I would add to this
discussion the following note: From the start, but esp after 1922 (from
TWL/Hollow Men to the plays and Four Q) one can find several strands in his
poetry/drama that may seem (and are) contrary, and in this he resembles Blake
("without contraries is no progression," said Blake):
1. Private (romantic?)
turmoil and pain. This autobiographical strand (see #2) was strongly masked by
using dramatic monologue and staged drama, enabling him to stress (without
seeming hypocritical) his "classical" project in both poetry and criticism in
the post-Great-War period.
The appearance of the full
letters (sometime after 2020, one imagines) will show how closely linked TSE's
art and his life actually are. Lyndall Gordon will be proved correct in many of
her conjectures, I think.
2. Classical formalism
and reticence; hence his use of "distancing" masks for himself (and family and
other attachments), esp in the plays.
3. Moral philosophy
(his training as philosopher never left him). Also Eastern religion, esp
Buddhism, with its emphasis on such moral elements as renunciation,
dispassionateness, control, discipline, etc.
4. Christian theology
(including "theodicy," or the theological explanation of the presence of evil
[and human perversity] in a monotheistic, providentially
directed universe). TSE never felt at home in this sphere, but pursued it
in later years (which explains his affinity for theologians like R. Niebuhr,
Tillich, and Buber in the 1950's).
5. His continued
obsession with allusion, which as his career progressed, began to look more like
homage to his forebears (along the lines set down by Bloom) than witty
genuflexions to obscure texts. This includes echoing of his own poetry from time
to time, as if attempting to drag the past into the present (e.g., the 5-part
structure of TWL echoed in each of the 4Q).
In 4Q all these strands are
tightly woven and probably play off each other. -- Jim
Vis-a-vis some reactions to this posting, I wish to submit that it was only
intended to highlight the romantic aspect of Eliot's poetry. And personal pain
is essentially a romantic strain. In doing so I was only toeing Peter
Ackroyd who remarked that the impersonality imposed by art on Eliot's
personal feelings did not detract either from the genuineness of his pain, or of
the loneliness which it imposed upon him. ('T.S. Eliot: A Life', New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1984, p. 306).
I hope I am here at "T.S. Eliot Discussion Forum".
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"sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor" (be mindful
in due time of my pain)
A classicist only in tendency and, admittedly, a romantic at heart,
TSE wanted us to remember his pain. Albeit by
inference. You will
pardon me if I feel prompted to commemorate it.
"By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept .
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or
"The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years,
With a new verse the ancient
"Footfalls echo in the memory
passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never
Into the rose-garden."
"She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days...
Sometimes these cogitations still
The troubled midnight and the noon's repose."
"The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing."
some on the list would think, no doubt, he should be
re-possessed. I have
been reminded of a dream I had
when I was doing my graduate work on Eliot
in mind that I seldom have memorable dreams). I met
some sort of billiard parlour. I asked him how
he was doing, and
he replied that he was in great pain.
I'm sure that will give
joy to those who think he deserves
it based on what evidence they think
they have as to
how he behaved. Reminds me of the Salem witch
(cf the Crucible). New England puritanism rides again.
prefer to think I was inflicting pain on him myself by
what I was doing
with my work.
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