I agree with your observations, Carrol. There is much more to poetry than meets the eye. Any attempt at reducing it to its bare theme(s) can only impair its nameless lustre. Mark Lear's words at the sight of bare (disguised) Edgar: "Is man no more than this?" The basic impulses that underlie human passions/volitions veer round the same old central concerns. Nonetheless, each writer experiences and reads them anew for himself, as if he were the first and the only one to have unearthed human nature. TSE views his concerns in the context of a long tradition, though. To me, it's a reaffirmation/revalidation of the personal by the universal and the timeless.
~ CR  

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Whether or not a contrast and/or conflict of spirituality and sexuality
is the or a motor powering Eliot's poetry I do not know; my close
reading of Eliot is nearly 50 years in the past, and while I have
periodically reread Gerontion and 4Q since then, I have read no
criticism later than Kenner's (1959?) book -- and now, recently, the
essays in the Laity & Gish collection.

But I would say this with some certainty. _If_ the banality of such a
contrast/conflict is at the heart of Eliot's poems, that constitutes an
almost crippling limitation rather than a strength -- reducing his work
to nothing much more than a complicated repetition of the legendary
sexual advice to the Victorian Matron, Close your eyes and think of
England. Much ado about little.

But I hope the poetry to which I gave so much attention in the late '50s
is a bit more sturdy than that.


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