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.


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.