more
touching than this rather clichéd cosmic analogy of transcendence is the
fragile beauty of: "He latched his door on the thin chain of years."
The use of "thin" transforms the line, giving it a pathetic, brittle
humanity. It evokes the image of an old man, fastidious to the end,
padding downstairs to chain his door against death, against the eternal
footman waiting patiently with his coat and snicker: it’s time.