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Well Michael. Despite your aspersions cast on my understanding of Eliot, my
response.

I never said that the meta-poem  that takes many forms and is called
different things at different times by that Jamesian meta-character who
persists as T.S. Eliot did not look substantially different from beginning
to end. I never mentioned ennui, that is your term. Repetition does not
necessarily comprise boredom.

The Poem moves in whatever direction Eliot is of a mind to explore.

TWL is the schematic for those interests, but nested within that work that
looks both forward and backward there is a kernel of latency, a voice that
persists--mounting in all that preceded it, rising and falling in all that
follows. That voice always seems to be speaking of its own experience in a
somewhat disinterested tone until --(since you brought it up) one gets to 4Q
at which point it grows ever more keenly aware of itself and continues,
talking almost exclusively to itself, mostly about talking to itself. I wish
it worked. It does in parts. I used to enjoy it, I don't anymore.

Moreover I would say this ambling around the cenotaph went in fits and
starts not so much of an evolutionary variety but those of pure agitation
driven by an interest that he forged like a sword blade - - heat cold
tempering and heat applied again. This multilayering starts seriously with
Prufrock and continues in those efforts of layering until it reaches 4Q.
There the tempering does not go well. The blade screeches when plunged into
the icy water, cracks and breaks. Perhaps he wanted it broken, perhaps he
felt trapped in a process from which he could not escape except by
destroying the process. And perhaps he'd reached the End of the Quest. But
he never published another poem.

The connections with Milton, 4Q and a rather wooden play which I would
hardly call a tragedy in the Greek sense about Thomas a' Becket? Tenuous at
best. Perhaps you might elucidate Michael. As for English tragedy itself --
it had been dying since Webster, was killed by the English Civil War and
buried by Ollie Cromwell when he shut down all the theaters.  I don't think
Eliot succeeded if his intention was as you describe.

But that has seemed the way with any school of artistic genius in England --
it comes, it flourishes, and when it leaves, for whatever reason --it never
comes back.

GAVIN


on 2/26/03 8:32 PM, [log in to unmask] at [log in to unmask] wrote:

In a message dated 2/26/03 3:45:13 PM Pacific Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:


While Eliot writes the same poem again and again


So untrue.  You may say that Eliot rewrites Dante again and again but his
poems progress and even drop any ennui by 1935 or so.  The Four Quartets is
_far_ too hopeful and reassuring to be "the same poem" as _The Waste Land_,
Prufrock, or (more bleakly) Gerontion or the Coming of the Magi.  In fact,
it is difficult to say that Eliot is merely rewriting Dante.  By the time of
4Q he is dealing squarely with Milton, something that culminates in Murder
in the Cathedral (this is because Milton decided that tragedy no longer
belonged in English Theatre and Eliot decided that it did).
To say that Eliot did not progress as a poet is to have no idea what you are
reading when you read Eliot.

Michael