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As usual, it is a poem about perception. Don't look at the figure,
look at the grtound. That's where the significant, influential
elements are.
 
P.
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">cr mittal
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 11:05 AM
Subject: 'Usk' -- an interpretation

Usk
 
Do not suddenly break the branch, or
Hope to find
The white hart over the white well.
Glance aside, not for lance, do not spell
Old enchantments. Let them sleep.
'Gently dip, but not too deep',
Lift your eyes
Where the roads dip and where the roads rise
Seek only there
Where the grey light meets the green air
The Hermit's chapel, the pilgrim's prayer.
 
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Dear Listers,
 
This is vis-a-vis The Guardian news "TS Eliot scholar finds answer to pub poet's riddle" posted by me earlier. The discovery of the pub named 'The White Hart' behind a "white well" (actually a white-washed well) that prompted the poem 'Usk' is remarkable.
 
But I wouldn't go entirely with the interpretation of the line "Do not ...Hope to find / The white hart over the white well". You'll find relevant extracts from The Guardian news reproduced below for ready reference.
 
I wonder if, considering Eliot's habits of mind, and viewed in the light of his biography upto 1935 when this poem was composed, the poet here could be punning on hart/heart. In referring to the Inn (The White Hart) he could actually be suggesting "the white  heart", i.e. a pure heart.
 
Further, the poet might have been struck by the image of a "well" as an apt metaphor for a woman. The "white well" (actually a white-washed well) would then stand for a woman who is only literally "white", i.e. her
external charm is made-up.
 
Read in this light, the poem would roughly mean:
 
Do not be wreckless in falling in love.
Nor expect to find true love in an apparently charming woman.
Turn away your attention -- not for the lance --
Do not re-weave fancies of old charms.
O, let them sleep.
Let your gaze rest on the roads that beckon.
Seek your destination where the earth meets the sky.
There alone is hermit's chapel.
That alone a place for prayer.
 
Maybe this is just a figment of my fancy, the "deceiving elf"!
 
Truly,
 
CR
 
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(Relevant extracts from The Guardain news)
TS Eliot is classed as a difficult poet, and for nearly 70 years scholars have found his 79-word poem Usk among the most difficult of all, especially the lines "Do not .../ Hope to find/ The white hart behind the white well".
 
Yesterday the puzzle came as close as it ever will to being solved. And who would have thought it? Old Tom Eliot - the most publicly abstemious and spiritual of artists - was referring to a pub.
 
He meant, don't look for a deer or anything on four legs behind the white well; look instead for the White Hart Inn behind the well at Llangybi, Usk, and you'll know you're in the right place.
 
This is the confident view of Philip Edwards, the former King Alfred professor of English literature at Liverpool University. He began hunting for Eliot's well while researching a book on Welsh pilgrimages.
An Usk resident told him of the discovery of "a small broken-down old stone well" at Llangybi. Two breakthroughs came when the scholar found that the well had once been whitewashed and was behind a pub of that name.
 
Eliot, who died in 1965, wrote Usk when he was 47 in 1935, the year his Christian verse tragedy Murder in the Cathedral was first performed. It is thought to have been prompted by a tour of Wales for the publisher Faber and Faber, of which he was a director. Usk, which has since been set to music, was one of several brief landscape verses written at the time.
 
Mr Edwards said the beehive-shaped, 1.2 metre-high well which he believed had inspired the "short but baffling poem" would have been a place of pilgrimage.
 
The discovery threw light on the poem's meaning. "It is telling people not to look for miracles or believe in medieval tales, as real pilgrims and God himself can be found in the open air," he said.
 
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